Let me open these comments by saying I’m not a Roman Catholic, being instead a Lutheran.  Still, what the Roman Church does undeniably affects Christiandom as a whole, and therefore seems a valid discussion.

As the Cardinals gather to decide the matter of who will be the next Pope, many are writing to this subject of the future of the church. Peggy Noonan stumbles across something that is an intagable for so many:

You are a cardinal of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, a modern man, and for the past seven days, in private conversations in Rome with cardinals you trust, you’ve been admitting what you would never say in public.

You were shocked at the outpouring for John Paul II. You were shocked at the four million who came to Rome, at the line that stretched across the Tiber, at the tears.

You had no idea.

Not that you didn’t have real affection for the old man. He was probably a saint. All that suffering, dragging his broken body into each day the past five years. That’s a long time on the cross.

But you thought he was yesterday’s news. Everyone had already said goodbye to him at those big audiences in the Paul VI hall. And let’s face it, the church under John Paul was slammed every day as conservative, ossified, reactionary.

Here’s another strange thing. In the polls on churchgoing and belief it’s always Catholics on the street in Europe and America who say they want change and reform. They’d been saying it for years! And yet it was Catholics on the street from Europe and America–real nobodies, not to be impolite but just regular Catholics–who engulfed Rome to weep and yell Santo, Santo!

Dale Franks notes the press and the social left apparently ignoring this outpouring:

One of the most interesting—if irritating—features of the coverage surrounding the death of John Paul II has been the more or less constant harping by the media about the pope’s failure” or “resistance” to modernizing the church’s doctrine

Yet, we see the outpouring of litterally millions who poured into Rome, to pay their respect for the main who as one commenter at Q&O said the other day, shattered “the myth that compassion and theological conservatism are diametrically opposed”

We also hear the calls from around the world, for sainthood for the man the left and the press both within the chruch and without, are saying doomed the church to irrelivancy with his conservative angle.

So, what’s happening here? Why the apparent disparity?

Well, I did address part of this a few weeks ago. In that BIT, I linked the names of Pope John Paul, Lech Walessa, Margaret Thatcher, and Solzhenitsyn, as as being on the correct side of the fence between good and evil.

Here’s a concept, and one most of those calling for a more liberal outlook from the church can’t handle; The desire really isn’t there for a more liberal outlook from the church. They don’t want the chruch becoming more freindly to the world, for a simple reason… as Eternity Road remarks this morning:

“A church must, by its very nature, be a conservative institution. The point of a church is the conservation and dissemination of a body of doctrines.”

Within that context, the people have identified what the church stands for is good, and by definition, therefore what seeks to change the church away from that as evil.

That point would seem to be accentuated not only by the current members, but by the number of people who have dropped out of the various branches of the Christian church in recent years, in this way;

While proponants of liberalising the Church would argue that the Chruch must respond to the falling membership numbers by veering left so as to become more ‘relevant’, the fact is, veering left has already been done… to the opposite of the stated desire of bringing more people into Chruch membership. The problem wasn’t that the chruch wasn’t liberal enough, it was already TOO liberal. Rather like the older gent in the Buick stepping on the gas rather than the brake, the results of the error in judgement are the exact opposite of the desired… and are usually catastrophic.

A look at the relationships between church membership in Non-Roman churches, between liberalised doctrine and falling membership reveals a rather startling picture; While there were falling membership numbers during the 60’s, memberships fell even faster in following years, in direct proportion to the rate at which the various branches of Christiandom liberalised their doctrine. Rather than warming to the idea that the chruch was now being “more inclusive” the numbers of filled pews went down like a stone.

Yeah… “Oops”.

It’s true that many within (And more without) the church will not be able to get their mind around those facts,(Usually responding with charges of rampant bigotry within the church) but those ARE the facts.

Now, it should be noted as a practical matter, that the chances of any Pope being elected out of this conclave being significantly more approved of by say, an Andrew Sullivan type… is very small indeed, given that the vast majority of the Cardinals now in Rome deciding this matter are appointees of Pope John Paul II, and so are likely to be following in his footsteps.

What I’m suggesting, here is that we should not look for any major changes in polcy coming from Rome in this next Pope… for two reasons….

* The people within the chruch, really don’t want a liberalised doctrine.

* Nor do the any of the Cardinals now deciding who will next incarnation of Peter will be.

And that, given the facts we see of the last 50 years, would seem to be the best outcome.