Following Pope Benedict XVI's elevation to the papacy, the BBC opined that he ``may alienate churchgoers of the 21st century who prefer a more flexible doctrine."
Other commentators suggested that the new pope should alter the direction of the Catholic church, adapt its moral teachings to the spirit of the times, and modify the one or the other of its more controversial religious tenets.
Consider this advice in light of the following story:
You are in a group of survivors of an airplane crash in the wilderness.
The weather is predicted to turn cold in two or three days, and all of you will freeze to death unless you are rescued soon.
Frantic efforts are made to contact someone _ anyone _ through a portable radio transmitter, to no avail.
After the first night, however, two people claim to have reached an aviation tower at an airfield on a nearby island and received word that a three-hour walk into a northeasterly direction will lead to a shore point to which a rescue vessel has been dispatched. A caravan of people ensues.
Two hours into the trek, however, following complaints about how difficult the path has become, the two guides assert that the original message recommended a northwesterly direction; the caravan changes course.
Half an hour later, after new complaints, the leaders announce that the boat is to be reached in the southeast, and the procession makes a 180 degree turn. The zigzagging continues.
How long will it take you to realize that the self-appointed guides likely never did receive a genuine message?
Well, the very first change of direction already should have made you suspicious.
After all, a minimum requirement for the truthfulness of what one is being told is consistency.
It is, of course, not enough: A communication free of contradictions may still lack genuineness.
No unusual mental acumen seems to be required, however, to understand that messengers who give themselves the lie lack credibility.
Suggesting that Pope Benedict modify church teachings and change course amounts to a recommendation that he imitate the self-appointed leaders in my story.
The notion that church doctrine is to be adapted to what the contemporary world happens to consider acceptable flies in the face of the identity the Catholic church claims.
It considers itself appointed by Christ as the interpreter of what God has revealed to humanity, first through the prophets, then through his son.
Were Pope Benedict to follow suggestions to change course, the Catholic church would lose its credibility for the same reason as the individuals claiming to have received a radio transmission.
Staying the course by itself does not demonstrate that the Catholic church is the true church of Christ; but altering directions _ zigzagging from the path of earlier teachings _ would make Catholicism cease to live up to a minimum requirement for being the true interpreter of a genuine revelation from God.
Generally, I am hesitant to make predictions; nevertheless, I am confidently asserting: Under Pope Benedict, the Christian message might be proclaimed with greater depth, new arguments and explanations might be added, and the truth will be proclaimed with charity; but whatever the additions to the message will be, they will remain consistent with what the Catholic church has taught over the nearly 2,000 years of its existence.
Catholicism will not join those Christian denominations continuously adapting their tenets to what the spirit of the age happens to consider as opportune and discarding unpopular teachings in favor of contrary ones.
That people easily catch on to the credibility problems such changes cause can become obvious to everyone who compares the dwindling membership of so-called liberal Christian denominations with that of churches maintaining a spirit of orthodoxy. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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