Bringing faith to politics in UP's POPElandia

By The Beacon | February 20, 2013 9:00pm

Anthony Paz (The Beacon)

By Anthony Paz, Guest Commentary

About a week ago, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be resigning the office of Bishop of Rome on Feb. 28. In what may be the understatement of the day, let me say that chances are good that you've already heard about this. Pope Benedict's decision shocked not only Catholics, but people of all faith backgrounds. For whatever reason, Catholic news is a mainstay in the national media. Although we are not a majority Catholic country, all major news networks have spent hours covering this surprising development.

Papal politics fascinate us. As a Catholic campus minister with a degree in theology, you'd probably expect that from me. However, I'm always surprised when the mainstream news media spend so much time on the subject. I was a freshman at a very secular liberal arts college in New England when Pope John Paul II died and Benedict was elected as his replacement. Many of my classmates and, indeed, some professors were openly hostile toward Christianity (a wonderful growth experience for an 18-year-old from a tiny Catholic high school in rural California). Despite that, in the weeks surrounding John Paul II's death, the campus buzzed with talk about his record and possible replacement. Naturally, this talk was, at best, mixed in its evaluations of JP2's character and initiatives. But no one could deny his effect on 20th century world history.

For better and for worse, the Catholic Church, and the Bishop of Rome as its head, continues to be hugely influential in world affairs. Of course, this is one major reason why any news from the Vatican gets so much traction in the media. What one man says will potentially influence one sixth of the world's population! However, something about the strong emotions people have about the Pope and Catholic Church in general indicates that there's more to our interest than simply practical concern for world news.

Few people lack an opinion about the Pope. Is he an archconservative? A moral leader? A brilliant thinker? A patriarchal sexist? A champion of justice and human rights? Never will you see the question, "is he just another world leader with his gifts and flaws?" While I'll never know all individual reasons for the interest and emotion surrounding this figure, this office, I can venture a guess as to why Americans continue to follow the goings-on of an ancient and decidedly undemocratic hierarchy. Perhaps the papacy is one of the last institutions from which we allow ourselves to expect great things, even if we know that those expectations might not be met. Although no one needs me to describe all of the horrible things some high-profile members of the clergy have done in the past, it seems that we continue to hope against expectation that the clergy we know will be better than the rest. When we find out they've either failed or exceeded our expectations, we react with particular intensity. I think such high expectations are appropriate and being informed is the way to refine our expectations and hold our leaders accountable in a charitable and loving way.

Certainly many people could care less about who becomes the next pope or how it happens. However, if you're interested, as I am, in the process, characters and history surrounding the supreme pontiff, then come to the Bauccio Commons on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. for a panel discussion we're calling POPElandia: Put a Miter on It. Bring your questions and strong opinions. I'll bring mine and even share some of them.

Anthony is the assistant director of Faith Formation. He can be reached at


Campus Ministry Calendar

Friday, February 22, 2013

4:30 p.m. Stations of the Cross - Chapel

Monday, February 25, 2013

6:00 p.m. Gay Straight Partnership Meeting - Franz Hall 222

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

8:30 p.m. Fish - Buckley Center 163

Friday, March 01, 2013

4:30 p.m. Stations of the Cross - Chapel

Monday, March 04, 2013

6:00 p.m. Gay Straight Partnership Meeting - Franz Hall 222

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

8:30 p.m. Fish - Buckley Center 163

Friday, February 15, 2013

4:30 p.m. Stations of the Cross - Chapel of Christ the Teacher

Sunday, February 17, 2013

10:30 a.m. JPW Mass - Chapel of Christ the Teacher

Monday, February 18, 2013

6:00 p.m. Gay Straight Partnership Meeting - Franz Hall 222

Thursday, February 21, 2013

10:00 p.m. Group Prayer led by Faith & Leadership House - Corrado Hall St. Susanna Chapel