Sunday, March 10

Bloggal Infallibiity

You learn something new every day.  That’s what they say.  That’s what I’ve always said, and for the most part, it’s true.  I mean it.  It's definitely true.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of those opportunities.  For learning something, I mean.  And now, as I listen to the radio and hear reports of all that they are doing to prepare theSistine Chapel, including false floors and anti-media strategies (I think that’s a little like the anti-Christ, but I’m not exactly clear on that), and all other things secret (because secret equals good, in case you didn’t know), I’m thinking it’s time to not keep my recently gained knowledge in hiding any more.  It’s time to share.

It’s not only about false floors and preventing the highest ranking cardinals from tweeting about the deliberations (I don’t know about you, but it seems like the conclave would be a group of people who you could pretty much count on not to leak information, but hey, what do I know).  There’s a whole lot of talk going on on the radio (day and night, night and day) about this whole pope (does the pope get capitalized?  Not on my blog). resignation thing, this whole new pope thing.   It’s been going on for weeks now.  You know, how it’s been 400 or 600 or however many years since a pope resigned, how there are rumors that it’s because there is some investigation about him in relation one of the umpteen sexual or abuse scandals related to the Catholic church, about how he resigned but he’s still going to live at the Vatican with the new pope (how cozy!), which is going to be kind of odd and unprecedented, because how does that work, having a pope and an ex-pope livingin the same place.  I know I wouldn’t want to try it.

So, in the middle of one of these radio shows, they were talking about just that, about how things are going to work (or not) when a pope and an ex-pope are living in the same place, how’s that going to work when theoretically both of them are pope material, which is really saying something, or so I’ve heard.  There was some kind of expert* on there, someone who really understands Catholicism and Pope-itude, and he was explaining the whole thing.  And somehow the conversation wound its way into the issue of “papal infallibility”. 

Pay attention.  This is where there is something really interesting to be learned.  Unless you know it already.  But I bet you don’t.

So.  It turns out that people have an incorrect understanding of papal infallibility.  We think it means that, well, he’s the pope and he’s infallible.  Strict reading and all..  Apparently not.  Apparently, the pope isn’t always infallible.  He’s only infallible under a couple of sets of conditions.

I am NOT going to interrupt here and say that I don’t get how this whole papal infallibility thing, and the nature of his whole position, his regalia and opulent living, etc. is not idol worship, and thus in violation of all biblical principles.  I mean, isn’t he kind of a sanctioned golden calf with a pointy hat and a fancy dress?  Oh.  I guess I just did interrupt and say that. Well, I still don’t get it.

So.  The conditions.  For infallibility.  In case you’re still paying attention.

It was on a show on the BBC.  They did a whole hour about the pope resigning.  The thing that I liked about it is that they were a little irreverent.  Irreverance seems particularly called for in this case (or in any case, but that’s another conversation, too).   And they started talking about papal infallibility. 

This is where it got really interesting.  Or funny.   Or something.

They were talking with Father Martin, and asked about a really interesting conundrum.  The commentator (sorry, don’t know his name) said that the Pope resigning as a result of the decline of age and inability to carry out the responsibilities of the post implied human fallibility, and how did that jibe with papal infallibility.  Father Martin responded:

“Papal infallibility is sometimes misunderstood….” 


“…The Pope is only infallible in very specific occasions…”


“…First of all, when he declares that he is speaking infallibly, and second of all, in matters of faith and morals..”


When he is speaking infallibly, he tells you, and those occasions are very limited.”

Wait.  Shut the front door.

When he is speaking infallibly, he TELLS YOU?

Now just to be clear, I was driving when I heard this.  I almost had to pull over.  I’m really glad I wasn’t drinking coffee or anything at the time or there might have been a mess.  I’ll tell you one thing.  I answered that one out loud.  Here’s what I said.


No kidding.  That is just completely amazing.  He’s not usually infallible, but on the rare occasions in which he is, you know that what he saying is infallible because he tells you.  I mean, how does THAT work?  Does he interrupt himself (you know, in case he forgot to mention it) and say “Oops.  This next part is infallible”  (or maybe something more like “Mea culpa.  Quod dicturus sum certus.”, so much more pope-like).  Really?  I want that.

I mean, that could really come in handy.  In my daily life—heck, in ALL our daily lives-- there are many times that it would be helpful to notify people (like, say, teenagers.  Or spouses.  Or bosses.  Or whoever) that we are definitely correct and not subject to questioning.  So cool.

But then it occurred to me that there was another place in which that sort of “warning” (if you want to call it that) would be really helpful.  Blogging.  It would be really helpful in blogging.  Because you know, all those pesky comments, and people saying they disagree, and arguing (like you do).  It gets tiring.  

So that got me thinking. 

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my more than a half century (gasp) of living and being female, it’s that you’ve got to stake your claim.  You’ve got to speak up.  You’ve got to stop being a doormat and stand up and say what you want.  If you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll never get it (I know I saw that on one of those dreamy little facebook photos).  In addition to taking back the night, and taking back our bodies, we’ve got to take back words.  And rights.  And power.  Yeah.  Power.

So here’s what I’ve decided.  You deserve some fair notice.  And I don’t want you to miss it.  I don’t want to be misunderstood.  So let’s make this easy. 

I’ve developed what I’m calling an Infallibility Badge.  It’s big.  It’s bold.  It’s red.  It's an I.  You know, for Infallible.  You won’t miss it.  Here it is:

If and when (and you know there’s gonna be a when) I write a blog post that is about to be infallible, I’m going to put the Infallibility Badge at the top.  Then you’ll know.   Sound good?  Good.

It won’t be often.  Only “in very specific occasions”.  And those will be “very limited”.  But you know, sometimes I’m right.  And I think it’s only fair that I let you know ahead of time. 

So that’s the plan. 


*It turned out that the expert who knew all about these things (at least according to the BBC) is Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York.  I looked him up, checked out his HuffPost blog, including the post in which he briefly eulogized JeanneManford, the recently deceased founder of PFLAG, and he looks like a pretty okay guy (an impression which was only fortified with his more recent entry, entitled “12 Pretty Good Reasons Why I Should Be Pope”).  This led me to check him out  even more (and got an education—more learning!) with a friend of mine who knows a whole heck of a lot (wait, am I supposed to use that word “heck” in a post about Catholicism?  The learning continues) about this stuff than I do (which is pretty much anybody, but she understands this way better than your average anybody).  I learned a little about the difference, to the extent that there is a difference, between Roman Catholics and Jesuits and Franciscans and, you know, the other variations not named here, including those guys that made the wine in California.  It was really helpful and interesting, especially since my prior knowledge (if you can call it that) was a vague sense that the Jesuits were “the good ones”, whatever that means—although I’m pretty sure it has something to do with having a HuffPost blog and being on the Colbert Report and joking around about being made pope and having a Twitter account and a Facebook page, which you should definitely check out (yesterday’s tweet: “Conclave Tip: Black smoke: No Pope. White smoke: Pope. Gray smoke: The College of Cardinals can't figure out how to use the @#$%&%* stove.”).  I mean, I’m a Jewish atheist, and now I’m following this guy.  What can I say, I likes me a guy with a sense of humor about religion.

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