Tags: Geopolitics | and | Papal | Succession

Geopolitics and Papal Succession

Wednesday, 06 April 2005 12:00 AM

If the election of John Paul II taught non-Catholics anything, they should now understand that the selection of a pope to lead the Catholic Church has enormous geopolitical consequences.

For faithful Catholics the selection of the pope is the Holy Spirit once again coming among the anointed Apostles of Christ to elect Peter's successor. For many in other faiths, one can simply reverse the players in the above subhead, "God Playing Chess With the Devil," to get their take on the election of a pope. For atheists and most 'avant garde' intellectuals in the world, one has to settle for the logically impaired subhead "The Devil Playing Chess With Me."

Without analyzing individual cardinals, except my own sentimental favorite, Cardinal Arinze, let's consider some of the aftershocks of the following selections:

A conservative, traditional Western European pope would mean that the Church intends to recapture its historical base. Perhaps more ambitious than picking a Polish pope to free Eastern Europe, such a choice would be bold, and one could expect the battles to be fought in the Catholic heartland to be as ferocious as the wars that followed Martin Luther when he spoke more than a little truth to the fat and corrupt 'faithful' of the 16th century.

On the other hand, a 'socialist' Western European pope would mean the Church is sacrificing its queen to make a game-ending move elsewhere, always a risky move, but for the faithful, since their Player always knows the outcome, they'll simply grimace and keep praying.

A Middle Eastern, North African pope would mean the Church is not messing around and one can expect a wholesale adoption of the terminology of victimization that can be found in schoolbooks across America. Maybe Howard Zinn could be convinced to write "A History of the Muslim People."

The selection of a conservative, traditional Hispanic or Brazilian pope would be a Vesuvius for the Americas. If we're lucky, Hollywood will never be dug up by future archeologists to document the degeneracy into which American culture has plunged.

And, in a rather odd twist of fate in the ensuing years, the Bush family may have its political fortunes revived (no cynical Schiavo references), and George P. could be George III. Wouldn't that be a stunning symbol for House of Windsor, Hanoverian semioticians everywhere? (If there are any, after the reign of Charles the Lame.)

What about the selection of a radical, revolutionary Hispanic pope? I thought John Paul II got them all. But if not, is the world ready to see Fidel Castro or his successor, Hugo Chavez, grab the crown from the pope's hands and crown himself 'King of the World'? God help us all.

What about the selection of an Asian pope – specifically, a Chinese pope?

Talk about taking care of unfinished business. Potentially the boldest and most revolutionary choice, generals in the People's Revolutionary Army might be stuck with more useless toys than found in a Wal-Mart.

Of course, one cannot rule out other parts of Asia or Oceania either. Are there cardinals in Greenland?

And since lightning can strike twice, how does a pope from Eastern Europe sound?

And if Hell can freeze over, is there even a living, breathing cardinal from anywhere near the Third Rome?

Finally, what if the Nigerian Cardinal Arinze is chosen? Many of the geopolitical implications of such a choice should be self-evident to all but the blind. But the choice of Arinze goes beyond the obvious.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting my old haunting grounds at Georgetown University after the good cardinal simply told the Georgetown University Community, the oldest Catholic University in the country, that homosexuality was unacceptable in the Catholic faith.

To get a sense of the reaction of the open-minded, highly educated population of Georgetown University to a simple statement of fact, one has to imagine oneself in the middle of a mob during the French Revolution carrying spikes with various body parts impaled on the tops, or in the middle of a group of heroic Bolshevik re-enactors mindlessly storming the Winter Palace over and over, or a group of 'inspired' students during China's Cultural Revolution.

In short, the cardinal was lucky to get out of there with his little red cap.

If one listens to Arinze, one hears echoes of the same stubborn streak, the same complete faith in the 'Catholic' mission of the Church, and the same amused reaction to those who would instruct him as to what to do, as John Paul II showed over the last quarter-century to the consternation of critics, the applause of admirers and the love and awe of the faithful.

In other words, Arinze could be a Pope, like John Paul II, who could challenge each individual on the planet, not only where each lived, but he might just also challenge each individual's very heart and soul.

Not a bad move for a 'Catholic' Church, but I must admit I'm left clueless by a mere mortal like Kasparov, I have no idea what the Chess Master of the Universe is up to. I gave up presuming to be able to play chess years ago.

My only prayer for the cardinals is: Please! Make sure that Jimmy Carter isn't the guy collecting the ballots.


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If the election of John Paul II taught non-Catholics anything, they should now understand that the selection of a pope to lead the Catholic Church has enormous geopolitical consequences. For faithful Catholics the selection of the pope is the Holy Spirit once again...
Wednesday, 06 April 2005 12:00 AM
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