Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Attempt at Micropost on the Papal Conclave
Contrary to what one might glean from this blog, I am at some level cynical enough to know that almost all of the important people, institutions and pursuits in human life possess by bourgeois standards a darkness and demand a degree of ruthlessness in its practitioners that the likes of me cannot really fathom, and would not want to.
That said, obviously I enjoy the idea of the spectacle of the Papal conclave.
Mostly I enjoy the idea that there are any venerable Western European rituals left that can be considered to have some import to history going forward.
Many experts believe the era of European centrality to history and human affairs ended in 1989.
I always want the Catholics to show well and be respected, even though I am not legitimately one myself (I was christened in the Church, but my participation in its life ceased at that point). I have never since tried to become a real Catholic in any way. I probably don't, and can't, believe in God that way you would be supposed to. I do not significantly identify as a Catholic, I do not have a strong educational foundation in its tenets, and I do not partake socially of what I have perceived to be the group strength that comes with being a fully embedded member of the tribe, though in recent years, as my family life and schooling and leisure and even occupational situations have developed in somewhat of a stereotypically Popish mold, I believe certain people from the tribe to have taken an attitude with me as if they suspected me one of their fellows, and little that has happened to me in the last few years has been more flattering to me than this, though I do not deceive myself that it is so in any way.
I go to Episcopalian Church, for reasons which I have outlined in previous posts which I had not foreseen when I got married, at which time I anticipated living a completely secular life. My wife is not far removed in blood from being a real Catholic herself, and has at least half of what I think of as a Catholic soul, but she can not abide the Church's extreme patriarchal personality, and probably some of its other positions too. For my part I rarely consider the Church's actual teaching--it all seems rather beside the point. Look at the avant-gardists of the Modernist era, Picasso, Modigliani, Dali, Jean Cocteau, Chagall, etc. Did these people take the teachings of the Church seriously? Did they believe in God? Did they find its official doctrines absurd? One can say that they were not proper Catholics, though nearly all of them did extensive work in the decorating of churches, presumably with the blessing of the ecclesiastical authorities, and of course they all refer endlessly to Catholic imagery and mythology in their artworks. They could hardly have existed as themselves without it.
The pitiful thing is, I almost enjoy going to the Episcopalian Church, apart from certain days when I am overcome with a sense of my total phoniness and lack of propriety in being there and quiver in an ashamed rage at the fraud that is in fact my entire life of which this particular instance is representative. Most of the time however it is a respectable service, and I like the music, and even some of the people I find tolerable, though I do not think anyone there has much of an intense religious sensibility, and I do not have any sense of any deep effects membership in this congregation has on anyone's personality. I went to a Baptist service a few weeks ago--this church is the sponsor of my son's Scout Troop, it was Scout Sunday, and he wanted to go--and it was like a remedial form of religion, although the priest (who, it may be worth noting, was a woman in her fifties) struck me by her demeanor and gentleness towards her fairly dull-appearing congregation to be intelligent and even spiritually attuned at some level. The Baptists were also far less busy than Episcopalians. After the service the parishioners, who tended heavily towards the older (over 55) demographic, were making plans to go over to each others' houses, eat casserole and cake and generally pass a pretty lugubrious afternoon as if it were 100 years ago. Everybody at the Episcopal Church under the age of 85 or so (including us) has to rush off pretty soon after the service for various errands and activities--even the 50 and 60 somethings have to do fund-raising or sit on some committee in the afternoon.
So I don't see how I can ever become a Catholic. Of course I cannot, even though I do not even think for my purposes that 'belief' in the medieval sense is the primary obstacle. I cannot really claim that I identify with them socially, though I always certainly craved their camaraderie and their women in a specific way that it would never occur to me to feel towards followers of other religions. When I love a Protestant or a Jewish girl, for example I merely love the girl; her religious affiliation does not hold for me the same magical aura that is added when the object of my affection is a bona fide member of the Church of Rome.
Priests are not as completely foolish as people want to believe. Whenever I encounter one they especially know I have nothing to do with the faith, and treat me accordingly.
I am inclined to be sympathetic to a lot of the Church's unpopular positions on various social issues, not that I adhere to them or support them politically in real life, but I believe that they have been considered on the whole fairly thoroughly, are in no way in most instances wholly devoid of wisdom, and think it would probably be a good idea if most people--I am not a fanatic, and can tolerate a certain number of outliers, (maybe even including myself) though preferably a small one--more or less held the same attitudes. But most people who matter do not anymore.
Nothing else to add.