The news of Pope’s resignation has been out for a while now and at first I didn’t pay much attention to it but eventually we should all take heed to it because Catholic Church, after all, is the largest religious institution in the world and our ISKCON should eventually reach that status, too.
Popes don’t usually retire, for the past 600 years death was their only way out so resignation is a very significant event in Church’s history, it’s practically unprecedented considering that we don’t identify ourselves with the world 600 years ago anymore.
At the time of total modernization of every sphere of human life this resignation is like the first divorce or the first abortion ever. It might have its own merits and values but, perhaps, more importantly, it has a profound and irreversible effect on “tradition”.
Now there’s public talk about possibility of the church embracing gay marriage, abortions and whatever else matters to contemporary people. Nothing is sacred anymore – the Pope was supposed to be God’s representative on Earth and if we can willfully severe that connection then we can do everything else we want, too.
It’s been only about a month since the Pope very publicly inaugurated the first ever official Pope’s twitter account – funny how these two firsts came so closely together. Maybe we should consider how changes start relatively small and end up in complete disaster.
This might not sound like a good example or a reasonable connection to make but these are not the only changes the Pope was forced to make – he actually started with financial audits to keep Vatican in compliance with international accounting standards. While on the surface it seems like a welcome development it immediately sparked internal wars and produced accusations of corruption, powerful people got threatened, some went on attack while others took defensive measures.
When it all became public, in the Vatileaks scandal, all the dirty laundry was out and caused the Pope’s resignation. Yes, they tightened up procurement policies and saved quite a few euros here and there but is it worth destroying the credibility of the institution they originally set to strengthen when they introduced new accounting policies?
The reformers would say that they will build a new Vatican, more open and transparent and better in every way, and it sounds wonderful, but pessimists would say that by solving one problem they create a multitude of new ones and from now on it will be just like the rest of the world – chasing an impossible dream with more and more efforts needed to solve more and more problems and there’s no way you can return to simple ways of the past.
Old Vatican could lay claim to being connected with God from its very foundation, new Vatican would be an entirely human creation, and they started modernizing it when credibility of modern financial system has been completely undercut. They can’t sell this financial transparency dream elsewhere anymore but somehow Church’s leaders bought into it and committed themselves to this reform.
Anyone who has tried it knows that there’s no end to it, every time it fails to deliver you’d be required to dedicate even more resources to it, make even more changes to your life and your attitudes. Reforming yourselves to fit with modern standards requires total dedication and total surrender. You’d have to give up your culture and all your traditions to succeed in keeping up with times.
Elsewhere it’s called westernization, now even Vatican got hooked on it and it suffered its first causality – the Pope himself resigning in frustration, and it’s just the beginning.
In ISKCON we’ll come to face similar problems, too. There’s no lack of reformers and innovators in our movement and we are alsooddly fascinated with modern managerial practices. FDG issue is just one of the aspects of “westernizing” ISKCON, we’ve already adopted divorces and a loose interpretation of illicit sex, and homosexuality is always lurking around, waiting for its chance in the limelight.
Our GBC needs to keep a fine balance between the legitimate need to adjust to time, place, and circumstances and being pressured by foreign, non-devotional ideas.
There’s also an amazing absence of any spiritual considerations in all of this – it’s all about management and politics and all kinds of material needs and considerations, nothing about Krishna (or God for Catholics). I guess it’s because we apply a completely godless value system to judge our performance and, consequently, get a completely godless set of proposals for improvement.
My personal stand is that these reforms are like a vampire – you don’t invite one in your house because once you let him in you are finished.