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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