Am I off on something here? Am I slow? The American and Western European churches eulogized Pope John Paul II for a seemingly shorter period of time than the American left did Nixon. In an effort to provide some sort of "balance," media outlets anywhere from PBS, NPR, Chicago's own independent Reader, and the major networks are arguing that the Vatican is strictly out of line and time. The argument seems to go that John Paul (and of course, his successor / right-hand-man Pope Benedict XVI) wasn't hip enough with the modern times, that he settled and doggedly fought for such antiquated, barbaric, and perilously sexist notions as soft-patriarchy and male priests, while also curtailing women's rights in reproduction.
Again, there is a call that the Church must update its traditions (and Traditions) in order to be a meaningful and productive member of the modern / post-modern world. That the whims and winds of the contemporary age (in fact, the spirit of the age) dictate the flow of the Church. I believe, however, that we must apologize for the times when they have, eg., slavery, segregation, Apartheid, Imperialism, genocide, Anti-Semitism, class wars, culture wars, Holy Wars (maybe including this ongoing one?).
I am not Catholic. I have grave misgivings about any human saying that he or she is inerrant on any position, at any given position or place. Or that he is the conduit of the Holy Trinity. Too many popes have aligned and misrepresented their earthly kingdom political powers unilaterally against the will of the Heavenly Kingdom. However, having said that, John Paul and Ratzinger have had the Kingdom of Heaven on their minds and agendas, none more so, I would think, than with their concepts of the Culture of Life. It is this Culture of Life that, in principle and in fact, has stood the high moral and spiritual (for shouldn't those four always be connected at the hip: principle, action, morality and spirituality?) ground for the under-priviledged, for the impoverished, for those with disabilities, for the mentally ill, for the unborn, for the victims of war (those caught in the cross-fires, naturally), for the old, for the prisoners, in short, the widows and orphans of the world.
Furthermore, in Western Europe, the Catholic Church is primarily dead, a haunting skeleton of a large dinosaur that had decided to conduct itself in the tar pit affairs of modernity and relativism. The only hesitation that I would have to add the US to that is the large, and largely conservative, involvement of laity in the American Catholic Church, of which there is considerable good to speak of. But pundits don't know where and when to speak. More importantly, of what to speak. Then again, I'm just a blogger, and one of those frightening Evangelicals to boot.