This morning I appeared via Skype on a BBC World Service program to talk about the papacy and the upcoming election. At one point, one of the guests, an English nun, began speaking about what she considers to be the need for the Church to have more women in decision-making positions within the institution. She was careful to say that she’s not calling for women’s ordination. “We are too clericalist a Church as it is,” she said. But she did speak at length about the matter of women in the Church.
I didn’t have time to get my two cents in on this, but had I the opportunity, I would have pointed out that this issue, and others that preoccupy liberal and conservative Catholics in Europe and North America, must seem odd to the Global South, where Catholicism is booming. If the cardinals elect a pope from the Global South, as I hope they will, it will be a shock, and a good one, to First World Catholics and other Christians. But a Third World pope would be savaged by the media, says Mark Shea, who points out that Westerners love to idolize Mahatma Gandhi, but not to actually listen to his words when they go against what they want to believe, e.g., when Gandhi spoke out against contraception. Shea:
Exactly the same thing will happen with a Pope from a developing nation. When we get one (as I presume we will sooner or later, though I think not this time) there will be a few days of wonder that an African or Asian is doing the job, and then the hand-wringing will start about the Pope suffering from post-colonial false consciousness (meaning “he believes the Catholic faith”), outdated “tribal” sexism (and by “tribal” we think you catch our drift, hint, hint), “backward” superstitions and so forth. This will come far more from racists on the Left than on the Right. Because the racism of the Left will be played out by pop atheists and similar shallow pundits who make no distinctions between the Catholic faith and the natives of Skull Island doing the Kong Dance. It’s all just primitive savagery and mystical mumbo jumbo, as we are constantly assured. A Pope who says, well, what the Church says and what Gandhi says will not be received like some new Nelson Mandela by the Western press. He will be derided an emissary from backward lands who need enlightened Westerners to teach them shallow atheism and cull their numbers with the blessings of birth control.
The notion that the West is, in any serious way, “multicultural” is a complete, smug, self-congratulating fiction. We are a culture that is not only profoundly intolerant of ideas outside a narrow bandwidth and ready, at the drop of a hat, to sneer at those ignorant primitives who think differently from our middle class suburban enlightened selves, but we are also a people ready, willing, and able to go to war to impose our “values” on backward peoples in the name of spreading hedonistic democratic capitalism.
Remember the Lambeth Conference in the 1990s when the progressive TEC Bishop
John Shelby Spong Barbara Harris [Sorry! — RD] condemned conservative African Anglicans as hicks who could be bought off with “chicken dinners”?