MY Sister-in law is Roman Catholic, and so my niece and nephew were raised Roman Catholic, so I guess I gotta kinda tiptoe around here.
Nah. I never tiptoe around on this blog. I do feel that Martin Luther had a a point when he nailed his theses to the cathedral door. But I won't say that the Roman Catholic Church is not truly Christian. However neither will I say that it is correct dogma to ask Mary, John, Paul, Jude or any other Saint to pray to Jesus or God for me.
There are two kinds of Protestant: Anglican and Lutheran. The Anglican types are members of the Church of England and the Episcopalian Church. This "Anglican Communion" was founded by Henry VIII when the Pope refused to grant him an annulment. That's not much of a foundation for a faith, and particularly the Episcopal branch of the Anglican Communion has embraced as priests and bishops persons such as he whom I call "wrong-way Spong" who are - I am being generous - skeptical of the Divinity of Jesus. There was a notorious case a few years ago where the Episcopalians elevated to the rank of Bishop a man who had left his wife and kids FOR ANOTHER MAN. Seems to me this "bishop" should look up the definiton of "faith".
(In a satire years ago on the differences between Christian belief systems - called "Denominational Hells" - the National Lampoon compared the Catholic Hell (for masturbation) with the Methodist Hell (for playing cards), the Presbyterian Hell (for dancing), the Baptist Hell (for drinking) and the Episcopalian Hell (for eating oysters with the salad fork).)
On the other hand, Lutheran Protestantism derives from the rebellion of Martin Luther, who challenged the authority of Rome on much more solid theological grounds. Lutheran Protestantism - and if the term does not exist, by the way, I just coined it; so OED, give the ADP due credit in your next edition - gave rise to almost every later sect and denomination. For the purposes of this post, the most important point of Lutheran Protestant doctrine is the "priesthood of all believers"; ie: all believers can access an audience with Almighty God by the simple act of individual prayer. No "Father O'Malley, pray for me", no "Mary, pray for we sinners". A Lutheran-style Protestant like me has no need of an intermediary (although nothing is wrong with praying for another person, Christian or not).
And so I have no need of Priest nor Pope. But so long as the object of veneration is the Holy God who died on the Cross as an Atonement for the sins of the world, then you are pretty much on course.
Okay, now that I've explained a few things, let's get down to brass tacks.
The entire world does not watch when the Southern Baptist Conference changes presidents. The politics of the United Methodists do not draw global attention. I think the "Prophet" of the "Latter Day Saints" is some guy named Kimball, I'm not sure and I don't really care.
But I know that Pope Pius led the Catholics when I was born, followed by Pope John, then Pope John Paul I and John Paul The Great; who was succeeded by Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict recently decided to abdicate and has now been succeeded by Pope Francis.
Not, mind you Pope Francis I. He won't be Pope Francis I until he leaves office and some other Cardinal gets elected and chooses the name Francis, at which point he will be Francis II and the present pope will be Francis I. My dad wasn't a "senior" until I was born with his name. Same principle.
As I said, however, nobody cares who the president of the Southern Baptist Conference is, except maybe here in America for about ten minutes. Let the Papacy be an open office, however and everybody from the New York Times to the most remote newspaper on the planet is sending reporters by jet, train, and donkey to cover the proceedings. There is always speculation about such things as "the first American Pope" "The first African Pope" and all.
There are always deluded morons who think that maybe the new Pope will carve out a niche for "gay marriage" or an exeption for abortion or some such thing. And of course it never happens, and these types then rag on the Pope endlessly. Why do the heathen rage? I think we know why.
Among the things being speculated on was whether the Cardinals would elect an Italian Pope. Well, the new Pope has an Italian name, but he's from Argentina. This makes Francis the first non-European Pope in over seven centuries. He does, however come from a Latin/European culture. And he is likely to be just as conservative as his two predecessors. It baffles me as to why the heathen of the planet hope that the College of Cardinals would choose a Pope who would turn their own beliefs upside down. The heathen rage because they were not allowed to install a Pope who would give them control of the most influential and powerful ecclesiastic office on the planet.
Popes have had tremendous influence across the globe. John Paul the Great had almost as much to do with the fall of Communism as did Ronald Reagan; and indeed he was indispensible in the effort. Holding the office of Vicar of Christ in the Roman Catholic faith is a powerful position, equivalent on a secular level to the Presidency of the United States. This has not always been obvious. Indeed, Joseph Stalin once asked: "How many divisions (of soldiers) does the Pope have?"
A few decades ago, John Paul the Great - and legions of angels - toppled Communism. I beheld, open-mouthed, as the red banner with its yellow hammer-and-sickle was hauled down from the Russian embassy on 16th Street in Washington and replaced with the old Russian tricolor. I watched as young Germans, joined with Communist East German border guards, pounded down the Berlin Wall - a barrier that none of my generation expected to be demolished, and yet there before my eyes it was being torn down. How many divisions? Legions.
And even considering the global power and influence of the Papacy, one of the first things Pope Francis did was to go to the Vatican hotel he had been staying at, and paid his own bill.
Jesus would have done the same. So far, my Catholic bretheren and their College of Cardinals have made an excellent choice.