When Benedict XVI became pope three years ago, most expected a tough, if not dismally unpopular, papacy. He was called sardonically the "German Shepherd" or "God's Rottweiler." [yawn....]
History seemed not to have blessed this Catholic priest, who had the misfortune of ascending the Throne of St. Peter after the immensely popular John Paul II. Next to his predecessor, the image of Benedict was often that of a snarling defender at the gate of Vatican ultraconservativism, standing side by side with the Swiss Guards, moral bayonets at the ready, defending the past. [good grief! snarling?]
But as he prepares to launch his first apostolic trip to America next week, what is already startling about this still relatively unknown prelate is the aura of likability that is preceding him. The man who was the chief enforcer of doctrine for John Paul is now described as sweet, gentle and loving, a man so popular with youth that he fills the plaza before St. Peter's with more worshippers than did John Paul. [do I sense her eye-rolling here? Or is she attempting to do some balanced reporting? still, this Jekyll and Hyde description is not helpful] He is the pope who may succeed in getting the first Christian church in history built in Saudi Arabia.
A conservative who grew up in Germany during World War II, Benedict will never agree with Vatican II, [where does she get this from??] the historic 1962-'65 liberal confab of the church [ah, yeah, they were just all casually sitting around for three years deciding what to do with the church]. He will never accept abortion or even birth control. But on the other hand, he has quietly supported the American church in dealing with the priests' sex scandal by paying off $1.5 billion in damages. Most important, he has overseen the church's efforts to define a series of "new sins" that could change the world, if applied. [wrong-o, Georgie-girl....ya didn't do your homework]
Earlier this year, Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body that grants absolutions and issues decisions on matters of conscience, suggested in an interview with the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano that, yes, the seven deadly personal sins are fine, but let us think beyond them. Because of globalization, he said, the "social consequences of sin" are far "broader and more destructive."
He then went on to speak of everything from illegal drug use, genetic manipulation, environmental pollution, bad ecological practices, and economic inequality in which the poor are getting poorer and the rich growing richer, fueling unsustainable social injustice. These, he said, are the "new sins."
"If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension," Girotti said in the interview, "today it has a value and resonance that is above all social, because of the great phenomenon of globalization."
If this is the Catholic Church of 1 billion people that this pope brings with him on his first apostolic trip here, then it will be an interesting trip, indeed. [interesting in what way? what if your styling of the Catholic Church is way off the mark?]
But what does a pope have to say to America today, where church attendance is falling, where 25 percent of Americans say in polls that they have never heard of him, and where this pope, in particular, is still perceived as an intransigent ultraconservative? [this demonstrates the maneuver of saying something enough times that the perception sticks] In fact, a great deal.
At a conference here, "Why We Listen When the Pope Speaks," sponsored by the Lepanto Foundation, a nonprofit institution founded to defend the principles of Western, Christian civilization, the point was made repeatedly that, in a world of fewer and fewer visionaries, the pope can and usually does bring a global vision within a moral framework.
As Robert Schadler, founder of the Committee for Western Civilization, put it: "We need voices that have moral roots. How many we had and how few we have today! Even the Nobel prize-winners -- you find that few resonate in the world. Who is comparable today to a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Gandhi today? What theologian can we look to, to find any international vision?"
Moreover, it was argued at the conference by leading Catholic thinkers that America's historic "civil religion" of its constitutional "American exceptionalism" is fading. The "sole superpower" idea, the one that President George W. Bush so reveled in, is seen around the world as essentially unstable. More people internationally see equilibrium as being brought about through a balance of power -- and the pope is one of the few leaders who can effect that balance of power intellectually.
"The pope, when he speaks, gives the rest of the world a say in a way that we should and must listen to him," Schadler went on. "A superpower for the world needs a moral vision in its new and somewhat confused role."
No one knows exactly why the pope chose to come to America at this particular time. [tsk, tsk, you missed the memo and then you universalize your own failure...bad form] It is known that Pope Benedict, who as a former German soldier watched with gratitude as the Americans rebuilt Europe, is an admirer of America. He is, amazingly, even an admirer of much of Protestantism. [where does she get this? no citation...just conjecture masquerading as truth...where did this person get her journalism degree?]
Essentially, he is believed, in the words of the Very Rev. David O'Connell, president of the Catholic University of America, to be trying to achieve "the renewal of the entire church in the faith in which it has been baptized; a return to the core, the fundamentals." [ponder on that, don't gloss over it, Georgie-girl]
Pope John Paul II had his famous "Ostpolitik," in which he tried to bring together Eastern and Western Christianity and then played a major role, with the formation of the Solidarity Free Trade Unions, in defeating communism.
But this pope is not without his international guile and talent, [guile...as in deceit? uncharitable usage here....rank] either. As John O'Sullivan, executive editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty News, said at the conference: "This pope is only asking Islam to make the same changes that Christianity already made. To recognize that religion cannot be spread with force. This ... can only be done by a pope. He speaks with authority in combining faith with reason. He is ideally placed to do this."
So, not such a simple trip, after all. [you dunderhead, who said anything about this being a simple trip????]
Saturday, April 12, 2008
~The drinking game continues apace. Here's a Yahoo Opinion piece. I have the distinct feeling she had a thesaurus at hand to choose the most negative synonyms....