In other words, the papacy of Benedict XVI -- now so "troubled," in news cycle terms, so burdened with scandals over sex abuse and beset with demands for internal change -- represents the oldest organized institution in the world: the Catholic Church, known as "Roman" (to distinguish it from its Eastern and Anglican variants). Nothing gets to be the oldest anything without showing a little moxie -- and, dare I add, some evidence of otherworldly encouragement.
Prophecies of the papacy's impending demise -- the likening of it to the scarlet woman of the Book of Revelation and similarly unflattering modes of expression -- run throughout history. Yet, here comes the Pope, with millions to welcome him to the United States and wish for him all success.
The mistake moderns make, again and again, is seeing history as The New York Times or CNN's account of the past week, when, in fact, history washes away everything moderns regard as of unexampled importance and urgency, "American Idol," for instance. Bright enough just on his own terms, Benedict XVI -- ne Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger -- understands himself to represent, partially at least, the brilliance of the Christian understanding of life, as imparted some millennia ago to the likes of the fisherman known as Rock and to countless disciples since then.
They didn't take polls in Peter's day, and not just because Mark Penn hadn't been born. They didn't take polls because the truth of God wasn't a matter that called for yea or nay votes. It was the good news. That it's still good -- despite everything -- is the news Benedict XVI brings to America this week.
Exulatate! , as I believe they used to say.
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