Noonan on Popes JPII & B16 – UPDATED

Deacon Greg, and Miss Kelly and Sissy Willis are all writing about Peggy Noonan’s very good piece on the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict to the United States (and Sissy has a few words for those who don’t appreciate the full genius of Papa Ratzinger, besides).

Because so many are discussing Noonan’s piece, I don’t have to say much about it other than recommend you read it. I like how she notes that Benedict – unlike most “world leaders” – has no problem praising his predecessor and how she points out his use of the word “supernatural.” Benedict is a man of precise speech, so that is interesting. Noonan also writes:

John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think.

A Vatican reporter last week said John Paul was the perfect pope for the television age, “a man of images.” …

Benedict, the reporter noted, is the perfect pope for the Internet age. He is a man of the word. You download the text of what he said, print it, ponder it.

Yes, this is what I was writing about yesterday. You saw John Paul – the “mighty organ” and you were stirred and inspired. Benedict – the tinkling piano in the other room – makes you wonder “what is it,” and you seek him out in his writings, and then fall in love.

Noonan is at her best when she is writing about her heroes, whether they be secular or religious or some combination of both – in fact, if you like today’s piece you should really go back and read her 2002 piece, John Paul the Great which is breathtakingly well done, and very moving; a definitive snapshot of that astonishing man, and his effect on us.

To me the only burr in today’s otherwise excellent article was her rather gratuitous-seeming snark at the expense of President Bush, which seemed both uncharitable and out of place, like a pothole (on an otherwise smooth road) that needn’t have been hit.

The trip begins in Washington, and the White House has announced that the pope and the president will “continue their dialogue on the interplay of faith and reason.” (This prompted a long-suffering Bush supporter to say, “I’m seeing the collision of matter and antimatter.”)

It is so easy to go for a cheap laugh at Bush’s expense that I felt the gag was beneath Noonan, and was sorry to see it. For all that Bush has clearly disappointed Noonan and many conservatives, the sincerity of his faith and his obvious respect for Catholicism and for two popes should have been enough to have led her not into that temptation.

Speaking of Benedict and Bush, Rocco at Whispers on the Loggia has a long and terrific piece up on the upcoming meeting. My Li’l Bro Thom sent it my way with the remark: “I can’t imagine Hillary or Obama ever referring to him as ‘His Holiness’ or ‘The Holy Father.’” No, nor can I.

Meanwhile, Brits at their Best report on some of the musical folks at the Yankee mass and AggiesCatholics has all things “Benedicte-visit” wise, including links to EWTN’s live stuff.

UPDATE: Predictions that Benedict will again anger Islamists, at Ground Zero

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  • Obis_Sister

    I read it this morning – very touching!

  • dmd25

    Though I am not Catholic, I very much appreciated Peggy Noonan’s column today. I admire Pope Benedict.

    I concur with your comment that she is at her best when writing about her heroes.
    Peggy used to be a favorite of mine. Now, however, I am frustrated with her more than pleased. I am so glad that you mentioned the “burr” in the column because I felt exactly the same way. It was so uncalled for and I think a very poor choice on her part. Thank you for so eloquently expressing my feelings.

  • gs

    After supporting Bush in 2000 I am ‘disappointed’, to put it very mildly indeed. Nevertheless Noonan’s matter-antimatter joke strikes me as pointless.

    I wish she instead had asked why Bush is personally welcoming Benedict before the latter’s appearance at the UN. There is no assurance about the degree to which Benedict’s speech will align with our policies and national interest. After all, America’s national interest is not Benedict’s paramount responsibility.

    IMO the Vice President, Secretary of State, and/or First Lady should welcome Benedict. The meeting with the President should be shaped with the Pope’s UN speech taken into account.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    A lot of people proclaim that they are Catholic, but they are strangers to the faith. (cf. Mt. 7:21-23) What matters most is not that you say you are Catholic, but that you be Catholic in your very being, that is, that you be Catholic in your heart and, thus, have the Church’s bridegroom, Christ, in your heart.

    George W may not formally profess a Catholic faith, but you can detect a great deal of Catholic in his heart. He may not pull a Tony Blair, but he has shown a great deal of understanding of Catholics and Catholicism (even if he might have disagreed about practical applications of just war principles). Now, if Bill Clinton can be our first black president, then George W can certainly be our first Catholic president. (no, I’m not forgetting JFK)

    Meanwhile, the security measures for the Pope continue to be a bit much (if he can celebrate Mass and give audiences in the open air of St. Peter’s Square, not to mention celebrate Mass in various open venues in his other trips — all places where anyone who wants to could easily make him a martyr — then he could have celebrated Mass on the National Mall and in Central Park) — among the prohibited items for attending the 10 a.m. Mass at Nationals Park are “metal, plastic, or glass containers of any kind.” That’s more strict than TSA rules for flying. But more to the point, it prohibits you even bringing your own bottle of water to sip on while you wait and wait and wait for il Papa to arrive — you are supposed to get there very early because of security measures. How early? Well, the park opens at 5:15 a.m. and the pre-Mass program begins at 5:30, with confessions starting at 6:00. I like the idea of having confession available, but 6 o’clock? Maybe I’ll just go to my parish the night before and try real hard not to enage in too many sins overnight. And getting there at 5:15!! Yeah, you drag me out of bed and on the Metro that early in the morning, and that state of grace is going right out the window.

    But we can’t even bring our own water??? Well, not to worry, “Food and drink concessions will be available for purchase.” (hey, quit your complaining — at least you are going!)

  • lsusportsfan

    I think John Paul II writings were brilliant but at tiems they were very deep.

    Benedict is the perfect Univ Prof. He can make the complex simple , understandble, and have you want more

    As to Noonan, I am not a huge fan as once was. She has a lot of insight but she has a talent of putting acid tainted barbs cloaked with wonderful language in her posts.

    She has had a bee in her bonnet about Bush for years. Asa conservative , I can say she has disappointed me a tad by not lending her voice to calm down some conservative passions that resulted in us eating our own.

    I truly believe Bush is one of our most Catholic Presidents. Last year despite massive opposition from the State Dept he met with Cardinal Zen on the plight of Catholics in China. He has just appointed a woman as the U.S. envoy to the Holy See that is one of the Best Catholic Legal minds in the UNited States and has worked closely with the Vatican in the past on the issue of Human Rights and Right to Life. Bush has been on the same side as to the Vatican as to his policies on Africa, on immigration, on the Mexico City Policy , and various other fronts in the International arena. He has held the line on Stem Cell and alos on the family. His consulatiaon and Catholic outreach has been stellar

    Last year both Tony Blair and Bush visited the Vatican within a short time of each other. The media predicted Benedict was going to let Bush have it on IRaq. Well that did not come to be. It was Blair, who Noonan rightly praises as to ability to make a good Speech, was told by Pope Benedict that “miracles were hard to come by in Britian”.

    I suspect Bush and Benedict get along fine and their meeting will be very productive.

    Catholics like many conservatives have taken some things for granted and sadly I suspect it will get more hip to bash Bush by conservatives as his term ends. We Americans have a bad habit of bashing our Presidents in their final year.

  • TheAnchoress

    Granny if you read the interview over at Whispers in the Loggia, it seems really clear that President Bush is thinking of this meeting w/ the pope as having less to do with politics than about the largest of pictures.

  • lsusportsfan

    I noticed this morning the Washington Post already has one of their Sunday edition stories up and it is quite good and on this subject
    A Catholic Wind in the White House

    Neeedless to say the last two paragraphs give us some news we were not aware of and I suspect will set some people talking

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  • Sissy Willis

    A lovely, poetic appreciation of Noonan’s piece, and I totally agree with your one caveat.

    As I wrote in an update to the post you linked — Thank you so much!, by the way — “Noonan’s inclusion of the gratuitous anti-Bush snark was probably meant as a species- recognition signal to the liberal elites she hangs out with.”

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    From the Washington Post story –
    John Carr, a top public policy director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls the Bush administration’s legacy a “tale of two policies.”
    “The best of the Bush administration can be seen in their work in development assistance on HIV/AIDS in Africa,” says Carr. “In domestic policy, the conservatism trumps the compassion.”

    Well, once again someone in the bishops’ conference betrays their liberal bias. The “best” is handing out tax money? Conservatism trumps compassion? Not only are these snarky remarks near-sighted and uncharitable, not to mention the mocking of Bush’s signature phrase, but it betrays an attitude that conservatism itself is generally contrary to or inconsistent with compassion (so as to be able to trump it). The implication is that, to be truly compassionate, one cannot be conservative. Hence, true compassion requires one to be a liberal (as Carr no doubt it). Is it any wonder then that the “best” is seen, not as actions that involve people in the Administration actually doing something – including defending the inherent dignity of innocent human life, but the “best” instead involves taking money from one group of people and giving that money to another group of people, and such a materialistic view of things, rather than actually getting your own hands dirty, is seen as the best and more compassionate.

    Am I reading too much into this out-of-context sound-bite? Knowing what I know from those who have worked at the conference, I think not. I wish I was wrong, but I fear I am not.

  • gs

    The worthy Anchoress tells me, “Granny if you read the interview over at Whispers in the Loggia, it seems really clear that President Bush is thinking of this meeting w/ the pope as having less to do with politics than about the largest of pictures.”

    Bush’s ostensible attention to the ‘largest of pictures’ reminds me of Jimmy Carter late in his presidency. Afaic Presidents are welcome to consider any picture they please–when they’re out of office. In office, politics is their job.

    That Loggia interview has an addendum: The April 15-16 encounters with the president when the pope arrives in the U.S. and at the White House should “absolutely not” be seen as support of Bush and his stance on Iraq, said Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a longtime Vatican diplomat.

    Throughout history kings and popes have made common cause when their interests were aligned. Who got the better of the arrangement depended on the relative abilities of the counterparties. Between Benedict and Bush, IMO there’s no comparison. Alas.

    Case in point: President Bush and his wife, Laura, will host a White House dinner in honor of the pontiff Wednesday evening. U.S. Catholic leaders from around the nation will attend. The menu will offer Bavarian-style food in recognition of the pope’s German heritage. It’s even the pope’s 81st birthday. But he won’t be there. (p)”He’s on a very ambitious official schedule,” Anita McBride, Mrs. Bush’s chief of staff, said Friday. “He’ll be meeting with U.S. bishops that night” at a university in Washington.

    So, per Rocco, Bush deviates from his precedent and greets Benedict on arrival. Then Benedict upholds papal protocol and doesn’t show for the specially prepared state dinner.

    Well played by Ratzinger.

    A typical performance by Bush and Rice.

  • joe doakes

    Every time a leader tries does anything from his heart, some underling makes it political.

    I wish that Cardinal hadn’t felt compelled to blurt about Iraq.

    Would it be a sin to tell a Cardinal to STFU and let the boss do his job his own way?


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