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The Undiplomatic Pope

Pope & Anglican Archbishop of CanterburyModernism reigns supreme outside the Papal Chapel, throughout the Vatican and all the way down to the Religious Education teacher at St. Mary’s Primary School down the road. But does it reign supreme in the Pope’s heart?

A critical article appeared in the Times Online describing Pope Benedict XVI as being:

… like a monarch cut off from the world outside his palace windows, helped only by loyal but inept advisers.

It’s true that he is perhaps the most intelligent yet introspective Pope we have had for half a century. The fact that he spends time daily reading theological works is a promising sign to traditional Catholics. The previous few popes had but a feeble grasp of the subject, such that discussions on the problems of Vatican II left many with brick-wall imprints on the foreheads of those who care about unity and correctness of belief.

On the other hand, John Paul II was a charismatic man who loved to be adored by the masses. His comparatively liberal approach was hailed by the media. Yet in his senility, his advisors pretty much took over affairs and did things in his name. It could be argued that some particularly grave “mistakes” were made because of this laxity, such as the excommunication of the Society of Saint Pius X bishops, various financial scandals and the total failure of John Paul II and his cardinals to act decisively against the sexual abuse that has been running rife within the Church, particularly in the United States. John Paul II’s era coincides with one of the worst periods in the Catholic Church’s history in terms of apostasy and disintegration.

Back to Benedict:

“The Pope believes he doesn’t need to take account of public opinion. He studies the files that are brought to him and decides very much on his own. The atmosphere around him is that he mustn’t be disturbed by criticism or visitors.”

If the Pope truly believes this, then he is right on the money. Public opinion doesn’t count an iota, as could not have been exemplified more clearly by Christianity’s Founder. What is right is what counts. It sounds as though the Pope is taking his job seriously and not allowing worm-tongues to skew his thinking. That deserves a clap.

The reader comments at the end of the article generally defend Benedict. Most people, it seems, do respect that the leader of a two-thousand-year-old religion of over 1 billion people should probably make fewer, but better decisions. Knee-jerk reactions have rarely proven to be correct.

Yet the real problems with Benedict lie not in his style, nor his intelligence, but in doubts about the orthodoxy of his beliefs. He is still a staunch defender of Vatican II, in the name of which several serious dogmatic errors have become prevalent. He is blamed for the “unexcommunication” of the Society of Saint Pius X bishops, but this was a cynical move initiated by Cardinal Hoyos who has shown that, all this time, nobody really believed in the excommunications in the first place. He and the Pope know that removing the excommunication makes no real difference, except to bring attention to and make life even more difficult for the Society, which some say is now on a path of self destruction in the name of damage control. It is an apparent victory for the modernists.

Through all of this it is important to remember that very little of what a Pope does is infallible. An excommunication is not infallible, can be rescinded at any time by a subsequent Pope. It is first and foremost a managerial act with political and spiritual ramifications. The Pope, like any other leader, only has authority when it is exercised correctly and complies with the basic tenets of the religion. In Heaven, the defense of “following orders” to justify an act or omission over a grave matter is not likely to be accepted. Thus, Archbishop Lefebvre was right in ordaining his bishops, despite the immediate consequences which he faced. With this in mind, one would hope that the Society of Saint Pius X takes its time in negotiations with the Vatican and remembers that being right is more important than being friendly.

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