TOUGH QUESTIONS: June 05, AU Edition
Why God needs a rottweiler
The newspaper front pages said it all when Pope Benedict XVI ascended the throne in the Vatican late last month: “God’s Rottweiler”, “Panzerkardinal”. Here in New Zealand, Newstalk ZB’s Larry Williams tried to suggest to Bishop Pat Dunn that the Catholic Church had “missed its chance to enter the 21st century”. As if, somehow, the church has to reflect modern secular attitudes to stay relevant.
There’s news for many of the media commentators and fringe lobby groups who resent another conservative at the helm of the papacy, and that news is all bad: Christianity doesn’t have to stay relevant to survive in the modern age – instead, citizens of the modern age need to return to Christianity to survive.
That modern liberals seek a religion that reflects their own views and behaviour, rather than core values, is no surprise. That desire explains the massive rise in Eastern and New Age beliefs in the West, where people are soothingly reassured by spiritual snake-oil salesmen that “there are many paths to God, find what works for you”. For a generation that has trouble getting out of their armchairs to change a TV channel, such anything-goes religion is non-threatening, easy to comply with and really cool if you love mung beans.
Pope Benedict himself wasted no time declaring that Western secularism is the biggest threat to Christianity.
“We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as definitive and has as its highest value one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” the new Pope warned.
The idea that religion should change itself to reflect human trends, rather than God, is almost a given in some sectors of society these days – usually the sectors who would never darken a church doorway even at Easter. No longer having faith, they would prefer the Church join them by abandoning its faith as well, “lightening up a little”, and what’s wrong with abortion as a form of contraception anyway?
But the times they are a changing. Few could have failed to note that many of the mourners for Pope John Paul 2, and many of those who cheered at the news of Joseph Ratzinger’s election as the new pope, were young. Many of the cynics and critics are baby-boomers. There is not just a culture clash underway on religion, there is an intergenerational clash as well. The children of the baby boomers think their parents are immoral, inept and bereft of basic values. While mainstream liberal protestant churches in the West are dying a horrible death, Pentecostal protestant churches are booming, as Gen-Xers return to the faith their parents abandoned.
Pope Benedict knows this too. His choice of the name Benedict is significant for a number of reasons. The Benedictine order of monks were primarily responsible for the Christianisation of Europe during the dark ages. The original evangelists bringing light to the world. Many observers say this Benedictine papacy will be a battle for the hearts and minds of Europe again.
Yet it will be a battle without compromise. Pope Benedict staunchly resists the notion that Christianity should somehow be watered down to appeal to Western liberals. Better, says the Pope, to remain true to your core beliefs than set yourself adrift in the sea of relativism where truth is meaningless.
If that means the Catholic Church continues to shrink in Western Europe (it is exploding in Latin America and Africa), then so be it, as Britain’s Independent noted.
And there is another fascinating twist to Ratzinger’s choice of “Benedict”. Back in the year 1140, a monk known to history as St Malachi is said to have received visions from God of 112 future popes.
According to those visions, the man just elected will be the second to last pope:
“111. The Glory of the Olive. The Order of St. Benedict has said this Pope will come from their order. The Olive branch is a sign of peace and he may be a peacemaker or dark skinned. It is interesting that Jesus gave his apocalyptic prophecy about the end of time from the Mount of Olives. This Pope will reign during the beginning of the tribulation Jesus spoke of. The 111th prophesy is “Gloria Olivae” (The Glory of the Olive). The Order of Saint Benedict has claimed that this pope will come from their ranks. Saint Benedict himself prophesied that before the end of the world his Order, known also as the Olivetans, will triumphantly lead the Catholic Church in its fight against evil.”
According to Malachi’s prophecy, this pope will have a short reign, marking the start of the tribulation leading to Armageddon. At 78 years old, Pope Benedict XVI will not remain in power for long.
The liberal wing of the Catholic Church, which tried to mobilize against Ratzinger in the conclave of cardinals but failed, now has a few years to regroup and be better placed at the next conclave, perhaps within a decade, to give us a Pope of enlightenment and liberation from the shackles of the past.
Which brings us to the last of St Malachi’s prophetic visions.
“112. Peter the Roman – This final Pope will, it is argued now by theologians, likely be Satan, taking the form of a man named Peter who will gain a worldwide allegiance and adoration. He will be the final antiChrist which prophecy students have long foretold. If it were possible, even the very elect would be deceived. The 112th prophesy states: ‘In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Petrus Romanus, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End’.”
Regardless of what one thinks of Malachi’s visions and end-time theology, there’s no doubt the man now at the helm of the Catholic Church will be a defender of the faith from the erosion of postmodernism, in a Europe fast losing its Christianity and returning to paganism.
God needs a “rottweiler” for times such as these.