Is Benedict XVI a “better Pope” than John Paul II? A couple views and then Fr. Z really rants.

The Holy Spirit probably does not choose Popes.  As Joseph Ratzinger explained before his own election, the Holy Spirit guides the choice of a Pope, or a Council for that matter, so that we don’t inflict irreparable damage on ourselves.

Each pope comes to the See of Peter with his own strengths.

Hell’s Bible, the New York Times, ran an op-ed today by Ross Douthat.  I drill into it here. 

After that, I drill at a response of a kind by Rod Dreher.

My emphases and comments:

Op-Ed Columnist
The Better Pope

By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: April 11, 2010

The world didn’t always agree with Pope John Paul II, but it always seemed to love him. Handsome and charismatic, with an actor’s flair and a statesman’s confidence, he transformed the papacy from an Italian anachronism into a globe-trotting phenomenon. His authority stabilized a reeling church; [Along with his undermining the Soviet Bloc and his writing on the human person, this is the most important thing he did as Pope: in my opinion he averted a schism.] his personal holiness inspired a generation of young Catholics. “Santo subito!” the Roman crowds chanted as he lay dying. Sainthood now!

They will not chant for Benedict XVI. The former Joseph Ratzinger was always going to be a harder pontiff for the world to love: more introverted than his predecessor, less political and peripatetic, with the crags and wrinkles of a sinister great-uncle. [?] While the last pope held court with presidents and rock stars, Cardinal Ratzinger was minding the store in Rome, jousting with liberal theologians and being caricatured as “God’s Rottweiler.” His reward was supposed to be retirement, and a return to scholarly pursuits. Instead, he was summoned to Peter’s chair — and, it seems, to disaster.

[…]

But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character. [I think more has to be said about that.  I will say it below this piece.]

The church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle. [I wonder if this is fair? Most of what Pope’s know about people is filtered through the intermediary of lieutenants.  In this case former Sec. State Angelo Card. Sodano was the great advocate of the Legionaries.  Let’s move on.]

[… [deals with how Ratzinger rebuffed the Legionaries and wanted to investigate] ]

So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. [Some people think that Benedict was ill-advised, literally, in the matter of the Regensburg Address.  I think the Pope knew what he was doing.] And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. [Maybe in the choice of bishops in certain areas of the world, but I think the question is more complicted, as I will explain.  I don’t think that Pope Benedict is entirely happy in the choice of some of his closest collaborators, however.] It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.

Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.

But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.

About the issue of John Paul and his achievements, the choice of bishops today compared to the nominations made under John Paul II…

I think that when John Paul II came to the See of Peter, the Church was in the verge of splintering.  I think that one of the late Pope’s greatest accomplishments was to drag us back from the edge of schism.  One of the things he did was bypass elements of the hierarchy and appeal to people directly.  Another thing he did, over many years, was shift the balance of the world’s episcopate.  He slowly began to approve the nominations of men who were more men of the Church than men of the world.  He could not simply do his own thing in the case of nominations, in my opinion, because there was for a long while a real danger of revolt from the left, the liberal camp in the episcopate, not just in the academy or rank and file of clergy.  I think this explains in part why the late Pope seemingly inexplicably was willing to promote men he had to have known were something like enemies to his views about the direction of the Church and her teaching, especially about human sexuality.  Thus, he had to work slowly, over the decades he seemed he knew from the very beginning of his pontificate would be granted to him.  He slowly shifted the episcopate, focusing especially on regions such as the central part of the USA (in the vitally important anglophone world), and spreading outward from there.  He made incremental changes and, over time, they worked.  The episcopate and college of cardinals as of April 2005 was quite different from that of 1978.

When people suggest that Pope Benedict is better at certain things, we have to remember that Pope’s not only have different strengths, but they also have different challenges.  Also, Joseph Card. Ratzinger was a close adviser to John Paul II.  I cannot help but think that his influence figured in some of what I suggest above.

That is, in brief, something of what I think about issues raised in the piece above.

Now, let’s have a glance at Rod Dreher reacting to Ross Douthat’s column in Hell’s Bible:

Benedict: Probably better than John Paul II

Monday April 12, 2010

…at poping, that is. Ross Douthat, the non-ridiculous Catholic on the Times columnist roster, makes an important point that can’t be said often enough: though John Paul II was by far the more charismatic figure, Benedict XVI will likely be remembered as the better pope. Excerpt:

[…]

Try to imagine what would be happening today if a healthy, vigorous John Paul II were sitting on the Throne of Peter today, dealing with this latest crisis. We know what we’d get from the Pope and his inner circle: very little except more denial. [Really?  I don’t know that.  Remember how a younger Holy Father dressed down his countrymen when he returned to Poland after the fall of the Soviet Bloc.] But the public reaction would, I think, be much different. It’s easy to attack Pope Ratzinger; he’s nowhere near the rock star that Pope Wojtyla was, [True.] he’s German (it’s still shamefully easy to smear all Germans with the Nazi stereotype), he’s known to be an orthodox Catholic who takes doctrinal integrity and Church discipline more seriously than his predecessor did — something that’s very much to the good, given how standards in the institutional church had gone to the dogs over the past few decades. Indeed, I think one reason why so many orthodox Catholics have been so quick to defend the Pope in this, even to what I think is an unreasonable degree, is because he is rightly seen as the competent administrator who was going to clean up the messes John Paul left. [I keep reading this claim in various articles.  I think that is not an accurate accessment.  Papa Ratzinger is not a micromanager.  There has been administrative stumbling during this pontificate.  Pope Benedict has not in fact "cleaned up the Curia".] You cannot look at the disgusting scandal with the Legionaries of Christ that John Paul let fester, and that Cardinal Ratzinger moved to clean up, even before John Paul had died, without grasping that we are dealing with a different pontiff.

Despite being an easy target for unjust treatment by critics – and I say this as someone who doesn’t think Benedict is going nearly as far as he must to deal with the "bishop problem" – there is a sense in which people who want to see actual repentance and reform in the Church over the child sex abuse scandal, instead of show trials and theater, [Ummmm… what would that look like, exactly?  What would "actual repetence" look and sound like?  Would there not be a greater risk of "show trials" and "theater" if dramatic gestures were made rather than steady quiet reform and change?] should be pleased by the fact that the current Pope is not the charismatic figure that John Paul was. It makes it easier to see him as a man, not a celebrity "demigod" figure. Most Catholics have an enormous reverence for the person of the Pope, and this is appropriate. But JP2 was hero-worshipped to an unhealthy degree.

In the summer of 2002, reeling from the psychological shock and trauma of 9/11, and the child sex abuse scandal, which began breaking in January of that year, with the Geoghan trial in Boston, I was having enormous trouble sleeping because of residual anger and anxiety. Lots of tooth-grinding in my sleep, that sort of thing. My wife urged me to go talk to a Catholic psychotherapist about my inner turmoil. So I did. My third visit occurred after I published a Wall Street Journal op-ed saying that John Paul had failed the American church. Excerpt:

    When considering how this intolerable state came to pass, all roads lead to Rome. In Catholic teaching, the chief responsibilities of a bishop, including the Bishop of Rome, are to teach, sanctify and govern. John Paul has taught and sanctified zealously; his evangelical travels have inspired millions, and his writings about the nobility of human love are a treasure for all mankind.

    Yet this pope has largely failed to use the disciplinary authority of his office. This statement will surprise those who see the pope as authoritarian, but it is true.

    In serious matters, such as priestly sexual misconduct, abuses in the liturgy, corruption in seminary life, and the rejection of church teaching by Catholic universities and hospitals, the pope has explicitly recognized the crisis, given clear directions for its correction – and done nothing when his orders were ignored or undercut by subordinates in this country. [That is happening with this present Pope as well…. but less than before.] Over the last 30 years, faithful Catholics have found a variety of ways to make known to the Holy See their urgent concern, but most often to no avail.

    Even if it has been possible to believe that John Paul had been ignorant of the rape of children, the worst of all scandals, that is obviously no longer the case. [BTW… I remember at the time of the big blow up in 2001/2, when all the US official went to Rome, a couple people who came out of a meeting with the late Holy Father were still shaken about the loud dressing down they got with real anger at how some of them had lied to him about the state of affairs.  Anecdotal?  Yes. Verifiable from another source?  Maybe some day.  But it is stuck in my memory as a story I received from someone in the room.] The situation of Catholics in Boston is enough to make one weep. Cardinal Bernard Law claims to have offered his resignation, only to have it refused. Rome allows him to remain in office, though his mendacity and corruption are there for all the world to see, and the credibility of the church in Boston is destroyed.

    Who keeps him there, and why? Who retains in office a host of American bishops defiled by their indifference to the victims of depraved priests under their authority? Who could remove them with a stroke of his pen[While that it true, that is a bit of a simplification.  The men have to be replaced quickly, and the vetting process isn’t done by the Pope on his own: he depends on others who at different levels may not share his vision.  Also, what to do with the men who were removed?  We don’t advance physical euthanasia after the application of ecclesiastical euthanasia.  Get the out?  Sure.  But it isn’t just the stroke of a pen.] It is hard to judge John Paul, because we don’t know what he’s had to fight behind the scenes. [As I said.] Still, I find it impossible any longer to give him the benefit of every doubt, as is the custom of many papal loyalists. John Paul must bear partial responsibility for the catastrophe that has befallen us[BTW… has anyone mentioned Pope Paul VI?  He was Pope for a long time, even during the time much of the abuse was going on.  Do we talk about John XXIII?  There is a little matter of a Council that got out of control when the schemata were rejected and it was launched without a clear vision or pilot at the rudder.  What about Pius XII?  Wasn’t he in charge when some of the future child abusers were being formed in seminaries that were perhaps oppressively informed by a certain cross-section of clergy inbued with jansenist tendencies?  There is a lot of blame to go around.  I haven’t seen Paul VI brought up very often, however.]

When I sat down in the chair across from the therapist (who, I should point out, was at the time affiliated in some way with the now-disgraced Legionaries of Christ, favorites of John Paul, and reported bribers of his inner circle), he tore into me for this column. He yelled at me that I was "a new Luther," that I was going to lose my family if I persisted in criticizing the Holy Father, that I was under demonic influence, and so forth. I argued back. There’s nothing quite like your therapist — a man who took you on as a patient in part because you were seeking help dealing with anger at Church officials over child sex abuse – literally screaming at you that you’re in danger of going to hell for having published a criticism of the Pope. Needless to say, that was the last time I saw that therapist, or any therapist. That shocking experience taught me how pathological John Paul II’s cult of personality could be, [It sounds as if the writer has some things he is still working out about this whole thing.  There is some pain in these words.] even among intelligent people who ought to have known better. While it pains me to see the current pope subject to cheap attacks by petty controversialists, in the end the absence of a personality cult is one reason why it’s better that Ratzinger and not Wojtyla is in charge during this crisis.

UPDATE: Just to clarify the point, I believe that prior to 2002, Ratzinger was part of the problem, not the solution. [Let’s see if he can make a solid argument for that.  I don’t buy it, personally.  But let’s see.] It has been reliably reported that the 2002 US scandals pierced the fog of denial that he and others in Rome had been living in. But you can’t relive the past, and I don’t think people should be surprised if more documents surfaced showing Card. Ratzinger taking a much softer line on pedophile priests in the past than he would today. [Is it possible that the writer hasn’t made the proper distinctions yet about what Ratzinger’s actual role in his office was?  Was the competence of his dicastery was?] If Ratzinger defenders are depending on the current pope never being linkable in any serious way to softballing a pederast priest, in the routine manner of the bishops for so many years, they are going to be doomed to making narrow legalistic arguments that will fail in the court of public opinion (which is the only one that counts). [HUH?  The court of public opinion is the only one that counts?  I beg to differ.  It is surely important, in this life, but it counts for nothing in the final analysis.  Furthermore, what some people call "narrow legalistic arguments", in a negative sense, is actually to make proper distinctions for the sake of understanding the truth of the situation.  Qui bene distinguit bene docet.] Far better for Pope Benedict to give a major speech admitting forthrightly to grave errors in the past, personally and corporately, and pledging real reform. Of course he can’t give that speech unless he actually plans to undertake some sort of house-cleaning among the bishops to show that his are not just words. [And will that be enough for the AP/NYT driven court of public opinion?  Not on your life.  They would probably just label a house-cleaning as the former Hitler Youth’s own Night of Long Knives, and shout "SEE!? Rottweiler!"  I agree that there must be a purification of the episcopate.  But it must be done with Romanità. If I were Pope, I would form a small corps of monsignori tasked to obtain some resignations…  I think I would recruit them from, say, Sicily.  They seem to know how to do this sort of thing quietly, with a smile.  "Eccellenza… our Holy Fadher isa greatly concerned fora your healt." One sits down a little too close to the bishop. The other, still standing, opens his jacket, reaches in and draws out a beautiful Waterman fountain pen and thick, folded sheet of paper. The bishop’s eye is drawn to the momentary bloody-red flash from the stone in the visitor’s cuff-link.  "You would, Monsignore, give greata consolation to da Holy Fahder were you to step down anda den… how you say Monsignore Brazzi? … shtare rinda?…"  "Stay insida you house", intones Msgr. Brazzi at the bishop’s side… never taking his eyes from the bishop’s face. "…rinda … inside… nota go out…."  "’Inside’… yes… daats eeet", repeats the standing visitor, the pleats of his pants like knives.  "You reada da Mass. You reada da books.  You eata da lunch.  You pray da Rosario.   You confessare.   Rinda.   No agitazioni.  You worka hard… tooo haaard fora too many yeers.  Time to rest.. fora your healt.  You see, Eccellenza Reverendissima, we are only concerned fora your healt. You wait quiet, maybe now and den talka to police when dey come? Giornalisti later… after polizia."  The bishop swallows hard and, trying to summon some courage blusters, "What is your name, Father!?  I will…"  The dark-haired monsignor leans over the desk toward the bishop, who falls back into his high backed leather chair. "My name is Monsignore Vito Andolini.  E chist è pe tia!"  He hands the bishop the Waterman. Meanwhile, in a different office of the same chancery, another pair of monsignori are speaking with the auxiliary bishop – infamous liturgical weirdo – about the likelihood of promotion to a soon to be created role as Apostolic Envoy to the Pirates of the Gulf of Aden.  "Who better than you? … Eccellenza?  You feeling, alrighta?"  His hand reaches past the sharp-lapel and into the inner pocket of his well-tailored jacket.  Okay, okay…. after that little day-dream I think I might need some therapy too.  But,…. you geta my pointa.  Huge public displays might not be the best approach.] Maybe he can’t bring himself to do that. Maybe he really can’t do that, in any practical sense (which would raise interesting questions about papal authority in practice, versus in theory).  [And it would demonstrate that the press forced the Church to do something.  Then… Katie, bar the door!] My point, though, is humility and repentance would be a strength to the Pope in this crisis. [and he hasn’t done that enough?  Hard to say.] I think any competent public relations expert would tell him that. But the Vatican’s PR sense is fifth-rate. You may believe that it’s beneath the Holy See to worry about PR, but you would be very, very wrong. [When the Church was still strong in its identity, it’s worship, missionary zeal, works of mercy, and did I mention worship? …  were its PR.] That’s not how power and authority works in the world today. I’ll write more about this later, when I discuss James Davison Hunter’s book, and why all this matters a lot to me personally, even though I’m no longer a Catholic. [… no longer a Catholic…]

 

Thought provoking to be sure.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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122 Responses to Is Benedict XVI a “better Pope” than John Paul II? A couple views and then Fr. Z really rants.

  1. wolfeken says:

    Ross Douthat is by far the best columnist the New York Times has every employed.

    Let’s face it, neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI were very good at dealing with homosexual priests and the other sexual scandals in its early days. The current pope has made many reforms and is working tirelessly to clean things up.

    Having said that, the difference in popes on the other issues, hinted at by Douthat, should be mentioned. Benedict has focused on working with traditionalists, has un-excommunicated four SSPX bishops, composed a prayer for the conversion of Jews, has stressed the necessity of non-Catholics becoming Catholics as the goal of “ecumenism,” has vastly changed the visuals of the Church (vestments, altar arrangement, papal cross, etc.) has brought back some Latin and ad orientem and of course wrote Summorum Pontificum.

    This is why the media hates Benedict and gave JPII (who, we must admit, was one of the most liberal popes in the history of the Church) a pass.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    What horrible articles. Thank you for your commentary, Father. [Not sure why you thought they were “horrible”.]

    Ioannes Paule Magne, ora pro nobis!

  3. ljc says:

    Father I greatly enjoyed the daydream, but you left out the most important scene, when the Bishop refuses to sign the paper and the monsignori politely see themselves out. Then the Bishop wakes up the next morning and begins screaming as he finds the severed head of his favorite liturgical puppet in his sheets…

  4. QMJ says:

    Thank you for the laugh with the monsignori. On a more serious note, thank you for pointing out Paul VI, John XXIII, and Pius XII. It is so important to see the whole picture. Getting there with your help.

  5. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I believe that in 1978, Karol Wojtyla and not Josef Ratzinger was elected for a reason. Pope Wojtyla followed his own mantra, “Be not afraid.” Be not afraid to speak the truth in its wholeness, be not afraid to embrace the dying, be not afraid to go where people hate you. That message was very much needed. It is still going to be needed.

  6. everett says:

    Different men, different popes, different needs of the Church. God provides what the Church needs, in a variety of ways. I am of the opinion that without JPII, there would be no Benedict XVI. JPII inspired an entire generation (and more) within the Church, and it is my belief that the reason Benedict is able to push through his many reforms is because of all of the “JPII priests” (and bishops). To put it succinctly, Benedict has the kind of the support from within the clergy and episcopacy that JPII often lacked.

    As a bit of an example, the former bishop of the diocese where I grew up said that when he want back for his ad limina visits under JPII, he always knew that he could end his discussion when he said he wanted to talk about ordaining women. These types of bishops were partially replaced under JPII, and are now being even more replaced by Benedict. Brick by brick, both theologically and liturgically.

  7. Jim of Bowie says:

    Father: Great fisk of Dreher’s tirade. I think he left the Church and became Eastern Orthodox over the abuse scandal. I don’t think he supported his claim that Benedict was part of the problem.

    ljc: ROFL

  8. Marius2k4 says:

    Thanks for the laugh, Father. You should definitely put all of that into a pro-reformative novel. It would be fascinating, although your Sicilian hurts my brain, a little. I find myself having to read it out-loud to have any idea what you’re saying in Italian.

  9. @ljc–now that’s funny

    *sigh* in other circumstances Dreher and Douthat’s writings are quite good. But this isn’t one of those times. Dreher really needs to let this issue go because he’s lost all balance–just like he (rightfully) accuses of others on important issues like abortion, etc. Douthat’s less at fault here, but remember these are conservative guys reading the Church’s issues through conservative, not necessarily Catholic, eyes. Quite frankly I expected better out of both, but then this whole situation seems designed to let the wind out of several sails.

    As Father Z has said, though, Weigel has come through at every turn. What was that line about heaping coals on your enemy’s head?

  10. GodsGadfly says:

    Father,

    Fantastic analysis, but I’d like to offer a few follow-ups:

    1. The schism thing is not just your opinion, but a direct threat that Mahony, Weakland and a few other bishops made to Rome in the mid-1980s, when the CDF was going to censure Archbishop Hunthausen of Seattle. For 20+ years, the Vatican has basically been waiting for these guys to retire. As a blogging friend of mine pointed out this weekend, by contextualizing the LA announcement in the amount of upcoming retirements, the Vatican has sent a clear message to Cardinal Mahony: “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” [Thanks.]
    2. I’ve learned in the past year how selection of bishops has as much, if not more, to do with the Papal Nuncio/Delegate as the Pope himself, and the quality of episcopal appointments in the US has improved with each new Nuncio during the past 2 pontificates.
    3. As you note, the corruption was in place long before John Paul II, and had to be for Vatican II to become such a travesty . Even a fairly cynical Catholic like myself was shocked by Cardinal Stafford’s reflection on the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vita, where he said he was the *only* priest in Baltimore who supported HV, and was physically threatened for it by an older priest who was a WWII vet.
    It is pretty clear that Rembert Weakland, who’s been at the heart of many of the Church’s problems, from what went wrong with the liturgy in Vatican II to “the Scandal,” was a personal favorite of Paul VI even before the latter was Pope. [And he was probably the pipe to the NYT’s for Laurie Goodstein’s hit piece. Pay back?]
    4. John Paul II was a great admirer of John of the Cross and Padre Pio, both of whom were falsely accused of sexual misconduct. His inclination was to presume accusations were false because he didn’t want to be known as the “evil Pope” who presided over the suppression of some saintly priest who was falsely accused.

  11. Bruce says:

    “[It sounds as if the writer has some things he is still working out about this whole thing. There is some pain in these words.]”

    Yes,anyone who has followed Rod Dreher knows that he left the Catholic Church for the Orthodox Church because of the abuse scandals.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Father Z-great commentary as always on these articles.

    ljc-oh, my goodness! Shades of the horse’s head in “The Godfather’! Pretty good similarity, though!

  13. Roland de Chanson says:

    Shtare rinda … Msgr. Brazzi … ROTFL!

    I thought Rod Dreher was beginning to cross the line but you have definitely lost it. But haven’t the Holy See and the bishops already mastered il codice d’omertà? ;-) But, I admire your Romanità, or Sicilianità in this case. If I were pope I would have taken the name Fulbert I and immediately ordered all pedophile priests abelardized. No point in laicization after that..

    Dreher’s previous post about Ratzinger’s form letter to Cummins in the Kiesle case was entitled Ratzinger: “Bishop, take your time with that pedophile.” I am angry enough at this whole squalid mess without reading a blogger feeding off a NYT hack feeding off a contingency-fee shyster suing the Church. Rod has become far too shrill and his emotions have begun to cloud his reason in this matter. He is becoming less the journalist and more the polemicist. I hope he gets a grip on himself.

  14. revs96 says:

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me, maybe I’ve had a tough few days, but I like the Sicilian Monsignori idea. Take the liturgical perverts and other trouble-makers for a little ride…

  15. kjmacarthur says:

    To put my following remarks in perspective, I think child molesters should be punished much more severely than they are, whether they are lay or clerical. I think Douthat’s conclusion–that the Church and the Pope have done too little about the problem–might be valid if we lived in a perfect universe. But my honest assessment is that the Church and the Pope have done more about this problem than any other institution in the the world, keeping in mind that that includes institutions that have always had (and still have) a higher incidence of this crime.

    I, and many others, have stories we could tell about other institutions. Those stories are not being told, because many of those institutions are the friends of the media.

  16. Emilio III says:

    I believe Mr Dreher joined the Orthodox Church after covering earlier priests’ sex abuse scandals for the Dallas Morning News. I had not heard about the “therapist” incident before, but that can’t have helped.

    There seems to be more “collateral damage” from this problem than I had imagined.

  17. Traductora says:

    would probably just label a house-cleaning as the former Hitler Youth’s own Night of Long Knives, and shout “SEE!? Rottweiler!”

    Exactly. Benedict can’t win with the press.

    The bit about the monsignori-capi was very funny! I do think that it would be really salutary for the Pope to depose a few bishops and leave their (metaphorical) corpses in the road as a warning to the others, but the problem with removing bishops in a dramatic and public way is…what if they refuse to go? I think there are some of them to whom schism would not matter in the least, and who would be happy to have a pretext for splitting off and forming the “Great American [or British or German or Belgian, etc.] New Catholic Church.”

    [He could accomplish a lot by removing a single… red… hat….]

  18. dans0622 says:

    Of course the Pope has full, immediate, universal and supreme authority in the Church and he can exercise it freely (canon 331). But, canon law does not envision a bishop being removed from office (c. 416). A future Code needs to clarify this. As it stands, if a bishop refuses to resign, the Pope could deprive the bishop of his office, after a trial, because of some correspondingly grave crime. Otherwise, the law does not give the Pope any options. So, as Father mentioned, getting a bishop out of office is a bit more complicated than simply the “stroke of a pen.”

  19. r7blue1pink says:

    Father, As a First Generation Polish-American, Ive often pondered WHAT it was that attributed to the craziness under JPII’s pontficate. Ive often piondered WHY and HOW could he let it happen.

    I think you hit it on the nail VERY clearly and I totally appreciate your analysis. He had a free-flowing, happy-go-lucky (and I mean jolly) personality. He was fun & lively and appealed to people by showing that he was ONE of THEM…

    I feel his biggest vice was that he trusted those around him entirely too much and perhaps he didnt have good intuition.( I dont know what else to call it really!) He always tried to see the the best in people and we see clearly now that there were many wolves in sheeps clothing.

  20. Titus says:

    I’m going to have to just go ahead and say that Dreher has less credibility in my book than my seventh-grade brother. He sits there in Constantinople, smug in his apostasy, and insists that Rome engage in the sort of grovelling that not only would Rome not do, but that no patriarch or archimandrite would ever even consider.

    The commentators calling for Benedict to line the parapet of Castel Sant’Angelo with mitered heads don’t appreciate either the practical or theological relationships between the Holy See and the college of bishops. One of the actual teachings of the last council (as distinguished from the vague “pastoral” ramblings that fill most of the documents and that have been the pretext for so much nonsense) was a developed explication of the collegial relationship between the papacy and the episcopate. The public and the MSM views the Church as a big corporation or a unitary executive, where the Pope or dicastery officials bark and everyone lower down just jumps. But the system doesn’t work this way even theoretically. Once you start considering the practical difficulties of vetting episcopal candidates, you realize that it would be a Herculean task to axe all the bishops who could use some time out in a pasture.

    And when is someone going to get seriously busy publicizing that a lot of the odious-in-retrospect shuffling of abusive priests in previous decades was done under the advice of secular experts and therapists? He who lives by the world will die by the world, it seems.

  21. wchoag says:

    Let me begin by saying that I am a barbaric trousered ape…at least when I am not wearing my kilt. I am rash, capricious, and have a loose, sharp tongue.

    BUT…even I know that it is wholly tasteless and unacceptable to cast opinion and judgment on a sitting Pope and his immediate predecessor! A pope should be in his tomb at least ten years before one starts casting stones at him.

    Hey…who has that bolder that I can drop on Paul VI for giving us the Novus Ordo liturgy?!

  22. AJP says:

    Given the staggering damage that certain bishops and other powerful people in the Church have caused in the last 40 years, I’m not convinced as to why it would have been worse to let the heretics go into schism around 1980. It seems there are far worse things than schism – namely allowing these people to wreak havoc on souls for another generation. I don’t intend to sound combative or disrespectful, but could somebody who is happy that JP2 prevented a schism circa 1980 explain to me why such a schism would have been worse than what the Church has had instead?

  23. torch621 says:

    Another reason I don’t get my news from the NYSlimes. Neither of these articles were very good.

  24. Randii says:

    If you can get a copy of the April 2010 NOR check out the article John Paul II: A Character Study. It is written by Fr. Gawronski – a priest of Polish descent who loved JP2 but is aware of the problematic elements of his Pontificate and tries to explain why the Pope did some dubious things -based on his Polish background and the spirit of Poles throughout the centuries. Very interesting.

  25. AJP says:

    r7blue1pink,

    My husband and I (both Polish Americans too) have asked ourselves the same thing. It is hard to understand how a man who was personally so holy could seemingly be so indifferent to the filth infecting the Church. My husband speculates that this may have been due to John Paul’s horrific experiences in Poland under the Nazis and then the Communists. Basically John Paul was hesitant to act in any way that could be perceived as heavy handed or authoritarian, given his personal experience with the monstrous abuse of power. It’s just speculation, mind you.

    I also think that JP2’s poor health had a lot to do with his inaction. We sometimes forget how long before he died he was in extremely bad physical shape. I visited Italy in 1997 and in 2001, and I remember both times having the thought in the back of my mind “perhaps the Pope might die while I’m in Rome . . . I wonder what that would be like?” It was not a far-fetched possibility either time, although JP2 died in 2005.

    And before JP2 became seriously ill, he was helping to peacefully bring down the Soviet Union and end the Cold War. Perhaps that took so much out of him that he didn’t have the strength to fight battles within the Church to the extent he needed to?

    His papacy has left a very complicated and mixed legacy. I strongly feel it is imprudent to even talk about canonizing him at this time. The Church needs at least another generation, if not longer, to truly get a sense of John Paul’s legacy and impact (good or bad) on the Church. The fact that a strong cult of personality remains around the late pope is especially troubling – I never was comfortable with this. Dreher’s therapist’s reaction exemplifies why cults of personality are so dangerous, especially within the Church. I don’t know much about the professional codes and bylaws for therapists, but what Dreher describes sounds grossly unethical and bordering on malpractice.

  26. Scott W. says:

    they are going to be doomed to making narrow legalistic arguments that will fail in the court of public opinion (which is the only one that counts).

    In other words, both the facts and the law are on the Church’s side, but they need to shut up on this point while we are piling on.

  27. MWindsor says:

    As to JPII, consider where and when he came from. Priests of his era and his homeland were heroic. My wife was born in Poland and was at a few Solidarity rallies in the 80’s, and knows what priests were like there first hand. Fr. Jerzy Popie?uszko was only an extreme example. Between the Nazi’s and the communists, they stood up to leviathan and some paid with their lives.

    I honestly believe that, to JPII, the concept of a pedophile priest would have been utterly inconceivable.

  28. MichaelJ says:

    I have read many plausible explanations for HH John Paul II’s behavior. I must admit that they seem reasonable and that I personally would be able to do no better. Still, these explanations are somewhat unsatisfying.

    Is it wrong for me as a Catholic to expect better from my Pope? I realize that Popes are human too, but is it really that unrealistic to expect that a man sitting on the Throne of Peter would be able to rise above the ghosts of his past? Am I to expect from now on that no Pope will be able to better address the problems facing the Church than … me?

  29. Deo volente says:

    At first I thought you were referring to a “Star Chamber” of some sort. Then Monsignore Vito Andolini showed up. I guess that makes the other two Monsignori Tessio and Clemenza then?

  30. Geoffrey says:

    What horrible articles. Thank you for your commentary, Father. [Not sure why you thought they were “horrible”.]

    The whole ridiculous premise of “John Paul II vs. Benedict XVI”. This, along with any kind of papal-bashing, makes me very nauseous.

  31. Randii says:

    I agree AJP – the canonization of JP2 should not occur anytime soon. In fact I think canonizing anyone shortly after their death is a gross mistake.

    Emillio III said:

    “I believe Mr Dreher joined the Orthodox Church after covering earlier priests’ sex abuse scandals for the Dallas Morning News. I had not heard about the “therapist” incident before, but that can’t have helped.

    There seems to be more “collateral damage” from this problem than I had imagined.

    My comment: In fact Dreher was privy to more stuff than was ever printed or made public. As bad as things were revealed at the time, he probably saw even worse stuff. He converted in part because of his young family. He writes now not so much out of bitterness and a feeling of betrayal as out of a desrie to warn others and especially young families of the potential dangers lurking in the church. Folks may think he is over the top but I am sure he thinks he is doing a service to the regular layfolk who might otherwise not realize the extent of the corruption.

  32. Peggy R says:

    FYI. Much of Rod Dreher’s post we’re seeing here is from a column he wrote in the early 2000’s when he was becoming quite overwrought by the abuse scandal in the US Church. He caught hell in the Catholic blogs for his unreasonable understanding of how the Church works, though his sense of justice was appreciated. I imagine Dreher is feeling vindicated by Douthat’s column. Dreher was a convert TO Rome, then moved on to Eastern Orthodox in search of a more moral hierarchy and more mysterious liturgy. He lost a lot of fellow Catholics as readers and supporters in the process.

    Recently Peggy Noonan (who’s off the deep end about The One) noted that it was likely unimaginable to JP2 that fellow priests could do such an immoral thing as abuse children. It was incomprehensible to him; perhaps explaining why he didn’t act severely or quickly enough. I have had the same view about (some( bishops–many were clearly enablers and in on the corruption of it all. But, it would seem to me that a man who becomes a priest does so b/c he so loves Jesus and the Church and seeks holiness, could not comprehend why a fellow priest–who would presumably seek holiness and to serve God–could do such a thing. Incomprehensible. Because it is to many of us, I’d imagine. But it did happen. It’s true. Painfully true.
    ***
    Thanks also for reminding us of JP2’s predecessors. Why no outcry against their administration and leadership of the Church? Also, the fact that progressive rot was setting in before V2 and your (Fr Z’s) noting elsewhere today that this is of a piece w/Obie’s efforts to divide and conquer the Church, calls to mind for me that Catholics, early 20C immigrants in the US and lowest on the socio-economic ladder, were tools of Alinsky (who started his work on Chicago Catholics, where Obie cut his organizing teeth). Alinsky sought for Catholics to have disdain for their own “middle class” faith and morals. Many of the bishops of the 70s and 80s (and still today), grew up with that disdain. Alinsky’s work may have contributed mightily to the establishment of rot in the US hierarchy–and laity. [You know what we also have today, 40% of US children born out of wedlock in the US! See Robt Rector at NRO today.]

    Sorry to be so long-winded!

    Thanks for your dedication to the protection of the Faith.

  33. Randii says:

    MichaleJ said:

    “Is it wrong for me as a Catholic to expect better from my Pope? I realize that Popes are human too, but is it really that unrealistic to expect that a man sitting on the Throne of Peter would be able to rise above the ghosts of his past? Am I to expect from now on that no Pope will be able to better address the problems facing the Church than … me?”

    IMO Michael, lay people and Popes themselves have grossly mis-understood the Papacy and assumed special “powers” to it that are simply not there.

    It is interesting that this questioning of the Pope’s role is coming at a time of greater effort towards Orthodox and Catholic reunion. I think if that ever happens it means a new re-evaluated understanding of the role of the Papacy. My guess is the resolution will be much closer to the Orthodox understanding than the more recent Catholic understanding.

    I think recent Popes and too much of the laity have forgotten that Mt. 16: 18 applies to the church and not the Pope. One only has to look at Popes Liberius, Marcellus and Honorius to see that Popes have taught or practiced heretical things at times. A new book titled a History of The popes makes this very argument. It’s by an orthodox priest and has been favorably reviewd in “right wing” Catholic publications like Lay Witness.

  34. Grabski says:

    Rod Dreher, lapsed Catholic giving lectures on what must be done.

    Hey, Rod, when you leave the tent your opinion goes with you.

  35. chonak says:

    How many other people were hurt by such treatment from therapists following the inhuman Maciel system: denial of the truth, blame for the victims, blame for the whistleblowers, and the desire to control others? Rod’s description makes me wonder if this therapist was connected to the Legion-controlled Institute for the Psychological Sciences near DC. Given the abusive, dysfunctional practices in Legion/Regnum, there’s a serious question of whether the Church should let such a school operate under the auspices of a cult-like movement.

  36. Nathan says:

    Fr Z: “Another thing he [Pope John Paul II] did, over many years, was shift the balance of the world’s episcopate. He slowly began to approve the nominations of men who were more men of the Church than men of the world. He could not simply do his own thing in the case of nominations, in my opinion, because there was for a long while a real danger of revolt from the left, the liberal camp in the episcopate, not just in the academy or rank and file of clergy. I think this explains in part why the late Pope seemingly inexplicably was willing to promote men he had to have known were something like enemies to his views about the direction of the Church and her teaching, especially about human sexuality. Thus, he had to work slowly, over the decades he seemed he knew from the very beginning of his pontificate would be granted to him.

    Father, among a wealth of insights you’ve given, this has to be one of the most consoling to me. All those years, when my little crosses and my ruffled feelings of injustice over liturgical and theological stuggles ate at me, I would wonder, “Why, Lord, does the Holy Father SAY the right thing and DO nothing?”

    It is extremely helpful to recall just how much Pope John Paul II did, and where the Church was heading as he started his pontificate. I have to pray that Our Blessed Lord will grant me the humility to know just how limited my knowledge is of the big picture in the Church.

    For so many years I would play “head-knocking pope” in my head when I read of the latest sacrilege or scandal. Now I have to thank God, in His mercy, never gave me the opportunity to be in a position to have to make such decisions.

    In Christ,

  37. MWP says:

    Divide and rule. They are different to be sure, but that one of them is better? Not so sure. Each one was/is gifted in a different way. It’s like arguing who was better, Peter or Paul, IMHO.

  38. Joseph says:

    The unwillingness to discipline when needed by our popes, seems to run like a red thread through recent church history. It reminds me of a father sitting in the living room reading the paper, while the children trash the house. Any father can tell you, if you do not get off your duff and and reign them in, sometimes with more than a stern warning, the house will eventually be a pile of rubble.
    Besides a few red hats, I would like to see the episcopal conferences curtailed or even dismantled. They are a hotbed of empowered dissenters and assorted malcontents.

  39. Andy Milam says:

    I haven’t taken the time to read through all the replies, mea culpa, so if my response has been stated already, apologies.

    Once I saw Mr. Dreher’s name, I was immediately turned to this thought? Why bother writing about it.

    He converted to Orthodoxy when the going got tough. From 1993 until 2002, he was more or less a bastian for all things orthodox within the Roman Catholic Church. Alas, I think that what we’ve seen in Mr. Dreher is a product of 1980s and early 1990s catechesis (if you can call it that). I find it hard to believe that he ever REALLY bought into what the Church taught. I think that he fell into the group of converts who got the bare minimum, then ran with it; the form without the substance, as it were. Had he truly converted, he would have had the fortitude to withstand the “scandal.” The Church is still growing and the Church is still relevant, even if Mr. Dreher doesn’t think so. In other words, it is my opinion that he drank the kool-aid.

    So, while his words may sound scholarly and his opinion may be more or less in line with the AP/NYT, it is far from in line with Catholicism. I think that it is unfair for him to draw upon his 10 years of Catholicism to make an authoritative statement. Last time I checked, that was very close to a logical fallacy. Color me biased.

    Perhaps I’m being harsh, perhaps not, but honestly, I would much rather hear from a Catholic who is critical, as opposed to a abandonner who claims to have some sort of authority to make a statement as such.

    Meh…..the latin phrase; “condemnant quod non intellegunt” or “damnant quodnon intelligunt” rings true to me when thinking of Mr. Dreher today. Precisely because when one stops believing then one stops understanding.

  40. I had the great privilege of taking a doctoral seminar (on von Balthasar) from Fr. Gawronski. He was an outstanding teacher and a truly interesting person.

  41. albizzi says:

    “BUT…even I know that it is wholly tasteless and unacceptable to cast opinion and judgment on a sitting Pope and his immediate predecessor! A pope should be in his tomb at least ten years before one starts casting stones at him.”

    Wchoag,
    Yes you are right. And a pope should be in his tomb at least 100 years before one begins to consider him worthy to be beatified.

  42. Athelstan says:

    1. First, let me say to Titus: Outstanding post. Especially in regards to Rod Dreher – who is too unbalanced on this issue, alas.

    2. Second, AJP makes a comment I am tempted to agree with: Would a schism have been so bad? History suggests schisms are always bad, because the effects are so long lasting. But sometimes I wonder if we paid too high a price to avoid one.

    3. MWindsor makes a valid point about how John Paul II’s Polish background may have played a critical role in his mishandling of the sex abuse problem: As to JPII, consider where and when he came from. Priests of his era and his homeland were heroic. My wife was born in Poland and was at a few Solidarity rallies in the 80’s, and knows what priests were like there first hand. Fr. Jerzy Popie?uszko was only an extreme example. Between the Nazi’s and the communists, they stood up to leviathan and some paid with their lives.

    But I will go further: The common tactic by the communists of falsely accusing priests and bishops of such misbehavior undoubtedly colored his view of this problem. Especially when his experience of clerical life in Poland was far different from the really damaged clerical life that had degenerated in parts of the West in the same time frame – something hard for him to grasp.

  43. MichaelJ says:

    Randii,

    I think you may have mis-understood my comment. I am not expecting the Pope to have super-human powers or to possess some magical secret-decoder ring. I am aware (in light of Popes Liberius, Marcellus and Honorius) that we do, from time to time, have “bad” Popes.

    The general consensus, for example seems to be that Pope John Paul II was personally very holy, but was easily deceived by his advisors. I have no trouble believing this, but my original question still stands. Is it too much to expect that the man who is Pope is less easily deceived than an average layman like me?

  44. spesalvi23 says:

    Sinister!!?? The man is the absolute opposite of sinister!
    Relevant or not: humility and shyness may not be rock star qualities, but they are very attractive qualities. In every sense of the word!

  45. Hieronymus says:

    I am always a little surprised when I read comments like the one from Geoffrey above.

    I try not to even think about the pontificate of JPII because I start to become angry. As the flock was being ravaged by the terrible episcopate that he appointed, or in the better cases was spiritually starving to death from neglect, we were constantly treated to an endless stream of positivist statements about how great a renewal we were experiencing in the wake of the new Pentecost of Vatican II. We had a new mass, a new evangelization, a new understanding of our own and other religions — one would have expected the Holy Father, backed up by the college of cardinals, to break out in the “Happy Days” theme song every time he appeared in public (which was quite often). In fact, given the things that went on in his masses that were unfortunately broadcast around the world, I am surprised that this did not actually happen. But while it seemed to be the age of Aquarius in the Vatican, it was more like Beirut in the late 80’s out in the world.
    I am not here to engage in “Pope bashing” by any means, but when I read people contesting the contention that things are better under Benedict, I am dumbfounded. Benedict may not be perfect — no human being is — but he has done more for the restoration of the liturgy and thus the restoration of Catholic identity in general, and appointed more orthodox bishops in 5 years than JPII did in 27. JPII may have been the holiest man to walk the earth since Our Lady (as I can’t read souls I will leave that for someone else to determine), but the near 30 years under his reign were a barely-mitigated disaster for the Church.
    After the election of BXVI there was a whole line of T-shirts and the like featuring the newly elected pope with the message, “The cafeteria is closed.” It seemed very appropriate, and I found it odd that nearly everyone that I saw wearing one was a strong supporter of JPII. I wanted to ask, “How, pray tell, can the cafeteria be closed, unless it has been open, and if it has been open, why didn’t the previous Holy Father attempt to close it in his 27 year reign?”

  46. Hieronymus says:

    Perhaps I should have gone for a walk before posting that. . . I apologize for the harsh tone, I think the memories and frustrations of those years a just a little too fresh.

  47. Randii says:

    MichaelJ said:

    “I think you may have mis-understood my comment. I am not expecting the Pope to have super-human powers or to possess some magical secret-decoder ring. I am aware (in light of Popes Liberius, Marcellus and Honorius) that we do, from time to time, have “bad” Popes.

    The general consensus, for example seems to be that Pope John Paul II was personally very holy, but was easily deceived by his advisors. I have no trouble believing this, but my original question still stands. Is it too much to expect that the man who is Pope is less easily deceived than an average layman like me?”

    I actually got the jist of your point. I have no answer other than that yes the layperson should expect more from the Pope. Especially with the added graces he has and that of many around him. The grace brought by ordination for instance. It’s troubling.

    My point was that too many have accepted the infallible teaching in faith and morals when historically it’s simply not born out – the three Popes I mentioned for instance.

    This has led to too many lay folks being uncritcal of the Pope, deferring to all his decisions and then being scandalized when things like this happen.

  48. Roland de Chanson says:

    Hieronymus,

    Harsh or not, I agree with you. I am going for a walk now. When I return, I will still have agreed with you.

    I was elated at the election of Ratzinger. My enthusiasm has been tempered. But then again, I am not walking in the shoes of the Fisherman.

    It is soon to be the third anniversary of Summorum. Let his deeds match his words: say the TLM in public. Order the curates in his own diocese to do the same. Melius agere quam dicere (a rough translation from French).

  49. A Sinner 2 says:

    “Given the staggering damage that certain bishops and other powerful people in the Church have caused in the last 40 years, I’m not convinced as to why it would have been worse to let the heretics go into schism around 1980. It seems there are far worse things than schism – namely allowing these people to wreak havoc on souls for another generation. I don’t intend to sound combative or disrespectful, but could somebody who is happy that JP2 prevented a schism circa 1980 explain to me why such a schism would have been worse than what the Church has had instead?”

    I agree 100 percent AJP.

    I do think though that JPII viewed events with far more patience and a sense of the eternal than the rest of us (one can compare his dealing with the liberals in the Church with his dealings with the communists in Poland). That said, in my less patient and more worldly view, at some point the heretics have to go and it would have been better that they had left back then, before they could do any further damage to the Church.

  50. Jaidon says:

    Matthew 5
    11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
    12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  51. Andy Milam says:

    Jaidon,

    Pope Benedict will have a very special place then…

    ;0)

  52. Dave N. says:

    But, canon law does not envision a bishop being removed from office (c. 416).

    But the Pope could accept more resignations when they are offered. That would be a start.

  53. Tominellay says:

    IMO, Cardinal Mahony got an offer he couldn’t refuse…

  54. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    It is interesting that a number of commenters toy with the possible desirability of formal schism.No one has seemed to think Our Lord’s “ut unum sint “relevant.Yet we do know that John Paul II – like any Pope worth his salt – had Our Lord’s phrase as a major preoccupation.God bless him.
    Thanks to Fr Z for continuing to keep us up-to-date on the Press Conspiracy. Neither article impresses for its professional standards.Perhaps the American press has too long been confusing entertainment and news to be able to present serious Journalism?
    Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI are remarkable gifts to the Church. It is interesting also, that their marvellous teaching has not been acknowledged.
    Yes Paedophilia is revolting and despicable.But the media will not acknowledge that the total percentage of abuse cases in the Church did not equal that of society at large and that ONLY 20% of those abuse cases involved paedophilia – the 80% were outright homosexual.But the media is sold on homosexuality,as it is on abortion,contraception so the whole package is sold as paedophilia – the one vice society still abhors, in order to attack the Church.
    In any assessment of the response to these problems in the past,we need to bear in mind that EVERYONE’S understanding of the issue has greatly evolved over the last 50 years, and the same applies to desirable responses.Remember,we will be judged as we judge others.

  55. Hieronymus says:

    When Our Lord prayed his “ut unum sint”, he was praying that they all might actually be one — of one belief, one faith — not that they might all call themselves by the same name.

    JPII’s inaction did not ensure the common belief of the Mahonyists and the Church, it simply ignored the fact that what Mahony believed was/is not what the Church teaches. It allows for great scandal because he is supposed to be a prince of the Church, in fact he is the head of the largest Catholic diocese in the country. Like it or not, what he says is interpreted by a great many people as being the Catholic teaching on a given subject. Mahony IS the voice of the Church. You either embrace that, giving him the authority to mislead millions of people, or you take away his authority so that he no longer speaks as “The Church”. The idea that he should continue to be a prince of the Church but that nobody should take him seriously is crazy.

  56. mwa says:

    This recalls to mind an interview with Malachi Martin wherein he maintained that John Paul II believed that if he could just hold the Church together, Our Lady would come and fix everything. It didn’t seem altogether farfetched.

  57. Geoffrey says:

    “This recalls to mind an interview with Malachi Martin wherein he maintained that John Paul II believed that if he could just hold the Church together, Our Lady would come and fix everything. It didn’t seem altogether farfetched.”

    Amen to that.

  58. JonM says:

    Perhaps if the Church followed Mary’s instruction to release the Third Secret in 1960 then she would have helped completely fix everything. Indeed, if this was done, it is a safe bet Vatican II never would have happened and the Modernist demon never would have wrought such destruction on the world.

  59. HCSKnight says:

    Right off the bat Fr. Z you find one of the errors; ” his writing on the human person, this is the most important thing he did as Pope: in my opinion he averted a schism.”

    Pope John Paul II did not allow the “Smoke of Satan” to enter the Sanctuary, however I have my doubts that he was able to see but the largest ashes lifted by the fire.

    The source of all these evil’s afflicting the church are found in the “liberating” theology that lead to the smoke so clearly seen rising from the Ecumenical & Liturgical movements of the pre & post Vatican II period.

    The fundamental “tactical” error made by the Bishops and Rome has been a simply one, an error well known by men. An error common to women. It’s the inability to “be a man”, to stand humbly and acknowledge and immediately work to correct an unintentional failure and to stand even taller and not cower but fight with principle and honor when attacked with lies about the failure.

    The “pedophile priest crisis” is 100% a result of the Bishops and Rome’s failure to stand up and say something along these lines; “Yes, failures occurred. Failures on multiple levels, both in matters of Faith and of man within the Church.” The Bishops lost their way in shepherding the seminaries and leading the priests” in ensuring that the priesthood is not concerned with “man’s social justice” but in “God Alone”. They lost their way in the Smoke of Satan that entered the Sanctuary and turned the Mass, the flock, and their backs to the altar and focused all inward toward one another, toward man. When we turned our back on Our Lord Crucified above His Altar and looked out on His Children we saw him less and less, and we saw ourselves and man more and more. And we began to think about man, and man’s “justice and injustice” to the point at which our mass became like a Hare Krishna group seeking personal rapture and fulfillment. In doing so we failed Our Lord and admitted to our Sanctuary men, who not evil, but are not called to the priesthood. But our failures do not justify, or demand of us silence to the evil calumny now attacking the Faith and the faithful. The vast majority of the sexual abuse is by nature and fact predatory homosexual deviancy. At the time when these evils were beginning to be revealed, we like most of man at that time mistakenly believed in the health care profession’s understanding and treatment of sexual deviancy. Sadly it was often the case where those preyed upon were of troubled background, which added further layers of Smoke that made the best intentions of secular men and priests to see the truth very difficult. We did our best to find, with Charity to all as Our Lord commanded, the Truth. And we failed. But we never intentionally, as a Church or a Faith, sought to cover up and hide evil. ….”

    Get the idea?

    All these evils are rooted in the Smoke of Satan that entered the Sanctuary.

    So Fr. Z, “his writing on the human person, this is the most important thing he did as Pope: in my opinion he averted a schism.”…. Im sorry, I dont see it that way. A schism is by definition, to steal a phrase from a very great theologian, a Charitable Anathema. Masses are filled with “Catholic faithful” who do not believe in Transubstantiation, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and would react with immediacy and “zeal”, to “save for the poor”, a handful of gold dust laid at your feet during the Mass by my hands. Yet the body of Our Lord at most Mass’ in the Latin Rite is treated with no reverence or care. No Paten’s present. But we do have young high-school and college girls, wearing short shorts and t-shirts standing beside the priest to offer His Blood to the faithful… {this is what occurred during this Sunday’s Mass at the church I attended}. You confuse a full church with God’s Church. You confuse schism with Faithfulness.

    The priesthood, the Bishops and Rome need to stop talking about the “politics”, particulars and “history” of the evils which occurred as if they were the seeds and branches of evil vines which grip the church. They need to face the Truth, that they are THE FRUIT of a Faith which has been struggling to survive in a soil and air choked by the Smoke of Satan in the Sanctuary…

    The Bishops and priests need to TURN AROUND AND FACE OUR LORD CRUCIFIED ABOVE THE ALTAR. Until this is done, there is no chance at clearing the Smoke of Satan which has filled the Sanctuary.

    It’s really that simple. It’s about the Eucharist, the priest and the Sacraments.

    In other words it’s about God Alone, not A.M.D.G.; He can and will take care of that Himself as long as, and as soon as, His priesthood returns to His Sacraments Alone.

    AMDG & may God Bless you
    HCSKnight

  60. When the Church was still strong in its identity, it’s worship, missionary zeal, works of mercy, and did I mention worship? … were its PR.

    Amen to that Father Z!

    I am a PR guy and I always believed the first thing ANY organization has to do is to KNOW itself.

    Self-knowledge goes a long way in the theater of public opinion.

  61. Peter in Canberra says:

    Dear Father, I am bemused, at least from an Australian perspective, by the thesis that John Paul II stemmed the rot by his appointment of bishops.

    Maybe the provinces of Australia were just too far away and the numbers too few for Rome to really pay attention, but the JPII appointments here were frankly a lottery. There are some good eggs and some really bad ones. We are still suffering under most of them.

  62. robtbrown says:

    Rod Dreher reminds me of a few friends too young to know what the Church was like before JPII. Proportionalism was running wild in theologates. Before the Wotyla papacy it was common for those working in formation to casually refer to when there would be women priests. And there were people told they had no vocation because they opposed the ordination of women. JPII began to turn all that around in his 1979 visit to the US. And, as we know, the problems ran so deep that it was still necessary to promulgate Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 15 years later in 1994.

    For various reasons he didn’t attempt serious reform of the liturgy, the priesthood, or religious life.

    Whether JPII deserves the Great label is problematic, but there’s little doubt that during his reign there was substantial improvement in the Church.

  63. robtbrown says:

    Also: It was JPII who brought Cardinal Ratzinger to Rome. He first offered him the job at the Congregation for Education (declined), then later at the SCDF.

  64. Henry Edwards says:

    robtbrown: For various reasons he didn’t attempt serious reform of the liturgy, the priesthood, or religious life.

    I can understand some of the explanations — in terms of his Polish background, his concern for external world affairs, etc — for Pope John Paul’s inattention to internal administration of the Church.

    However, I wonder whether you might be able to offer a good explanation of his apparent deaf ear to the liturgy — as illustrated by his personal participation in celebrations that sent very mixed messages — and a seeming neglect to put into public papal practice (despite his evident personal devotion to the Eucharist) the Vatican II view of the liturgy as source and summit of faith.

  65. Agent99 says:

    Please be aware that Rod Dreher is infamous for his hypocritical double standard. He refuses to report on notorious (and unresolved) sex abuse cases in his own communion, yet he fixates obsessively on every allegation, whether or not substantiated, that crops up in the Catholic Church.

    Example: His own erstwhile Orthodox archbishop, Dmitri Royster, has (a) harbored at least one sex offender (see pokrov.org); and (b) welcomed into the OCA (Dreher’s jurisdiction) a rogue, vagante monastery which routinely imported young Ukrainian novices for the express purpose of abusing them sexually. (At the time that Abp Dmitri received this rogue monastery, it was under police investigation: It seems one of the young Ukrainian novices, after years of sexual abuse, simply snapped — and stabbed a young nun 97 times. The case was so notorious it was chronicled in a book, Murder at Holy Cross, yet AFAIK Dreher has never so much as peeped about it. And this sick, twisted monastery is still in good standing in the OCA! Imagine Dreher’s hysterics if such a scenario had unfolded within the Catholic Church!)

    Dreher gives a lame excuse for refusing to report his own communion’s sex-abuse problems — he says he owes it to his family not to become enraged again — but I’m not buying it for one moment. His reluctance to reawaken his rage does not seem to stop him from bashing the Catholic Church at every opportunity, so whom is he kidding?

    A few years ago, the Orthodox Church in Greece was in the midst of a huge scandal involving rampant homosexuality in the hierarchy, sex abuse on a rather staggering scale, clerical drug dealing, real estate fraud, and even antiquities fencing. When Dreher was asked why he did not report on this, he responded that he was more concerned with what was happening in his own country, the USA, not some foreign nation. Yet, since then, he has posted lurid yellow-journalistic pieces with titles like “The Hot Shame of the Irish Church.” Apparently Ireland is part of the USA now. Who knew?

    Bottom line: Dreher has zero journalistic integrity or credibility; he is the Double Standard King; he has a chip on his shoulder the size of Hagia Sofia; he has morphed into an anti-Catholic bigot with a Maria Monk sensibility; and IMHO he should not be taken seriously on this subject, or any other for that matter.

    There are intelligent discussions online re the Catholic Church’s current problems. Rod Dreher’s posts are not among those discussions.

  66. Agent99 says:

    robtbrown: excellent points!

  67. cl00bie says:

    Rod Dreher indeed has issues. According to him, he left the Catholic church to become Orthodox because of “the Scandal”. He lost his faith in the Church founded by Christ because men were sinners.

    I don’t think people should be surprised if more documents surfaced showing Card. Ratzinger taking a much softer line on pedophile priests in the past than he would today

    Of course he would. Back in the 80’s, the popular wisdom was that pedophilia was a sickness which could be cured. Many of these priests were sent into therapy, and were given a clean bill of psycholocigal health by the professionals of the day. Why wouldn’t a Bishop believe that a priest so cured was no longer a threat to children and reassign him?

    Today, we know better. But it’s disingenuous at best to judge someone by today’s standards when they made decisions with the best of yesterday’s knowledge.

    I have stopped reading stories of old abuses. This is the same old story, rehashed in a new country. Our enemies in the press are trying to see if we can’t be brought down by the “death of a thousand cuts”.

    I fight these attacks in the best way I know how. By dropping to my knees with Our Lady’s beads in my hands and a prayer on my lips.

  68. Agent99 says:

    the “death of a thousand cuts”

    Perfect description/ And prfect response — the Rosary is the weapon!

  69. JonM says:

    I’ve had so many emotions warring the past few days.

    Anger at the media and evil world for whipping all of the Church for the actions of a few (while the accusers of course leave in the dark their own sins).

    Anger at the prelates who moved around abusers and to this day are not doing public pennance for their failures.

    Now this game of trying to pin everything on John Paul II. I have said on this blog what I think of his reign as Pope, but if there is an attempt to point the finger all at him, that is very unfortunate.

    But to some degree he is responsible for the problem because he did not govern as the successor to Saint Peter. How could he be so close to Marciel Marciel and yet not catch a whiff of what was happening? When does willful ignorance become malicious?

    Perhaps a schism was averted, but to what profit? I ask this seriously, because I am mixed about averting a formal break while we have depressingly low rates of

    -Mass attendance
    -Basic knowledge of the Faith and
    -Good priorities amongst young people (I think only 30% of practicing Catholics in their 20s say marriage is ‘a priority’)

    I am a year old convert from personal Protestantism/spiritualism (i.e. ‘It’s all about Me’-ism). I came into the Novus Ordo and feel robbed of the beautiful patrimony of the Church.

    I look in vain for the ‘springtime.’ I am sick of the apologies for Vatican II (e.g., ‘the Council was GREAT! It was just twisted a little afterwards.’)

    And I know many have a strong devotion to the late John Paul II, but I cannot find, aside from Father’s very good assessment that schism was averted and the tide (slowly) reversed, the great fruits of the 80s and 90s elude me.

    But John Paul II’s failure to govern was not the root of the abuse. The culprit was Modernism, the demon that Pope Paul VI inexplicably stopped pursuing.

    But as Christ said, the past is dead. The important thing is moving forward.

    -Ban homosexuals period from the Priesthood and seminaries. Yank them out with Swiss Guards if needed; words without action are empty.

    -Remove heretical Cardinals and Bishops, and empower good Bishops to enforce the Catholic faith on the faithful (e.g. need for Confession, kneel before God, real liturgies)

    -Punish those like Cardinal Law with public penance and a life of reflective prayer at monestaries

    We need to rediscover our Catholic identity. We are apart of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are soldiers in a spiritual battle and are tasked with winning as many souls as we can. And that means converting Jews, Protestants, and pagans.

    Until we get back to this, the Church will continue to decline. Priests will continue to skitz out. And the world will still continue to hate us.

  70. JonM says:

    @RobBrown,

    True enough that in some respects we stepped back from the brink with John Paul II. However, there seemed to be knack for, with every correct orthodox teaching (which a Pope is only capable of), there was flare to pander to the dissenters.

    ‘Woman cannot be priests. Ever.’ That’s good, but why in the world announce that girls can serve at the Altar? All that does is 1) Make it seem like woman could be ordained 2) Tease girls with the false hope of being a Priestess one day and 3) Most importantly, take boys and young men at a crucial stage in their biological development and press them against girls who have biologically flowered. Translation: fewer vocations to the Priesthood.

    I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Cardinal Siri were elected Pope. I just got an idea for an alternative history serial!

  71. ssoldie says:

    Now let me ask, how many Catholics know what went on at the ‘council from Jonh XXIII,up and through Paul VI? Were they aware of the encyclicals of Leo XIII, or Pius X? I have always wondered why the shema on contraception was ever brought up as we had “Casti Connubii”, the encyclical letter of Pius XI. Its clear, outspoken teaching on marital indissolubility and o the evil of contracption makes it a landmark in the Church’s doctrine on the sanctiiy of marriage. Vatican II built upon it, NUTS. We have a modern contraceptive culture in the Church, for we can use N.F.P., rythem, temperature. but I truly wonder how many ” Modern Catholic Couples” use these methods during their married lives? Of course with Humane Vitae came also to use these natural forms of contriception to also “space”, or “limit” for “grave reasons”. I have asked priest what are grave reasons, they do not want to answer or ignore the question, or direct you to the Shepherd of the diocese. And we have all witnessed just what our shepherds have been neglecting for, low these many years, the leading our souls to heaven, but using ambiguos language to make all feel good about themselves, ‘I’m o.k. your o.k.” We don’t judge” ” What is truth” . Lets face it, what really are the fruits of Vatican II???? I would suggest reading Michael Davies books. These might just help you to understand just what went on from 1960 to 1970. Why is it that the Church cannot admit that Vatican II was and is a bad thing for the Church of Christ?

  72. Geoffrey says:

    “Why is it that the Church cannot admit that Vatican II was and is a bad thing for the Church of Christ?”

    Because it wasn’t and isn’t.

  73. Agent99 says:

    Must-read:

    http://ow.ly/1uS1c

    And a question for Rod Dreher:

    Rod, what exactly has *your* church done to prevent clergy sex abuse of minors?

    [sound of crickets chirping]

  74. JonM says:

    “Why is it that the Church cannot admit that Vatican II was and is a bad thing for the Church of Christ?”

    Because it wasn’t and isn’t.[!]

    Precisely the problem we are dealing with. If we take this mindset, we can forget clawing out of the ditch.

    The only lasting good thing out of VII is that it served as a true test of Christ’s promise against defection. In this regard, VII is quite pedagogic and proves the faith, in my opinion

    Great commentary on Mr. Dreher. If he were to follow through with his logic, he would have to jump to Sufism or some such ‘more mystical, pure form of worship’ because the Orthodox Churches are chock-full of sin.

    Talk to some Orthodox about divorce and birth control and you are sure to witness an apoplectic spasm about 1204 (which will undoubtedly leave out the pesky details of Orthodox selling out and attacking the Latin Catholics a few short years before…)

    Can you tell I’m tired of lectures from pots and kettles?

  75. A Sinner 2 says:

    Because it wasn’t and isn’t.
    Comment by Geoffrey

    The loss of (tens? hundreds?) of millions of formerly devout souls wasn’t and isn’t?

  76. Geoffrey says:

    “Precisely the problem we are dealing with. If we take this mindset, we can forget clawing out of the ditch.”

    The true Spirit of Vatican II (hermeneutic of continuity) and the false Spirit of Vatican II (usurped by progressives and downright heretics) must be differentiated if we are to “claw out of the ditch”.

    We all need to “get back to basics” and re-examine the documents of the Council in the light of Sacred Tradition, and then re-read the writings of Pope John Paul the Great, which, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “are a rich treasure, the authentic interpretation of Vatican II” (16 October 2005).

  77. TonyLayne says:

    Anyway, before we get into yet another replay of the “good Council-bad Council” argument ….

    Father Z., I enjoyed your “Godfather” riff enormously. Who knows? perhaps it was a couple of noticeably well-tailored monsignori who persuaded Cdl. Mahoney to not only accept Bp. Gomez, but to do so with entusiasmo. I just wonder, though: Who do Douthat and Dreher expect B16 to shoot pour l’encourager les autres? Most of the bishops with notable ties to sexual scandal are already out of their seats or, like Mahoney, close enough to retirement to make forced resignation anti-climactic. And many other MSM idiots will only be satisfied with His Holiness’ own head on the proverbial platter. (Have you folks read about Dawkins and Hitchens cooking up a scheme to have him arrested during his trip to Merrie England? Who said the British have given up blood sports?)

    The fact is, the house-cleaning is underway, albeit at the arthritically slow, methodical pace normal to the Vatican. I realize I’m restating your question, but what do they want … a weekly “reality” show where B16 goes into an archdiocese, does a superficial investigation and holds a kangaroo court (no offense, Peter in Canberra)?

    … Y’know, I think that’s what they do want: A reality show, since real reality isn’t dramatic enough. (By the way, since I published the thought here, I claim copyright.)

  78. TonyLayne: You reminded me of something I have wanted to know and continue to wonder, if this is not “going down a rabbit hole” (forgive me and delete me if I am, Fr.Z): Why do the MSM and NCReporter talk about Card. Law “getting out” of responsibility for his role in the abuse coverup by being put in St Mary Major Basilica in Rome? How is that giving him a “promotion” or “covering up”? I would think this is a “putting out to pasture” so to speak…I mean the man doesn’t have any real authority; when have we heard him speak about anything; how is this any kind of approval by the Holy Father, the Holy See? It makes no sense to me.

  79. Agent99 says:

    Nazareth Priest, I have often wondered the same thing. it struck me, also, as “putting out to pasture.”

    Also, the folks calling for Cardinal Law’s head on a platter seem to forget that he was not himself a child molester. They talk as if he belongs behind bars. That is nuts. He was an enabler; he covered up; but he was not himself a perp. What he did was bad enough, but I guess I don’t see where it warrants jail time.

    There are enablers and cover-uppers aplenty in other communions, but no one calls for *their* heads on platters. Instead, people focus on punishing the actual perps.

    Please understand that I am not in any way justifying Cardinal Law’s coverups. But I do think a distinction needs to be made between covering up and actually committing molestation. The former is bad enough, but the latter is exponentially worse. Just my two cents’ worth.

  80. robtbrown says:

    True enough that in some respects we stepped back from the brink with John Paul II.

    I never said that we stepped back from the brink.

    However, there seemed to be knack for, with every correct orthodox teaching (which a Pope is only capable of), there was flare to pander to the dissenters.

    Not necessarily pander, but I do think they were too often treated with kid gloves.

    ‘Woman cannot be priests. Ever.’ That’s good, but why in the world announce that girls can serve at the Altar? All that does is 1) Make it seem like woman could be ordained 2) Tease girls with the false hope of being a Priestess one day and 3) Most importantly, take boys and young men at a crucial stage in their biological development and press them against girls who have biologically flowered. Translation: fewer vocations to the Priesthood.

    I agree about the altar girl decision (except there was no announcement). I cannot defend JPII on it. IMHO, he decided to defend dogma but compromise on non dogmatic issues. Of course, some of us think that among those non dogmatic issues are structures that themselves protect dogma.

    I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Cardinal Siri were elected Pope. I just got an idea for an alternative history serial!
    Comment by JonM

    I don’t think Cardinal Siri would have been a good pope.

  81. Widukind says:

    Are we better off now, than we were 30 years ago? By far we are better off. Having been ordained 25+ years, reflecting back on my seminary days and early priesthood, it is today a different world. Back then I wondered if the Church would ever survive, let alone recover. In those days, to make it known that you agreed with John Paul II, was a heavy mark against you. Any nostalgic inkling about pre-Vatican II stuff would have gotten you labled as “mental”. Yes, there was talk of schism and it was a viable option. As well, everyone, especially bishops along with the hipster pastors and professors, became their own pontiff and magisterium. Somehow they alone had the correct interpretation, the right vision of the future, and the solid nuanced Spirit-led teaching. Yes, the time of these holy gurus was quite chaotic, the barn doors were thrown open, and the looney birds were coming in to nest. Amongst these, those who were the most liberal were usually the most promiscuous regardless as to what flavor one preferred. If such would not listen to the authority of the Church in doctrine why would you expect them to pay heed to her morals? Trying to be orthodox and Catholic was not an easy thing, and at times one paid heavy for it. As the years went on, if one observed carefully, step by step, John Paul was changing the lay of the land – yes a few bishops here, a few bishops there; a stronger teaching here, a clarification there; and everywhere enthusiasm. Yes, the forces were against him, but he plodded along in the right direction. What he exemplified in the sufferings of his last years, ever urging himself on, was what he was tried to do his whole pontificate. His suffering of his last years was not caused by illness alone, but by the devastation that he endured fighting evil, especially in the Church? It is wise for us to stop our nibbling and pinching about his motives or character. Not one of could have done a better job. Could he have cleared house with one fell swoop? Yes, but it would not have been lasting. Brick by brick, he was laying a new foundation, and at times his bricks were not necessarily the best. That did not stop him from building. The sun of hope was beginning to shine, and its warmth was welcome. I remember the tangible sense of joy and of a brighter future that was beginning to overtake the earlier days of gloom. John Paul was the right man in the right place at the right time. And so is Benedict. What John Paul accomplished, Benedict is building upon. Have a little humility, and you will begin to see the hand of God in their pontificates and see the blessing each has brought. Whatsoever you do, do not heap on them your expectations to be all-perfect, all-seeing, all-powerful like our Lord Jesus Christ, because in the end you will crucify them as well on the cross of your arrogant pride. Remember John Paul and Benedict are fellow pilgrims. We are on the same road with the same human nature. We surely need them and they need us. Yes, after 25+ years I am now excited for the Church, and can as well see the joy and excitement of others who also “get it” about Benedict and the Church. Ours must be patient hope! “Git-ur-dun” – “brick by brick”!

  82. PostCatholic says:

    These were an interesting read. I wish Dreher had saved his post-script for another article. I agree–anyone who thinks Benedict XVI is a micromanager knows less than nothing about the man or his thirty-year career in the Vatican.

    The “single red hat” would be a nice start. And logistical problems or no, it is a fair point that years and years have passed and a lot of bishops who ought to removed are still enthroned.

  83. robtbrown says:

    I can understand some of the explanations—in terms of his Polish background, his concern for external world affairs, etc—for Pope John Paul’s inattention to internal administration of the Church.

    However, I wonder whether you might be able to offer a good explanation of his apparent deaf ear to the liturgy—as illustrated by his personal participation in celebrations that sent very mixed messages—and a seeming neglect to put into public papal practice (despite his evident personal devotion to the Eucharist) the Vatican II view of the liturgy as source and summit of faith.
    Comment by Henry Edwards

    I can offer no explanation.

  84. Agent99 says:

    Widukind — Father, thank you for such a lovely post. As an old fogeyess, I think I know exactly what you’re talking about, even though I (obviously) never had to endure persecution in a progressive seminary.

    But, gosh, my own parish proves your point. Twenty years ago, it was Liturgical Abuse Central. When I once, tentatively and deferentially, asked the music ministry leader whether we could *occasionally* sing something traditional (i.e., not out of *Glory and Praise*), his response was a gruff “No!” — which frankly took my breath away. Today we sing traditional stuff all the time, including Latin responses (unthinkable 20 years ago), and the Tabernacle is back in its rightful place, front and center, rather than hidden from view Lord knows where.

    The tide began turning during JPII’s reign, and anyone who experienced the Church “beore and after” knows it. Has the reform of the reform accelerated under Benedict? Absolutely. But the fact remains that it began under JPII — and that immense progress was made during JPII’s pontificate.

  85. Hidden One says:

    I admit my happiness that the commenters here are not the bishops of the USCCB.

    “The trouble is that everyone talks about reforming others and no one thinks about reforming himself.” — St. Peter of Alcantara

  86. Agent99 says:

    “Whatsoever you do, do not heap on them your expectations to be all-perfect, all-seeing, all-powerful like our Lord Jesus Christ, because in the end you will crucify them as well on the cross of your arrogant pride.”

    Thank you!! I have heard many people say that the Catholic Church must be held to a higher standard because she makes such extraordinary claims. Fair enough, but the Catholic-bashers take this waaaaay too far, demanding a level of perfection from our church leaders that neither they themselves nor their own church leaders could achieve in a million years.

    Last night I read an interview by a Greek-American newspaper of the Greek Orthodox (in America) Metropolitan. The newspaper, to its credit, was drilling the Metropolitan re the GOA’s egregious mishandling of clergy sex-abuse cases. The Metropolitan’s brush-off responses must be read to be believed. At one point, asked whether the GOA should apologize to the victims, the Metropolitan said, flatly, “No.” His reason? The victims had already sued and been paid off, so that was apology enough. (!!!) Imagine if *any* Catholic prelate had ever said such a thing. Dreher would be all over it like a dust-cover. Yet, per Dreher et al., the Catholic Church can never apologize enough, never atone enough, never grovel enough, never chop off enough episcopal heads, never wear enough sackcloth and ashes, never parse its words carefully enough, never prove itself “reformed” enough to meet Dreher’s insane criteria.

    Please understand that I am not minimizing the scandal or the pain of the victims. (My own mom was molested at age five — NOT by a priest, BTW — so don’t even go there.) But I am so sick of the hypocrisy, the highly selective indignation, and the double standards. IMHO, people like Dreher do not give two flips about the victims. If they did, they would care about *all* the victims, not just about those whose molesters were Catholic priests.

  87. PostCatholic says:

    Yet, per Dreher et al., the Catholic Church can never apologize enough, never atone enough, never grovel enough, never chop off enough episcopal heads, never wear enough sackcloth and ashes, never parse its words carefully enough, never prove itself “reformed” enough to meet Dreher’s insane criteria.

    For this basher, it would be enough if it got started chopping off those episcopal heads. It is an outrage that liars and scoundrels like Law, Egan, Banks, Daily, Curtiss, etc remain in positions of influence and authority. The church could also make a sincere and full admission of its guilt. Instead we get dribs and drabs and half-gestures that show that the Church simply doesn’t understand what it’s done wrong.

  88. Agent99 says:

    PC, can you please provide examples of those “dribs and drabs and half-gestures that show that the Church simply doesn’t understand what it’s done wrong”?

    I frankly don’t know what you’re talking about. Did you read the pope’s address to the Irish church?

    Are you sincerely concerned with the victims — ALL victims? Or are you more concerned with extracting your pound of flesh from the Church you apparently loathe?

    This is a sincere question! ;)

  89. Dittos, Agent 99. You got there before I did!
    I do really want to know, PostCatholic, what else needs to be done?
    Sincerely.

  90. MichaelJ says:

    Randii

    I agree with you – to a point. There are those who would argue (and put forth a compelling argument I might add), for example that while it does not directly address Faith and Morals, the Pope’s preference for Velveeta on his grilled cheese sandwich is somehow binding on the conscience of the faithful since it tangentially touches and article of secondary infallibility.

    When you wrote “My point was that too many have accepted the infallible teaching in faith and morals when historically it’s simply not born out – the three Popes I mentioned for instance.” though you seemed to be going far beyond rejection of these types of arguments. Instead, you seemed to be considering the Pope as simply one among many Bishops, much like the Eastern Orthodox do. Actually, you seemed to be going even further than that and rejecting the idea of infallibility outright. Did i misread your comments?

  91. robtbrown says:

    It is interesting that this questioning of the Pope’s role is coming at a time of greater effort towards Orthodox and Catholic reunion. I think if that ever happens it means a new re-evaluated understanding of the role of the Papacy. My guess is the resolution will be much closer to the Orthodox understanding than the more recent Catholic understanding.

    The “more recent Catholic understanding” goes back at least to St Clement in the fourth century.

    I think recent Popes and too much of the laity have forgotten that Mt. 16: 18 applies to the church and not the Pope. One only has to look at Popes Liberius, Marcellus and Honorius to see that Popes have taught or practiced heretical things at times.

    Christ addresses Peter himself. It is not for nothing that the papal office is referred to as the Petrine ministry.

    And you seem to assume that the Church and the pope are mutually exclusive. Post Apostolic Infallibility is given to the Church through the pope.

    A new book titled a History of The popes makes this very argument. It’s by an orthodox priest and has been favorably reviewd in “right wing” Catholic publications like Lay Witness.
    Comment by Randii

    John O’Malley is a well known liberal Jesuit. I do, however, agree with him that Presbyterorum Ordinis is an inadequate presentation of the Catholic priesthood.

  92. DHippolito says:

    Criticizing Rod Dreher for “hypocrisy” is nothing but an uncharitable cheap shot. What if you had to stomach the kind of disgusting revelations that he did during his investigative reporting? What if you had children whom you entrusted to the Church for spiritual nurturing? What if your own parish was involved in this garbage? What would you do?

    Dumping on Dreher, the Orthodox churches or the other parties who exposed this filth will not solve anything. Referring the New York Times as “Hell’s Bible” will not solve anything.

    The only thing — the only thing — that matters, ultimately, is God’s opinion, not yours, mine or anybody else’s. If you want to know what God’s opinion is, read Ezekiel 34, 1 Samuel 2, Matthew 23, 1 Corinthians 5 and Revelation 2-3.

    If the Catholic Church really has “the fullness of the Gospel,” then God will judge the Church far more severely than many of you might want to admit. Remember, judgement first comes to the House of God. If the Church is to confront this problem adequately, that fact must take precedence over any and all other considerations and agendas.

    It’s not just the bishops and priests I’m talking about. I’m including all of you lay people who are so infatuated with your Catholic identity that it takes precedence over humility before God and comprehending the demands of His righteousness!

    Regardless of who did what to whom, who should have known better, who the better Pope was or any other considerations, the Church has dragged God’s name and His people through the sewer not only by allowing sexual abuse by clerics to continue for as long as it has, but also for valuing institutional self-protection over genuine compassion for the victims and submission to God’s righteousness!!

    We just came out of celebrating Holy Week, in which Christ was put on the cross by the religious authorities of His day. Whom do you think Christ would support in this whole mess: the innocent victims or the perpetrators and the ecclesiastical bureaucrats who enabled them? And if He supports the former, what do you think He would do about the latter?

  93. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m sick of having Vatican II slapped in my face over everything. The usable and coherent parts of that council need to take their place alongside the parts of the other councils that we kept (yes, you heard me right). How will they know which parts are the usable & coherent ones? They’re the ones that don’t contradict previous councils, of course. The non-usable and non-coherent parts need to go the way of the first 41 sessions of the Council of Constance and the last part of the Council of Basle.

  94. Widukind says:

    Agent99 –
    Thank you for your comments.

  95. Agent99 says:

    DHippolito: Spare me. If you were really so concerned about the victims, you’d care about ALL victims, not just those molested by Catholic priests. That includes victims of Orthodox priests, Methodist ministers, Baptist preachers, Boy Scout leaders, public school teachers, you name it.

    The Catholic Church is doing a thousand times more to protect kids than any other communion on earth, including Dreher’s extremely non-transparent OCA. If it’s really all about the kids, then you and Dreher should spend just as much time and energy deploring sex abuse in other communions and institutions as you do decrying abuse in the Catholic Church. The fact that you fixate obsessively on Catholic cases while ignoring other cases tells me very clearly that you do not really give a flip about the victims.

    Agent99, daughter of a victim

  96. Agent99 says:

    Father Widukind, you’re welcome — and thanks for *your* comments!

  97. DHippolito says:

    Agent 99, do you seriously believe that God gives a stinking damn about the denominational affiliation of clergy who sexually molest the innocent and the clergy’s superiors who protect them? Do you realize that having the “fullness of the Gospel” implies certain obligations as well as privleges?

    Finally, do you deny the truth of anything I’ve said?

    I’m sorry your father or mother was abused. I was, as well (though not in a church, school or family situation). But so many Catholics are taking the tack you’re taking not because they truly care about the victims, let alone God, but because they view it as their moral duty to cover the posteriors of their spiritual “superiors.”

    What does God really want? The Prophet Micah said it best: To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Has the Catholic Church really done all those things concerning this crisis, at least up until now? Would the Church have done anything if public pressure weren’t brought to bear upon it?

    I have been a Catholic since my baptism as an infant. I take my approach because God demands His people to put moral considerations above group identity. Too many Catholics do not — or refuse to — understand that.

    So what if the bishops are successors to the apostles? Do you know what God says about corrupt spiritual leadership? Read Ezekiel 34, I Samuel 2, Matthew 23 and Revelation 2-3.

    Dreher is not the issue. The Orthodox or any other church is not the issue. The public schools are not the issue. If we Catholics do not demand better from those who claim to hold authority in God’s name, then we will be judged by God for cooperating with and enabling evil.

    If we do not, then the Catholic Church becomes nothing but a European version of Scientology, with medievalist re-enactors substituting for L. Ron Hubbard and his Sea Orgs. Do we really want that? Do you think a holy, righteous God really wants that?

  98. Henry Edwards says:

    The difference between the Catholic Church and most other churches, institutions, and areas of society is that this problem lies in the past of the Catholic Church, but in the present of the others. For instance–in the U.S. Catholic Church with 68 million members and 45 thousand priests — in 2009 there were 6 credible cases under stringent requirements that all credible accusations be reported.

    That’s 1 case for every 11.33 million men, women, and children in the Church; 1 case for every 7500 priests.

    That’s 0.000009% of all U.S. Catholics abused by 0.013% of all U.S. Catholic priests. Every single case is a human and moral tragedy, but otherwise the statistical incidence of abuse in the U.S. Church would be called statistically insignificant.

  99. Agent99 says:

    DHippolito; I completely disagree. The Orthodox and the public schools most certainly ARE the issue — because *the kids are the issue.*

    Do you care about the kids, or don’t you? If you care about the kids, then you will fight to protect them *no matter WHO their would-be molesters are.*

    That goes for Dreher, too. If he really cares about the victims, then he will be as angry, as outspoken, when kids are abused by Orthodox priests or public school teachers as he is when they are abused by Catholic priests. Yet he isn’t. He barely peeps about sex abuse unless the perps are Catholic. And he has gone on record as saying that he will NOT say Word One about Orthodox sex abuse, no matter how horrible the abuse may be. Not only is this hypocritical to the nth power, it also shows clearly that he does not give a flip about the kids.

    Do you think kids who are abused by Methodist ministers or Orthodox priests are one whit less victimized and traumatized than those who are abused by Catholic priests? Of course not. Victims are victims. Abuse is abuse. Trauma is trauma. If you and Dreher really care about the victims, you will put your money where your mouth is and stand up for ALL victims, against ALL perps and enablers — even when (gasp) said perps and enablers aren’t Catholic.

    If you and Dreher refuse to do this, then IMHO you have zero credibility. And you cannot claim to care about the kids.

  100. Agent99 says:

    Henry Edwards: Excellent points. Thank you.

  101. Agent99 says:

    Oh, another thing. Just thought of this. When “journalists” like Dreher give the impression that All Sexual Abuse Is Perpetrated by Catholic Clergy, then, in a sense, *they* become enablers. They enable all the non-Catholic perps to fly under the radar screen…which, in turn, enables these non-Catholic perps to molest unhindered, confident that society’s attention has been diverted away from them….

    Which may have something to do with the fact that non-Catholic churches now have a higher incidence of sex abuse than the Catholic Church has…not to mention the fact that public schools have a HUGELY higher incidence of sex abuse.

    P.S. As the daughter of a sex-abuse victim (who was repeatedly molested at age five by a NON-priest), I really resent this implication that victims do not count unless their cases conveniently feed and stoke the anti-Catholic feeding frenzy. All victims matter–which means all perps should be brought to account, even when they’re not Catholic.

  102. DHippolito says:

    Agent 99, let’s try this again:

    1. Do you seriously believe that God cares about the denominational affiliation of clergy who sexually molest the innocent and the clergy’s superiors who protect them?

    1a. (New question) Or does He care about the victimization of the innocent and the ill repute that clergy and their superiors have given His holy, righteous name?

    2. Do you realize that having the “fullness of the Gospel” implies certain obligations as well as privleges? (That’s why I say that Dreher, the Orthodox, etc. aren’t the issues)

    3. Do you deny the truth of anything I’ve said?

    You and other Catholics are focusing on the wrong things. You are focusing on how the church has been “hurt” by the secular media, “anti-Catholics,” etc. You are not focused on what a holy, righteous God demands from ALL who claim to follow His Son, regardless of what church they belong to!

    Quite frankly, the Catholics who complain the loudest about how the Pope and the Church have been “unjustly accused” should just “man up,” stop acting like whiny, spoiled children and imitate the Pope they claim to love:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100415/ap_on_re_eu/eu_church_abuse

    Apparently, the Pope thinks repentence is not a bad thing. How about you, Agent 99, et al?

  103. Agent99 says:

    dHippolito–you are the one who’s not getting it. *It’s about the kids.* And, if it’s about the kids, then it’s about ALL the kids, not just the ones molested by Catholic priests.

    But, as you have become insulting and abusive, you are welcome to have the last word. I’m done.

  104. BenYachov says:

    >Criticizing Rod Dreher for “hypocrisy” is nothing but an uncharitable cheap shot.

    I reply: In JoeSpeak “charity” is something everyone owes to him & his anti-Catholic buddies but neither he nor his confederates(like Dreher) owe to anyone else.

    This is largely because both Joe & Rod can dish it out, but as experience has shown me neither can take it.
    Newsflash Joe! If either you or Rod can criticize church officials for their grievous failings neither of you gets a pass when you do the same thing. You have no right to bash JP2 & demand the church be treated mercilessly by her enemies or cast aspersions on the past Pope’s character for not dealing with Marcel but Rod is given a pass when he turns a blind eye to Dmitri Royster omissions because he “doesn’t want to get mad at the orthodox”.

    That is unjust & hypocritical and trying to change the subject to avoid that brute fact is not something I will let you get away with anytime soon.

    >What if you had to stomach the kind of disgusting revelations that he did during his investigative reporting? What if you had children whom you entrusted to the Church for spiritual nurturing?

    I reply: Your saying this to a woman whose own Mother was sexually abused? Do you even realize that or are you so busy being self-righteous to notice that fact? Rod has no excuse for his apostasy. His only recourse is to repent & return to the Ark of Salvation the Church. He has no excuse for his hypocrisy he has to stop doing it.

    >What if your own parish was involved in this garbage? What would you do?

    I reply: Yes I’m so sure Agent99’s mother must have be relieved that the person who molested her wasn’t a priest & the local parish wasn’t covering up for him/her. What a comfort.

    I’ll deal with more of you logical fallacies later.

  105. Agent 99: I’m in complete solidarity with you and all you have written. “Insulting and abusive” is absolutely right. Why can’t we discuss these matters without the attacks on each other?

  106. BenYachov says:

    I won’t start a fight but I will finish one. Church officials need to face their sins but THAT (contrary to the opinions of some) does not mean they surrender the right to be treated justly. Just because God made the Babylonians his instrument of Justice against Israel for Her sins does not give any Israelite the right to open the gates of the city to allow the invaders in instead of manning the walls.

  107. DHippolito says:

    Agent 99 and BenYachov, if speaking the truth is “insulting and abusive,” then you really have no idea what those words mean — especially if you insult and abuse Rod Dreher for telling the truth. Talk about hypocrisy! You give yourselves the right to insult and abuse anyone who disagrees with you but when people tell you the truth, then you claim “victimization.”

    You have no right to bash JP2 & demand the church be treated mercilessly by her enemies or cast aspersions on the past Pope’s character for not dealing with Marcel.

    First, any Pope who ignored allegations that a well-known priest was habitually molesting boys — or did not allow the head of CDF to investigate — deserves to have his moral character questions. Yes, I know the late Pope knew the about the Communists’ attempts to defame Polish priests but the Universal Church is not Poland! Even a CCD student knows that!

    As far as “the Church being treated mercilessly” is concerned, Ben, do you realize that the Church treated a holy, righteous God and His people mercilessly by refusing to confront this problem far earlier than it has, thereby dragging His name, His people and His vocations through the sewer for the sake of institutional self-protection?

    And, no, the Orthodox don’t get off easily from God, either. But since this is not an Orthodox forum, the Orthodox are irreelevant. They are just a convenient foil for people like you, Ben, who want to blind their eyes to the extent that “Holy Mother Church” has prostituted itself.

    As far as my questions to Agent 99 go, she has yet to answer them. Your emotional “defense” (which is nothing but your cowardly attempt to hide behind her pain) does not answer them, either.

    Just because God made the Babylonians his instrument of Justice against Israel for Her sins does not give any Israelite the right to open the gates of the city to allow the invaders in instead of manning the walls.

    Well, according to Jeremiah, the Israelites weren’t supposed to “man the walls” but to submit to avoid further destruction as a result of God’s justice!

  108. DHippolito says:

    BTW, BenYahov, you have yet to present any coherent, rational counterpoints to mine. Yet, given your history with me, that’s just what I would expect.

  109. BenYahov: My advice: Don’t feed the troll…given to me on another post!:<)! Say a prayer instead!

  110. DHippolito says:

    Well, nazareth priest and Ben Yachov, before you go off any further, let me post this link to an April 15 column in the Wall Street Journal written by Peggy Noonan — no Maureen Dowd, she — about the sex-abuse crisis, past and present, and the moral issue that the Church still faced:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304510004575186451300061536.html

    Be not deceived. God is not mocked. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Do you really want Rome to experience such a thing?

  111. DHippolito says:

    One more thing: Here’s a comment by one “Roland de Chanson” regarding Noonan’s column. The next time you want to bash Dreher — including you, Fr. Z — keep this comment in mind:

    Why is Bernard Law still mitred and ringed, as Peggy Noonan puts it? Because he knows a lot of secrets. He had his price for resigning his Boston see, he demanded it and he got it. There is no chance of removing him since he can only be removed by the pope…It is Law and his ilk who have given scandal — in the theological sense of the term. If the squalor he perpetuated prevents you, for example, from considering conversion, or destroys Rod’s faith in Catholicism, as it did, then Law has compounded his other sins with the sin of scandal … The hubris of the clerical class is the most morally culpable of all.

  112. BenYachov says:

    What is double-think? It’s from Orwell’s 1984. It’s the ability to hold two contradictory concepts in one mind & accepting both as true.

    For example:

    >Agent 99 and BenYachov, if speaking the truth is “insulting and abusive,” then you really have no idea what those words mean—

    Vs.

    >Criticizing Rod Dreher for “hypocrisy” is nothing but an uncharitable cheap shot.

    So which is it? Because Joe really can’t make up his mind & I’m far too intelligent to get off track by following his various irrelevant tangents or to bother schooling him in his misunderstands of Jeremiah.

    It is part of Joe’s MO to misdirect, misdirect, misdirect…..etc & simply not get the point. Which is why he is so entertaining.

    >any Pope who ignored allegations that a well-known priest was habitually molesting boys—or did not allow the head of CDF to investigate—deserves to have his moral character questions

    I reply: But if Rod Dreher does it & it’s pointed out, such accusations become “uncharitable”. gotcha.;-)

    DHippolito no rational being should take you seriously. Clean up your own act & maybe we will listen….maybe.

    >As far as my questions to Agent 99 go, she has yet to answer them. Your emotional “defense” (which is nothing but your cowardly attempt to hide behind her pain) does not answer them, either.

    I reply: Your concern for her pain is evident for all to see. It’s as underwhelming as it is touching. Plus your clear bravery in saying a women who is intimately acquainted with sexual abuse first hand is somehow “acting like whiny, spoiled child” sure puts a mere coward like me to shame.

    After all these years DHippolito you still haven’t lost your comic appeal. :-)

  113. BenYachov says:

    BTW theologically speaking nothing can “destroy” Rod’s faith(or anybody’s faith) but Rod(i.e. themselves). Cardinal Law didn’t destroy his Faith. Rod committed spiritual suicide & he alone is responsible and encouraging his soul destroying apostasy doesn’t do him any favors.

  114. BenYachov says:

    >BTW, BenYahov, you have yet to present any coherent, rational counterpoints to mine.

    I reply: I can’t present a coherent, rational proof of why 2+2=5 either. So I remain unimpressed. :-)

  115. Fr. Z.: PLEASE end this, now?

  116. BenYachov says:

    DHippolito is “original” too. No seriously I’m flattered he steals my lines. One should only steal from the best. LOL!

  117. BenYachov says:

    >Fr. Z.: PLEASE end this, now?

    I reply: If you ask then I will honor your request. I’m outtie.

    Your lucky DHippolito. Lucky boy.

  118. BenYachov: You are winning the battle; but, darnnit, I started to see blood (on both of you!), and I can’t stand that!:<)!

  119. I will ban from this blog anyone who continues with an uncivil tone in the combox.