The Vatican Thing
Russia’s absurd portrayal of itself as some sort of Christian champion in Ukraine – even as it slaughters thousands and destroys whole cities, has gotten me thinking about something I’ve been ambivalent about for many years: the effect of American popular culture on the rest of the world.
I love America. And like all sane people who do, I, therefore, come close to hating much about our current popular culture – starting with the fact that we even have it here at home to export. But there are some crucial distinctions to draw about that now-global U.S. presence. And we should not allow to go unanswered those who want to use the decadent elements of American and Western culture and even Western Christianity – which exist beyond all doubt – as an excuse for nefarious purposes. Read more.
The question above has been proposed at various times in Russian history. Lenin raised it and believed the obvious answer was Marxist revolution; Tolstoy asked it and found in his efforts to help Moscow’s poor that there was no easy answer, perhaps no answer at all. It’s strange to be in and around the Vatican these days – as a major war is raging – something that hasn’t happened in recent decades and, therefore, puts the same question to inexperienced leaders, Catholic and not. Like poor Tolstoy, they don’t have many answers. Read more.
Visiting with various people in Rome this week, I’ve been struck by the fact that they all understand that religion still matters. Who knew? Almost everyone in the world outside the Western media bubble, of course, which typically regards the religious impulse of the human race as something of a colorful holdover from the past when it crops up, preferably in distant cultures. Closer to home, it’s taken to be a dangerous delusion, the realm of “bitter clingers” and a whole “basket of deplorables,” when traditional Christians and others act as if faith has consequences not only for themselves, but the public realm. Then a major conflict such we are witnessing in Ukraine arises and, at least briefly, it’s clear that, like it or not, the world of faith makes a world of difference. Read more.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian who has long been involved in Vatican international activities, was named this week as Chancellor of both the Pontifical Council of Sciences and the Pontifical Council of Social Sciences. Ordinarily, this kind of musical chairs, involving longtime Vatican officials and offices, is only of interest to people who are either clerical careerists themselves or who believe they see salvation or damnation in what are often just murky personnel maneuvers. In this instance, however, much may indeed be at stake for the Church – and maybe even the world. Read more.