We have become trained to expect to get what we want.
I know polls are ubiquitous in our culture, but we are becoming the kind of society that expects polls to have some kind of sway over our public life. Our political climate, for instance, has given us the sense that if most people want something, they have a decent shot of getting it. If 58% of people think politicians should crack pink Easter eggs on their heads, then we expect that some will actually do it.
The Vatican, however, is a different matter. Reading about the polls done on what Americans and American Catholics would like to see out of the next Papacy strikes me as a collision of worlds. Politicians tend to look to polls for a good deal of their guidance; I am imagining that if the Vatican catches wind of these polls, the response will be, “who cares?” Who cares if most American Catholics, or just most Americans want the next Pope to be more “liberal” on stem cell research or abortion? The Papal stance on such matters is not a function of public opinion-it is a function of truth.
Most of all, the juxtaposition of these kinds of polls and the role of Catholic theology (or any orthodox theology for that matter) is a powerful reminder of how narcissistic we have become. From political push polls to postmodern churches we are trying very hard to make the world around us look like what we think it should be. We desperately want “them” to look like “us”; we really want God to look like me.
And yet the church goes on through wave after wave of cultural change and call after call for change in the church. And that is exactly how it should be. Too many people to count have prophesied the church must change or die-and the church has buried each and every one of them.