Pope Benedict criticizes the criticizers

posted by David Gibson

The pontiff is taking unnamed critics to task, as per this CNS story, “Pope cautions against destructive polemics in the church.”

The pope, speaking in German at his noon blessing Feb. 22, asked for prayers to St. Peter so that “disturbances and storms do not shake the church” and that Catholics remain united in faith and love.

Two days earlier, addressing students at Rome’s diocesan seminary, the pope recalled St. Paul’s admonition to Galatian Christians not to “go on biting and devouring one another” but instead to be guided by the Spirit.

“St. Paul refers here to the polemics that emerge where faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is replaced by the arrogance of being better than the other,” the pope said.

“We see clearly that today, too, there are similar situations where, instead of joining in communion with Christ, in the body of Christ which is the church, each one wants to be superior to the other and with intellectual arrogance maintains that he is better,” he said.

“And in this way arise polemics that are destructive, and there arises a caricature of the church, which should have a single soul and a single heart,” he said.

One can understand Benedict’s lament, given the past few weeks of missteps and misfeasance in Rome, highlighted by the SSPX debacle and the latest Maciel revelations and the furor over the Katrina-loving, would-be bishop from Austria.

But in light of the failings at the top in this regard–see, for example, this Times of London piece on Benedict’s isolation and indifference to advice–it seems that the doctor might want to take some of his own medicine. And while he didn’t name names in his critique of the critiquers–heck, there have been so many lately–he may want to tone down his own amen corner first. (e.g., Father Z’s apoplectic attack on The Tablet of London and its Rome correspondent, Robert Mickens.) The vitriol of the right is poisonous.

Moreover, it is secrecy and a lack of accountability (born of humility) when things go south that breeds viral criticism–when people have no recourse to the powers-that-be, no influence or authority or say, they’ll shout ever louder. And as we’ve seen, that can work to the good–Maciel, Williamson, the Linz bishop–but with much more turbulence than it has to.  

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Gerard Nadal

posted February 24, 2009 at 1:18 pm

“But in light of the failings at the top in this regard–see, for example, this Times of London piece on Benedict’s isolation and indifference to advice–it seems that the doctor might want to take some of his own medicine…The vitriol of the right is poisonous.”
And the vitriol of the left? Isn’t all vitriol poisonous?
As for the doctor being in need of his own medicine, precisely how many of Joseph Ratzingers books have you read? They are thoroughly imbued with love; love of the people, love of the clergy and religious, love of God, love of the Church. You say that Benedict is indifferent to advice. Whose advice? Those who reject dogma? The so-called left? If only Benedict would capitulate, then he would gain the imprimatur of a world gone mad.
The Church is not a democracy. It is a theocracy. The Pope bears a terrible burden of responsibility. Toward that end, there are several standing Papal Commissions, staffed by lay and religious experts in their fields who write what are the equivalent of White Papers. These aid Popes greatly in being able to do the syntheses necessary to articulate sound doctrine on modern issues. Beyond that David, do you have some insider knowledge of who advises the Pope? Does being advised obligate the Pope to act in accordance with that advice? When receiving mixed advice how should a Pope act? Why?
The address to the seminarians was very fatherly and pastorally sound advice. Having been there, young men in seminaries, like all graduate students, are trying to put it all together and are motivated by great passions. These passions can easily lead to faith degenerating into intellectualism that is manifest not by humility, but by arrogance. So, in helping to tone down the vitriol of which you speak, Benedict gets no credit.
In the aggregate, I would say that your coverage of this Pope, while not perhaps vitriolic, has nevertheless been characterized by a niggardly treatment of his attempts at promoting unity, and is fearfully lacking in charity.

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posted February 24, 2009 at 5:55 pm

No doubt, Father Z is very suspicious of The Tablet’s motives, though I’m sure you could smooth things over David by explaining their good intent and genuine concern for ecclesial expedience by extending the olive branch to Father Z. A pity His Holiness doesn’t recognize the gift God has bestowed upon him by the luminating insights of progressive theologians like Hanz Kung (and David G :-)
Well, the buzzer just went off, so I guess that means it’s time to take those THC brownies out of the oven (hope they turn out good this time). Toodaloo!

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Little Bear

posted February 24, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Mr. Nadal
Ah, the Pope’s many theological books that he’s written! It is easy to be in love with “humanity” and another thing to love and serve specific humans. And the Church is a theocracy—-Sorry—God does not appear to the Pope each day and give him a daily briefing. The people have a right (as they had in the early Christian church) to be heard, to have a say in the election of their bishops, their parish priests. And the Pope has advisors—-whom he should listen to–consult—but he doesn’t. Canon law—1984 revised issue—gives the people that right. But JPII didn’t and Benedict doesn’t apply (nor permit the Bishops) to fully utilize what is permitted.
No, the Pope will have to do better, much better—-people all over the world are discouraged with what they are seeing from him.

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Gerard Nadal

posted February 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Hi Little Bear,
Thanks for responding.
“Sorry—God does not appear to the Pope each day and give him a daily briefing.”
The briefing is the entire deposit of Divine Revelation: Bible and Teaching of the Apostles, as well as the Fathers, Doctors, and Councils of the Church. In short, the 2,000 year constant witness of the Church. And you are simply wrong about the briefing in another respect. Jesus promised that He would send His Apostles the Holy Spirit, who would lead them to all truth. Further, Jesus gave Peter the assurance that what he declared bound on earth would be bound in Heaven. The Bishops meeting in Council, led by the Holy Spirit and confirmed by the Pope give us our moral and doctrinal bearings-bound as well in Heaven. We (laity and non-bishops) do not enjoy that charism, protests and disobedience notwithstanding.
If you deny those teachings, then you are in serious error (heresy). If you remain obstinate in your errors (heresies) then you are by definition a heretic. The rest of your argument then becomes pointless, because you separate yourself from the body of believers.
As for the Code of Canon Law that you mention, that was written and given by Pope John Paul II. You say that John Paul II and Pope Benedict have abrogated that Law, yet you give no specifics. I have that Code sitting right beside me, so maybe you can quote some specific Canons that you believe the Popes have abrogated. Even if they did, the Pope is free to make or abrogate Law as he deems necessary. He is the sole ecclesiastical lawmaker (Power of the Keys).
As for the people having a say in the selection of their clergy, again, Jesus gave Peter broad juridical power. “WHATEVER you declared bound on earth will be bound in Heaven.” That is why we have the Latin expression,
Roma locuta est, causa finita est. (Rome has spoken, the matter is finished.)
That rubs many people the wrong way, but that is the way Jesus set it up.
You repeat the same falsehoods as David when you accuse the Pope of not consulting or listening to advisors. Unless you are the Papal Secretary, how would YOU know? You don’t. You infer this because the Pope does not act the way you would have him act. Therefore, he can’t possibly be getting or heeding any decent advice. Contact the Papal Nuncio’s office in Washington DC and offer your services.
All you have done here is hurl around lots of nonspecific allegations. That’s more than a little dishonest. It’s also gravely lacking in charity. I look forward to your well-documented specifics.

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posted February 25, 2009 at 11:37 am

Goodness David! Benedict was speaking on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter…it is his job description to encourage unity. The full text of what he said was wonderful and inspiring on both occasions!
I think that Benedict is such a blessing for the Church and for me personally. It is through his beautiful writings that I have discovered the joy and freedom of a life found in an encounter with Christ. I will be forever grateful.
We all need to look at what we are doing to contribute to the polemical atmosphere. Do we see healing and hope…or suspicion and resentment?
Lent might be a good time to take a deeper look…and to fast from the rancor. The damage isn’t harmless…it is very real…and it hurts all of us.
God Bless.

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posted February 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm

The poor Pope. He really things most people care what he says.

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posted February 25, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Benny is the head of this organization, and as such should know what is happening in the world, and for sure needs to know about folks he is thinking of giving back their privileges and membership to the church. President Truman said “The Buck Stops Here” meaning, as is obvious, that whatever happens…good or bad…it is ultimately his responsiblilty. I don’t think Benny feels that way. Also, what is the problem with people speaking out against things they see as problems or mistakes?

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Gerard Nadal

posted February 26, 2009 at 12:03 am

Hi Pagansister,
All the best.

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Your Name

posted February 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Dave, Per:
“And while he didn’t name names in his critique of the critiquers–heck, there have been so many lately–he may want to tone down his own amen corner first”
Did this come from the same mouth with which you receive The Blessed Sacrament?

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Jim McCrea

posted February 26, 2009 at 8:11 pm

You know that Mickens and The Tablet are doing something correctly when the Lord of Birettae has a near-heart attack!

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posted February 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Gerard, Details? Benny needs to relate to the “real world” now that he is head of a large business, (not working for them as a Bishop) and in relating I mean have some idea about the folks he is advancing to a position, or someone he is lifting an excommunication on..in this case, Williamson. Shouldn’t he have known about his Holocaust beliefs since the man had publicly said them? And if he had known them, would he have reconsidered the lifting of the excommunication? Ultimately he is responsible for what happens in the RCC…IMO. He’s the CEO…it’s a big business…I think I just said in a different way what I said above. Does he think folks shouldn’t critize his actions? Probably, no one likes that. But he hasn’t impressed folks so far. I’m sure his job isn’t to impress folks, but if he wants to turn folks onto (or convert) the RCC, he needs to change some of his public actions. Not sure that answered your request.

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Courage Philippines

posted February 26, 2009 at 9:19 pm

To all who criticizes the Pope, they must understand that the Church abides by its duty to be always faithful to Christ’s teaching. Don’t expect the Church to conform with “secular values”, not in a million years.
The main reason why somebody criticizes the Catholic Church in particular is that many of her doctrines go against human nature and unpopular to the secular society to say the least. But if you come to think of it, everything that the Church teaches conforms with reason and faith. Faith may go beyond reason, but it never contradicts it.
Just my two cents’ worth.

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Gerard Nadal

posted February 26, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Courage Philippines,
Who says two cents doesn’t have big purchase power any more?
Good Evening Pagansister,
Pope Benedict is faced with the dilemma of all leaders; doing what he knows to be right vs. doing what is popular or expedient. I’m proud of him for consistently choosing the former over the latter. That takes a serenity born of the courage of one’s convictions.
The Williamson thing was tailor made for anyone with an axe to grind against the Church. There is great value in absorbing these renegade Bishops back into the fold and ending a terrible schism. Bishop Williamson came by his office validly, in that he was ordained by a validly ordained Bishop. However, he and the three other SSPX Bishops came by their office illicitly and sinfully, as they were warned by Pope John Paul II not to receive Holy Orders under threat of excommunication. They did and they were.
If they ordain more Bishops, they do so validly, but illicitly, and the schism perpetuates itself. Getting them back in the fold and restoring them to full participation in the Sacramental life of the Church is a pastorally compassionate thing to do, as well as wise. It ends the schism. Bishop Williamson will never hold a position of authority or power in the Church. That’s over. His views on the Holocaust may be sinful, but they do not rise to the level of excommunication. That is reserved for those who reject the core tenets of the faith.
The Sacraments are intended as the vehicles through which God ministers to us his healing love and saving grace. Though we don’t see eye to eye on many things Paansister, I have come to admire your honesty and consistency. Do you honestly believe that any of Benedict’s critics would have found the lifting of Bishop Williamson’s excommunication acceptable under any circumstances? I think not. They would have said that any apology was insincere. Once an anti-Semite, always an anti-Semite…..
To use your analogy of big business, if the Church is a big business, then Forgiveness and Salvation are what we are in the business of selling. Crushing a poor deluded slob like Bishop Williamson under the Papal heel definitely hurts the brand. Charity, after all, begins at home.
Did I address your questions? If I missed, just let me know.
God Bless.

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Gerard Nadal

posted February 27, 2009 at 1:22 am

I misspoke.
“Forgiveness and Salvation are what we are in the business of selling.”
I shouldn’t have said “selling” We went through that in the Reformation ;o)
I should have said, “Forgiveness and Salvation are what we are in the business of MINISTERING”
Take Care!

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posted February 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Good Afternoon, Gerard,
As always, you did answer most of my questions. Maybe I didn’t catch the answer to this…do you think Benny should have known Williamson’s view of the Holocaust before he decided to lift the excommunication? I contend he might have lifted it anyway, but should he have known…been told by one of his advisors or perhaps checked it out himself?
Do I think any of Benny’s critics would have found the lifting of the excommunication acceptable under any circumstances? Probably not. As to Williamson’s apology …as far as it went…was in his (Williamson”s) eyes, sincere. I really don’t think Williamson will ever recant what he believes.
Yes, The RCC did have it’s money making methods in the Reformation! :o)
As to us seeing eye to eye…that isn’t likely to happen often, or perhaps not at all, but honesty is important and you too are consistant, which I appreciate.
Hope your day is going/has gone well.

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Gerard Nadal

posted February 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Hi Pagansister,
From a PR perspective, it would have been beneficial if Pope Benedict had known about Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust views. Rome could have qualified that the Bishop’s views had no bearing on the excommunication and its lifting. In the end, I believe that the same people who objected would still have done so.
Should Benedict have known? Yes. He was not well served by his advisors.
That said, there are certain quarters in the Jewish community who look for and claim to find anti-Semites under every rock. For these, they reduce every perceived slight to the same degree of anti-Semitism. True intellect and a heart predisposed to truth and good will must admit varying degrees of disagreement. Bishop Williamson is no Adolf Hitler. He’s just a poor deluded slob not in a position to move opinion one way or the other.
“As to us seeing eye to eye…that isn’t likely to happen often, or perhaps not at all, but honesty is important and you too are consistant, which I appreciate.”
I agree. Further I would readily sit and break bread with you any time. I can’t say as much for some of the more strident Catholics whose theology lines up with mine. The difference is the authenticity, kindness and respect.
God Bless!

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posted March 1, 2009 at 3:18 pm

“Further I would readily sit and break bread with you any time.” Gerard
That would be a privilege. It also would be very interesting! :o)
Take good care.

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