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Pope Benedict XVI is not a(n American) conservative

February 14, 2013

Julia Smucker:

Excellent observations from JL Liedl on why attempts to pigeonhole the pope onto an American political spectrum fall short.

Originally posted on Above the Spectrum:

Pope Benedict’s XVI announcement of Monday, detailing his decision to abdicate the Seat of Peter and step down as pope, triggered the expected maelstrom of ill-informed, knee-jerk media reactions. The majority of these pieces couldn’t help but point out the many perceived flaws of Benedict’s papacy, charges that ranged from failing to make the Church “relevant” in modern times to the truly damnable offense of just not being as charismatic a pope as Bl. John Paul II had been.

Just as wide-spread as the barely disguised Benedict bashing was the tendency of members of the media to label the pope as “very conservative.” Coming from the American media, this was a label that struck me as curious. In calling Benedict a conservative, the media was attempting to position Pope Benedict and his views on the American political spectrum, placing him firmly on the side of  the GOP and casting him as at odds with…

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41 Comments
  1. Thomas Hostomsky permalink
    February 14, 2013 9:54 pm

    I agree. Once again media displays its ignorance of all things Catholic.

  2. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    February 14, 2013 11:23 pm

    Julia,

    I think you need to get the gist of your headline here — which is certainly correct from ANY fair type of conceptual analysis btw — to the ever-overwrought George Weigel. I was surprised as h.e. double toothpicks to see him appearing on MSNBC. The best moment was that he opined that basically no regular Mass-attending Catholics voted for Obama. Take note all ye church going liberals here, George Weigel thinks you never darken the door of a church parish!

    In addition he had a succession of howlers, which the cute quintet of young interviewers a too uninformed to counter. Imagine hearing someone say a complete falsehood like the idea that Europe has not even been meeting basic re-population stats and letting this loon get away with that mistake. But they all just sat there. What Weigel, like all these paranoid conservatives was referring to was the the very different fact that the Christian population in Europe is not repopulating at a rate to assure its supremacy over other faiths. A very different matter. But one that is lost on propagandist like Weigel.

    Funnily enough, he seemed to say that he hoped there NOT be a Third World Pope. He hoped, instead, for someone who could had extensive experience countering the “soul withering” effects of “secularism”. Of course by that he means Europe. This brings us full circle to the point of your headline. Folks like Weigel are convinced that every right-thinkin’ person is an American conservative in one big way. They are sure that life means endless war against some enemy, be it over-opulating Muslims or the progeny of “secularists” not yet killed off by phony wars which they were forced into because of bad employment prospects.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      February 15, 2013 3:29 pm

      Credit for the title and content of this post go to J.L. Liedl, not to me, although I wholeheartedly agree with what he says. It’s a message for the likes of Weigel as well as for those on the left who, in the words of Michael Sean Winters, “let the Catholic right define the narrative of Benedict’s reign.” Frankly, Liedl’s post and this comment illustrate perfectly the difference between a substantial critique and a rant.

  3. Kurt permalink
    February 15, 2013 4:52 pm

    I appreciate this article, agree with much of it and value all of it. However, to quibble, as to Julia’s assertion that “he also stepped up the church’s commitment to …opposition to unbridled laissez-faire capitalism”, I don’t see it. On occasion, he restated the Church’s historic teaching but it seems a topic he commented on much less frequently than his six immediate predecessors.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      February 16, 2013 2:43 pm

      I suppose that’s a fair quibble, in the sense that, if my comment were amended to say that Pope Benedict “stepped up the Church’s commitment to environmental conservationism and reiterated its opposition to unbridled laissez-faire capitalism”, it might arguably be more accurate. But I don’t think this detracts from my (or Liedl’s) overall point.

  4. JL Liedl permalink
    February 15, 2013 5:17 pm

    Hi everyone, and Julia, thank you so much for re-blogging this; you have no idea what it’s done for my traffic :).

    I also wanted to share my latest piece, “The Merits and Limitations of Conscious Capitalism.” It’s a response to a recent speech John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods Market, gave at the Cato Institute.

    http://abovethespectrum.com/2013/02/15/the-merits-and-limitations-of-conscious-capitalism/

  5. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    February 15, 2013 5:19 pm

    Speaking of the Seer of Kramerbooks, I never thought I would say this. But after seeing George Weigel interviewed in that usual bastion of liberal thought MSNBC, I thought to myself — If you have got to have someone totally full of bluster on the Catholic issues, why not Mike Winters?? They are probably fearful he will suddenly cry out “J’Accuse” and frighten the cute guy with the glasses in the quintet, who btw kinda looks like my husband when he was younger. Speaking of the surprising nature of his voice I can’t the number of times in the 90’s especially when I used to go into Kramerbooks to look at their travel book section for free (I know cheap of me), and try to remember names of hotels or restaurant in some far-away place we were planning a trip to because in those days we travelled really a lot (pre-internet of course). (Now we are in cruises, since we are pooped out from being old.) Then suddenly you would hear Mike Winters voice bursting in, sounding like a cross between a first grade teaching nun and a highschool coach. You would think he was right next to you, but in fact he was way in the back in the cafe. So that voice can be a bit surprising especially for those with powerful nun-memories from grade school. I think on MSNBC his “J’Accuse” schtick would make even Rachel wish her little blazer was armor plated. Still, he would be better than Weigel.

  6. Jimmy Mac permalink
    February 17, 2013 7:01 pm

    Does this mean that (gasp!) “Fr.” Robert Sirico and his Acton Institute might possibly not be in the mainstream of Catholic thought? Tell me it isn’t so, Juney Moon!

  7. Julia Smucker permalink*
    February 18, 2013 10:42 am

    A similarly incisive commentary here: http://existentialmusingsofmatt.blogspot.com/2013/02/on-restoring-catholic-moral-grammar.html

    The fact that we still have an essentially one-dimensional political discourse, polarised between an irresponsibly naïve left-liberalism and a cynical and psychotically exploitative right-liberalism, is also a testament to our nation’s disordered political psychology. Further, each side trumpets individual autonomy as its ultimate moral value and raison d’être. Hmmm.

    Those affected by the Americanist heresy, on both sides, are actually more alike than they realise. American Catholic leftists who greeted Caritas in Veritate with enthusiasm only to return to lambasting the Pope on matters of sexual and social ethics are mirrored precisely by the American Catholic rightists who cravenly ignored or wilfully misinterpreted Caritas in Veritate and used the Pope’s teachings on sex and society as cudgels against otherwise well-meaning believers. However, it is also true that those disaffected by various aspects of the Americanist heresy may share more in common than they realise. Social conservatives who lament the passing of a unified moral order immediately have something in common with economic leftists who lament the passing of a more just, stable and egalitarian economic order….

    The moral authority is needed to refashion a common moral language and syntax, for such causes to be politically effectual. Classical Christianity, rooted in the tradition of the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers, handed down through the apostolic succession, provides just such a ‘linguistic’ framework. It is a framework which still allows for political dither, yet still insists on a hierarchy of values beginning with the sanctity of all human life, and the right ends of that life that such sanctity entails. It is important to note that in the United States at least, neither current fashionable political ideology has a monopoly over this linguistic framework (though both sides do certainly draw upon it). Such refashioning of our moral vocabulary and syntax will, of course, mean that we are forced to think differently about the way our political system works in practice, and wean ourselves of the ideational idols and one-dimensional Manichaeism which work tirelessly to destroy hope of Christian communion between those of differing political outlooks.

    I think Pope Benedict XVI was, in an intellectual sense, all too aware of this need. When he addressed audiences in Europe or America on issues of public concern, it was always in an attempt to situate the debate and its terms within its proper historical context and moral grammar. He ceaselessly endeavoured to posit classical Christianity as the matrix from which our current moral concerns continue to rise, and the touchstone we should look to for solutions to those same questions.

    • Thomas Hostomsky permalink
      February 18, 2013 1:10 pm

      I believe some good points were made here, though rather superficial in its mimicry of the secular press’ overwhelming need to present “both sides” as “equally” at fault. Despite my disagreements with politically correct dogmatists, they tend to be far more “open” than the narrow judgementality that poses moral superiority and intolerence on the right. For one thing, those people in practice only support human rights until a person is born, upon which birth they simply become objects whose value is determined on a strictly utilitarian scale.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        February 18, 2013 3:41 pm

        And yet, whenever someone points out the errors on both sides of our ideological dichotomy, there comes a self-righteous protest from the left, insisting that any reasonable person must see that “those people” are objectively more insufferable. How is this any less narrow-minded than those you accuse of the same?

        The point is that the fundamental flaw is in the dichotomy itself, the fruitless war between a left-liberalism and a right-liberalsim which are both socially destructive. To play the blame game between two halves of a bad system is to perpetuate the problem.

        And actually, Jonathan Haidt suggests that political “liberals” are working from a narrower moral palette than they think.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/the-righteous-mind-by-jonathan-haidt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        • Thomas Hostomsky permalink
          February 18, 2013 3:57 pm

          Try a fair analysis and see for yourself. And I never used the phrase “Those people.” I do not see the President of the United States trying to limit any portion of the population’s rights. I do see him trying to expand a certain portion of the population to take more responsibility. This is “liberal” in our vernacular. We have a political network masquarading as a news channel which manufactures such things as “war on religion” and “war on Christmas” which claims to want “smaller government” yet advocates government intrusion into people’s personal lives. While I frequently find errors on the “left” (I’m pretty sure I stated this before your knee-jerk post), The egregiousness of the malice and propaganda spewed on the “right” is just so much more. It merely takes observation to see this.

        • Thomas Hostomsky permalink
          February 18, 2013 3:59 pm

          My point, simply put, is that they are not “two halves,” equally resonsible. That is an easy and inaccurate “out.” Such dismissiveness cannot serve to correct what you acurately state needs correction.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        February 18, 2013 7:47 pm

        I’m sorry if I came across as knee-jerk, and I admit my reaction was partly visceral. I’m afraid we’re talking past each other at this point, which is what I was trying to get beyond. I can’t help but find it hypocritical to make accusations of dismissiveness when one is dismissing an entire side of public debate wholesale – but perhaps we’ve both been guilty of this in some way.

        My point is not that the responsibility has to come out even all the time (see this post for further clarification), but that the terms of the ideological debate are misguided to begin with, so weighing blame (whether equally or disproportionately) only distracts from the deeper social ills.

        You did in fact say, “those people in practice only support human rights until a person is born….” This is apparently intended to substantiate the claim that the right is self-evidently more egregious. This claim undermines itself: being consistently lambasted from the left whenever I critique the left/right binary is not going to convince me. Token disclaimers that the left has its faults notwithstanding, doesn’t such a claim provide the “easy out” by implicitly exonerating the other side?

        You also seem to overlook the fact that MSNBC was explicitly modeled after Fox News. But these egregiously partisan networks are not the root of the problem; they are simply perpetuating it. If you take away one thing from my argument, let it be this: the problem is not simply with one or even both sides of the binary, but with the binary itself.

        • Thomas Hostomsky permalink
          February 19, 2013 2:32 pm

          The enormous difference between MSNBC and Fox is that Fox presents itself as “Fox News” whereas MSNBC presents itself as “The Place for Politics.” There is also a vast difference in the accuracy of information being presented. Otherwise, as I have said before, and not insincerely, I follow what you are trying to say.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          February 20, 2013 12:35 pm

          I still don’t see an enormous difference between the two. They are both unabashedly partisan networks expressly designed to preach to partisan choirs. Telling people what they want to hear is a lucrative business, but it is the opposite of prophetic, whatever the socio-political bent. And MSNBC’s choice to model itself after Fox is telling in itself.

          That said, I think you’re right to imply (if I’m reading you correctly) that it’s time for us to set aside this squabble and focus on the common goals.

  8. Julia Smucker permalink*
    February 18, 2013 8:45 pm

    On second thought, maybe we should just change gears here and talk about what a (Catholic) third way might look like.

    • Kurt permalink
      February 19, 2013 1:20 pm

      A Catholic Third Way would be absent any significant number of the current American episcopate.

      • Julia Smucker permalink*
        February 19, 2013 1:38 pm

        That is neither true nor helpful. I’m not interested in what the third way isn’t (I think we know what the false alternatives are), still less in predicting who would refuse to get on board. Let’s talk about what a better alternative is.

        In keeping with the subject of Liedl’s post, perhaps we could turn to Pope Benedict’s encyclicals for a clue as to what that might look like. Or for that matter, any number of USCCB pastorals could work just as well.

        • Kurt permalink
          February 19, 2013 3:10 pm

          Julia,

          Why?

          Forming a Catholic Third Way without the active support of the episcopate advances social justice about as much as doing a Suduko puzzle. And the bishops have no interest and ability to join in a Third Way initiative.

          More productive and useful would be dropping direct Catholic references and instead turning to the leadership of thinkers like Professor Amitai Etzioni (who is Jewish) and the communtarian movement. Let’s take our principles and express them in a secular, non-confessional way.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          February 20, 2013 12:53 pm

          Kurt, it’s your second statement that I take issue with. If we start by presuming bad faith on the part of the very people whose support is vital to what we hope to accomplish, then we’ll never get anywhere. If you are absolutely determined to make such bad-faith presumptions, then it seems to me the question is (and I ask this sincerely), do you have the interest and ability to join in a Third Way initiative? If you do, making allies into enemies won’t help.

          I do think the Catholic tradition has a particular contribution to make – if we Catholics in the US can learn to embrace the fullness of that tradition rather than trying to conform it to superficial ideologies – but I agree that a transpartisan solution must ultimately cross confessional lines as well (although in that light it would be more effective, and certainly more honest, to go for inter-confessional rather than non-confessional). So, what can you tell me about Amitai Etzioni?

        • Kurt permalink
          February 20, 2013 8:51 pm

          Julia,

          I’m not assuming bad faith by the episcopacy. I am just noting their recent public policy advocacy and voter education actions and I find I am more sympathetic to the Democratic Party than to most of the episcopate.

          Others of good faith can disagree with me, but I am reluctant to abandon an actually existing political movement (the Democratic Party) for a yet unformed political movement of a Catholic Third Way, even if I think it might be something marginally better.

          As for Prof. Etzioni:

          http://communitariannetwork.org/

          http://www.amitaietzioni.org/

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amitai_Etzioni

          http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2011/05/amitai-etzioni-communitarianism-civil-rights-foreign-policy/

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          February 20, 2013 11:25 pm

          Recent public policy advocacy and voter education actions – oh you mean like these?

          http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-219.cfm

          http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1201597.htm

          http://www.usccb.org/news/2011/11-085.cfm

          http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/all-catholics/faithful-citizenship-quiz-questions.cfm

          If you want to see a Catholic third way, look at the scope of issues the US bishops address on their website – or, for a more specific example, in their election-year document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (written for the previous election cycle and reissued last year).

          About Etzioni, I am not familiar with him at all, but this description from the Wikipedia article sounds promising:

          Etzioni’s main idea is that individual rights and aspirations should be protected but that they should be inserted into a sense of the community (hence the name of the movement he created, ‘Communitarianism’). Within the movement, the communitarian thinking developed in reaction to the “me-first” attitude of the 1980s. Also the movement has sought to establish a common ground between liberals and conservatives, thus bridging the continual division. The movement works to strengthen the ability of all aspects of the community including the families and schools in order to introduce more positive values.

        • Thomas Hostek permalink
          February 21, 2013 12:22 am

          Well said, Kurt. There needs to be a bit of “realpolitik” inserted. This was part of my point in pointing out that the 2 parties are not each “half” of the problem. We need to deal with the system we have. And we need to be realistic and objective enough to call things accurately.

  9. Julia Smucker permalink*
    February 21, 2013 1:29 pm

    The war between left/right liberalisms is the problem. They are, essentially, two sides of the same counterfeit coin. To quibble endlessly that one side of the coin is uglier is not only not objective, it misses the point entirely.

    If you are more committed to a political party than to the Church and its social vision (not to mention its catholicity!), then you are not equipped to help find a way out of the false dichotomy that plagues us. Acceptance of the false dichotomy is not realism but defeatism.

    • Thomas Hostek permalink
      February 21, 2013 3:52 pm

      That doesn’t work when the “leaders” of the American Catholic Church are Republican Conservatives in their social vision.

    • Kurt permalink
      February 21, 2013 4:48 pm

      I’m not committed to a political party more than the Church. I am committed to what I think would be legislation and public policy that would make this society more just. Unlike the episcopate and like the Democratic Party, I believe that it is unjust to fire people from their jobs simply because they are gay and that there should be legislation amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act stating so. Unlike the episcopate and like the Democratic Party I believe that contraception should be legal and available to couples who want it. Unlike the bishops and like the Democratic Party, I would not withdraw my support for immigration reform because it allows for gay families to be reunited (in fact, I consider that a positive feature). Unlike the bishops and like the Democratic Party, I don’t believe that workers have some unique obligation to justify their solidaristic political activities to the bishops while no such demand is made of big business and trade associations. Unlike the bishops and like the Democratic Party, I don’t believe that private organizations should be able to take taxpayer money for the purpose of finding homes for homeless children yet leave them homeless rather than allow a gay person to adopt them. Unlike the bishops and like the Democratic Party, I support Obamacare. Unlike the bishops and like the Democratic Party, I believe that military chaplains have the right to perform the rites and sacraments of their denomination even if their denomination allows same sex marriage.

      Where the bishops concur with the Democratic Party (gun control, unemployment insurance, DREAM Act), I applaud them. Where I disagree with them, I don’t resort to the accusations you make of my beliefs (“counterfeit”, “the problem”, ugly, “not equipped to find a way out”, “false” “plague”.) I think I have the right to be respected in my well-considered beliefs even when that leads me to be a member of the Democratic Party. Your description of my beliefs doesn’t give me much encouragement that there is value in joining up in some effort to form a Third Way.

      • Brett permalink
        February 22, 2013 8:47 pm

        I wasn’t aware the bishops support firing people because they’re gay. The Church teaches that homosexuals should not be discriminated against.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      February 21, 2013 9:33 pm

      Kurt, you say you’re not committed to a political party more than the Church and then you make the Democratic Party the measure of all goodness.

      Thomas, if you don’t believe the bishops when their public statements (all available through their website) evidence a much broader vision than the one you are pigeonholing them into, then I doubt there’s much more I can say.

      I leave the two of you to your stereotypes.

      • Kurt permalink
        February 22, 2013 7:48 am

        No, I don’t make it the measure of all goodness. I do my own measuring based on my conscience, reflection, and study. (And I am disappointed you are continuing with this personal degradation on this matter).

        I have found, based on my beliefs and my situation, that participation in the Democratic Party offers me the best forum to advance what I think is best for my country. And, unlike the rather derogatory comments you make about me, I don’t feel the need to make such accusations about those who have come to a different conclusion.

        I think a Catholic Third Way would be more appealing if its proponents incorporated into it an acknowledgement of the human dignity and right to independent judgment of others rather than call us “counterfeit”, “the problem”, ugly “not equipped”, and “false”.

      • Thomas Hostek permalink
        February 22, 2013 12:26 pm

        Yes, Julia, looking at Bishop Jenky, Cardianl George, Archbishop Meyers,Cardinal Dolan, et al, I doubt there is much more you can say. The evidence is overwhelming and speaks for itself.

  10. Thomas Hostek permalink
    February 22, 2013 12:27 pm

    And take a look at your own brand of stereotype and snarkiness.

  11. Julia Smucker permalink*
    February 22, 2013 3:41 pm

    Kurt, I never denied anyone’s human dignity or capacity for reasoned judgment, and with the exception of saying you were not equipped to seek a third way, I never called you any of those things. I apologize if I have given the impression of resorting to personal degradation; that was not my intention.

    I’ve been trying to say that a solution to the problem of polarization will require a renewed willingness to extend the benefit of the doubt rather than presuming disingenuousness (clearly we can all find whatever evidence we want to look for to support our beliefs about anyone’s motives and intentions). But in my urgency to stress this, I have apparently failed to model it well.

    I’m afraid we’re only provoking each other at this point, which isn’t helping anything. What say we all give it a rest?

  12. Ronald King permalink
    February 22, 2013 6:23 pm

    What seems to get lost in this discussion is the motivation of a person’s beliefs and actions. The greatest mystery is Love and the question which I find most difficult to answer, yet the most important one to explore is, “Do I love as I am made to love?” If love is first and foremost a sacrificial act then it is our actions which will present the answer to this question. I do not know Kurt outside of this site, but from the bits of information he has provided over these few years, I am reasonably certain that he is a man who seeks the path of Love in his vocation.

    • Kurt permalink
      March 4, 2013 11:00 am

      Thank you, Ronald. I try my best from the situation I am in and recognize that others are often in different situations. I understand I can’t demand that Julia “return the favor” if her judgment is that my path is not measured by my conscience but by an outside force. If that were true, her negative judgment of me would be valid.

  13. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    February 23, 2013 12:20 am

    Julia,

    I thought of the title of your post today, on reading the USA Today article about the latest scandal involving the Roman Curia’s gay cabal. It is all so colorful with gay saunas in Churches, and cliques of clerics blackmailing each other, etc. etc. etc. Ad nauseum. I want to give you the perspective of my husband, a tax lawyer when discussed it all with hi, His insight was that Benedict was proving himself yet again the clever Machiavellian, by commissioning the study that yet again pointed to a gay cabal in the Vatican. The reason is simply that the precipitating crisis for the study was the butler scandal, which revealed mostly FINANCIAL corruption as the heart of the matter —- not sex. My husband said, and I think him quite right and smart, that this is a page from the playbook of American Conservatives. Namely, using sexual scandals (esp. gay ones) to cover over more basic financial malfeasance. This is certainly right. It is one more tawdry attempt to make some gay scandal as a “cover” for the real issue of utter greed. Gay scandals sound almost noble compared with the truth which is just about some greedy clerics who have people fooled. Pretty clever cover, I must say. The Republican play-book in Rome. George Weigel seems obsessed with a future “winsome” Pope (LOL!!). For he has repeated “winsome” in several interviews, to much nostalgia I am sure. The great American musical “Something Happened on the Way to the Forum” had the wonderful song, “You’re lovely….and nothing but winsome” in it. Perhaps Weigel was quoting….in a Roman vein.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      February 23, 2013 11:47 am

      Again, the post and title are really J.L. Liedl’s, and he was pointing out the inaccuracy of using the word “conservative” as synonymous with anything that smacks of the GOP, especially if projecting this outside of a US context. John Allen just recently made a related point in passing by translating “neo-liberal” as “in American argot, ‘neo-conservative'”. He also has an impressively balanced assessment of the “gay scandal” question, btw.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        February 23, 2013 12:11 pm

        Julia,

        I went and looked at John Allen’s piece you mention, and I was impressed too. It was a good piece of thinking. He can be quite sharp when he is not trying to limn or suggest some de facto realm of rosy-scenario for the RC Church……which he often seems to be doing on TV. At any rate, I have to admit, that it made me think that perhaps I and others may have been caught in a bit of hapless conspiracy assumptions, along with those — as he very correctly says — very conspiracy prone Italianos. I feel a bit chastened by his logic, I must say.

        Yet the wider issue seems one that commentators on diverse ends of RC spectrum constantly participate in, but seem to have no sense is a total re-tread. Namely, the almost constant dialectic that has existed between the “Good Pope” and the “Bad Curia”. And along with that trope, the constant need, again and again, to diagnose the problem simply as needing to reform those nasty bureaucrats in the Curia. Bureaucrats as the enemy, sound familiar. (Tea Party!) It seems like a shell game, in the failure to recognize that something more fundamental in the beliefs and system of the RC church needs to change. Not just “reform”

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          February 23, 2013 12:18 pm

          May I ask what extent of transformation would be satisfactory in your view?

  14. Ronald King permalink
    February 23, 2013 1:51 pm

    Maybe the starting point of transformation would be the acceptance that the Seat of Peter is a position of martyrdom.

  15. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    February 23, 2013 9:41 pm

    Julia,

    Thank you for that inviting question. The first part of such an acceptance would be how impressive so much of Catholic history is. Just not the part emphasized by reactionaries. Look, we all have histories, so we can identify with an organization that has a real history. I may surprise a few people here in agreeing with some of those reactionary types in saying that — purely from a matter of history — the Catholic Church is responsible for some of the best things in Western Culture. Now, distinguo, how do we go from that to abuse-scandals and petty banking fraud??? There’s there rub.

    It is just that what they are discomfited in accepting is that they change. This is a theological problem, which in my view has a lot to do with recondite corners of Thomism. This is why I have been fascinated with that issue. Somehow or other they have to get some really serious theologians to re-assess their premises in terms of “change” per se. It can be done.

    I really don’t have a dog in this fight, I promise you. My interest is only conceptual and nostalgic personally at this point. But as the biggest Christian denomination, the question interests me greatly. I have to say that the issue devolves to one of quality. I know this will bring out that barbs more than practically anything I ever written on blogs. But the whole “education system” of Roman universities that Benedict relied on for his staffing (according to press repots which I deem reliable) is subject to that “dirty little secret” that all those places were hardly educational at all. The North American College and its attendant universities has been known for a long time to be the “frat-boy” seminarian non-ediucational sphere. Precious little real thinking has been going on. And that is the problem. When I was a seminarian, my Archbishop was famous for bragging (!!!) that he had written both his doctoral dissertations for his S.T.D. and J.C.D. on the trains while visiting tourist sites around Italy!!!!! That tells you something, if you will listen!! It is just poor thinkin’ for a very long time. That’s all. I doubt it has changed. That’s the real problem. They really can’t think. And yet they believe they possess some fine rationality. A toxic combination for mental laziness. And then the graduates farm-out to staff the seminaries in the US. They are riding on their laurels from long ago. That’s the nut.

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