To defeat the church, foment hatred of Benedict

Jonah Goldberg makes an excellent point:

But my guess is that won’t be happening any time soon, and not just because Ratzinger’s the new pope. Some believe there is a radical left wing in the Catholic Church that seeks to unravel the teachings of John Paul II, but this is an exaggeration of the Western – particularly, the American – press. The notion that you could find any cardinal eager to change church policy on abortion, for example, is simply a fantasy concocted by liberal journalists. Excepting, perhaps, the issue of distributing condoms in Africa, it’s hard to think of a hot-button social issue that divides the church’s leadership a fraction as much as American editorial pages seem to suggest.

If a committee made up of Andrew Sullivan, Gary Wills, Andrew Greeley, Paul Begala and Nancy Pelosi were given the power to select a pope from the current College of Cardinals, we would still have a pope opposed to abortion and gay marriage.

Ding, ding, ding! Give that man a seegar!!!

I read this and find affirmation of what I have been thinking since yesterday, that the howls and putting on of sackcloth and ashes at the election of Joseph Ratzinger as new pope is a bit of a red herring. Yes, they don’t like Benedict XVI – they never did and never would.

But I think all this hoo-hah is less about Benedict than about the Catholic Church, itself. That darned, immovable Church which refuses to lay down and obey, or to tumble.

As long as the obstinate Church refuses to get on board with the times, the progressive agenda cannot go forward without examination and debate. That is unpleasant to people who simply don’t like hearing the word “NO” unless it is coming from their own lips.

I don’t believe the progressives really expected a pope who would be markedly different from John Paul the Great on matters of doctrine and morality. They couldn’t be that naive. They had to know that the next pope, whoever he was, would still not please them.

No, I think most of this is just a temper tantrum against the church-that-won’t-go-away. These folks are fuming because they saw that JPII stood against their agendas, and that they were quite, quite powerless against him because….well, because he was so BELOVED.

Ergo. Make Pope Benedict easy to hate. He (and the Church) will be much easier to move against if the pope is hated, rather than loved.

I can’t help it. I’m liking him more and more.

UPDATE: Media Research Center looks back on some of the things said about John Paul II over the years. Interesting reading. One excerpt:

A 1989 meeting between Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev and the Pope gave CBS and ABC an opportunity to take moral equivalence to absurd new heights. During the November 29, 1989 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather declared, “This week’s meeting of Pope John Paul and Gorbachev brings together two traditional enemies, both of whom have shown, time and again, that they can rise above the hatreds of history.” Rather went on to lay the most ridiculous metaphor before a national audience: “The meeting, said one priest in Rome, is like the lion lying down with the lamb. But in this case, he said, it’s hard to tell who’s the lion and who’s the lamb.” (It was almost as odd as Time essayist Lance Morrow’s intoxicated January 1, 1990 take on Mikhail Gorbachev as the “Communist Pope and the Soviet Martin Luther.”)

The comparisons to communism erupted again in 1991, when in early June, the Pope visited Poland for the fourth time. Instead of delivering an even-handed account of the new tensions in post-communist Poland, CBS reporter Bert Quint ended his June 1 Evening News report by suggesting the new society in some respects was inferior to the old: “But most of his fellow countrymen do not share John Paul’s concept of morality….Many here expect John Paul to use his authority to support Church efforts to ban abortion, perhaps the country’s principal means of birth control. And this, they say, could deprive them of a freedom of choice the communists never tried to take away from them.”

FINALLY: Pastorius at CUANAS (Let me spell out the meaning of the acronym: CHRISTIANS UNITED AGAINST the NEW ANTI-SEMITISM) who knows a bit about anti-semitism, defends Benedict against the spurious and silly charges of being a nazi.

UPDATE: Even my eyebrows went up to see that Peggy Noonan has written (in much finer prose than my scribblings) essentially the same thing I’ve said in this post, that “they” are doing all they can to make sure we do not LOVE this pope.

The choosing of Benedict XVI, a man who is serious, deep and brave, is a gift. He has many enemies. They imagine themselves courageous and oppressed. What they are is agitated, aggressive, and well-connected.

They want to make sure his papacy begins with a battle. They want to make sure no one gets a chance to love him. Which is too bad because even his foes admit he is thoughtful, eager for dialogue, sensitive, honest.

Yes! Thank you, Ms. Noonan for saying it so much better than I could!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • MaxedOutMama

    Oh, Maureen Dowd has just drooled all over herself. She is very upset about the fact that the new pope is a patriarchal voice-of-God type. I am not kidding.

    A quote:
    “So media big shots are moving away from patriarchal, authoritarian voice-of-God figures, even as the Catholic Church and politics are moving toward patriarchal, authoritarian voice-of-God figures.”

    What does she expect the Catholic church to be about, anyway? When your critics rave like this in public, it’s generally good advertisement. What did the woman think JPII was all about?

  • Patrick O’Hannigan

    The alarm with which many self-described “progressives” view Benedict XVI seems to me sincere but misconceived. “Passionate love for the church” and “heartfelt disagreement” are not license enough to ignore the magisterium. Based on his previous writing, our new pope views dissenters as misguided sheep, not as enemies. He has throughout his career paid even heretics and schismatics the supreme compliment of not questioning their purity of motive. To his great credit, Benedict XVI also knows that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    Scary? Au contraire. Reassuring! And what some progressives don’t get is that refashioning the church in our or their own image would be tantamount to destroying it. The church is not ours; it belongs to Christ, which is why every pope is essentially custodial. Nothing scary about that, either.

  • Truthseeker

    Since I am not a member of the Catholic Church I can’t comment on this new Pope’s credentials, but from what I have seen of his writings on several blogs, I think the Holy Spirit has chosen a fair minded but strong doctrinal priest/cardinal for Vicar.

    Anchoress, I had a thought while reading this post. The whole of non Catholic Christianity owes a debt of thanks for the steadfastness of the Catholic Church and its adherents for the opposition of abortion and related topics. As one numbered in the Protestant camp I say THANK YOU ALL for your faith and care of these issues.

  • Francis W. Porretto

    Unfortunately for the Death Cultists, Benedict XVI is a very good man and will make an extremely worthy successor to John Paul II the Great. Unfortunately for us in the Church, due to his advanced age, he might not have a long reign.

  • Kevin

    > Did John XXIII “destroy” the church with
    > the Second Vatican Council?

    No…but various events that took place in the aftermath of the Council–dragging on for literally decades–came uncomfortably close. Which should caution us that even salutary change, fully in harmony with the Magisterium, carries with it grave risks, especially in this secular age.

    > We cannot fear change so completely.

    “Change” in general is one thing. I think nearly all of us conservative/traditional Catholics will eagerly concede that change can be either good or bad. “Fear change…completely”–isn’t that rather a caricature?

    And there is one sort of change that none of us should fear in the slightest. At the very heart of the Petrine charism that holds the Church together–the core teaching of the doctrine of infallibility–is the Holy Spirit’s promise that the See of Peter shall never turn away from or repudiate any of the essential elements of the Faith, as handed down to us in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition.

    The vast majority of what I see characterized as “church policy”, and disputed by dissidents who pop up in the media–and yes, sexuality dominates these discussions; abortion and homosexuality are not the “extremes”, but focal points of controversy–fall in this category of things which are protected by the promise of our Lord. Raging against the Church’s adherence to these teachings is as pointless as raging against the sun setting each evening.

  • Hendrik

    As a convert to Catholicism (I was a Protestant), I am continually disheartened, though not surprised, by many Catholics’ lack of knowledge of Scripture, and of our own Church’s doctrines. Many Western Catholics seem to not take the time to understand the reasons WHY the Church is opposed to abortion, Homosexual marriage, ordination of women as priests, etc. In fact, the lack of knowledge about what the Bible says about these issues is precisely why American Catholics do not understand that these are really non-issues for the rest of Catholics in the world. The answers to these issues have been defined in Scripture. And if you truly believe that Scripture has been written by men, BUT inspired and revealed by God, then you will understand that neither the Pope nor the Church has the authority to change these teachings.

    We American Catholics, defined in many ways by our own culture, seem to forget that neither Heaven, nor the Church are democracies. The Lord, nor His Church, will not change His stand on these issues, simply because we want to be more “open” or “modern.” When it comes to Truth, with a capital T, we don’t get a vote. And really, what is wrong with that? Nothing that I can see.

    It seems to me, as a relative new comer to the Catholic Church, that many American and European Catholics want a water-ed down Church which fits the parishoners’ sense(s) of right and wrong. And that is the problem: with individuals, having individual moral codes, the Church would have to just about permit everything to everyone in order to be “more inclusive.”

    But here’s the thing folks: The Church does not exist for the glory of the parishoners. It exists for the glory of God. It was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, by the appointment of Peter and the other 10 apostles (ok, 11 if you include Paul) and has been directed by Him ever since. Yes, we receive great benefit through the Church, but ultimately it is we who should serve God and seek Him and His Will, and not the other way around. When Catholics begin to understand that their final and overriding purpose in life is to serve God and not ourselves, we will understand that the Catholic Church is more than just a place we go to, one or two Sundays a month, or a part of the Christmas celebrations.

    No one said following Christ would be easy, after all. But it is still the right thing to do.

  • Hendrik

    One quick comment about Vatican II. I do not know enough yet about it, but it seems to me to have been a good thing. It certainly opened the Church to once again being more evangelical and involved with communities. It has allowed for millions to celebrate Mass and UNDERSTAND it. It encouraged openess in engaging people and spreading the Word. Our great commmision, given to us all by Jesus Christ, was to go forth into the world and preach the good news of Christ.

    I’ve recently returned to the USA after living in Latin America for many, many years. I have seen the rebrith of a Catholic church there, that is more inclusive, with active and enthusiastic participation by lay people, guided by the clergy, and led by the Holy Spirit. Lay ministries are reaching out to people of all social classes, education, and ages and showing them the true Church and gaining converts from all walks of life (including yours truly). And in Latin America, as in Africa, the Church is booming.

    But Vatican II’s liberating spirit also led to aberrations such as Liberation Theology, a decietful mix of Catholicsim and Marxism, which at its heart justified violent revolution in the name of “social justice.” It sought to creat a just and good society with no rich and no poor. But Liberation Theologians forgot the fact that that place already exists. It just doesn’t exist here on earth. to strive for social justice is an admirable goal. But to justify violent revolution to achieve it, is very much a heresy.

    So Vatican II brought both good things and bad. Within the bounds of Scripture and traditional Church doctrine, it made the Church more open and involved with people, with the world. The thinking behind John Paul II’s pastoral papacy is in line and is a result of Vatican II. But, we cannot stray from basic Truth for the sake of “being modern and open”. The spirit of Vatican II is in many, many way intact and thriving.

    Let’s not confuse a Church engaged in the world with a Church defined by the world.

  • Kevin

    > Would you consider the celibate priest
    > hood to fall in the category of essential
    > elemants of faith?
    It is well-established that this is a matter of prudential judgment.
    I personally believe that it would be best to maintain present practice, for many reasons; but of course my opinion is worth about what it’s costing you. If our new Holy Father believed it wise to make changes in this regard, I would accept this, and hope and pray for the best.
    I can’t help noting that, while it is certainly possible that a well-meaning Catholic might wind up advocating a change to priestly celibacy solely from a desire to do what is best for the Church, and a well-considered judgment that such change would be what is best, I do not believe this motivation is the primary one in many cases. The strongest scent is more often one of personal desire, special pleading, rebelliousness, embarrassment with the existence and promotion of chastity, and above all the advocacy of the ideology of sexual “liberation”.
    > Would you consider the ordination of
    > women to the priesthood?
    I am not a professional theologian, but it is my understanding that all authoritiative sources say this is would be not only unauthorized but invalid. I would defer to those more learned than myself on the specifics (and on the entire issue of female deacons) however.

  • Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

    Excellent post and link. Great minds must think alike- in a roundabout way, I just posted on anti semitism.

    Personally, it is a tempest in a teapot- and phony tempest at that.

    Does anyone really believe that JPII would have kept Cardinal Ratzinger around if he harbored ANY Nazi sentiments??

    Does anyone really believe that Cardinal would have made it pastr parish priest if he were indeed a nazi sympathizer? Gimme a break. As far as SC&A are concerned, the matter is closed. To spend anymore time on it is just ridiculous.

  • Kevin

    I was not speaking specifically about you, nor do I have any desire to explain anyone’s desires to them (as you put it).
    My observation was simply that the call for married priests tends to come disproprtionately from those activists and organizations who are generally opposed to the Church’s moral teachings–especially teachings touching upon sexuality. Their complaint, in turn, tends to be eagerly amplified by non-Catholics of “liberal” persuasions, including those whose passionate commitment to modern secularism is much more evident than any tender concern they might have for the well-being of the Latin Church.
    If there is any significant call for married priests among Catholics who generally tend to support the Magisterium and the Holy See, it is news to me. If there is any significant support for priestly celibacy among Catholics who strongly favor heterodoxy, it is also news to me.
    Also, I tend to agree with Cardinal Pell, who noted on EWTN today that he sees far less support for any reexamination of priestly celibacy among younger people (especially younger priests). Generally speaking (and once again, this is not a remark about you personally or anyone else, just a generalization that I believe has considerable merit), Boomer Catholics still get mighty exercised about this issue, and find it to be a confounding sign of contradiction; but the under-35s react much more positively to the call to holiness and sacrifice, to the challenge that traditional–even strict–vocations entail. If the practice of celibacy is preserved until such time as “Generation Xers” start becoming bishops, I am confident it will be practically a non-issue from then on.
    As with so many other things, offer young people the truth straight up, and trust them to meet the greatest challenges, and you will be amazed at the response. It is, after all, such a refreshing and dramatic and rewarding change from the relativistic and therapudic and pandering world they have been brought up and educated in.
    And nowadays orthodoxy now has the added attraction of helping young people shock and befuddle their elders! Who said the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a sense of humor?

  • The Jane Bear

    Benedict is no Nazi. But I sure resent people telling me that I can’t set foot in a Catholic church, anymore, because I personally don’t like this new pope. If my Jewish in-laws are allowed into a funeral mass for a family member, and are escorted up to the pews reserved for family members, why shouldn’t I as well? Benedict never proclaimed this, but some of your readers/fans have pounced all over me, and implied just that. It makes no sense.

  • TheAnchoress

    Jane, are you accusing ME of saying you can’t or should not, set foot in a Catholic church anymore?

    Because I am quite sure I never wrote such a thing, or ever would.

    I cannot help what my readers and commenters say; I run a basically laid back comments thread and figure that if someone initiates an issue, then they do so knowing that other readers may challenge them, and – as has happened in ever blog and forum I have ever read – even get out of line from time to time.

    I moderate very little. When I read yesterday that someone suggested that someone else would be going to hell, I stepped in and reiterated my discomfort with people doing that, and gently suggested that on this forum such rhetoric was unwelcome.

    People are passionate. YOU are passionate. So are they.

    You have now declared that Benedict is no nazi, and that he has never declared what some commenters here have said. Perhaps Benedict is not as bad as you believe! :-) Would it surprise you to know that he was instrumental in revising the church’s official position on the death penalty? I bet it would. Read below.

    The caricature of Benedict is that he is a monster. The evidence does not support it.

  • Mir

    AJF mentions a “grave risk” if the church doesn’t change. Interesting. At the very beginning of the church, when folks refused to change to suit a ruling power’s desire for change, it carried grave risks. Christ said that those who are faithful, the righteious, would be reviled, even as he was reviled.

    To stand by truth irritates those who propagate lies–lies such as abortion not being evil, such as homosexuality being okay with God, such as shacking up being fine, such as women priests being acceptable. All churches have areas where they could reform in order to CONFORM better to the holy pattern of Christ, the apostles and the Word. And that is the ONLY change that is good–change to conform to the truth of God. Change in order to conform to secular values or immoral practices is change for the worse.

    Better that there be only a dozen true and practicing believers upholding the truth, than to have a church overflowing with those who create a religion that suits their vices and ambitions, a church that lets them do their own thing, a church that moves with the times right into the pit.

  • The Jane Bear

    Not at all, Anchoress. You never said any such thing. Neither did Benedict. Let me make that perfectly clear! But boy have some of your fans been over to my site to imply as much, and some of them are rather nasty. Of course, that’s not your fault–it’s theirs.

  • David_Tschanz

    A more interesting question – rather than railing against the media and the “experts” with an axe to grind is why so many people are ignorant enough to let themselves be swayed by spin or half truths. Have we completely lost the ability to think, analyze and assess independently of these experts?

    I’m a historian (among other things – -feel free to gogole me) and a part-time journalist. One of the things that has always amazed me is the “lazy error.” In other words if you say “Benedict XVI was a member of the Hitler Youth.” most people will assume that means he was a Nazi, rather than look up a) he mentiojns it; he was all of 14 and there aren’t that many people alive today who actually know what the Hitler Youth was – the Nazi answer to the Boy Scouts (which was banned in Germany).

    The other thing that bother me is a lack of understanding by both sides of the American media’s dilemma, and their failure to meet it correctly.

    Specifically there is an overriding concept of “equal time for opposing views” So let’s say there are two views on the ordination of women, one pro, one con. The media based on its “fairness doctrine” gives as much time to Sr Mary IwannaBaPriest who represents 1% of catholic women as they do to the Anchoress who represents 99%. They don’t ever mention the distributioin of views unless they having polling data – and surprisingly enough the people who come with polling data to show they represent a sizable vocal minority are the minority.

    BUT (I’m rambling, I know) the truth of the matter is most people don;t have the time or interest (let’s face it — who really thinks there needs to be any discussion on the ordination of women or any of these topic, rightly or wrongly few people think about it as a key issue in their lives)– so all they here is “controversy” decide which they like and don’t think any further.

    So… what’s this mean. John Quicny Adams is reported to have sai in a court of law, the lawyer who tells the best story is the one who wins, it may not be right, but it is often true.” I think the majority view point aherents, have to get better at telling their story. This blog, and others like it, have many articulate spokespersons. So now employ the simple methodlogy – point these out to the local media in your community. Meet with or talk to the journalists in your town. Don’t take their failure to adhere to your position or reject the opposite as anythign more than their self-imposed obligation to remain open to both sides. Give them the stories they want to hear, and spint hem slightly –

    Point out that the only growing religions in the world are those that show clear and unyielding doctrine.

    Ask them to look at why Catholics in “liberal” Holland/Germany/America are embarassed to be seen with a rosary, while Muslims there have no problem praying where they are at the appointed times. And does it make sense?

    We need to enlist the media — all the media not just the every bit as based ‘catholic press’– as our allies. There will be some who have no use for our position, but they can be marginalized by the voices around them who are reasonable and do want to tell the story.

    The other task – of course – is to encourage critical thinking by both the media and the users of the media. We lose the battle because so many people just take what is handed them and bnever examine it – a fault of an educational system gone awry and an uncontrolled information avalanche.

  • tmt

    I have one personal experience to share which may help those very worried about the new Pope. My community makes communion bread and we came up with a recipe for low-gluten commmunion hosts for those with Celiac disease, who get very sick with some wheat products. The church has had very strict guidelines on what the bread must be made up of for eons, but then Cardinal Ratzinger offically approved our recipe and in his letter said: “we must be reasonable, and compassionate.”

  • TheAnchoress

    #22 -

    He said, ‘we must be reasonable and compassionate!’


    So, this is cool, your monastery can now advertise that their recipe has the endorsement of Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Mena

    “could deprive them of a freedom of choice the communists never tried to take away from them.”” OOOH that irks me no end! Read “Growing Up In Moscow” by Cathy Young and she talks about how films were routinely censored! The high ups got all the choices in housing and food while the “lower classes” wer eleft with nothing! What kind of insane people think that COmmunism is FAIR? Or that COmmunists don’t try to control people and remove choice and freedom? They’re all insane! These are the same people who own two cars and won’t give one to a person who has none. Communism is when you give up what you have so everyone is equal but it NEVER works because people are far too selfish.