Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Notes for possible further consideration
Jonal entry 959 | Friday, March 3, 2006
Patriarch of the West There's been news this week that Pope Benedict XVI has given up one of the Papal titles. Specifically, "Patriarch of the West." I didn't know there was such a title, but learning there was came as no surprise. In the ancient church, the Bishop of Rome (another and the most common title for the Pope) was one of five "patriarchs." Each of the patriarchs was the bishop first in honor and served as a clearinghouse of an ethnic or national church (but not having administrative authority over the whole church, each bishop having final authority in his diocese). Those familiar with the Episcopal Church will recognize this as analogous to the role played by the Archbishop of Canterbury in worldwide Anglicanism. Canterbury does not rule the dioceses scattered from Hong Kong to Pittsburgh to London, but acts as a clearinghouse. The four other patriarchs of the ancient church are now Eastern Orthodox, but unlike the Orthodox, the Western or Catholic patriarch did not develop new patriarchies as his church expanded (as the Orthodox did into what is now Russia, for example), but it kept the Bishop of Rome as the head bishopthe Patriarchof all the "Roman" dioceses that spread from Italy to all points west first, and then all over the world. At least this is the Orthodox take on the Papal office.
I suspect that in giving up this title, Pope Benedict feels he is making a conciliatory step toward Orthodoxy, though some Orthodox will take it as just the opposite (there are always Orthodox on both sides of everything that is less than traditional church dogma). I'm optimistic about Pope Benedict and, speaking as a non-Catholic, am pulling for him to be a good successor to John Paull II. But I'm going to keep an eye out to see how this move plays.
On a bit of a related tangent (if "related tangent" is not an oxymoron), Scripps-Howard religion writer Terry Mattingly recently wrote a column about ignorance on the part of religion writers for major media on their subject matter. Mattingly said that in an interview with Father John Richard Neuhaus, the editor of a leading Catholic journal, the priest "referred to the pope as the 'bishop of Rome.' The reporter [interviewing Neuhaus] then said, 'That raises an interesting point. Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?'" At which point Mattingly asked for "one comedy-club rimshot."
And Mattingly also found a Newsweek story that quoted Baptist Pastor Jerry Falwell as describing one of his projects as "an assault ministry." Falwell actually said, "a salt ministry," as in Matthew 5:13, where Jesus tells His disciples, "You are the salt of the earth."
Committed The most startling news item I saw this week was an Associated Press story about Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, in which he is said to have "described himself as a committed Christian." Having sold 25 million books based on the premise that all the churches have conspired to keep the world from finding out about Jesus' wife and children and the royal bloodlines descended from the King of kings, I had to ask, "committed to whatdestroying the church?" I don't want to be judgmental...but I'm not one of those who calls Hitler a Christian because his parents may have had him christened.