Sunday, 17 February 2013

Papa, pray for us

Joseph Ratzinger has resigned. Joseph who ? you may ask. And what's in a resignation - after all somebody is resigning from something all the time.  Ah well; its not just anybody. It's Pope Benedict who resigned about a week ago. Popes rarely resign - its one of the few "jobs" for life. The last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory in 1415 to end the Western Schism - a complete mess when there were two competing claimants as Pope.
Pope Benedict stated that he was getting on in years (he is 85 after all) and that the leader of a billion catholics around the world needed "strength of body and mind".  While he cited the lack of strength of his body, I dare say his real reason was the strength of the mind.
It has been a period of great tumult for the Catholic Church. It was during his papacy that the child molestation scandals in Europe and America burst into the open. Leaked papers from the Pope's butler showed the Vatican in very poor light - messy politics and  the whiff of corruption seemed to permeate even at the top. The Vatican was also involved in financial matters which did not cast it in favourably. The Pope was said to have tried reform, but was said to have been rebuffed. Maybe he was just tired. Maybe God called him to step aside. We will never know. Joseph Ratzinger is retreating into a convent to do what he probably always wanted to do - be with God. Not be a CEO.
A CEO is what the papacy is increasingly turning to. The Vatican is a massive organization which needs to be managed just like any other organization. It deals with large sums of money. It deals with global affairs. It deals with thousands and thousands of "employees". It is challenged by globalization - the centre of the catholic world is increasingly no longer Rome, but Latin America. In short, it is facing what every other organization which deals with more earthly matters, faces.
It would be a pity for the Papacy to become a CEO's office, although that is the direction in which it is going. The world badly needs spiritual guidance. There is much moral failing in the world, and traditionally, it has been men of cloth who have given mankind, the moral steer.  You could argue that organized religion has done more harm than good - witness the atrocities that have been committed throughout human history in the name of religion. But that would be a one sided view. Religion has also brought great comfort. It has healed many a heart. It has shown the way to many a soul.
The world's major religions are in crisis. Islam seems to be driven in a number of directions. Hinduism has had its fair share of godmen and leaders who have fallen from their pedestal - some literally. TV evangelists and faith healers seem to abound. Money seems to have overwhelmed even the spiritual, much as it has done to the temporal.
Atheists may disagree with me that the fall of religion is not a bad thing. They may be right. But I am lost in an ocean of despair. Moral failings seem to abound. I am rocked by the tides of sorrow. I see much evil around me. I am not able to accept the value systems that are the norm today.  I am adrift in a frightening sea, searching for a beacon from a lighthouse.
Witness the betting going on as to who would be the next Pope. Apparently Canadian Marc Ouellet and Ghanaian Peter Turkson are favourites at odds of 7 to 2. Betting on a Pope ?
Papa, Latin for Pope,  pray for us. 


Appu said...

1) Do we need a pope?
2) If yes, if the job demands one to be a CEO, what is wrong in that :) Being a CEO and being moral needn't be mutually exclusive! They can co exist!

Ramesh said...

@Zeno - Oh yes, we need a Pope - be it a spiritual leader or a CEO. Well, there's nothing wrong in being a CEO, but somehow the old man in me is saying the world also needs spiritual leaders.

Sriram Khé said...

Oooooohhhh ... a juicy, juicy, topic ... how much should I control myself????? :)

Hey a joke first ... which I came across on Twitter soon after the Pope's resignation ...
the joke is this:
Do you know that the bookies' odds on Richard Dawkins as the next Pope? It is 666 to 1 :)

So, perhaps it was two years ago that I hosted a dinner at home for two visiting environmental attorneys from China. At dinner, of course, I had to ask them about Tibet and the Dalai Lama. They provided an interesting take that is seldom offered ...
They said the current treatment of Tibet and Tibetans was not ok. At the same time, they didn't approve of the Dalai Lama because they felt that he behaves as if he is the king of Tibet, as opposed to simply a religious leader.

I cite this because the CEO position you refer to is in the modern contexts. Historically, the office of the Pope --like many other religious positions across faiths--was regal in all respects, and often even more powerful than real kings themselves.
Which is why even now some commentators referred to the Pope stepping down as an "abdication" instead of a resignation.

The history of all organized religions, and their morphing into kingdoms and multinational corporations all the more are reminders that we are searching for moral clarification in the wrong places if we believe we can find it there ...

We turn to such offices because we seek certainty against a backdrop of life that is filled with uncertainties. Religions typically give that assurance of certainty--somebody you believe in gives that cut-and-dried answer that relieves you of whatever uncertainties you are dealing with.

Atheists like me here look at those very grey areas and struggle with uncertainties in our own ways. As an old math colleague used to say, we live in a probabilistic world! When the probability of my marriage surviving was not anywhere near the 100%, I dealt with the uncertainty of every aspect of life, and do so even now, ... Atheists are moral people too :)

The physics-Nobelist Steven Weinberg said it best:
"Living without God isn’t easy. But its very difficulty offers one other consolation—that there is a certain honor, or perhaps just a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking—with good humor, but without God."

I know this is already way too long a response ... there is more I would love to add ... but, I shall quit now ...

Vincy said...

Call it intuition or call it getting to know Ramesh a.k.a "Thalai" by his ardent fans around the world, a wee bit, I knew this post was coming :-0

Its only when i saw the news on paper at the dawn of 11th Feb I even knew that pope can actually resign. for a staunch suriyani catholic like me, it was a bolt from the blue. Papa Benedict is one of the strongest theologians of the church and was the right hand of Pope John Paul II. Though conservative, his deep insights had led us catholics, in our spiritual journey.

What you have mentioned here is my state of mind as a catholic. It is as though you took words out of my thoughts.
//**But I am lost in an ocean of despair. Moral failings seem to abound. I am rocked by the tides of sorrow. I see much evil around me. I am not able to accept the value systems that are the norm today. I am adrift in a frightening sea, searching for a beacon from a lighthouse.**//

Papa Bendict is a brave man and I think he is mentally strong too - It takes a lot of courage to announce this to the world. The church celebrates 2013 as a "Year of Faith" and I hope the faith in all of us will help us move ahead.

p.s: Many catholics would struggle with the name Joseph Ratzinger as we are more faniliar with the holy see's pontifical name. I wonder if a catholic could have written such a non-biased blog post about the pope this well. hats off to you. :-)

Ramesh said...

@sriram - Ahh I was expecting a spirited response. You have been too gentlemanly and moderate :) Yes, modern day CEO, earlier days king. And I can understand your points of view - just that I come from a different place on this one. Particularly appreciate your skill in presenting an alternate point of view in a measured manner without causing any offence to anybody. I wish you could transport your skill to your fellow citizens on the political arena

@Vincy- I am flattered and honoured. You are far too kind. I am not a Christian and my knowledge of the religion is very rudimentary.

Very interested in a devout Catholic's point of view. I was hoping you would comment, and you have obliged with thoughtful , words. Yes, perhaps the Year of Faith will contribute to making the world a better place.

gils said...

interesting post..very interesting take on the plight of the major religions too ...i've always felt religion is a dirty word but Faith/belief is the pure form of it. maybe in time it will be a single faith of 7 billion and odd people..

Ramesh said...

@Gils - As always a very insightful comment. The differentiation between Religion, which has the connotation of something organized and Faith is an interesting one. Well, humanity is and will always be diverse - so I don't think there will ever be a single Faith.

Asha said...

Oh god! Ramesh you must write for the newspapers as a hobby, more will be benefited by the information you provide. That would be a service.( in turn i can trumpet to others that i know you:)

My thoughts on the post- Can empathize your synthesis about the degrading moral values. Sometimes when i see the things happening, i feel i don't fit in here and should retire to the himalayas.

In the mad race to win, people miss out on the beauty of little joys of life, lose their peace of mind and sanity that is when the tv evangelists, god men act like balm to their battered souls with their soothing words, perhaps their way of reaching to god too. Fair enough.

But what beats me is the high profiled and educated crowd which throng these places and lose their hard earned money and time in the process and are taken for a ride by the fakes.

But i do have faith and i believe that faith can heal and move mountains. For me, Classifying faith and beliefs by names like religion, caste etc is not an issue as long as we dont play politics and respect each others faith and live in harmony.

Ramesh said...

@Asha - You are very kind, as always. Your view is very laudable and you have synthesized what I feel too. Life s a tough road and man seeks solace everywhere.

Deepa said...

Spiritually the world is going to dogs! The other day I was watching a piece on 'Buddhist extremists' emerging in Sri Lanka. It was an oxymoron in my head until that very second.

I know you do appreciate the importance of religion in people's lives, but I feel, we have overdone 'being religious'. Can't agree more with Sriram's comment. Very articulately put! But then I also think, a Pope who had the spine to resign might be a sign that there is hope for spirituality.

(ROFL on 666:1 :D )

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Understand very much your point of view . Yes some parts of religion and some places are clearly way overdone. I also believe organized religion has done more harm than good over history. But it has a place too and religious leaders also have a place in society.

Reflections said...

Sriram Khe's comment was interesting, agree with Vincy that the Pope has everybody's admiration for calling it a day and Asha is bang on especially about your gift for keeping us informed.

I am lost in an ocean of despair. Moral failings seem to abound. I am rocked by the tides of sorrow. I see much evil around me. I am not able to accept the value systems that are the norm today. I am adrift in a frightening sea, searching for a beacon from a lighthouse.
I kept reading this bit again and again. Maybe not with the same intensity but the same echoes in my heart.

Ramesh said...

@Reflections - Aren't all commentators, including you, with some great points of view.

Follow by Email

Blog Archive

Featured from the archives