On February 11,comedian Stephen Colbert asked historian Garry Wills if he was in favor of the next pope being not John Paul III or Benedict XVII but “Nobody the First.” Wills smiled and said, “Ah, very good idea.”
For some Catholics, this idea is more than a joke.
Some preachers complain about the Palm Sunday lectionary, which puts together the “palm” and the “passion” Gospel texts. One complaint relates to dissonance: it’s not easy to pair a celebratory parade with a trial and execution. Another complaint concerns scope: there is too much theological ground to cover and too much liturgical time required.
Nothing outrages students in Jonathan Sheehan’s course on the history of Christianity at the University of California at Berkeley more than the writings of John Calvin. What kind of God is it who would predetermine the ultimate destiny of all humans before the creation of the world? students wonder. Reading Calvin, he says, helps students see the power of an argument and consider the consequences of their own beliefs and commitments. Sheehan wants students to wrestle with Calvin with “integrity, reason, creativity, and charity . . . intellectual virtues that we need in our modern world” (New York Times, September 12).