We are astonishingly close to our Holy Father, when you measure it in terms of "degrees of separation," the game of seeing how few people you know who know people who know people who know the target.
We are under the care of our bishops, who are under the authority of the Pope. That's it; two degrees. When people get bent out of shape about the Catholic Church's hierarchy, they don't realize that it's that intimate. Certainly, if I waltzed up to a Swiss Guard and demanded to see the Pope, they'd send me back to negotiate layers of official channels, but in terms of prayer, and thought, and care, it's not that long a path between the Pope's blessing and my heart.
Twice yesterday, my Catholic jaw went slack when I heard:
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests For Life on a panel discussion with Dr. James Dobson on the Moody Bible radio station. They called him Father, which usually doesn't happen, they squeak out a "Reverend" (and I kind of sympathize with people who aren't used to calling a priest "Father"). The issue of course was Terri Schiavo, and the panel agreed on the truths and tragedies surrounding her death. Dr. Dobson has an excellent show at 5:30 pm CST and has become a passionate speaker about the "culture of life," but the Catholic Church's leadership in these efforts is usually the Elephant In The Room that Dr. D won't talk about, except for a bone thrown to the Vatican now and again. This was a heartfelt and unifying discussion, very encouraging.
And last night to hear from of all people Pat Robertson a glowing and affectionate tribute to John Paul II! Pat called him a man who truly loved God and who loved Jesus Christ, a man of prayer. For a change, Pat managed to NOT get in a dig about "even though I disagree with the Catholic religion" (sure tipoff when you hear someone call it the "Catholic religion;" we're going to get called Mary worshipers in the next sentence) and came off much more grieved and impressed than some of the We-Are-Church hippie theologians that are starting to pull their old notes together to come and complain before the microphones in the Pope's last hours.
Terri and John Paul are drawing the Godly together even more strongly than the election issues. What an alliance we can form!