Why It Matters

The cardinals are gathered in Vatican City to elect a new pope. Most of the people I know who aren’t Catholic say, “So what? Who cares? I’m not a Catholic. That doesn’t matter to me. Also, screw Lent. I need some chocolate!”

The problem is that no matter what your religion, or lack of same, it does matter who the next pope is. The pope wields considerable temporal power. If you doubt me, just as the various former Soviet satellite nations, especially Poland. While the pope may not have an actual, real army, the effect that he has on his people is enough to grant him a great deal of power over the affairs of the world.

This is especially true in places that haven’t yet learned to ignore the stupider things the Catholic church likes. Consider the case of Africa and Latin America. Both are marked by a very large Catholic population, and both are also marked by high birth rates and, in the case of Africa, a rampant AIDS epidemic. This is directly caused by the church’s inability to deal with the real world and understand that people will fuck, and not every time should produce a child. This is a real problem in these countries, as opposed to here in the USA, and other places like Australia and Western Europe where people have learned to pick and choose what they believe in their churches. This isn’t even touching on things like the rape of children and the marginalization of women, both of which I’m sure will continue full-bore (as it were), under whomever the new pope is.

So the pope does matter to non-Catholics. It matters if you don’t want children getting raped with impunity. It matters if you want women to have some control over their reproductive lives. It matters if you have any sort of interest in human development. It matters.

I hope the next pope is someone more modernizing than Benny 16, but this is unlikely, since he and JP2 picked, if I recall correctly, all the cardinals who are voting. But you never know. I guess we shall see in time.


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