...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

April 22, 2005

So Much For The Anti-Ecumenical Criticism

In one of his first official acts as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury. What surprised me is that such an invitation has never before happened, according to the Times of London.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will meet Pope Benedict XVI for the first time on Monday.

Anglican insiders said it was "highly significant" that the Pope should choose to meet the honorary head of the Anglican communion in the very first hours of his official pontificate.

The papal audience in the Vatican follows his attendance at tomorrow’s inaugural mass at St Peter’s, when Dr Williams will become the first serving Archbishop of Canterbury to attend a papal inauguration since the Reformation. On Sunday evening Dr Williams will preach at the Anglican church of All Saints in Rome.

After a chilly period for Anglicanism under the last Pope because of the ordination of women priests, Benedict XVI appears eager to usher in a new era of closeness between the two communions.
[emphasis added]

That's a good thing.

More myths busted: The anti-semitic slur against the new pope is bogus:

Rabbi Di Segni quoted a letter from the pope, who said he had "trust in the help of the Almighty", in which he pledged to continue and intensify contacts with Jews begun by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

'I trust in the help of the Almighty to continue and strengthen the dialogue and collaboration with the sons and daughters of the Jewish people,' the pope said in the message, dated yesterday.

Jewish leaders in Israel and beyond have saluted the election of Benedict, saying he was a friend of the Jewish people and calling on him to continue the fight against anti-Semitism.

Muslims are supportive, too.
The new pope's conservative outlook, which has caused controversy in the Western world, appears not to overly concern religious leaders in the Middle East.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, a direct descendant of Islam's prophet, Mohammed, voiced his trust in the new pope's 'wisdom and courage to go forward and continue his predecessor's mission with strength and faith to bring about world peace and reinforce respect between religions.'

And you won't hear Chris Matthew or those of his ilk mention the following tidbit either:
The Italian daily La Repubblica, meanwhile, reported that the documents Benedict had been working on before being elected pope included one allowing divorced couples who remarry to receive Communion.
Which goes to show you, the unfair criticism of Benedict XVI, by leftists who had never heard of him before this week, is driven by the same thing that drives most leftist thought on any subject: an irrational fear and hatred of Christianity.

Posted by annika, Apr. 22, 2005 |
Rubric: Faith


considering the head of the church did not attend the funeral mass of his predecessor. the meeting IS being held in rome. things could still go south.

Posted by: louielouie on Apr. 22, 2005


You know I've got big reservations about this particular pope. Whether his papacy will truly continue in the spirit of reconciliation* fostered by JP2 is unclear to me. The priests and grad students I knew at Catholic University never spoke well of Ratzinger; one joke was that, whenever a reprimand was issued by the the CDF, it was termed "getting a rat zinger."

I'm glad to see the optimism that you and Mike (of Naked Villainy) have for this papacy; I won't be upset if it turns out you guys are right, but Pope Benedict is going to have to fight an uphill PR battle quite unlike the one that sometimes dogged JP2. My main concern is that Benedict might view his new role simply as an expanded version of what he, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was doing as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. If he does go that route, treating your Church as the CDF writ large, I can't expect good results.

As I argued on my blog, religious conflicts tend to occur where one or both parties in a religious dispute present clearly defined doctrinal (or cultural, theological, ecclesiological, etc.) boundaries. The danger of a Ratzinger/Benedict papacy is that he'll want to keep the faithful "in their place" and make the spiritual boundaries of Catholicism as clear as possible. Whether this is healthy, in the current global religious climate, I don't know.

Anyway, hope is one of the cardinal Christian virtues, so I'll do a lot of hoping. Unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling that Benedict's election is a mistake.

"Just my two scents," as the skunk said.




*I can hear people objecting to this noun, arguing that JP2 did a lot to divide Catholics from Catholics and Catholics from non-Catholics. Perhaps, but to reduce his life to those actions would be to miss the larger context of his entire papacy.

Posted by: Kevin Kim on Apr. 23, 2005

As a law student, one thing i've learned is that clear boundaries are good. In essence, that is what law is all about. It is the essential aim of all law. Marking the lines of human behavior so that people can predict the consequences of any course of action and plan accordingly. In the real world, it doesn't always work out that way, and even less so nowadays. But if that ideal of predictable consequences is breaking down here in the west, it's because we've allowed too much gray area to creep into our legal system.

i say this because i believe what works for the civil law should also work for God's law. The Catholic tradition has always been that the Church maintains clear doctrine from the top down. Yes, i know that was a major disagreement that led to the Protestant Reformation. But that's the way we do things on this side, and i hope we continue.

There are so many people outside the Church (and i consider fallen away Catholics like Andrew Sullivan, Chris Matthews and Rosie O'Donnel in this category) who have their own vision about where the Church should be going. A pope who could please all of them is impossible, because the Church would splinter apart if these people had their way,* and what would be left would not be Catholic at all. It would be a bunch of little new denominations. Maybe that's what the liberal critics want.

(Well Kevin, proofreading the above, i see i've gone off about doctrine, while the thrust of your comment was interfaith relations. On that score, i'm also hopeful that Benedict will continue John Paul's good work.)

*Look at what's happening to the Anglican Church, based on one issue.

Posted by: annie on Apr. 23, 2005

Annika, as it turns out, I don't have to listen to anything you say because my battle monster beat your battle monster three times.

Seriously, though: your point is well taken re: clarity. But clarity, like lack of clarity, is a two-edged sword. Islamofascists are quite clear in their vision of right and wrong, of Dar-al-Islam versus Dar-al-Harb. Abortion clinic bombers also demonstrate a certain perverse clarity. Many American fundamentalist Christians are pretty sure the Bible is the literal Word of God-- a Word leaving no room for interpretation because everything's so clear.

Clarity solves some problems and creates others, as Keith Burgess-Jackson implies whenever he uses the example of determining a legal drinking age. When you draw that bright line, it sometimes hurts the wrong people (as when the drinking age prevents mature teens from drinking, while allowing certain immature adults to drink-- KBJ's example).

I don't think Pope Benedict is going to be a raving lunatic. He won't deliver any homilies that sound anything like those being delivered by certain Muslim clerics. I'm dismissive of the "Nazi past" crap being put out by the press. All of that is just a bunch of desperate flailing by sensationalist journalists.

But Ratzinger's controversial history as CDF prefect is reason enough for caution-- no need for journalists to spin or exaggerate.

Your blog post makes a good point when you quote Jordan's king: a clear, firm stance gets respect. That's true. Then again, the previous Pope was very much against the Iraq war and got slammed by American conservatives for "getting in the way" or "being on the wrong side." Ratzinger, too, has been an opponent of Bush's project. What will political conservatives say about him?

I'll watch with interest as the cosmos unfolds.


Posted by: Kevin Kim on Apr. 23, 2005

Conservatives simply dismiss any criticism of capitalism or war as naive and expected from Church. However, when it comes to sex lives ignoring the Church presents a 'values' problem.

Both sides of the aisle quote selectively from the Catholic Church but only the Republicans push to have the US government endorse Christian theology.

Posted by: Preston on Apr. 23, 2005