Yesterday's New York Times featured a lengthy op-ed piece entitled "The View from My Pew" by Dan Barry. Barry is, thanks be to God, not one of those 10% of the US population who are fallen-away Catholics, but his Catholicism is emotionally and perhaps intellectually indifferent to the papacy. Barry looks on the upcoming Papal visit as something that has very little to do with him. Barry defines his Catholicism almost exclusively in terms of his parish, his family, his "pew" in what one Chicagoan (a Knight of Malta) identified (rightly, I think) as a form of incipient Congregationalism that is not altogether rare among American Catholics. Barry doesn't project his perspective on others, but he is rather firmly ensconced in it, in an attitude that has become typical of our relativistic culture: "This is MY truth; your truth is just fine for you. And ne'er the twain shall meet."
The problem is, he is writing about Catholicism, and even etymologically that precludes "mine" and "yours": the word itself means "universal" or "according to the whole." That isn't something I can claim for "my" pew. The view from "my" pew is too restricted to be Catholic. In fact, that is one of the gifts the papacy offers Catholics: the bigger picture of Christianity and of its claims on us.
Too often, I suspect, the "view from my pew" turns into a perch from which I can look with detachment upon the madding crowd. It allows me to forget what St. John Chrysostom wrote in the 4th century: "He who lives in Rome knows that those in the Indies are his members." It may be quite comfortable in "my pew", but if I stay there, I am missing out on an essential feature, the essential feature, of Catholicism: its universality, which is served, maintained and symbolized in the papacy (which is also our visible link to the apostolic Church and its origins in Jesus).
If a practicing Catholic finds that the papal visit doesn't seem to matter one way or the other, it's time for a self-examination: how "catholic" is my Catholicism?