… and neither of those shoes is Catholicism.
Pope Benedict XVI has not failed to disappoint traditional Catholicism by placing issues such as inter-religious “dialogue”, diplomacy, doublespeak and suckering up to everybody he meets over and above the simple, honest Truth. Instead of doing as the great Apostles, the great Popes did, by being frank, clear, even blunt about the problems of the world, Pope Benedict XVI said vague things like:
I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace — peace in the Holy Land and peace throughout the world. Mr President, the Holy See and the State of Israel have many shared values… [etc]
What he means by holy places is mosques and synagogues. As for Churches, he prefers open air masses in un-sanctified places, such as stadiums and race courses. And as always it’s very important to remember past crimes, for which everybody today is some how retrospectively responsible and can never be forgiven, no matter how sorry they are:
Tragically, the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person.
It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honour the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude.
While it is reasonable, even necessary, to show compassion to the suffering endured by others, there is never such direct reference to the dead in Gaza, only the mention that “it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land”. What a boring thing to say! It is plainly obvious that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is no simple answer – nobody is without blame, nobody is entirely righteous. No event in history, outside of Jesus’ Crucifixion, has ever been one sided. That includes World War II. Yet it is also plainly obvious that the Palestinians are starved, weak, desperately poor and desperately alone in their plight. Will Benedict XVI lay a wreath in honour of the thousands of dead Palestinian women and children? Or in honour of the Christian martyrs which have lost their lives in that land during his own lifetime?
And so, the Papal visit is proving to be no different from a visit by any other secular head of state. It might have just as well been Ms. Rice, or Ms. Clinton making this speech (except for the Christian references). No efforts are made to convert the unbelievers (one of Christ’s most direct commands) , or to directly defend the plight of Christians in Israel. There are only painstaking efforts to avoid offending anybody, except for one’s own religion which. This is, perhaps, because the visit is largely about money:
…the Vatican only officially recognised Israel in 1993; an agreement between the two sides on property rights and hugely valuable tax exemptions has still not been implemented.
In the end, of course, Pope Benedict XVI pleases nobody, least of all those whom he tries to please. Perhaps he should try something new. Perhaps he should just stick to Catholicism.
There is very little room for error for the Pope when it comes to public life.
As the Pope nears his visit to Israel, scheduled Monday, he is making a few quick visits to other significant sites in the Middle East. The coming days pose perhaps the greatest risk taken during Benedict XVI’s Pontificate so far, diplomatically, theologically and physically.
Today he was in Jordan, where he paid his respects at Bethany, the site of Jesus’ baptism. The visit was used by Muslims as an opportunity to remind themselves how offended they still are that Benedict insulted their faith back in 2006 when he made a speech, quoting Manuel II Palaiologos, Byzantine Emperor during the 14th and 15th centuries:
Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
Not only did the words of the speech cause offense, but the giving of credence to Palaiologos himself, since he was a strong supporter of the Crusades against the Ottoman empire. Pope Benedict XVI apologized profusely, but of course, apologies and forgiveness do not stand out as the most notable aspects of modern-day monotheism outside of Christianity. Indeed, the Pope’s words condemning violence as “incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul” were met with none other than violence against churches in Muslim countries. It’s a sad fact that people are not taught the ability to recognize that the criticism of an idea does not equate to a personal affront.
But in fairness to Muslims around the world, it has to be emphasized that most people, everywhere, are not interested in violence. It is almost universal that people prefer simply to be let alone, as long as they are given basic freedoms and fair treatment. Yet there are groups, ideologies and nations which, in the pursuit of power, will try to undermine the enemy by fomenting extremism in its camp, since extremism, being irrational and emotional, tends to weaken society by preventing reasoned and logical decision making. This needs to be kept in mind when the voice of extremist groups is portrayed in the media, be it on Muslim matters or any other matters. Those who benefit are rarely the ones purportedly represented by the extremist groups. In these cases, it’s fair to ask: Who do the groups really serve? Who really controls those groups?
The Pope’s visit to Jordan is like a walk in the city park in broad daylight when compared with what could happen when he arrives in the Holy Land, where the plight of the native Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, is desperate as never before, and the rise of nationalistic and religious pride is at historic highs amongst Israelis.
Criticism of a Papal visit to Israel during this time has come from all sides. Muslims are against it for a number of reasons, particularly from the point of view that such a visit gives the State of Israel the appearance of legitimacy. Palestinians are against it, because they can see that the Pope is very unlikely to say anything in their defense during his visit (probably out of fear). He is not touring Gaza, for example, where supplies for rebuilding remain so inadequate that the starving population is resorting to building houses out of mud. Christians in Israel are against it, because the Pope’s visit may well make life for them even worse, particularly if the Pope makes any diplomatic “blunders”, such as criticizing the ill-treatment of his flock or complaining about the damage done to historic sites in recent times, such as occurred during the siege at the Church of the Nativity. Jews are also against it, accusing the Pope of being an anti-semite:
Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union party said the parliament should state its position on the Catholic spiritual leader, who he claimed “is an anti-Semite, was a member of the Hitler youth and returned a Holocaust-denying bishop to the church.” He also said the pontiff continues to blame the Jewish people for the killing of Jesus.
Indeed the Pope has not been very compliant in appeasing his elder brothers, failing to boycott the recent UN Racism Conference, and removing the excommunication on the current bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. Affection for the Pope in Israel could not be said to be at an all time high, that is for sure. His visit must pose a logistic nightmare to the Israeli Government, which is imposing the equivalent of martial law on the streets. It will not make it at all easy for him to stray down an incorrect street or alleyway. Not only might it be a bit embarrassing, but it’s also rather unsafe.
So when Pope Benedict XVI visits Israel next week, what will he achieve? What can he achieve?
The media talks about things like engendering dialogue, healing rifts, building bridges and so forth. The Pope wants to promote religious “freedom”, a concept which, while obviously aimed towards reducing the persecution of Christians, has the downfall of not having a valid theological basis (especially in the broad and incorrect way it is described in Gaudium et spes). It would appear that, given the failure of anyone else to improve things in Israel, the Pope has even less hope of doing so. The whole visit will have been very carefully planned and highly scripted. Jerusalem will be teeming with Israeli security officers, and it’s unlikely the Pope will get to see anything but that which it was intended for him to see. In many respects, the entire visit will have been a charade and entirely meaningless.
But the Pope’s physical presence there may, in the end, have a great impact. He is only a human being, and an elderly, frail one at that, but he is an intellectual, a man whose opinion is recognized as considered and deliberate. Despite the rehearsed nature of his visit, he himself may learn a great deal about his enemies, many of whom he possibly mistakes as friends. While the vast majority of Israelis and Muslims recognize a message of peace when they hear one, there are many who do not. They are the greatest threat, and the ones whom the Pope ought to keep at the forefront of his thinking when he speaks.
Benedict is a brave man, since he is, no doubt, aware of the risks he is taking. He also comes accross as a holy man; prayerful and well versed in scripture and theology. Yet there is still an element of mystery about his thinking, since many of his statements and actions regarding relations with Judaism and Islam have seemed contradictory and confused. At one moment he may come across as direct and blunt, yet at another he manages to speak and say nothing, like the most skilful of politicians.
During the visit, it will be interesting to dissect Benedict’s words and tease out the nuances. Most of it will be dull, like the visit of a monarch to a colony – full of diplomatic statements. The trip might turn out to have been a waste of time, even a mistake. But there is always the hope that he manages to do the improbable; to offend everyone at the same time, by speaking the simple, direct, and unashamed truth.
Catholicism, contrary to the libraries of explanations and discussions that exist, is, by and large, a simple religion. It’s not an easy religion, but fulfilling its various requirements is quite straightforward. There is a single God, ten Commandments, the need for prayer, and seven Sacraments which cover all the essential parts of religious life. That’s about it. You can be born, live and die by these basics and go directly to Heaven. Dogma surrounding things including the Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, and others, while important to accept in faith, is totally unnecessary to understand. Whether these ideas are true or not ought to make no difference to one’s actions. If life is conducted in accordance to the above principles, earthly life becomes much more manageable and pleasant than it otherwise would be.
God’s ideas are simple and elegant. It’s people who make things complicated and ugly. It’s people who manage to twist and mangle what was once simple, in order to make it fit whatever perversion they seek to justify. A good example of this is the current Pope, who continues to show his lack of (or incorrect) understanding of Catholic dogma and basic theology, this time in the area of human rights.
Zenit news reports that Pope Benedict XVI espouses and wishes the world to promote the concept of Universal Human Rights:
Benedict XVI is urging members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to defend and promote those “non-negotiable human rights” that are based in God’s law.
He goes on to say:
“The modern period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ — because it proclaims that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love God freely — demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom.” … The Pope stated that the Church’s action in promoting human rights is “supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be presented to all people of good will.”
One has to wonder why there cannot be a simpler way to say “I’m making this into Church teaching, even though it’s new teaching. It seems to make sense to me except I can’t claim that it’s supported by Scripture or Tradition.” This is, after all, what the Pope is doing. He is not merely saying that people have a right to be Catholics (which is arguably the only ‘human right’ that Catholicism espouses), but that they have rights to believe whatever god they choose, rights to have property, rights to this, rights to that. While they sound nice, these ideas are not part of Catholic religion.
While mankind is important, and human beings are important, even sacred, insofar as they are temples of God and part of his plan, they are still capable of being trust into Hell at the end. As such, a human soul (and body) has no right to anything. Everything given to it by God is a thing undeserved. This is fundamental to understanding the theology of grace. Therefore, to suggest that a human being has a right, before God, not to die, or not to suffer, is incorrect. It is simply not a Christian idea, as it places man at the center and not God. Yet from the other end, we have an obligation towards one another to show respect, give dignity, relieve suffering and ease the burden of life. That, however, is not what Human Rights are about.
What the Pope is proclaiming is something which is a man made invention and not part of authentic Catholic teaching. Human beings have no rights whatsoever, no freedom rightly exercised except that which is in accordance to God’s will. Nobody has an inalienable right to live, or to die, or to walk, or to talk or to do anything. Everybody has a right to worship God and to obey his Commandments, and so forth. That’s the correct Catholic view, notwithstanding the teaching on natural moral law.
The concept of Human Rights, though useful, is not a religious one. It can be used as a legal tool, or used to measure the usefulness of a social intervention, but it can never become a part of orthodox Catholic teaching. Whatever his motives, Pope Benedict XVI shows (and sows) confusion on many areas of Catholic teaching. His lack of orthodoxy impedes the recovery of Catholicism in modern times, which would otherwise have occurred, had he simply stayed with sacred Tradition.
“Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere” – G.K. Chesterton.
You have to hand it to art critics. They can stand before a two-year-old’s finger painting, depicting it as some kind of fascinating masterpiece, of inimitable innocence and simplicity, depicting in sublime abstract surrealism the existential motion of the cosmos in two dimensions, or something. If someone vomits on the carpet at a party, it’s art, as long as someone declares it so. To me, though, it’s still just vomit.
With the turn of the twentieth century came the flourishing of absurd philosophies and the rejection of objectivity, which is reflected in the changing definition of art over time. Ideas such as relativism, subjectivism and existentialism have become popular and are now widely used as underlying principles in finding solutions to life’s problems. A good knowledge, yet healthy distrust of historical precedent has given way to outright rejection of historical fact as a guide to the present and future. The resulting disconnection of social continuity from the present and past has rendered modern civilization dangerously adrift in the sea of ideas. Fundamental historical lessons are now forgotten, such as those regarding the respect for human life, especially when it is rendered defenseless. In other areas, such as education, there has been the dramatic degradation of teaching standards and the almost total obliteration of any consistent methodology for teaching. Everything in education has become experimental and teachers and education departments are now left to reinvent the wheel. They are doing it very badly, as can be demonstrated, for example, by the continuous and dramatic decline in literacy, despite constant ‘improvements’ in education over the past sixty years.
In religion, there is no better example of how far modern theology has drifted to the point of being a waste of time than to see how it has been reflected in art. If one makes a visit to the Cologne Cathedral, once the tallest building in Europe, taking over six hundred years to build, it is difficult not to be awestruck by the majesty of the place and the skill with which it was constructed. It is a living testament to the faith and skill of medieval artisans. Stained glass windows of saints and biblical scenes abound, exquisitely made altarpieces are found in every corner, the outside is covered in cleverly carved gargoyles, even at the very highest parts of its spires.
Then, in 2007, a new window appeared in the south transept. The window is made up of random squares of random color. It looks like… nothing, really. At best, it represents the concept of random and chance, or challenges the observer to think, whether the computer’s random number generator was truly random (insofar as there is such a thing), or whether it was one of those cheap software random number generators, that the so-called artist used. It might be a challenge for someone out there to figure that out. But perhaps, like the cubist Picasso, the maker of the window was taking the piss out of his benefactors, showing up for their stupidity. I think that’s not unlikely. Perhaps the next development at the Cathedral might be the use of computer-generated white noise as the religious music, followed by randomly arranged words for a sermon, and a random selection of items from random supermarkets as the things to place on the altar table. In some churches, such an approach would constitute a vast improvement over what is currently being offered.
On being asked as to what the window means, the manufacturer was quoted as saying:
ZKcqE0XT 8V CYGdtt q ccP pBBpq7 ZAxH812 Ia3Tqew!
Just kidding, of course.
The point is that, since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been drifting slowly away from its well defined point of origin, and losing definition like a dot of light losing its focus, to the point where it is nothing more than a blur.
When a Pope on one hand renounces the excommunication of traditional Catholics (the Society of Saint Pius X), yet on the other he receives a Koran and prays at a Mosque (Washington 2008), attends a Synagogue (New York 2008) and gives out Communion to Protestants, then by his actions he tells us that he is no different from the Random Window at the Cologne Cathedral. Perhaps he believes… nothing, really. Or at least he believes more than one thing at the same time. Indeed, by his actions he shows what a bag of contradictions he must be.
When speaking to traditional Catholics, the Pope sounds traditional. When speaking to modernists, he is a modernist. When speaking to Muslims, he worships Allah, and so on. Everybody is happy. That is, of course, until they hear what the Pope says to people other than themselves. In the end, who is the Pope being other than just another yes man, another politician?
Like the Random Window, which means whatever you want it to mean for you, modern Catholicism has embraced subjective relativism under the guise of ecumenism and charity. Pope Benedict XVI comes across as conservative, but should not be mistaken for being traditional, or even orthodox in the true sense of the word. Liturgy has gone all airy-fairy; the gaze of the faithful has fallen from heaven and is focused on Man, and their feet have left the ground, such that they no longer have a common foundation. The mass as conducted in one place is now frequently unrecognizable when compared with that in another.
Indeed, what you might find when walking into a Church nowadays is all rather random. You might walk into a beautiful baroque masterpiece, with a high altar, altar rails, central tabernacle – something out of the pre-Vatican II era, or you might walk into a fan shaped building with a couple of chairs and a coffee table in somewhere around the middle, with microphones and overhead projector and no crucifix whatsoever. Or you might walk into something resembling a child care center, with streamers, gaudy colors, loud music and green plastic chairs. You might walk in hearing anything from Palestrina as sung by a skilled choir to tinny recordings of the Beatles (or even Bette Midler!), or see dancing hula girls, or have your ears blasted by death metal music (which can come eerily close to the sound of white noise). You might see hundreds of people in their Sunday Best, kneeling in silent adoration before a monstrance, or people in casual dress, laughing and chatting as they drink instant coffee and dry biscuits (in the sanctuary), or see a bunch of head-banging youths, in black shirts and pentagrams, jumping up and down on the pews, or you might just see a couple of frail old people, or no people at all. All of it is happening.
Some call that universal, but I call it random.
The AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa is said to currently afflict around 22 million people, which is roughly 5% of adults. This value is now lower than was previously quoted, yet it is by no means a sign of an improving situation. There are critics who cite many problems associated with the collection of statistics and their interpretation. Confounding factors such as selection bias (non-random sampling) and elements of corruption on the part of governments in order to obtain foreign aid have been identified. The lower values are probably truer values and show that in the past, the degree to which AIDS has affected Africa has been overstated. It’s still a pandemic. It’s still extremely big, but it means that tracking the progress of AIDS in Africa is proving to be very difficult and gathered information unreliable. It means that any claims to success on the part of the World Health Organization in combating AIDS through the distribution of condoms cannot be easily verified, since we really cannot trust the statistics, especially if the methods of data collection are changing.
It is on this background of unreliable, untrustworthy information on AIDS and HIV prevalence that Pope Benedict XVI and now Cardinal George Pell make claims that, paradoxically, condoms are making matters worse rather than better, through encouraging promiscuity among young adults. Cue the canned laughter from western media outlets.
The thing is, moral arguments aside, they might just be right.
First of all, the research that has been conducted on the efficacy of condom usage in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases has largely been conducted in the first world, where quality control procedures are excellent, the general health of adults is good and compliance rates are high. Under these circumstances there is no question that the spread of HIV (and other diseases) has been mitigated by the use of condoms. Companies and organizations advocating the use of condoms in the Third World wave their research papers at governments and tell then that the evidence is overwhelming. It sounds plausible and reasonable, all else being equal, but all else is not equal.
The patterns of sexual activity in Africa cannot be assumed to be the same as those in Western countries, yet people in the debate assume this none the less. The situation in Africa is very complex and it is difficult to exclude environmental factors such as changes in demographics, social habits and culture over time. War, extremes of climate, social upheaval, famine and terror inevitably affect things like the reliability of supply routes for condoms and peoples’ sexual behavior. Conducting good quality medical research in such an environment would be very difficult indeed. Results coming from studies in Third World countries cannot be considered to be of high reliability, as the degree of transparency and peer review is not equivalent to that in richer countries. Even some randomized, controlled trials in Western countries (on unrelated areas of medicine) have been shown to be completely fraudulent, making a mockery of the notion of “evidence based medicine” being the infallible guide to medical decision making.
Arguments against the use of condoms in Africa have included claims that the latex used in them is porous and permits the passage of intact virus through the membrane, or poor manufacturing and inadequate storage and transportation conditions resulting in failure of the device, and issues with compliance. These are all plausible, but they do not carry weight against the fact that, in Western countries, they do not seem to have a high failure rate at all and no class actions have been made against manufacturers for a spate of unexpected pregnancies (or HIV infections) due to failure of their product. It sometimes seems that, in this debate, once the Pope makes a pronouncement, the Catholics go out and try to find any conceivable defense of his views (not merely a moral one) to achieve compliance with Catholic teaching among Catholics (and others). They often go out and argue the case without having fully understood the contrary view. As such they have scored many an ‘own goal’ when the arguments backfire.
The AIDS problem in Africa is a behavioral and moral issue, as well as an epidemiological and medical one. Promiscuity, although a thing lauded in the First World in its music videos, movies, magazines and television programs, is the fundamental reason for the spread of sexually transmitted disease. It is the underlying cause. Secondary to this is that coexistent disease, such as malnutrition or pre-existing sexually transmitted infection, magnifies the risk of contracting or disseminating HIV. Condoms attempt to address the secondary problem. They require strict compliance in a subgroup of the population which is probably less compliant than the average.
Abstinence programs were hailed by fundamentalist Christians as the answer to the teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease problem in the USA, but have shown to make no significant difference to either. One reason is that there are much bigger, more effective “education programs” at work there which promote extramarital sexual activity. The media is an incredibly powerful social force in the First World. This is not the case in the poorer areas of Africa where AIDS is most prevalent. The population does not undergo the same sexualization from infancy that occurs in the West. Therefore the failure of education programs in Western countries cannot be used as an argument against a similar effort in Africa. It is not correct to assume that human sexual behavior is unmodifiable. It has certainly been possible to increase the sexual activity and decrease the age of first intercourse in the First World. Why would the opposite effect be unachievable in Africa?
The AIDS problem in Africa has not been solved by Western civilization because its industrialized, technologically advanced and, dare I say it, morally bankrupt culture is not compatible with life in Africa. The imposition of Western solutions on African culture is an obviously flawed idea, yet it is exactly what continues to occur. The rampant spread of HIV in Africa can be largely attributed to the displacement of working men. Foreign industry set itself up in the cities, attracting poverty stricken farming men to find work and food for their families in the cities. Their wives and children remained in the villages. Additionally, major social upheaval in the form of civil wars, the break-down of Apartheid in South Africa and massive population shifts due to famine have resulted in the disruption of the family unit on a massive scale. Many of these disasters were brought about by the direct (albeit covert) actions of Western powers. These events create situations which make promiscuity easy, stress levels high and the likelihood of compliance with any kind of behavioral intervention (including condoms) low.
It is no surprise that the AIDS problem is nowhere near an end in Africa. The “scientific” approach to the solution through medical aid has failed. Perhaps the Catholics were right. Staying with the one sexual partner (one’s spouse) and staying with one’s family costs nothing, requires no technology and makes a society strong. Families exist because they work, because over the eons they have allowed human beings to survive hardships which would otherwise have wiped them out. Encouraging this kind of responsible behavior should be at the forefront of every intervention in the African continent, regardless of who is carrying it out. This means that trends which favor the destruction of the family unit (such as industrialization) need to be curtailed or at the very least changed so that the family unit is guaranteed to remain intact.
The paradox may very well be true, that the exact opposite approach taken in First World to counter HIV/AIDS is the correct one for sub-Saharan Africa.
Papal authority depends on keeping fidelity with the teachings of Christ and the infallible pronouncements of previous Popes and Doctrinal Councils.
This fact needs to be borne in mind when considering the landmark statements made by Pope Benedict XVI in the past 48 hours. He has made several important points regarding his views on interfaith relations and Catholics whose religious practice is more traditional than his own (namely the Society of Saint Pius X).
Most noteworthy was his letter on the Society of Saint Pius X, published on 12th March 2009, where he shows apparent surprise at the protest against his lifting of an (invalid) excommunication:
… Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment.
If only it were true that the Pope was interested in revising his views on the Second Vatican Council, out of which has come the downfall of Catholicism! The avalanche of protests was most audible outside the Church in the paid media, which seems to hold the greatest sway in the Vatican these days. Quoting passages from the Council of Trent, or the Holy Bible, or Thomas Aquinas, or some other approved Catholic source of Divine Truth, just doesn’t seem to have the same “oomph!” in the Vatican as the words of some atheist editor in the London Times or the New York Post. The protests are not about fear of rejecting the Second Vatican Council, but about rejecting the heresy of Modernism, which the Pope has very nearly done, by the fact that he chose to act on what he thought was right for all time and not, as Modernists would say, what was right at the present time.
Pope Benedict regrets that Bishop Williamson’s comments on the Holocaust coincided with the revocation of excommunication:
…The discreet gesture of mercy towards four Bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church’s path.
Actually, it rather appears that Benedict has somehow been whacked over the head so that suddenly he cares more about how things look from the outside rather than their inner meaning. Jesus Christ spoke about this of the Pharisees, using the well known washed-exterior-dirty-interior analogy.
I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility. Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which — as in the days of Pope John Paul II — has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.
This is exactly what is wrong with the situation. The Jews, like the Muslims and anyone else, act purely in their own interest, period. Their only aim is to improve their own standing in the world, even more so in the light of the crimes that are committed daily in the Holy Land in their name. They don’t care if the Pope has recalcitrant bishops, rebellious cardinals and faithless, hedonistic parishioners. All they care about is recognition and respect for their own religion. It’s perfectly understandable. Nothing strange about it all, so why pretend that it is otherwise? Does the Pope think that somehow they are on the edge of conversion?
The Pope should not place external relations above internal family conflict. Forget everyone else’s false religions and their idols, forget the false ecumenism, forget the mass media, forget stinking diplomacy. Deal with what is killing the Catholic Church – heresy, apostasy, crimes against children, fraud, sacrilege and more, all coming from the Church’s own prelates!
Benedict does show that, deep down, he is more intelligent and commendably logical than those below him, by recognizing where the root cause of the problems between the SSPX and the broader Church lie:
… the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes …
… great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.
And this is the point. If Benedict carries this statement to its logical conclusion, he will soon find that many things contained in the documents of the Second Vatican Council contradict Sacred Tradition. Much of what has been sanctioned, even promoted, by recent Popes has been erroneous for the same reasons. The Society of Saint Pius X might come across as extreme, on the fringe, or eccentric, but they have merely been standing still whilst the drunken post-Vatican II party has raged on in the greater Church. Everybody looked like they were high on the Devil’s Great Bong and its Smoke. Who can say what a multitude of souls has damned itself since 1962 as a result of the errors which have persisted under the noses of the Popes?
It’s natural that, in a dispute, both sides are invariably to blame in some way. The SSPX and other traditionalist groups will need to make compromises insofar as they can be made in keeping with the “entire doctrinal history of the Church”. But this time the Pope has to eat some humble pie himself so that the kind of mistakes that were made in the past are not repeated. The Catholic Church lost something like a third of its faithful when it mishandled Martin Luther by rejecting everything he said instead of accepting that corruption was rife and needed purging. The Church stands to lose much more on this occasion if it fails to see its own, present-day mistakes.
The Pope must recognize that his Church has drifted from Tradition in its informal embrace of Modernism and its failure to reject numerous other errors. If he himself fails to adhere to the “entire doctrinal history of the Church”, then history may show that the Sedevacantists were right all along.
The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. … And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
The title “Mixed Greetings for Returned Lefebvrite Bishop” could be the understatement of the century by Zenit News in its report on Bishop Williamson’s recent return to England. Following his apology regarding his recent controversial statements made on the Holocaust, it was no surprise that, outside the Church, no forgiveness was forthcoming. To take advantage, to be unforgiving, to condemn, blame, reject, and isolate enemies, to make those below you grovel, is the natural human state, after all. These are the very things that are wrong with human beings and the very things that are put right by Christianity.
Yet the Vatican’s “Sorry-Isn’t-Good-Enough-We-Want-Blood” response is so Pharisaic that it appears that the leaders of God’s religion, after two thousand years, have come full circle. Christ’s death on the Cross occurred because people chose to ignore the fact that He showed no malice, no anger or hatred. They cornered, set up and hung an innocent man, something the people of the time openly admitted. Today, the Vatican appears as though it would have done just the same if it had the chance.
Zenit quotes Peter Vere, a canon lawyer:
“Bishop Williamson is not a Catholic bishop in that his episcopal consecration was carried out without papal mandate. […] However, the episcopal consecration was valid — that is, effective. So he is in fact a bishop with episcopal powers, meaning he can validly — but unlawfully — ordain, confirm, celebrate Mass, and validly — but unlawfully — perform any other episcopal function.”
How true it is that to a hammer every problem is a nail. And when you miss, you hit your finger. Bishop Williamson, like all the other bishops, priests, religious and laity of the Society of Saint Pius X, are Catholics as much as anyone else, insofar as they are baptized, have the sacraments and have beliefs are in keeping with Sacred Tradition. Everything else is politics.
Bishop Williamson is a Catholic Bishop. He has never been accused of heresy and was never validly excommunicated. In Christianity, the law is null if it is exercised without charity.
Those within the Catholic Church, whose job it is to love their enemies, forgive those who persecute them, and so forth, are showing how little of this they understand or follow.
Perhaps during this period of Lent, these people might take a moment to think about the Christian meaning of the Season and what happened at the Passover Festival. But they probably won’t, because no hypocrite likes to look in the mirror. Instead, it looks like we will be seeing an Easter play of sorts as plans are made to arrest and ultimately imprison a man who has already repented and shown his innocence, even to such an unjust law as is being used against him.