Some People Are Engaged In A Life-Long Pursuit Of Truth Wherever It Is To Be Found. Others Write For The Times


Amy Welborn calls it Rule 27, I call it a rule of thumb: If it’s about the Pope from the British Press, it's not only wrong, it's spit-take-inducingly so. The latest, from the Times:

Pope Benedict XVI is to rehabilitate Martin Luther, arguing that he did not intend to split Christianity but only to purge the Church of corrupt practices.
As Ms. Welborn notes, yes, that blithe assertion is the actual lede. The sheer historical and theological ignorance revealed in that statement beggars belief. ninme follows with another Times report, only slightly less breathless:
to accept Luther, after 500 years of theological strife, as an honest Catholic trying to cleanse and restore the Church is extraordinary.
Not that extraordinary if you've ever read anything by Joseph Ratzinger. In May, 2005, a leading German Lutheran theologian praised the new pope as
one of the few who really know Luther
Nevertheless, did anyone notice the lengthy --but very respectful-- correction of Luther on the question of "Hope" in the latest encyclical? You could not read it and be under the illusion Luther's going to be "rehabilitated." What the Pope is actually doing, should anyone at all care, is hosting another of his annual summer get-togethers with friends and students to discuss matters of importance. They're going to study Luther, as they have previously studied Islam, evolution and other topics. It's a private gathering; they may or may not publish their findings, but in any case it will involve no official teaching of any kind. It's a bit as if when Bush held that White House authors' lunch about The History of The English Speaking Peoples, the Gray Lady had reported Bush was about to propose the annexation of Britain & Australia. Yes, Dears.

That second piece praises the Pope not only for kindness to Luther, but for reaching out to Muslims. He does deserve praise for it, but not for the reason they think. Their take is, how nice that he's burnishing his image:
There is lingering bitterness in the Muslim world at the Pope's citing, during a lecture to German academics, of a Byzantine emperor's dismissal of Islam as a creed of violence. The Pope discovered to his cost that any statement on this most sensitive topic can be willfully misinterpreted by those looking for offence.
(Not that we know anyone like that here at the Times.) Daft! How, after all this time, can they not see that this serious Muslim-Catholic dialogue comes because the Pope was tough (in the intellectual sense) and pulled no punches? This dialogue is a fruit of Regensberg, not an apology for it. The Pope is utterly a gentleman and a man of peace, but he does understand what the rest of the West doesn't yet seem to --that Islam doesn't respect you until you stand up in some way.

When was Benedict elected? April, 2005? And we're still treated to this stunning analysis?
Benedict XVI could turn what is a perhaps harsh reputation based on his role as the “enforcer” to his predecessor if he makes bold and unexpected moves in a different direction. If his fresh analysis on Luther, in particular, marks a papacy intent on fostering Christian harmony and unity, it is magnanimous and historic.
I guess I'm glad that after three years --always on the cusp, these people-- they've caught on that the Pope is the soul of kindness and committed to peace and Christian unity. Some of us figured that out when he declared those the twin themes of his pontificate when explaining the choice of the name Benedict back in April, 2005. Reporters who cover religion, of course, think he got the idea from them.

Not that the British press has a monopoly on Pope-related foolishness. Somewhere I ran into this letter some 1300 clergy and laity have signed regarding B16's forthcoming meeting with President Bush. I'm of the opinion that Catholics might try first listening to the Pope before telling him what he should do, but leave that be. They have the right to try to call his attention to something if they think it's escaped his notice, but this I find offensive in every respect:

To His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI

Most Holy Father:

In your own words, “today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.” Yet, during your upcoming visit to the United States, you are planning to meet with President George W. Bush, whose empty justifications for the violence in Iraq lead to increasing numbers of dead, injured and displaced people. Iraqi civilians still endure the “continual slaughter” which you described in your 2007 Easter Sunday address.

Shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq, you rightly declared that “there were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war.” You’ve also called attention to the terrible new technologies which cause indiscriminate destruction. Five years later, how much more reason you have to call for an immediate end to this war, and to refuse to meet with the President of the United States until that is accomplished.

If you kneel in grief and outrage before the cross of the tortured Christ, can you offer your blessing to a head of government who excuses the most terrible abuses of human minds and bodies as “legal”?

If meet with him you must, then meet as a prophet should - issuing a warning and an invitation to repentance. Courtesy cannot be used as an evasion of our biblical faith. Ezekiel was repeatedly reminded of his responsibility to admonish those doing evil if he desired to escape sharing in the responsibility for their sins. Shouldn’t any of us who recognize the horror of what is happening in Iraq be condemned if we are silent?

You are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of your birth. We feel sure that you will be thinking of the countless children of Iraq who never reached their fifth birthday. In 2005 alone, 122,000 Iraqi children under age five died. There are many, both within the Church and outside of it, who long for your voice to speak for those innocent dead and - face to face with those whose policies denied all respect for their lives - demand that the killing stop.

We are, in faithful hope

They don't want a Pope, they want a High Priest Petulant, where, in the name of Christian love, the Pope goes around refusing to shake the hands of various persons. (This statement recalls nothing so much as the Nobel committeeman who said they'd given the Peace Prize to Jimmy Carter so as to kick George Bush in the knees.) You don't need a priest or even a Christian for that. Some reporter for the Times would suit perfectly.