The Vatican is facing a dilemma it hasn’t faced in 600 years. I am not talking about the alarming rise of secularism in the West, or the abandonment of traditional dogma, or the continued presence of scandal among priests.
I’m talking about the pope’s really awesome retirement package.
For the first time in pope-history, the Vatican will manage a retirement portfolio for a retired Vicar of Christ. And something tells me that that same Vicar has not been faithfully contributing to his own 401K.
Not surprisingly, the job of Apostolic See comes with a pretty nifty benefit package. For the remainder of his life, Benedict will rake in the spoils of a truly golden parachute. For starters, he will have a few thousand euro dumped into this checking account every month; private living quarters at the Mater Ecclesiae, a former convent, remodeled just for him (comes with a 500 sq meter organic fruit and vegetable garden—gardeners provided); personal physicians on-call 24/7; live-in assistance of a small group of German nuns (not sure what they do exactly but they’ve been with him a long time); and at his beck and call, a bevy of housekeepers, cooks, and valets. It is a papal parachute of just under $600,000.00 per year. Of course, he has to trade in his big hat, ring, cape, and red shoes. Personally, I would keep the shoes.
OK. Enough with the pope-bashing (even though everything I’ve said is entirely true). I won’t even mention Jesus and his persistent camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle comments or that pesky last-will-be-first business. The pope wouldn’t be the pope if we took him out of the flashy, extravagant milieu of papal culture. And although I am pretty much ready to excuse all the over-the-top excessiveness of popedom, there is a nagging problem.
In the buzz words of today, the pope, the Vatican, and all the cool papal stuff, fit in the category of attractional not missional (except maybe the group of German nuns—never criticize nuns as they are true workers). Attractional means you market the church to the world. Missional means you bring the church into the world. In other words, when I ask myself, what can I do as pastor to get the world to come to Zion—I am being more attractional than missional. But when we go to Grace Church and help serve the Community meal, we are being missional. The trick is to tip the balance of church activity in the direction of missional (you certainly can’t abandon attractional altogether).
There are countless examples in the bible where missional trumps attractional. For example, the book of Acts:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. (Acts 2:44-45)
Out there serving, not inside waiting. Missional, not attractional. That’s why, when the pope flies in his private helicopter from the Vatican to his new posh residence and thousands of people cheer and wave, I wonder how much of the message of God’s Kingdom has been lost. Actually, I don’t wonder. I shudder.
Maybe the new pope will rescue and reclaim the message of Jesus. Maybe he will be the new John Paul XXIII. If he is, I won’t care if he wears the red shoes and the big hat and the gold ring. As long as he remembers who the real head of the Church is.