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Animated, enamoured, inspired; not alienated.

The great Pope John Paul has been gone for two months now, and sometimes I still have difficulty believing it. I loved him dearly (still do) and, when he died, I felt as though I'd lost a blood relation. So I should have known better than to watch (or listen to) any of the CBC's coverage of his passing, but I admit I did.

In its heartfelt tributes to our late Holy Father, the CBC frequently gave the last word to the Church's Malcontents: those who are, quite frankly, glad he's dead. The Malcontents are not an organized group (they are several), but they have the usual gripes in common--the "Fad Four:" contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and women's ordination. The Malcontents include men and women: lay people, clergy, nuns, ex-Catholics, non-Catholics, and un-Catholics (yes, Virginia, there is a difference).

Of the many falsehoods and half-truths submitted by the Malcontents in the course of various TV interviews and radio call-in shows, one of the most galling was that Pope John Paul alienated "half" the Catholic population (i.e. women). This "half" is a little like Kinsey's "10%"--in other words, not even close. Angry priestess-wannabes are a tiny minority. Many women love and live Catholic teaching. Not that it's a numbers game; the Church is far more interested in quality than quantity, something at which Cardinal Ratzinger hinted even before he became Pope Benedict XVI.

In one TV interview, the ubiquitous Joan Chittister claimed that the Church is "bleeding women" (i.e. women are pouring from the Church, as blood flows from a wounded body). This is not so. All you have to do is attend Mass, or visit an orthodox Catholic campus, or attend a Catholic conference (where the teaching is authentic), and you will see women. Young women, old women, strong women, beautiful women, single women, married women, consecrated women, educated women, professional women, intelligent women, joyful women.

Scariest of all, we are fertile women (in every sense: intellectually, physically, spiritually). For all their Mother-goddess-earth worship, the feminist Malcontents in fact celebrate sterility and death. We, on the other hand, are going forth and multiplying. The Church (through the bold and beautiful teaching of Pope John Paul II) is drawing such women to herself, and (much) more importantly, sending these women into the world to humanize and evangelize it.

The Malcontents claim to be interested in evangelization, although they would never call it that. They want the Church to 'attract' people, especially the young. Like some giant ecclesial Starbucks, the Church must apparently make things more hip and comfort: able, and offer the right brand of teaching on the Fad Four. In other words, the Catholic Church should become like the liberalized mainline Protestant churches, which (as we all know) are bursting at the seams with young people (perhaps the very same young people who flock in the millions to the Anglican and United Church versions of World Youth Day).

I noted with amusement that Malcontent Fr. Richard McBrien was unimpressed with the millions of youth (plenty of women among them) who came to Rome for Pope John Paul's funeral. He scoffed, "These are just the millions that the Church already has--what about the millions who stayed away?" This is like saying, "Donald Trump isn't rich--what about the billions he doesn't have?" The Malcontents are truly running out of gas, but they keep on truckin'.

What puzzles me is that (intelligent as they are) they fail to see the inherent absurdity of their mission (imposing their beliefs on the Church, through the Vicar of Christ). True liberals (like true Catholics) believe in the primacy of conscience. Regarding truth, however, liberals believe "You have yours, and I have mine," so you follow your conscience as a gardener follows a wheelbarrow. (Incredibly enough, Catholics believe our consciences must be formed according to Catholic teaching. This is what defines us as Catholics.) While the Malcontents would be outraged (and rightly so) at any attempt to force them to violate their consciences, they wished--indeed expected--Pope John Paul to violate his, by arbitrarily changing that which he believed immutable.

That John Paul stayed 'true to himself' should make him a hero even for the Malcontents, who employ few other criteria for judging human merit. But as they have demonstrated time and again, they can be inclusive and non-judgemental only with people who agree with them. What made Pope John Paul heroic was staying true to Christ. Following his Divine Master, the late pope emptied himself so that Christ could dwell in him and speak through him. And we respond freely to his example. There is no coercion here; no oppression, no alienation. Make no mistake: the Catholic Church forces no one to accept her teaching. She proclaims it: you are free to accept or reject it. But it is sheer illogical idiocy to ask her to change it. John Paul said (and lived) as much, but far more charitably than I. That, among many other reasons, is why he is my hero.

One Malcontent on a radio call-in show suggested, with not a little satisfaction in his voice, that Pope John Paul's work On earth (and, by implication, his influence) is now finished. I hate to disappoint this fellow, but he couldn't be more wrong. The late pope's teachings, his extensive writings (Mulieris dignitatem and "Letter to Women" among them), and his faithful, humble, and loving example remain. Long live the spirit of John Paul II, the man who taught me what it means to be a woman.

Mariette Ulrich is a mother and a homemaker. She writes from Scott, Saskatchewan, where she lives with her husband, Dan and seven daughters.
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Title Annotation:COLUMNIST
Author:Ulrich, Mariette
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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