May 16, 2010
The Pope made some important comments on his trip to Portugal last week which have a fairly direct bearing on the abuse scandals so much in the news these days. Benedict’s response, as we might expect, touches on the spiritual aspects of the scandal and has some pretty deep implications for all of us. Here’s what the Holy Father said:
[A]ttacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. In one word we have to re-learn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. That is how we respond, and we need to be realistic in expecting that evil will always attack, from within and from outside, but the forces of good are also always present, and finally the Lord is stronger than evil and the Virgin Mary is for us the visible maternal guarantee that the will of God is always the last word in history.
In earlier comments, too, Benedict talked about the need for doing penance, something fundamental to our identities as Catholics but which, I have to admit, I don’t normally give much thought to. Among my generation of Catholics I’m probably not alone in being a little clueless about what penance is or why we do it.
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April 12, 2010
I find myself praying a lot for Pope Benedict these days. From within the U.S., of course, it’s easy to overestimate how much the sniping of the New York Times actually roils global Catholicism. Nonetheless, as the Times stacks one leaky bucket atop another, it’s easy here to forget that they all leak. And, because of both the uniquely spiritual outlook of the Roman Catholic Church and the highly technical nature of her legal terms, it’s easy to impute malice and self-protection to garden-variety Vatican heel-dragging. The saga of Stephen Kiesle, the third and most recent of the front-pagers for the Times, is a case in point.
I feel compelled, in the interest of fairness, to make a few points specifically concerning Pope Benedict’s alleged negligence in this regard:
March 28, 2010
These are indeed heavy days for the Church as she enters Holy Week. The coincidence of Passiontide with ongoing scandals in Ireland and Germany calls to mind Fr. Romano Guardini’s haunting observation:
The Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful church. One must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the church.
It seems to say everything necessary—that Christ is always both obscured and revealed in His Church.
Most of the analysis of Pope Benedict’s involvement in the scandals, on the other hand, reminds me of a different quote—A. E. Housman’s mordant observations on thought and prejudice in “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism” (1921). Apparently, even in a field as unlikely to excite the passions as manuscript editing, he detected the hindrance of complacency:
These internal causes of error and folly [in textual criticism] are subject to very little counteraction or correction from the outside. The average reader knows hardly anything about textual criticism, and therefore cannot exercise a vigilant control over the writer: the addle-pate is at liberty to maunder and the impostor is at liberty to lie. And, what is worse, the reader often shares the writer’s prejudices, and is far too well pleased with his conclusions to examine either his premises or his reasoning. Stand on a barrel in the streets of Bagdad, and say in a loud voice, “Twice two is four, and ginger is hot in the mouth, therefore Mohammed is the prophet of God,” and your logic will probably escape criticism; or, if anyone by chance should criticise it, you could easily silence him by calling him a Christian dog.
Substitute “Canon Law”—or even “the Church”—for “textual criticism,” and I think you have a decent pretty description of the present situation: Read the rest of this entry »