the thought of Benedict XVI:
When the Pope is 'inconvenient'
by Giandomenico Mucci
as published in the 5/2/-5/3/09 issue of
Editor's Note: We preview excerpts from an article in the current issue of La Civilta Cattolica.
Catholics know well that there exists in Italy and in Europe, an a priori hostility against the doctrine of the Church, especially in the field of ethics.
The press, which is an expression of certain powers and powerful interests, is the optimal propagator of this hostility.
This negative prejudice can be attenuated or blocked by those social and pastoral choices which, though always guided by Christian doctrine, can be shared on the practical level by the 'secular' front.
For obvious reasons, the a priori hostility is directed against the Pope, who represents and proposes the doctrine of the Church with the maximum authority.
What is constantly exercised against him is hypercriticality, irritation, uneasiness with respect to his magisterium and to his person.
As a Cardinal, they called him John Paul II's Rottweiler, the inflexible and cold controller over doctrine, this man whom all those who have known him for years esteem as "a man of great kindness, of profound spiritual intensity, of great intellectual curiosity, and above all, of supreme internal tranquillity", as the late Richard John Neuhaus wrote once in Il Foglio
The media campaign to discredit the Pope is fueled by the most outlandish interpretations of pontifical discourses. Most of these are viewed through a prism of preconceptions.
We would like to show the reader the cultural direction [the word used for direction is regia, i.e., as in a movie or play]
which makes that campaign a part of the much larger campaign tending to discredit the Catholic Church on the universal level.
Does this tendency provoke a loss of consensus in the Church? Renato Mannheimer said that the facts behind last year's La Sapienza episode brought the Pope's popularity to greater than 90 percent - that is, well beyond the threshold that pollsters usually consider as maximum for public personalities.
Certainly, the Pope does not advocate the anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss. What he offers is an ethical project aimed at the formation of a person in his totality, a cultural and spiritual project which is firm and clear in its inspiratory doctrine but indulgent towards individual failings.
People sense in his words an awareness of daily common experiences dominated by the slavery of drugs, violence towards the weak, hidden and rejected lives, the weakening of the sense of humanity and solidarity.
It has been noted that among those who seek to discredit the Pope are some who were once distinguished for having been in cultural connivance with totalitarian regimes [i.e., liberal ex-Marxists and socialists]
, who today accuse the Church of cultural totalitarianism because. with its defense of human rights and its pro-active witness in favor of the defenseless and the poor of the world, it has acquired a singular authoritativeness.
The very same pundits often call on the Church to contribute to forming good citizens, and then accuse her, inconsistently, of violating the secularity of the State or of coercing the consciences of the faithful when she speaks of life, the family, and illness.
There is no lack of illustrious scholars who, on particular occasions, have called attention to the communicative capacity of the Pope not only through words but also through certain symbolic actions.
But generally, the Magisterium of Benedict XVI is read as an attempt by an interlocutor who is always on the defensive - and worse, on the side of pessimism - in relation to the prevailing relativism and nihilism in Western culture.
This attitude, in which political interests are not extraneous, gives rise to the systematic hostility against the Pope who is made out to be incapable of dialog with society, someone who alienates the faithful towards whom he shows no mercy, and who silences lay Catholics with his dogmatism.
Every honest and free observer will see through this gross distortion.
The Italian press tends to purvey an image of the Pope that is almost always hypercritical, almost like a consolidated verdict. But there is no lack of voices, either, who do not think that Benedict XVI is an inconvenient Pope!
Guido Guastalla, for example, cultural adviser to the Jewish community of Livorno, expresses esteem and admiration for the Pope. [Strange that the author should mention Guastalla and not Giorgio Israel - nor Marcello Pera, Giuliano Ferrara, or Enresto Galli delle Loggia, for that matter.]
A very positive evaluation on how the Pope is carrying out his function comes from two English historians. Michael Burleigh, who taught at Oxford, Harvard and the London School of Economics, contrast the teaching of Benedict XVI with "the banality of a discredited multiculturalism that exists only in universities of the left [Aren't most Western universities that these days?]
and in some local governments, none of whom are in the avant-garde of European thinking". [Some local governments? What about all the rabidly anti-Church bureaucrats and politicians who hold the true levers of power in the European Union??? They may be in the rearguard of European thinking, but they pass the laws and resolutions that affect European life and culture here and now, and possibly in generations to come!!!!]
They note: "In the place of religion, the liberal elite prefer the incessant recital, like a mantra, of some buzz words like 'diversity', 'human rights' and 'tolerance' almost as if they had invented them, and unaware or ignorant of how much those words go back in fact to a more profound Christian culture. A culture based on ideas and structures in which we are so immersed that we can hardly recognize them."
According to Paul Johnson, who was editor of the weekly New Statesman
, the overwhelming majority of mankind recognizes in religion its function as a vital dimension in the existence of men.
And the Pope is committed to sustain the contact of reason with the transcendent. But "all the forces of modern society are against him".
But not Andre Gluckmann, who has not hesitated to declare himself in favor of the Pope whose opposition to any form of post-modern relativism he shares.
These authors represent different cultural circles, but they have in common a recognition that the secular neo-Enlightenment movement is exhausted and the conviction that there cannot exist a conflict between religion and science, between the activity of reason and openness to transcendence.
That is why they do not see the Pope as an inconvenient man but rather, the herald of a new humanism
In Italy, the secular front has certainly radicalized its opposition to the Church. They like to describe the Church and Catholicism as being in difficulty. To some, this strategy might appear revelatory of more than just ancient acrimony, but of a secret nervousness, almost a case of adolescent psychology, when the son is unable to detach himself from his parents and can only affirm his personality by continuing to talk about them.
Moreover, the secularists never mention those activities - like subsidiarity and the social services that would would never have existed if they had not been nourished by the doctrine of the institutional church - which are embodied in the Catholic laity.
The Magisterium of Benedict XVI reflects limpidly that of Vatican II, apart from some statements that need to be contextualized, and shows a fundamental concern about the developments in that culture to which his opponents have entrusted themselves.
The Pope - as he clarified on December 8, 2005, in his homily at the Mass to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican-II - looks at contemporary man as someone who, being heir to a secular history, "harbors the suspicion that God will take something away from his life, that God is a rival who would limit our freedom, and that we shall be fully human only when we will have set him aside... Man does not wish to count on a love which does not seem reliable to him - he will rely only on knowledge insofar as it gives him power... with which he wishes to autonomously take charge of his own life".
"There are some," the Pope said in his address to the plenary session of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on April 27, 2006 - who have come to theorize the absolute sovereignty of reason and freedom in the field of moral standards: such norms would constitute the field of an ethic that is solely 'human' - that is, it would be the expression of a law which man gives to himself. The advocates of such 'secular morality' affirm that man, as a rational being, not only can, but indeed must, freely decide the value of his own behavior".
The Pope's concern extends from the cultural to the pastoral field: "Secularization," the Holy Father underscored to the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Culture in March 2008, "is not just an external threat to believers, but has manifested itself for some time in the very bosom of the Church. It perverts Christian faith from the inside and profoundly - and consequently, the lifestyle and daily actions of believers. They live in the world and are often marked, if not conditioned, by the culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses, in the practical negation of God - that there is no more need for God, to think of him or to return to him. Moreover, the predominant hedonistic and consumeristic mentality favors, among the faithful as with their pastors, a drift towards superficiality and selfishness which harms ecclesial life... There is the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and a void in the heart".
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/4/2009 4:49 AM]