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Repinski: In good faith, believers look ahead to a new Pope

Published 11:55am Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In my memory is a comment made in a class I was attending at Yale University. Harold Bloom, a professor in the humanities, especially with emphasis on world literature, had been on that campus for many years. He referenced his being Jewish, to the traditions of many Ivy League schools (most founded by Christians, namely Protestant church leaders), who in the early years, felt an obligation to have a known Jewish professor on their faculty (tokenism?). With a flair known to all who have been taught, read or heard the lectures of Dr. Bloom, there was delight in his presence. Some might call it intellectual bombast coupled with wit and honesty. The implication was, “now you have me, and in recent years an abundance of persons of Jewish descent, in the top ranks of university professors.”

Move your thoughts to the present hour. Many years ago, my thoughts and emotions moved from enmeshed doubts in early Protestant Christian environments; assumptions that were often mean, that “those Catholics will never make it!” I knew what my Sunday School teacher meant. Certainly, persons who live in faith in Jesus Christ as the unique gift of God and Savior, are members of the body of Christ. Thankfully, most of us live with a widened appreciation of pluralism and diversity. A healing, dramatic shift has taken place in recent decades. What was termed “back then” a mixed marriage (Protestant/Catholic), sometimes had mother saying: “Don’t expect Aunt Martha to be in attendance at the wedding!” Mother might grudgingly take a seat in the back row.

To form the in-group, to deny the right pedigree to others, to make up stories of persons we may not understand, to project falsehoods on “those people,” to be cozy with only “our people,” is sadly still present. Persons and groups who live, think, smell different, lack an accent when speaking or have visible differences, are too easily suspect. Thoughtfully, with moral character, we cherish and work for continued change.

The election of a new Pope is on our immediate horizon. My discipline is to, for now, set aside, but not dismiss, the pain caused by leaders within the Roman Catholic Church, affirm the vast humane accomplishments, and be thankful for the positives.

Appropriate to persons who desire and work for peace, stability, and understanding in our world, is a prayer (if prayer be a tool of hopefulness!), that the good, the commitments, the examples of extraordinary accomplishments (I’m thinking especially of the service of nuns), be foremost in our reflections. We live in a time for needed international understanding. Catholicism as a global institution, can enhance humane goals. The anticipation and hope is that decisions about a new Pope will add to our growing and certainly needed, vision of equality and opportunity. Could we expect the miracle of a new Pope from the United States?

Great numbers of us are not formal Catholics; we see Rome as a city — a grand city — but that’s it. We are however, aware that human beings do change. I began with the example of the manner in which persons who are Jewish, are, at least in our country, viewed without rancor, a grand part of our national experiment.

Recently in viewing a Vikings football game, I noticed a player, with a hurried motion, make the Sign of the Cross on his chest. When members of my high school track team in the very Catholic city of my early years, did the same, I thought: “Odd, how odd.” Now I think: “and may the Father also bless me!”

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