September 21, 2010

The New York Times: More papist than the Pope?

It might well be the case. Things change, my friends …

All in all, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain over the weekend must have been a disappointment to his legions of detractors. Their bold promises notwithstanding, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens didn’t manage to clap the pope in irons and haul him off to jail. The protests against Benedict’s presence proved a sideshow to the visit, rather than the main event. And the threat (happily empty, it turned out) of an assassination plot provided a reminder of what real religious extremism looks like — as opposed to the gentle scholar, swathed in white, urging secular Britons to look with fresh eyes at their island’s ancient faith.
And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.

The Vatican of Benedict and John Paul II, by contrast, has striven to maintain continuity with Christian tradition, even at the risk of seeming reactionary and out of touch. This has cost the church its once-privileged place in the Western establishment, and earned it the scorn of fashionable opinion. But continuity, not swift and perhaps foolhardy adaptation, has always been the papacy’s purpose, and the secret of its lasting strength.
This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.

Anyway, great article and good analysis. Excellent food for thought. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. John-Paul II was probably the first Pope to make a formal apology (twice, the first time in Istanbul, and the second in Rome) for the consequences of the Fourth Crusade, for which obviously he cannot ever be held responsabile.

    It would be difficult to believe that such a forthright Pope would be inclined to authorise payoffs to stifle pedofile offences perpetrated by members of the Catholic clergy to save the face of the Vatican.
    It seems that there is a great deal of unrevealed hypocrisy regarding the enormous accumulation of sexual offences coming to light, and what might be considered a belated compassionate attitude of Pope Benedict XVI who is alledged to have been incriminated directly in the terrible Murphy affair, for example, when he was Cardinal and former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrines of the Faith.

    Non doubt he (and perhaps others) assumed what he considered to be his duty and responsability in defence of the Vatican, but when so many cases gradually come to light, the Vatican (and the Catholic Church) naturally become more and more vulnerable and negatively effected. In view of the Pope's engagement now that these terrible affairs are becoming known, should one simply try to help him turn the page on such an abominable chapter, or should more radical measures be taken in spite of his immunity?