Saturday, April 23, 2005

Honeymooners: Me and the New Pope

I work at a school that is associated with the Catholic church but is not funded by the Catholic church. We have a small endowment. Alumni and supporters make donations. Most of our money comes from the tuition paid by our students. But even though we are not supported by the institutional Catholic church, we exist -- and I would even say thrive -- because we are a Catholic university of the Jesuit variety. I have heard people say the Jesuits are not quite as Catholic as they should be, but I am not a Catholic. I have read that the old Pope and the new Pope, when he served the old Pope, were none too pleased with the Jesuits, particularly in South America. As I said, I am not a Catholic. The Jesuits can speak for themselves.

I am no expert in the values and beliefs of the new Pope, though I know who he is. I know what his reputation is. I recognize the weight the Pope has in the world for both Catholic and non-Catholic. So it is not that I think I do not have the right to have an opinion about how the new Pope will weigh on the world. But as someone teaching in perfect contentment at a Catholic school, I think it would be presumptuous to have opinions -- immediate, vivid, provocative -- simply for the blog-drunk sport of it. If I am going to be fierce about the new Pope, I think I should take my time, check my facts, hone my theories of cause and effect.

I'm not saying that anyone cares what I blog about the Pope. I'm not saying that he signs my check. I'm just saying that if I go back up the line from those who sign my checks, there the Pope is. I have a responsibility to be thoughtful. But I have no right to be indifferent. Because of my connection with the university, I can't regard the Pope the way I regarded King Zog of Albania. At some point I need to develop an opinion, one that is extensive and honest and fearless though not abusive. If I hesitate, it's not as if my job would be at risk if I'm critical or rewarded if I'm adulatory. It's not as if my students give a damn what I think about this Pope or any Pope for that matter; at least, none have so far.

I know the Jesuits wouldn't respect a premature judgment, but on the other hand I know they wouldn't respect my refusing to judge. I don't know that much about them, but I know that.

1 comment:

B. Wieder said...

As I understand it--and I probably don't--popes as a rule distrust the Jesuits for roughly the same reason that Bush distrusts people who read a lot. They complicate life and tend not to bow easily to your will.