Tuesday, April 13, 2010

They Just Don't Get It

Sadly Necessary Disclaimer: For those who are uncritically swallowing the media distortions around the Holy Father. I don't expect you to agree with my perspective, but please have some common sense and do not imply that this is some bizarre, backhanded defense of a coverup. I don't believe for one instant that Benedict was involved in a coverup. I know his mind from his writing and speaking pretty well, and I don't believe that mind could or would ever intentionally participate in a coverup. My defense of him should be considered evidence of that.


I just read this seemingly innocuous article (compared to the standard malicious fare hurtling around these days) about Benedict XVI's "record" trying to judge the "success" of his pontificate.

In reading it, I was not so much upset but just bemused and baffled at how off kilter folks can be in the lens they use to interpret the words and actions of Pope Benedict XVI. Even his proclaimed "biographer," John L. Allen, Jr., also makes the same goof, but I suspect that's a product of where he's coming from as a journalist accustomed to trying to interpret for the world in a reasonably fair-minded manner.

The problem is this lens that judges Benedict's actions as if he is acting like a politician, i.e., that he makes choices based on his concern about how history, the media, popular opinion, etc. will judge him. Now to try to not appear totally naïve, I wouldn't say that he takes no thought for these things--in his position, he has to give them some thought, but that doesn't mean he makes choices based on them. In fact, I would say that his record of making apparent blunders reflects a certain lack of concern towards them, that he makes decisions despite these concerns, not because of them.

I've read a lot of Benedict's thought, both from before he became pope and more since. And maybe that's why I'm extra defensive of him--because it's clear to me that, contrary to popular caricatures, he carries the heart of a true shepherd of souls and that this care for souls is what his central motivation is. His concern for Truth, for the Church, for the unity of Christians, and the liturgy are all driven by this--yes, even the seemingly hard things he says and does. (Note this is not saying he's impeccable or never makes mistakes; rather, I'm speaking of his core motivations.)

If you want the key to understanding Benedict, it is true, real faith, true, real love for God, and true, real love for souls. If he thinks in centuries, it because he knows the Truth has stood fast in the Church for centuries and that it's his responsibility to lead the Church during his vicariate so that it can continue for centuries to come.

But I would say he thinks more in terms of eternity--with a view to the salvation of eternal souls. That's his job, what he's dedicated his life to, and he takes it very seriously, to the point of risking alienating those lost awash in our tepid culture of materialistic relativism and even endangering his own person.

I recently watched The Gospel of John, and the actor, Henry Ian Cusick, did a wonderful job at driving home that Christ pulled no punches. He wasn't diplomatic or soft spoken in speaking the truth, even at the risk of alienating the majority of people in the culture prevalent in his day--he didn't even soften the blow when faced with losing those considered to be his disciples (see John 6:60-66).

So yeah, before you ask, I think the Holy Father is right in doing the same, speaking the truth even when it causes a stir and people get upset and even some people use it as an excuse to leave the Church or commit hateful acts of violence and vandalism. I think he's right even when it incenses the pundits and causes them to twist facts and hurl the most vile of accusations based on the slightest evidence contorted in the most ludicrous ways. He's right to do so because innumerable souls would be damaged if he didn't continue to doggedly speak the truth. He's right to do so because those who are estranged because of the truth can indeed only find the Way through the Truth by the Light.

I leave you with this reading from the gospel according to John, without further comment. This is what Benedict and the Church he leads--in its essence, its purpose, its mission--is all about.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:16-21, NAB)