With time flying by at laser velocity, even faster than Superman's iconic speeding bullet, it's amazing to recall that our "For Your Consideration" column is now well into its fourth year as a regular weekly feature.
Initiated through the efforts of Lynn Jacobsson in late autumn '09, colleague Alan Cheah and I have enjoyed sharing a hopefully more progressive perspective on national and local politics than that so generously offered by other regular Sierra Star contributors such as Dr. Bill and Froelich.
There are even times when we are accidentally more prescient than usual, such as in the newspaper's Feb. 21 issue. In an offering entitled, "Rejoice, Dear Hearts" I devoted significant space to a discussion of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, a Jesuit institution.
The whole thrust was stressing the importance of critical thinking as encouraged by a Jesuit philosophy exposing students to comparative schools of reflective thought without fear of concurrent contamination. One learns to avoid confusing knowledge with belief or firm facts with fanciful fiction. My specific point of focus was the brilliant early '60s comedy of a gentleman named Dave Gardner, who reminded me very much of "a Jesuit" in his awesome ability to seemingly reflect on almost everything at once.
Little did I know that within a few short weeks Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina would be chosen to head the Roman Catholic Church, naming himself Pope Francis the First. In the process, our new holiness also becomes the first pope ever hailing from the Americas and, of even greater significance, the first Jesuit to reign supreme over a billion-plus faithful souls around the world.
Make no mistake. There's much more happening here than meets the uninformed eye. Don't look for immediate, obvious, rapid change. Do expect extraordinary thought, rigid reorganization, steel discipline and exemplary dedication to social justice and economic equity.
Less welcomed by many will be initial adherence to traditional male organizational dominance and most matters concerning sex. This wild and dangerous area includes negative outlooks on homosexuality, promiscuity, birth control, abortion, masturbation, all sensitive body parts, and fond memories of innocently discovering puberty -- or any extended conduct -- mental or physical -- relating to all of the preceding.
So I submit Francis the First will be sexually and constrictively conservative, while socially and positively progressive. You know what? I'll take that for openers.
Late last year, I lost an old friend.
Father Philip Keane, S.S. had attended school with me for six years at Cathedral Academy in Syracuse. When we graduated in '59, I headed for Le Moyne as Phil began his studies for the priesthood, eventually becoming proctor at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore and obtaining global renown as a major Catholic theologian.
In 1977, the Paulist Press published a masterwork by Father Keane entitled, "Sexual Morality." Among other brilliantly reasoned positions was Phil's argument that "homosexual conduct cannot be understood as absolutely immoral." In May of 1984, the Vatican's Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ordered the book banned by officially lifting its imprimatur, believing Father Phil was promoting an "intrinsic evil."
This is the same Joseph Ratzinger who despises rock 'n' roll music for being "an expression of elemental passions," referencing "heavy metal" as "an instrument of the devil," and hates Harry Potter for being guilty of "subtle seductions which act imperceptibly and deeply, dissolving Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly." Yep. The same former member of Hitler youth who -- in 1990 -- defended the Church's inquisition driven condemnation of Galileo in 1633 as being "rational and just." Galileo's mortal sin, of course, was to insist that the earth moves around the sun.
In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. A few weeks ago, Benedict became the Sarah Palin of Pontiffs, quitting before his job was done.
Phil Keane would have made a fine Jesuit.
I remember Father Phil's final words to the class after celebrating Mass at our 50th High School Reunion in 2009: "I'll pray for you for all eternity."
To which I responded at the time in my heart and now in print -- "Rejoice, Dear Hearts!"
Perhaps there's hope in this new pope.