Modernism 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.
It’s been all over the news lately how the Pope has “unexcommunicated” some Society of Saint Pius X bishops. Soon afterwards, we heard that Bishop Williamson made some poorly worded and poorly timed comments about the Holocaust. Then came the uproar of the world’s Jewish community about the issue, notwithstanding how embarrassing it must be to have supported a nation that itself is committing war crimes of no less gravity in Gaza.
But now the Pope has turned around and declared that Williamson’s rehabilitation into the Catholic Church’s social life is dependent on his rejection of his comments surrounding the Holocaust (questioning numbers and the usage of gas chambers) and embracing the Pope’s historical opinion on the matter.
Some have called this papal behavior tantamount to declaring a dogma, similar to that of the Immaculate Conception. Of course the humorless trolls that go around making stupid comments on people’s blogs wasted no time in pointing out that the Pope cannot define a dogma on an historical event that has nothing to do with Christianity or Catholicism more specifically. But the fact remains that the Pope as made it a condition of communion with the current papacy, that one make no comments which may offend the memory of the Holocaust and that one must undo any statements which were deemed to have done so.
I’m sorry to have to say this, but the Pope has just made himself look even more stupid than the one much maligned for making a statement of opinion on World War II history. It is also becoming clear that the Pope is not genuinely interested in righting the wrongs of his predecessor but is just playing politics. All this may well be God’s doing, since, arguably, the Catholic Church is not yet ready to go back to orthodoxy and orthopraxis as is maintained in the Society of Saint Pius X and other traditional communities. We have all been educated by the Pope’s bizarre behavior.
It is worth reiterating that this debate actually has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the Holocaust is “true”. It matters not whether all the events, as described, are historically correct and are the indisputable truth. What is the real scandal here is that someone is allowed to become a Pope who is so easily influenced by outsiders to have made such imprudent a decision as to reject a bishop on the grounds of such statements as those of Bishop Williamson’s.
Will Catholics go along with the Pope, admiring his new found friendship with the world and the cognitive dissonance of placing external affairs more highly than those his own flock? How long will it be before a little boy in the crowd points the finger and points out the obvious?
Perhaps it has already happened.