April 7, 2010

Why I stand for the Pope

The Pope, as everybody can see, has been under attack by the Press since just before Holy Week. This may have a very simple explanation. But first let me say this as a preamble: nothing excuses the sexual abuse of a minor, as much as nothing excuses covering these abuses up. With this being said, here is a plausible explanation: “This latest onslaught of hyperventilating media self-righteousness”—in Fr. Philip Powell words—“is anything but an attempt to throw mud on the Holy Father […] just when the Pope is most visible to the world as preacher and teacher of the Gospel,” that is during Holy Week and Easter. This happens every year. As Steven at The Metaphysical Peregrine summarizes, “We had the (anti Christian) Da Vinci Code movie, emphasis on the Gospel of Judas and how it takes down Christianity, James Cameron finding Jesus’ casket (so obviously he wasn’t resurrected), and nonsense that Jesus was gay.”

This year the attack—a personal and direct one—is based on a New York Times piece about how the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ignored a case of pedophilia. Yet, along with Steven, one might ask oneself why at no time did the author of the article interview any of the people involved in the Milwaukee case with Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, the pedophile priest:

Fairness, and good journalism, you know, is getting both sides of a story, which the Jurassic Press has decided to not do unless it fits their Secularist agenda. From several sources I’ve tried to create a timeline of what happened, and why I think Goldstein is a liar, and the NY Times supported her. In this, I hope to provide something closer to the truth, doing journalism as I was trained to do, though I don’t have access to interview the players.

That’s also why, along with Fr. Philip Powell, I think that what media attacks on the Pope are designed to do is not to bear witness to the truth, nor an honest search for it, but rather “to demoralize the faithful into surrendering hope, thus giving less faithful Catholics the excuse they want to abandon the Church’s unwavering teaching on difficult moral issues.” How does “the system” work? Here is how Paul describes it (Romans 1:28-30):

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil.

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The Abbey of Piona

It’s always the same story when I have to deal with monks—a question I should not ask (but which I regularly ask), and an answer I would not like to hear: “How many of you are there in the Abbey?” to which the answer is, “Not many, as you can see, but this is not the problem… the problem is the future, there are few vocations!” This always fills me with sadness...

This time, however, the old Cistercian monk was far less laconic than most of the other monks to whom I asked the same question. “You know, the youngest among us is 65… Yeah, when people come here they say, ‘Wow, you live in paradise, what an amazing place is this!’ But when I tell them ‘Then, why don’t you join us?’ well, they have a good laugh and say ‘Oh no, thank you Father…’” He laughed in turn, but after a while, shaking his head, he added, “I really don’t know what will come after us.”

Yet, to see the glass half full, I must say that the Abbey of Piona, where I have just come back from after attending Easter Triduum, is really an amazing place. And that’s also why I feel like I have to write about it.

The Abbey of Piona stands in a wonderful position, on a promontory at the top of Lake Como—where Hollywood superstar George Clooney owns a villa (showing a certain talent in choosing where to live!)—in Lombardy (North-western Italy). It was founded by Cluniac monks in the 12th century, but now, after centuries of abandon, is run by the Benedictine Cistercian congregation of Casamari, who had been given it by the Rocca Family in 1937. “When we came here,” the old monk told us, “we found just a heap of ruins.” Now everything has been restored to its former glory: an immense effort, crowned with complete success. “After all it was we Cistercians and Benedictines who drained the Po Valley, back in the 12th century, did you know?”

Of course I know, Father. And it’s not the only nor the greatest debt we owe to you all. I personally owe to you—si parva licet componere magnis—three days of perfect happiness, and it was not just because of the absolutely breathtaking beauty of the place (“We have always been good at choosing places to live…” ). In fact, the first thing that strikes you about the Abbey of Piona is the atmosphere, which is made up with a lot of “ingredients,” most of which are too impalpable to be expressed with words. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to pay tribute to such ineffable experiences.

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