Papal Presence

Pope Benedict made his first visit to America last week (New York and Washington, anyway). He’s been viewed as a very conservative pontiff, who would roll back the clock on a lot of recent papal edicts if he had his way. He even wears a tall two-pointed hat (miter) that is a throwback to earlier papal garb which supposedly sends a signal to his more fundamentalist Catholic followers that he’s one of them.

I’m not a Catholic, and don’t give a poop for the pope, but this visit offered a convincing example of the power of being with one’s accusers face-to-face, listening and apologizing. American Catholics have been pretty steamed up (to put it mildly!) about the pedophile priests who were allowed to continue in their parishes while their higher-ups pretended it wasn’t happening. It has cost the church dearly both in dollars and membership.

Benedict’s advisors had told him to steer clear of the topic, but instead he waded right in, saying repeatedly how ashamed he was, and he met with a group of men who had been molested to hear their stories. To hear the men tell it, it meant everything to them to be able to go to the top guy and really be heard. And in hearing, the pope said he felt moved to do something about it… of course, we’ll see.

When will America learn that the way to defuse volatile situations is to come together as real people and listen to each other? Works better than bombs. Hello… Mr. Bush???

On a much lighter note, Garrison Keillor did a funny skit on his show yesterday about taking the pope (disguised as a schlumpy New York baseball fan) for a sightseeing stroll around a neighborhood in New York. [Link to follow, once it’s up on the Prairie Home Companion website.] The “pope” got into a whole alliterative P-word riff about going up to Boston for a gig with the Boston Pops, “Pope at the Pops with Puppets and Popcorn….”

Believe it – I’m onto something with P-words. You saw it here first!

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