Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Picking a Pontiff

The newspapers have been awash in red capes and white robes and what looks like little red kippahs. No, it’s not Purim. The Catholics are choosing a new Pope!

For we Jews, this event is someone perplexing. There is no official head of the Jewish religion. There are different bodies within the major movements of Judaism that review and approve laws and changes in laws, and each synagogue or congregation has a rabbi who makes decisions for his or her community. But there is nothing in Judaism like a Pope.

So it's curious to us.

We know that we have weird rituals, too, like swinging live chickens over our heads on Yom Kippur, and beating lulavim on the ground on Hoshana Rabbah. But there is something about how public this conclave of cardinals has been; how suddenly the shiny red shoes and the billowy white robes have a certain, I don’t know, je ne sais quoi that is unexpected and kind of cool.

The Catholic Church has had its problems these past few years.  Seems that having all those young celibate men running things wasn’t such a good idea after all. The Church has a lot of issues with sexuality: celibacy, pre-marital sex, contraception, abortion, gay marriage, you name it, they don’t like it. I’m happy that the Jews – at least, the liberal Jews – are a bit more mellow about these issues. Jews are pretty much in favor of sex, and Judaism promotes a healthy attitude about sexuality, even with a wink to sex outside of marriage (see: tefillin dates).

I think the Catholic Church could learn a thing or two from Judaism about mellowing its attitudes towards sex. Clearly, the strictness of the past hasn't led to anything good. Looking toward the future, I hope the new Pope can figure out a way to solve some of the Church's problems, and maybe -- just maybe -- those little red kippahs will become a fashion statement after all.

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