By combining low-grade sourcing, a faux-authoritative voice, and leftist political spin in equally impressive measures, Michael Sean Winters and the editors of the Washington Post’s “Outlook” section have won the pole position in this year’s chase for the coveted Father Richard McBrien Prize in Really Inept Vaticanology (named for the Notre Dame theologian who memorably announced that Joseph Ratzinger couldn’t possibly be elected pope, less than 24 hours before Ratzinger was elected).There must be a template that these journalists work from that have all the necessary ingredients for an article on Pope Benedict. All they have to do is plug in the dates and places, and hey! presto! we have an article on Pope Benedict. And editors seem to have a lack of astuteness to question the points made. Wouldn't it be a refreshing change if, for once, one of these editors would send an article back and tell the offending reporter to rework the article? But then, straying from the plantation might be too risky.
In “Not Eye to Eye: Wholly Different Angles on the World,” a front-page “Outlook” piece on March 30, Winters claimed that, during his forthcoming visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI will “show how much his worldview differs from President Bush’s when he denounces the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq before the U.N. General Assembly — a denunciation that’s expected to be especially harsh after the recent martyrdom of a Chaldean Catholic archbishop killed by insurgents in Mosul.” In that one sentence, Winters managed to commit several of the capital sins of Vaticanology: He confused the views of low-ranking bureaucrats with the thinking of senior Vatican officials, the pope’s own thinking, and the official position of the Holy See; he assumed that the pope comes into international forums like the U.N. as a policy proponent rather than as a voice of moral reason; and, perhaps worst of all, he somehow imagined the Benedict XVI would cheapen the sacrifice of the slain Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho by using the Chaldean prelate’s death as a way to score a political point....
...Winters also argues that the Vatican’s “foreign policy” apparatus thinks rather like the Eurocrats in like Brussels. There is a truth here, but Winters misses it, badly. Yes, the default positions in the Second Section of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State (usually referred to as “the Vatican’s foreign ministry”) tend to reflect the default positions in chancelleries and foreign ministries in western Europe. But to conclude from this that those defaults are shared by Benedict XVI and his most senior advisers on world politics is to make a very serious mistake. If the permanent bureaucracy in the Vatican Secretariat of State had had anything to say about it, Benedict XVI would never have given his historic Regensburg Lecture on faith and reason in September 2006 — the lecture that caused a firestorm of protest in parts of the Islamic world.
Eighteen months later, however, Benedict has been thoroughly vindicated in his challenge to Islam to think seriously about religious freedom and the separation of spiritual and political authority in the state. For the Regensburg Lecture, as intended, dramatically reshaped the Catholic-Islamic conversation, focusing it on the issues where Islamist aggression makes pluralism and peace difficult, rather on the exchange of banalities that too often characterizes interreligious dialogue. The new Catholic-Muslim Forum that was established following last year’s “Letter of 138” Muslim leaders (itself a response to Regensburg) is one example; negotiations with the government of Saudi Arabia on the construction of a Catholic Church in the kingdom are another; King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia’s call for a new dialogue among the monotheistic religions is yet another. None of this would have happened had Benedict XVI deferred to those of his diplomats who “think Brussels.”
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Media Watch: George Weigel comments on WaPo article
~Here's the WaPo article by Michael Sean Winters which George Weigel comments on in NRO in The McBrien Prize