Showing posts with label pope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pope. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Day 1 of Lent: Oy veh!

In case you were wondering how Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was going around here. . . .

So far, I've punted on Mass and have resorted to trolling the pope on Twitter. Maybe for Lent this year, I'll give up being even cursorily diplomatic.

Don't make me be fed up. You wouldn't like me when I'm fed up.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Trump protests he's just as Christian as the next POS

-- Donald Trump

Says the man who cites "two Corinthians," when trying to bamboozle Evangelical voters.

If the vicar of Christ, who Catholics believe to hold "the keys to the Kingdom," given to him in Matthew 19 minutes after 16 o'clock, doesn't have the right to proclaim Donald Trump not a Christian in any sense we're given to understand the term, then who the hell does?

Donald Trump, obviously:

FRANKLY, I don't really care whether the Donald is a Christian. Like the pope, I have my serious doubts on the question.

What I do care about is that he's a loose-cannon neofascist who plays to and feeds off the darkest human instincts among the angriest and most alienated (generally for good reason) Americans.

What I also care about is that, in the world of Trump, those of us who believe what the Catholic Church proclaims are somehow, no doubt, un-American. And if that were the case, it's a label I'd wear with pride.

Donald, whether you're a Christian or not, you can go straight to hell.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The red dawn of a new day? Oy veh.

We Americans think "the social gospel" is just fine.

Just so long as it stays where it belongs -- between 30 and 33 A.D. The Bible talks about things from long ago in the Holy Land, allowing us plenty of time and distance to reframe both message and Messenger a bit more to our liking.

We can deal with that. Things were simpler then -- it was before Obamacare.

But if you really want to see the fit hit the shan, start preaching and teaching -- and, Dow Jones forbid, living -- "the social gospel" today . . . which is to say living "the gospel" today, because Christianity isn't an à la carte deal, it's a combination plate. That combination plate gave "orthodox" Judaism gas in 33 A.D., it gave the Romans gas for 280 years, give or take, and it gives everybody gas today.

Particularly, Pope Francis' renewed emphasis on "the social gospel" -- you know, "blessed are the poor" and "the meek shall inherit the land" -- has a whole lot of "orthodox" Catholics in a toot. The latest blow-up comes in the wake of a couple of American speeches given by one of Francis' trusted advisers, Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras.

There was, for one, writer and editor John Zmirak on Rod Dreher's American Conservative blog:
Cardinal Maradiaga’s vision of the future of the Catholic Church is really a yellowed snapshot of the past—of the recent past of the Anglican church, which has buried the clear and consistent doctrines of Christianity, in favor of social activism on behalf of foolish and counterproductive policies. The result was predictable; it became spiritually irrelevant, a decorative tassel hanging from the left wing of public opinion, while its most fervent believers split off to found new churches that actually taught the Gospel, or decamped for Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. If the Catholic Church follows its lead, to the point where it throws infallibility into question, the same thing will happen. Expect a torrent of converts to the Orthodox Church—made up of the most active, fervent, believing, Catholics.

As a North American who is grateful for the relative religious and economic freedom that produced a successful country, I reject the Marxian bromides being offered by men whose countries have never known such freedom. Amidst all Maradiaga’s rhetoric about Gospel solidarity with the poor, I smell more than whiff of brimstone, of a national and regional envy that has no clue how to lift up the impoverished, but would happily settle for tearing down the prosperous.
WHAT WAS the pope just saying about the dangers of ideology? And what exactly prompted such a furious reaction?

Stuff like this: 
The Church is not the hierarchy, but the people of God. “The People of God” is, for the Council, the all-encompassing reality of the Church that goes back to the basic and the common stuff of our ecclesial condition; namely, our condition as believers. And that is a condition shared by us all. The hierarchy has no purpose in itself and for itself, but only in reference and subordination to the community. The function of the hierarchy is redefined in reference to Jesus as Suffering Servant, not as “Pantocrator” (lord and emperor of this world); only from the perspective of someone crucified by the powers of this world it is possible to found, and to explain, the authority of the Church. The hierarchy is a ministry (diakonia = service) that requires lowering ourselves to the condition of servants. To take that place (the place of weakness and poverty) is her own, her very own responsibility.
ME, I was thinking "About damned time!" 

I also was thinking "This model either would have made the Scandals a lot less likely, or it would have enabled lay Catholics to deal with them a lot more effectively -- through less clericalism and more ass kicking." But that's just me. I'm a Bad Catholic who can digest clericalism and humorless scolds on the religious right no better than I can soulless Marty Haugen ditties during Mass or cheap-gracers on the liturgical left.

If I were just smarter and holier, I would have been able to discern the Red Menace lurking beneath the surface of passages like this from the cardinal's Dallas address:
There is no possible reform of the Church without a return to Jesus. The Church only has a future and can only consider herself great by humbly trying to follow Jesus. To discern what constitutes abuse or infidelity within the Church we have no other measure but the Gospel. Many of the traditions established in the Church could lead her to a veritable self-imprisonment. The truth will set us free, humility will give us wings and will open new horizons for us.
If the Church seeks to follow Jesus, all she has to do is to continue telling the world what happened to Jesus, proclaiming His teachings and His life. Jesus was not a sovereign of this world, He was not rich, but instead He lived as a poor villager, He proclaimed his program – the Kingdom of God—and the great of this world (Roman Empire and Synagogue together) persecuted and eliminated Him. His sentence to die on the cross, outside the city, is the clearest evidence yet that He did not want to ingratiate himself with the powers of this world. Shattered by their power, He is the Suffering Servant, an image of innumerable other servants, defeated by the ones who rule and call themselves “lords;” but it was He, poor, silenced, and humiliated, who was designated by his Father as His Beloved Child and whom God Himself resurrected on the third day.
THE MAN even referenced that noted pinko, Blessed John Paul II:
In contemporary pontifical magisterium, we have two significant benchmarks: John Paul II’s 1990 Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, and the apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, from the same pontiff, in 2001. “In Redemptoris Missio, the Pope teaches us that the Church is a mission. It is not that she has a mission, like she has other traits; she is herself a mission. Everything in the Church should be weighted and measured in regard to the mission of converting the world.” 
And in Novo Millennio Ineunte, Blessed John Paul II challenges the Church at the end of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, to leave behind the shallow waters of maintaining the institution and travel to the deep waters of evangelization. That is what Jesus tells his disciples in Chapter 12 of Luke, adding: “Duc in altum, put out into the deep.” [Luke 5: 4] This means that the Church will convert the world not by argument, but by example. There is no doubt that doctrinal argument is important, but people will be attracted by the humanity of Christians, those who live by the faith, who live in a human way, who irradiate the joy of living, the consistency in their behavior.
FOR WHAT it's worth, my wife and I are converts to the Catholic faith. No one argued us into the church; a number of people loved us into it.

Meantime, the Rev. Dwight Longenecker worries that the gospel will get lost in a sea of "social work." Because, obviously, all you need isn't love. Or something like that.
I am not so much worried about what Cardinal Maradiaga said, but what he left unsaid.
And there the Church, in humble company, helps making life intelligible and dignified, making it a community of equals, without castes or classes; without rich or poor; without impositions or anathemas. Her foremost goal is to care for the penultimate (hunger, housing, clothing, shoes, health, education…) to be then able to care for the ultimate, those problems that rob us of sleep after work (our finiteness, our solitude before death, the meaning of life, pain, and evil…). The answer the Church gives to the “penultimate” will entitle her to speak about the “ultimate.” For that reason, the Church must show herself as a Samaritan on earth – so she can some day partake of the eternal goods.
Really? The Church’s foremost goal is to provide housing, shoes, health and education? Surely the church’s foremost goal is the salvation of souls. To be sure we must be engaged in feeding the poor, but in his talk on the New Evangelization the Cardinal does not mention the salvation of souls or the spiritual work of the church or the sacraments at all. Is he simply a social worker dressed in red, and does the red indicate more of his political opinion than his status as a cardinal?

REALLY? What part of "the answer the Church gives to the 'penultimate' will entitle her to speak about the 'ultimate'" is unclear?

Again, I am a convert. I was "penultimated" into the Catholic Church. After all, God meets you where you are, not where He thinks you need to be. Where you need to be is a process -- one lasting a lifetime.

By the way, I only can assume that the good father's cheap shot about Maradiaga being a "social worker dressed in red" or maybe just a Red, period, was for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. I've seen stranger things done -- in all sincerity -- for the sake of kingdom come.

Ideology takes the invitation that is the Christian gospel and makes it into a hammer. Ideology takes suffering souls and turns them into nails -- into the proverbial Them.

Ideology say: Us, we so holy.

I'M NOT sure how much the cardinal's American trip told us about what direction the Catholic Church is headed. I fear the collective cerebral hemorrhage we're seeing so early in Francis' pontificate tells us a lot about the Catholic right.

"Cafeteria Catholicism," alas, is a bipartisan thing. And the cafeteria is getting crowded.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Be a Saint

Maybe the Vatican, in dealing with the sex-abuse scandal and its never-ending aftermath, just needs to follow the example of a Saint.

For one thing, unlike the pope, a Saint doesn't need a veteran Vatican watcher to explain to the rest of the press corps, in effect,
"Yes, Benedict XVI was addressing the Scandals in this homily. It appears he was being critical of the church and pointing to the need for repentance."

At the Vatican, Christ's injunction in the fifth chapter of Matthew about letting
"your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No'," has yet to gain complete traction among those who proclaim it.

IS IT POSSIBLE that, in his own way, a modern-day sinner turned Saint -- as in New Orleans Saints -- might have a better grasp on confession and repentance than many of the pointy hats who've been preaching confession and repentance to fallen humanity since 33 A.D.?

Present-day Saint and former Nebraska Cornhusker sinner Carl Nicks just might. Perhaps they ought to start subscribing to the Omaha World-Herald all across Vatican City:
Carl Nicks returned to Nebraska on Wednesday with a Super Bowl watch, a new tattoo and a humble act of contrition.

Nicks met briefly after practice with head coach Bo Pelini, who banned the offensive lineman from the Huskers’ pro day two years ago. It was an unceremonious parting with the program before New Orleans made Nicks a fifth-round draft pick.

Nicks called the NU football office Wednesday and asked if he could come by — and now plans to stay for the spring game Saturday.

“I figured it was about time to put some water on some of those bridges I burned,” Nicks said.

As soon as the 2007 season ended at Colorado — along with Bill Callahan’s reign as head coach — Nicks stopped going to class, which he counts among the “immature stuff I did.” About three months after Pelini replaced Callahan, he cited an arrest and Nicks being a bad example for returning players in barring him from pro day.

Nicks said it wasn’t until he got to New Orleans and talked with former Husker safety Josh Bullocks that he realized that he was in the wrong.

“For about a good three or four months I had blamed Bo for it and I was blaming other people, and at the end of the day, you’ve got to look in the mirror,” Nicks said. “Once I got a little older, played a little professional ball, I realized how good I had it and just how bad I treated everybody.”
AN ASSOCIATED PRESS story adds this from Nicks:
"I'm not who I was then," he said. "It just kind of hurts, to know I made a fool of myself."

Dressed in shorts and a Kobe Bryant Lakers' jersey, Nicks approached Pelini after the coach's post-practice session with reporters. They talked for a few minutes and shook hands.

"I wouldn't be true to Nebraska if I didn't try to apologize to Bo, even though I didn't play for him," Nicks said. "He's the face of Nebraska. I have to make it right with him, Mr. Osborne and everyone I did wrong when I was here."

Osborne surprised Nicks by greeting him as Carl -- "I didn't think he knew my name" - and then told him to learn from his mistakes and finish his college degree as soon as possible.

"I basically apologized to them for being an irresponsible athlete," Nicks said. "I didn't really have to do it, but I felt I needed to do it."

THAT IS the grace through repentance the Pope was talking about in his homily today -- the one the press was divining for applicability to the Catholic Church's present sins.

It would be nice if Benedict could just come out and say what he has to say . . . plainly. Specifically. Explicitly. It would be nice if he could do that in personal terms, not hiding behind addressing the "church."

It would be nice if the pope's subordinates -- who have been so quick to unleash public-relations Armageddon on the "evil press" for delving into the sins of the fathers -- could follow the Founder's command (again, from Matthew 5) instead:
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
IT WOULD be nice if everybody involved -- the leadership of an institutional church just as in need of confession and repentance as any of us (and maybe more) -- tried to emulate the saints in all this. And failing that, maybe they just could follow the example of a Saint.

Monday, April 12, 2010

IT'S TRUE! Onion not making that s*** up!

Until now, I always thought The Onion was just making stuff up.

You know what I'm talking about -- for instance, the "fake" advice columns like "Ask a Bee" and "Ask a Faulknerian Idiot Man-Child."

You'll note that I put "fake" in quotation marks. That's because I don't think The Onion is making that stuff up -- at least not all of it. The was brought home by an Italian Catholic website,
Pontifex, which apparently has run a real-life version of "Ask a Faulknerian Idiot Man-Child Bishop."

AND THE retired bishop then went on at length about how the recent media scrutiny of the Vatican is all a big conspiracy put together by the Christ-killers. From London, The Times reports :
A retired Italian bishop has provoked fury by reportedly suggesting that “Zionists” are behind the current storm of accusations over clerical sex abuse shaking the Vatican and the Catholic Church.

Monsignor Giacomo Babini, the Bishop Emeritus of Grossetto, was quoted by the Italian Roman Catholic website Pontifex as saying he believed a “Zionist attack” was behind the criticism of the Pope, given that it was “powerful and refined” in nature.

Bishop Babini denied he had made any anti-Semitic remarks. He was backed by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), which issued a declaration by Bishop Babini in which he said: “Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me.”

However, Bruno Volpe, who interviewed Monsignor Babini for Pontifex, confirmed that the bishop had made the statement, which was reported widely in the Italian press today. Pontifex threatened to release the audio tape of the interview as proof.

Monsignor Babini’s reported comments follow a series of statements from senior Vatican cardinals blaming a “concerted campaign” by “powerful lobbies” for accusations that Pope Benedict XVI was involved in covering up cases of clerical abuse both as Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982 and subsequently as head of doctrine at the Vatican.

None has explicitly blamed Jews or any other group. However Bishop Babini, 81, said Jews “do not want the Church, they are its natural enemies”. He added: “Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are deicides [God killers].”

He was quoted as saying that Hitler was “not just mad” but had exploited German anger over the excesses of German Jews who in the 1930s had throttled the German economy.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee said Monsignor Babini was using “slanderous stereotypes, which sadly evoke the worst Christian and Nazi propaganda prior to World War Two”.
YOU KNOW, by the time the Vatican gets through asking Catholics -- at least on this issue -- to believe several unbelievable things before breakfast, and by the time various Catholic clerics and laymen get through saying patently crazy things in defense of the church, you have to wonder how many people will be scandalized right out of believing in God.

And scandalized right into believing
The Onion.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Vatican today: Homina, homina, homina

What The New York Times started, The Associated Press just might have finished.

The signature above is that of "Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger," who would become Pope Benedict XVI. That signature was on a 1985 document uncovered by the AP, a document in which the cardinal said, in effect, he didn't think it was such a great idea to laicize a pederast priest in California.

Presented with an incriminating document, Vatican officials insisted that the American press believe the unbelievable. Here is a bit of the AP report, but do go to MSNBC and read the whole thing:

The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.

The Vatican confirmed Friday that it was Ratzinger's signature. "The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Another spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the letter showed no attempt at a cover-up. "The then-Cardinal Ratzinger didn't cover up the case, but as the letter clearly shows, made clear the need to study the case with more attention, taking into account the good of all involved."

The diocese recommended removing Kiesle from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office that shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests.

The case then languished for four years at the Vatican before Ratzinger finally wrote to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. It was two more years before Kiesle was removed.

In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of "grave significance" but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with "as much paternal care as possible" while awaiting the decision, according to a translation for AP by Professor Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the universal church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age." Kiesle was 38 at the time.


Kiesle, who married after leaving the priesthood, was arrested and charged in 2002 with 13 counts of child molestation from the 1970s. All but two were thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a California law extending the statute of limitations.

He pleaded no contest in 2004 to a felony for molesting a young girl in his Truckee home in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in state prison.
LET US REVIEW. The Diocese of Oakland flat-out tells the Vatican one of its priests is a stone-cold child molester.

The Diocese of Oakland tells the Vatican it's really, really important that this clerical molester be drummed out of the priesthood.

The Vatican sits on the case for several years. And then when the diocese gets a response, in 1985, it's from Cardinal Ratzinger -- the future pope -- saying, basically, "Not so fast, boys. Is it really good for the universal church to be kicking kiddie rapers to the curb here?"

And now, when the wire service tells the Vatican what it has, officials there confirm it's Ratzinger's signature, but stress they don't "believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations."

Translation into American English: "Oh, s***!"

Out of context? What the hell context justifies -- after being told, as an established fact, that a priest is a pervert and, in fact, has acted on his perversion . . . with children -- placing appearances over justice, over protecting Catholic children?

How do you finesse that which cannot be finessed?

is becoming quite plain. The Catholic Church -- and I am sure it is not alone among earthly institutions in this -- developed a culture of juridical and moral deviance when it came to its perception of, and its dealing with, pederasty. That culture was every bit as perverted as the child-raping priests it coddled and shielded from justice.

And Pope Benedict XVI was part of that culture. He bought into that culture. To the extent that he no longer buys into that culture, it is a relatively recent development in his long priestly vocation.

That seems clear, and yet the Vatican -- and many Catholics around the world -- cannot deal with that, almost as if admitting that the pope is human, possessing human frailties and committing human sins, would cause the whole edifice of the Catholic Church to come tumbling down.

O ye of little faith.

Obviously, we're still not done with the excuses, and we're certainly not done with the wagon-circling or the media-bashing. That, however, doesn't alter the fact that there really is only one thing left for the church to do -- something it absolutely requires of us mere laymen.


It is long past time for institutional Catholicism to confess its sins against God, against itself and especially against its children. It is long past time for the church to confess, to repent, to exhibit a "firm purpose of amendment" . . . and then to do penance.

Just do it. Otherwise, there will be hell to pay.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taking the bishops to school?

Some commenters have reacted with surprise that Pope Benedict XVI has tackled the monster so directly.

OTHERS THINK he's whitewashing over the depth of the American episcopal rot that allowed the monster -- the Catholic Church's sexual-abuse crisis -- to run so amok for so long.

I think, given the occasion -- vespers with the U.S. bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington -- and that he's a guest in this country, of the American Church, and that his remarks were shown live on EWTN and the cable-news channels, what we saw just might have been an exquisitely diplomatically correct taking of the American bishops to the woodshed. And not just over the sexual predators who hid behind their Roman collars . . . and behind their enabling prelates.

Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior. As you strive to eliminate this evil wherever it occurs, you may be assured of the prayerful support of God’s people throughout the world. Rightly, you attach priority to showing compassion and care to the victims. It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged.

Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the President of your Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was “sometimes very badly handled”. Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. While it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of clergy and religious in America do outstanding work in bringing the liberating message of the Gospel to the people entrusted to their care, it is vitally important that the vulnerable always be shielded from those who would cause harm. In this regard, your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under your pastoral care, but for all of society.
IN HIS REMARKS, the pope didn't have to note what a mess some bishops made of things. But he did. Definite slam.

And did he have to remind the roomful of "shepherds" that "It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust . . . "? Ideally, no. Practically, yes.

So necessary that Benedict said it twice . . . "it is vitally important that the vulnerable always be shielded from those who would cause harm," coming just a paragraph later.

To tell you the truth, the entirety of the Holy Father's remarks to his brother bishops struck me as a comprehensive reminder to -- in short -- do your job, dammit.

Here in America, you are blessed with a Catholic laity of considerable cultural diversity, who place their wide-ranging gifts at the service of the Church and of society at large. They look to you to offer them encouragement, leadership and direction. In an age that is saturated with information, the importance of providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and expanded. The many generous men and women who devote themselves to charitable activity need to be helped to renew their dedication through a “formation of the heart”: an “encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others” (Deus Caritas Est, 31). At a time when advances in medical science bring new hope to many, they also give rise to previously unimagined ethical challenges. This makes it more important than ever to offer thorough formation in the Church’s moral teaching to Catholics engaged in health care. Wise guidance is needed in all these apostolates, so that they may bear abundant fruit; if they are truly to promote the integral good of the human person, they too need to be made new in Christ our hope.

As preachers of the Gospel and leaders of the Catholic community, you are also called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public square, helping to shape cultural attitudes. In a context where free speech is valued, and where vigorous and honest debate is encouraged, yours is a respected voice that has much to offer to the discussion of the pressing social and moral questions of the day. By ensuring that the Gospel is clearly heard, you not only form the people of your own community, but in view of the global reach of mass communication, you help to spread the message of Christian hope throughout the world.

Clearly, the Church’s influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a “leaven” in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church’s teaching on today’s key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.
YOU THINK THE BISHOPS would have figured all that out by now. And, by almost any measure, little of what the pope said needed to be done is being done -- at least effectively -- by the American Church. That is clear from the statistical data of the recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and it is clear to anyone who has toiled in the rocky fields of religious education or youth ministry.

You think a pope would have been content to stick to generalities and a review of the bright side of life. But he didn't.

Somebody had to say it. And, if you consider the speech and the context, you might conclude that the pope said a lot, indeed.

Can't wait to see what else Benedict has to say this week.

Monday, January 28, 2008

With Science on Our Side

The trouble with reporters comes when they don't know what they don't know.

COME TO THINK of it, that's the same trouble Pope Benedict XVI is trying to warn people about when it comes to putting undue faith in "science." Basically, the pope is trying to say that science is a grand thing when it's limited to its areas of competence.

The human heart and soul are not among these.

And it's when the pope starts to speak of such things -- and of the limitations of scientific competence -- that it really becomes obvious that, also, there are limits to the competence of journalists. Well, obvious to lots of people but, sadly, not to one Reuters reporter, who just doesn't get it at all:

Pope Benedict warned on Monday of the "seductive" powers of science that relegate man's spirituality, reviving the science-versus-religion debate which recently forced him to cancel a speech after student protests.

"In an age when scientific developments attract and seduce with the possibilities they offer, it's more important than ever to educate our contemporaries' consciences so that science does not become the criteria for goodness," he told scientists.

Scientific investigation should be accompanied by "research into anthropology, philosophy and theology" to give insight into "man's own mystery, because no science can say who man is, where he comes from or where he is going," the Pope said.


The Pope reiterated a plea, made in many speeches since he was elected in 2005, for mankind to be "respected as the centre of creation" and not relegated by more short-term interests.

But the conservative German-born Pope's public stand on issues such as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research lead critics to accuse him of holding antiquated views on science.

WHAT SCIENCE vs. religion debate? Saying that science is not well suited to diagnose the longings of the human heart and the troubles of the human soul isn't exactly a reprise of the Scopes "monkey trial." It's just stating the obvious -- some things belong to the realms of philosophy and theology.

And anyone who has a problem with that just doesn't know what he doesn't know.

Of course, the Reuters guy isn't the first member of the Fourth Estate to epitomize the Peter Principle. Last night, I was watching the last half of "No Direction Home," Martin Scorsese's public-TV biopic of Bob Dylan. Trust me, there's not much funnier than the press putting its utter cluelessness on display (above) before the world -- and Mr. Dylan -- in 1965.

Google "Dylan" "press conference" and "1965" and watch the whole thing. You won't be sorry you did.