...But that doesn't make me the Pope. As there's only room (thankfully) for one sitting pontiff at a time -though the Church has seen her fair share of dueling papal factions - the current bishop of Rome is universally recognized as the universal shepherd. Which is cool, considering the general level of dissent and disagreement, particularly within the American Church. Papa Benedict is living, breathing proof of the unity of the Church, an incarnate icon of Christ's headship over His beloved Bride.
He would not leave us orphans... and so He didn't, handing Peter the keys and installing a kind of prime ministry on earth to lead His children to heaven. Jesus was all about the use of tangible realities to communicate and effect the, shall we say, more intangible elements of our faith. Like that part in John's Gospel that so many Protestants skip over... you know, the bit about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Seems likely that the Jesus of the Eucharist, the Jesus of miraculous healings effected by the laying of hands and a mixture of mud and spittle, the Jesus of the Cross, scourged and bloodied and very much present on that crucifix... seems likely that we're dealing with a hands-on kind of God, here.
Not a God who would leave His Church, His human family, without headship on earth. A family without a father is a broken family, however common place this becomes. There is an incompleteness, a deficiency in a single parent family. A mom raising her child on her own (or a father exerting similar heroic effort) is out of line with God's vision for the human family, which is not a condemnation of single parents, any more than the admission that cancer is a terrible hardship is a condemnation of cancer victims.
To point out a flaw or a deficiency is not to pass judgement on persons, but rather, is an admission that something's not right. True, this presumes the existence of an objective standard of "rightness" based on more than my personal preference, so I guess if the disagreement is at this most basic level of morality, there's not a lot of common ground to stand upon.
But God has given us lucky Catholics some pretty solid common ground to stand upon. Rock solid, as in "You are Cepha (rock) and on this rock (Cepha) , I will build my Church." Pretty solid stuff there. Which is why our Holy Father, recognized by even the most cynical newscasters as such, will be welcomed to America loudly, and with great enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm on the part of his faithful bishops and priests, who look to their German Shepherd as a model after whom they can -and must- pattern their own priesthood. Enthusiasm on the part of the young and vibrant Catholic orthodoxy who are responding to his predecessor's clarion call for the new evangelization. Enthusiasm on the part of his dissonant children who demand progress and reform with all the decorum of an angry, sugar-starved four year old.
You see, enthusiasm doesn't necessarily presume agreement. I can recall numerous occasions in high school where I argued enthusiastically (and unsuccessfully) with my parents for a curfew renegotiation. A great deal of the enthusiasm generated by Pope Benedict's impending visit is of the latter kind, as members of "Women Priest" and "Catholics for Choice" and other such organizations gear up for renewed efforts in renegotiation, hoping that perhaps by raising their voices another octave they will at last achieve the desired change they are hoping to effect on this Church of ours.
Ironically, these guys are actually giving Papa a little more credit than is due. Yes, he is the Vicar of Christ on earth, (a fairly impressive title with sweet benefits) and as such, he is to be, for his flock, a vicarious (note the etymology) representative of Christ on earth. But Christ is God. And God, well, last time I checked, He's unchanging.
Unchanging. As in, not subject to fluctuation due to cultural trends/rising economic pressures/abcnews.com's latest public opinion polls. Which doesn't bode particularly well for those hoping to see their daughters ordained or their use of contraception within (or without, do I even have to say it?) marriage condoned.
So don't get your hopes up, guys. Papa's hard line stance on these particularly difficult issues is what it is because he is who he is- nothing more and nothing less. God alone calls the shots on matters moral, and He has appointed for us this man to ensure the calls are fair. Think of the Pope as more of a referee: he didn't invent the rules, but you can bet your buddy a six-pack during your pre-game tailgate that he's going to play by them.
So let's play ball, Papa. See you in Yankee stadium.