Three days after announcing his retirement, Pope Benedict met with the clergy of Rome, whom he serves as bishop. His unscripted remarks were surprisingly candid. In particular, regarding the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Benedict observed that there were actually two councils: “there was the Council of the [Church] Fathers, the true Council, but there was also the ‘Council of the media’ … the world perceived the Council through them, through the media. So the immediate message of the Council that got through to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers.”
The true Council of the Fathers was “a Council of the faith,” he continued, but “the categories of the media of today [are] outside of the faith”; as a result, “the media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power.”
For the media, the Council was all about politics, he concluded.
Unfortunately, the same is true of the media’s view of the Church itself. By and large, media writers, reporters, editors, and producers are non-Catholic, anti-Catholic, or dissident Catholics – in some cases, all three. Apparently, it goes with the territory – often with a generous dash of ignorance.
Benedict’s resignation excited widespread public interest, so the New York Times secured the services of ex-seminarian Garry Wills, who writes that he has “given up hope.” Well, that’s hardly news – Mr. Wills lost his faith a long time ago. He denies not only the priesthood, but the rest of the sacraments – especially the Eucharist. He finds the hierarchy especially irritating, because the Church claims an authority which the New York Times can never achieve – the authority to preach without error the Gospel that calls man to life in Jesus Christ – who is Truth itself. “Only he [Benedict] has the authority to make the changeless church change, but it is his authority that stands in the way of change,” laments Mr. Wills.
Cute. The pope’s timeless authority confronts that of Mr. Wills, and Mr. Wills naturally prefers his own. The pope is trapped by Wills’s paradox. If only Benedict were free to embrace the views of the New York Times editorial board!
Ah, but the Times is not alone. Another media darling is Notre Dame’s own Scott Appleby, wielding the bat for the Washington Post and immediately conflating women’s “ordination” (a metaphysical impossibility) with married priests (of whom there are many, celebrating Mass and hearing Confessions every day in a church near you). The Church’s teaching on sexual morality, says Appleby, is an “inflexible stance [that] does not play well with broad swaths of practicing American Catholics, much less the disaffected.”
Ah, how original! “Sinners prefer sin – may start trend!”
Beneath all this “expertise” of the “Media Catholic Church” lies a silent, seething envy of a pope and a Church that have real, timeless authority. Papal writings, speeches – even their off-the-cuff remarks – are pored over and reverently pondered for centuries.
How many people remember yesterday’s Op-Ed’s?
The Wages of Sin
“Sin Ruins Everything” (Pope Benedict, February 6, 2013)
Falsehood often comes adorned in the trappings of truth, as Joan Vernocchi demonstrated last week in the Boston Globe. “One challenge for the church hierarchy involves reaching out to a new generation that rejects the church’s position on abortion, contraception, married priests, [there she goes again!] and gay marriage,” she writes.
Not so, Ms. Media. It’s actually an older generation, quickly dying out, that has rejected that teaching for forty years under the banner of “The Spirit of Vatican II.”
Younger Catholics who grew up in the age of John Paul II and Benedict XVI are a different story. Sure, they might have been poorly catechized by that irresponsible older generation, but they are the ones packing Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, the March for Life in Washington, and convents and seminaries worldwide where the “church’s position” is warmly received with enthusiasm and gratitude.
But Ms. Vernocchi drags in a nagging truth. “An equal challenge involves rebuilding bridges to a base disaffected by the mishandling of the clergy abuse scandal,” she writes, recommending specifically that Roger Cardinal Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, be kept from participating in the conclave that will elect the next pope.
Many people agree with Vernocchi, including a lot of Catholics who embrace and celebrate the Church as much as Cardinal Mahony disgraced it. After all, the man spent nearly a billion dollars of the faithful’s money to settle hundreds of abuse cases so he would never have to testify under oath in a public trial. For years it worked – until, under a court order, the files he had spent millions to keep secret were made public, and his central role in the cover-ups of homosexual clerical child abuse was revealed.
Cardinal Mahony was once a very powerful, political, media-savvy liberal, and the Los Angeles media treated him with a light touch. Since he was rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, three weeks ago, the tide has turned. In recent days he has filled his blog with public ruminations about himself and the humiliation he has had to bear, with very little mention of the suffering of his victims, not to mention the faithful and the church which he wounded so profoundly. At this point he is a dismal, hollow caricature, a poster-boy for the countless bishops who enabled abusers and then covered up for them.
We are all sinners, and, as Benedict said two weeks ago, “sin ruins everything.” Cardinal Mahony’s conscience will decide whether he goes to Rome – and, once there, whether he dares return (prosecutors in L.A. are still poring through the released documents).
For the rest of us, the pope wasn’t kidding when he asked for our prayers – for him, for his successor, and for the Church.
An Inconvenient Anniversary
“Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Civ Has Got To Go!” (Jesse Jackson, Stanford University, 1987)
Eighty years ago this week – on February 27, 1933 – the Reichstag building, which housed the German parliament, was torched. Hitler quickly took advantage of the chaos that followed, first increasing his powers with the Reichstag Fire Decree, and then using those powers to pave the way for the passage of the infamous Enabling Act on March 23. That legislation ended even the pretense of parliamentary government in Germany, but it was passed legally, by a vote of well over two-thirds of the Reichstag. Even the Catholic Center Party (Zentrum) supported it, in return for bland assurances that Hitler quickly forgot. After that, the Reichstag was Hitler’s lapdog, and he quickly consolidated power.
The fires didn’t stop there. Historian Michael Lynch recounts how in May 1933, tens of thousands of books were burned outside schools and universities all over Germany. Any work that was deemed an “affront to German culture” qualified. They included the works of Heinrich Heine, who once wrote that, “where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”
Today, the equivalent would be the unplugging of all Internet sites that constitute “an affront to American culture” – as defined by whoever controls the switch, of course. They wouldn’t even need a match.
Of course, that could never happen here – unless some virulent enemy like the Chinese People’s Liberation Army did it, perhaps. No American leader would ever attempt to silence his critics (or hers) in such tyrannical fashion.
In possibly related news, Andrew Malcolm recently wondered at Investors Business Daily why our “Homeland Security” protectors have stockpiled several billion rounds of lethal hollow-point ammunition for domestic use – the actual figure is a thousand times the number of rounds used by U.S. troops in one month at the height of the Iraq War.
Nothing to see here. Move along.