The four bodies of the pope

After john paul ii. The papacy will have to be reinvented

Who is actually interested in the pope? The man karol wojtyla may stir or leave one indifferent, may be annoying in his continuous television presence or his reactionary views, may appear either unhappy or salvific in his historical role as leader of the catholic church. Now a man has died at the age of 84 years. Actually nothing special. Not even for a catholic christian, because after all, all people are equal before god. But because that man held an office for almost 27 years, according to which he was, in his own conviction as well as that of a mass of believers, the representative of god on earth, his death, like his life, has also become a public matter.

But who is interested in the pope?? For what is he competent? For what is he relevant? Why is he now publicly commemorated in a mabe, why was his death publicly accompanied in a way that was not allowed to happen to any statesman and certainly not to any artist or thinker – in another, perhaps more important way spiritual leader of mankind?

Maybe these are the wrong questions. Maybe it is necessary to start differently. You can see and hear bells ringing, people crying as if they had lost a close relative. Hundreds of thousands of people gather on public squares, in churches. A final reference to john paul ii., the 264th in the line of pontiffs, the first non-italian pope in 450 years, the pope with the second longest pontificate in history, and the funeral next wednesday was allowed to be probably the rudest funeral of all time. These ultimate superlatives after many before – 1.2 million kilometers of travel put "the hurried father" during his term of office. He visited countless countries of the world, but neither russia, nor china, was seen by many millions in person and by billions on the screen – are only a final proof of the charisma of this pope, his ability to communicate globally in the communication world society.

The pope as pop star

Everyone is the victim of his biography. And after his appointment to the highest office of the catholic church karol wojtyla created the artificial figure of pope john paul ii. And thus himself as well as his institution a second time: the pope as pop star. John paul ii. Was helped by the fact that he – only 58 years old when he took office – seemed young and dynamic at first, likeable in person, that he was witty, could be charming. Above all, he was spontaneous, knew no fear of movement, was a pope who moved, even, if necessary, down from his chair.

Even more important was the fact that this pope did not shy away from publicity, but sought it in a way that few before him had done. Perhaps it was all the flight forward of an institution ossified in two millennia, but john paul ii., who understood earlier than many the transformative power of the symbol and thus the principle of pop politics that defines our understanding of public social action today, used the media to transform religious power into political capital. Yet he himself was his best advertising machine.

The most real thing that people can give each other is imagination. And the operating principle of the pop industry also works in other areas, including religion: through constant presence, recurring images, messages, zero messages if necessary, and their perpetual repetition in the media, familiarity is installed and relevance is asserted, the importance of the pope is anchored in the minds of the public to the point where his presence in the media and his importance as a spiritual leader is no longer questioned, and the public, like a drug addict, wants to be fed with new dope with ever new info, and is consumed by the desire for "more" is as difficult to diade as the consumption of their favorite tv series.

The end of his life in particular once again reflected the world public’s relationship to this pope – reporting from the vatican there resembled a daily soap opera with its constant repetition of zero messages, its pure presence, its anticipation of things to come (the pope’s death) and its review of things past (wojtyla’s career and the pontificate of john paul ii).), and their inability to combine all this into anything concise.

Radical and fundamentalist

The pope proved to be a skilful manager and reorganizer of an ailing enterprise. He easily managed to make the organization of the church his instrument and to increase its efficiency step by step. Under john paul ii, the church, a global corporation, was. The corporate identity was strengthened by tightening the hierarchies, strengthening the controlling, sharpening the corporate profile. John paul ii. Had recognized that the idea of ecumenism was leading to a dead end. If faith and religion have a future in the modern age, it is not through tolerance of other faiths.

No one was therefore more hated by protestants than this pope, because no one put down their weak – if everything is a matter of opinion, then why join a church and not simply have opinions? – more clearly and at the same time more skillfully blob, than this pope, who – in the "declaration dominus jesus" in the year 2000 – simply denied being churches in the true sense of the word. No one fought more sharply against the protestant watering down of the fact that faith per se is something dogmatic and unconditional, or just no faith at all. "No basis can decide about revealed truths", he provoked by using the lutheran "here i am and i can’t help it" more clearly to his church, and at the same time returned to his origins. In this sense, john paul ii was. Radical and fundamentalist. His strength was lutheran stubbornness, the consistency with which he claimed allegiance, demanded authority and could be authoritarian when it came to the unity of his church.

At the same time, he fought for the unity of the churches, not as a contradiction but as a complement to the company policy. "The division of the churches is a scandal", the pope argued again and again. Thus he approached, not always successfully, other religious groups, overcoming seemingly open and liberal boundaries between religions, recognizing that they were united at least by a common enemy – liberalism, pluralism, atheism, in short: the modern age. What some in his own church regarded as a not exactly lineal "mixing of religions" was in fact the acquisition of religious minority interests, which always yielded a little spiritual – and sometimes also material – return.

A reactionary in modern garb

What was modern in its form and what john paul ii. As an almost neoliberal pope, in his constant restlessness – "rest in paradise" – his actionism, was accompanied by conservative, often enough anti-modern content. When he was elected, the anti-communist fervor grew in the eastern bloc, and anti-universalist movements grew in the rest of the world. In the west the "postmodernism" in the west, postmodernism gained cultural hegemony, and in the usa jimmy carter, a left-wing conservative deeply rooted in naive protestantism "against washington" u.S. President, in england margaret thatcher took office, in the middle east the triumph of islamism began with the iranian revolution of ayatolla khomeini.

The four bodies of the pope


Although he fought for justice and liberation, for human rights, he said no to many wars. But for example the contradiction to the iraq war in 2003, which brought him into conflict with u.S. President george w. Bush, obscures the fact that john paul ii was in fact. Had much in common with this secular leader, with his sense of mission, his ignorance of dissent, his ideological positions that could not be shaken by any doubt or argument. In his principles john paul was not only very conservative and averse to certain attitudes of the present, he was reactionary.

Under the code word of a "culture of life" the pope became the forerunner of a fundamentalist rejection of premarital sex and contraception, of abortion and biotechnology, of passive as well as active euthanasia. Only shortly before his death did he equate abortion and the holocaust.

The statements against war and genocide, against torture and the arbitrariness of the ruling class, against hunger and the arms trade, against violence against women and children were not as sharp as his statements on these ies. The church’s own misconduct – from abuse by priests to complicity with dictatorship and terror – was covered by a cloak of silence during his tenure. The model of the church of the 19th century. Committed to the church in the twentieth century, john paul ii. The spiritual freedom that blew for a short while in the church, profiled itself internally as a reactionary. He did not give an inch to the advocates of women’s ordination, of the relaxation of the colibate. This cannot be explained only by the will for efficiency and the fact that here a manager wants to keep his organization intact without friction losses.

The attitude of this pope can be seen in the different treatment of liberal theologians such as hans kung and eugen drewermann compared to the leniency shown to critics from the right and followers of the restoration such as the french archbishop marcel lefebvre, and even more so to the founder of the crypto-fascist opus dei, josemaria escriva de balaguer, whom this pope canonized. The public role that the pope invented for his institution was very much in keeping with the spirit of the times, even radically overruling it. In times of "change of tendency" the 1970s, the church had to play its role as a countervailing force to modernization. He advocated anti-universalist values, but clothed them in universalist form. This was the art piece of this pope.

Pose and program

Media popularization and conservative sacral revisionism thus appear as two sides of one and the same coin. In order for the goods to remain saleable at all, despite their obvious obsolescence, the form had to be added again, the product had to be given a spirit "spirit" that distinguished it from others. It is no gross secret that products are sold not for their material value, but for their added value, for asthetic and spiritual adjuncts, because they are "myths of everyday life" (roland barthes).

As a student

In his career only from the nazi rule and the crimes of the german occupation to the priest declarable, seemed the 1946 ordained priest honest and authentic, apparently also in everything what one might hate or despise in him, in any case no hypocrite and hypocrite and insofar the antithesis to media priests such as the protestant berlin bishop huber, who to everything and everyone well-balanced, thoughtful, unobliging to formulate soft as a diaper.

At the same time, the pop star john paul ii. Increasingly a prisoner of his own legend. Wojtyla the man seemed to identify too much with his own role, vanity seemed to wrap itself in the pose of modesty and the man of pain, the martyr. His own public and staged cloister became the final spectacle that captivated millions – like a vatican catch of "the passion of the christ".

The interim balance of this rough horse-cure of john paul ii’s reign., which, from a later perspective, might have been seen as necessary, but perhaps also as the beginning of the end of the institution, is mixed: the current pope owes his importance to aubenpolitische successes, above all his advocacy for the polish opposition. Under him, the vatican has once again become a – spiritual – world power. Without him, there would perhaps still be the iron curtain. "Everything that happened in eastern europe would have been impossible without the pope’s impulse and without the extraordinary political role he played on the world scene", according to soviet leader mikhail gorbachev. But the pope’s hope of creating in post-communist eastern europe a counter-design also to the western "wild" capitalism was not fulfilled. He fought against "against injustice, exploitation, violence and anabuse", but his church itself made enormous turnover and employed controllers in order to operate more efficiently.

John paul ii. Appointed legions of cardinals, but it was only in africa that the number of priests did not decline during his term of office. The power of the evangelicals increased, especially in latin america, where the pope’s early rejection of liberation theology and too-late yielding surrendered important terrain. The faithful are running away from the catholic church. The churches are empty.

The pope is dead, the church lives on

No need, then, to decry this pope who ruled the church autocratically and charismatically, as the last absolute monarch on earth. No reason to limit him to the popularly loud image of the pope, which has already been deposited in the collective memory during his lifetime: sentimental, almost nostalgic underpinnings, intimate and sometimes bordering on fetishism. Whether john paul ii. To "to the roughest heads and spirits of the church history" as was hastily formulated on ard on the evening of his death, remains to be seen.

But there is a reason to honor his life’s work. To recognize that karol wojtyla added to the traditional three bodies of the pope – the private, the religious and the political – a fourth: an aesthetic, public one, which no longer merged with the others, but became independent. No one can say what it would be like without it. This pope divided opinion and was probably the best thing that could have happened to the institution of the catholic church. In his own person, john paul ii reconciled. The heterogeneous moments of faith in modernity, the dialectic between disenchantment and enchantment of the world. In this way he was an indispensable figure of integration, an "institution in a case", as the sociologist arnold gehlen described it.

What does the church actually do without this pope? The pope is dead, the church lives on. After john paul ii. The papacy will have to be reinvented.

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