Brazil: Benedict beats brother bishops black n’ blue


Yesterday the Holy Father beat the stuffing out of the bishops in São Paolo. 

They are about to fire up their plenary meeting of the CELAM (all the Latin American bishops conferences).  I posted the text of the Pope’s address (after it was delivered) in the Cathedral of São Paolo, here, adding my emphases.

How has all this been seen in the Italian press?  

First, remember that today, 12 May, is "Family Day", which is a huge demonstration in Rome on the part of Catholic lay groups with the backing of the Italian Church in favor of the traditional family and against homosexual unions. Over 1,000,000 people are expected to show up at St. John Lateran for the pro-family demonstration.  The bad guys (Communists, Socialists, anarchists and moral deviants) will be meeting under my window in the Navona.  Legislation for civil unions without sex distinction was introduced here some time ago and there is a war going on, leading even to death threats against the President of the Italian Bishops Conference.  The problem is the ambiguous categories introduced for consideration: the legislation for "civil unions" makes no distinction for sex: they can be normal, in the heterosexual sense, or not.

Also, don’t forget the dust up over the Pope’s remarks on the papal airplane ride to Brazil.

With that in mind, let’s see the Italian press on the beatin’ of the bishops in Brazil:

Franca Giansoldati in Il Messaggero (12 May) leads off with the headline quoting the Pope: "You can’t commit crimes against life in the name of individual freedom".  Starting with a bang: "The Church has no more time to waste.  If it does not rapidly start up an evangelization both ‘methodical and finely tuned (capillare), able to the disobedient back to the fold, to make Christ known to those who still don’t know Him, to teach virtues of the faith to Catholics, it is fated to an inexorable slow decline.   The greatest challenge is the defense of life and the family."  She observes that the Pope’s speech was address not just to Brazilian bishops, but also European.  "Since setting foot in Brazil he has not ceased denouncing abortion and the weakening of the institution of marriage."  "His tone was particularly severe… Papa Ratzinger’s disappointment (amarezza) is great" ‘How can we not feel sadness in our souls?’" "It was a very hard address, among the toughest of his pontificate".  Giansoldati picked up the distinction of challenges ad extra and ad intra.  She brings up the issue of liturgy, "without too many interpretations motivated by ‘rationalistic ideologies’".  "The straight path with help Christians find themselves and to escape, in Latin America, the proselytism of sects and resolve the social problems of the continent."  Giansoldati brings to the fore the problem of Christian politicians.  They are dealing not only with economic factors.  She also mentions Benedict’s warning about the Mass Media, made in his canonization homily that same day.

The slithery Marco Politi of La Repubblica (12 May) said: "In a speech of extraordinary pessimism Benedict XVI paints an a evil world that assails the faith and even attacks priestly celibacy.  In the cathedral of Saint Paul the Pope spoke to the Brazilian episcopate, but his black tinged speech went far beyond.  It applies to Latin America, Europe, Italy where the ecclesiastical hierarchy is working directly with its men to impede a law for same sex unions ("coppie di fatto")."  Politi applies nearly hysterical images to describe Benedict’s realistic address: "The blame rests aways with modern society and its four apocalyptic horsemen: agnoticism, relativism, laicism, consumerism, the destroyers of traditional biblical moral values.  Rather, there is a fifth: the Mass Media."  Politi describes the Pope’s warnings during the Mass of Canonization for frei Galvao about the media.  He notes that someone in the Brazilian press broke the embargo on the Pope’s sermon hours before permission for its release.  On the other hand, people (politicians, etc.) in Brazil pretty much knew what to expect from the Pope even before reading the sermon.  An interesting and probably accurate observation on Politi’s part, however, is his statement that "The Pope knows exactly what he is saying."  That is to say, what the Pope says isn’t an accident.  Some here in Italy are suggesting that the Pope maybe didn’t know what the reaction would be in, say, Regensburg.  I don’t believe that for a moment, of course. It seems Politi doesn’t either, at least in the case of Brazil.  Still, Politi seems obsessed with the sexual issues in the Pope’s address to the bishop, coming back again and again to the issue of celibacy, the obligation of bishops not to promote actively homosexual candidates to the priesthood ("avoid the risk of deviations in the sphere of sexuality" as the Pope put it), abortion and same sex unions.  Politi also continues to confuse the issue of "excommunications" in Mexico over the decriminalization of abortion: there aren’t excommunications but Politi continues to say there were.  He regularly paints the Pope, whom he calls "Ratzinger" without the title "Papa" (as is normal in the Italian press) with a bitter brush in his article, as if he is some cranky old geezer who can’t stand the new ways of the real world.

Marco Tosatti of La Stampa
(12 May) says "In Sao Paolo, as in Rome, the preoccupation assailing Benedict XVI is the same: defense of the traditional family and of life".  So, in contrast to Politi, Tossati says the Pope is the one assailed rather than being the assailant.  Tossati identifies this address to the bishops as "one of the hardest and most blunt of his reign".  "It is a veritable compendium of what a bishop ought to do in modern secularized society."  Tossati also senses a gloomy overtone ("tinte cupe").  Tossati quotes extensively from the speech, with less editorializing.  He also picks up the Pope’s point about the media.  He mentions the main themes, including also the Pope’s underscoring of the importance of liturgy, which Politi did not mention. 

Giorgio Acquaviva of La Gazetta (12 May) called Benedict’s meeting with the bishops "political".  He accurately (but without saying that is what he is doing) divides the Popes comments about the state of things into concerns ad extra and ad intra (outward toward the world and inward within the Church itself).

Andrea Tornelli of Il Giornale (12 May) continues the general theme of the Pope’s "preoccupations", a description virtually all the accounts apply.  Tornielli also makes the clear observation that the Pope is speaking about not just problems between the Church and modern society but also its internal discipline, focusing especially on celibacy and the need for priests to avoid too much involvement in politics.  Of course this is important for the Italian reader: the bishops in Italy won’t themselves be involved in "Family Day", but they said rather half-heartedly that priests could be.  There is a real strain here now about the Church in the public square and clergy are taking it on the chin big time.  Tornielli spends some time on the problem of Catholics who "abandon" the Church and who are vulnerable to "aggresive proselytism".  The Pope used that phrase a couple times last night. 

Luigi Accattoli of Corriere della sera (12 May) leads with real negativity.  "’Say no’ to the media which makes marriage and family and "object of ridicule", respond to the ‘disconcerting bewilderment’ of contemporary society which diffuses ‘the wound of dovorce and free unions’ while pressing for the introduction of ‘legislative’ novelties: the family is under attack is the central theme of two speeches pronounced by the Pope on the third day of the visit to Brazil."  He says "Benedict took advantage" of the presence of 800,000 people to make "an appeal to ‘holiness’ of the family in the age ‘so full of hedonism’".  He goes to state that in front of 340 bishops he "denounced attacks on the family".  He also seems to bristle at the Pope’s comments on the mass media.  Accatoli, whose Italian is at times rather tortured, makes an important distinction for Italian readers between "libere unioni" and "coppie di fatto": "’Free unions’ in Brazil are not the same as our ‘coppie di fatto’ which await protection or recognition, but rather they are meandering and multiple which, among the poor, are spreading far and wide children abandoned by incapable mothers, or children constrained to live in the streets.  The Pope alluded to permissive juridical novelties with reference to "pressures on legislative processes".  Concerning Benedict’s discussion of the poor, Accatoli used the image of "fire" about those whom the bishops are not reaching.  He makes a connection between Benedict’s position and the "preferential option for the poor": "the language is more controlled, the priority is powerfully claimed for the faith, but the theologian Pope did not forget the social dimension of the Christian vocation".  Despite what might seem like a note of surprise from Accatoli, anyone who has read Deus caritas est will find nothing new in Benedict’s talk about the poor and marginalized.

Catrina Maniaci of Il Libero (12 May) in the first sentence calls to mind that this speech to the Brazilian bishops was on the eve of the Italian "Family Day" demonstration at St. John Lateran.  "[Benedict] one more time with extreme clarity makes a exhortation to have "great respect for the institution of the sacrament of marriage, the great gift God gave to humanity", while putting us on guard about ‘the means of social communication which ridicule the holiness of marriage and virginity before marriage", etc.  Then she mentions the three Italian goverment ministers who will appear at the rallies for and against "Family Day" and that certain politicians, like P.M. Romano Prodi, made sure he had something to do in Germany.

Luigi Geninazzi of Avvenire (daily of the Italian Bishops Conference) (12 May) lead with the statement that the Pope met yesterday with an body of bishops "out of the ordinary".  He called the Pope’s address a "blow to liberation theology".  Like all the others he picked up on the obvious stress on the defense of the institution of marriage.  However, Geninazzi says that the Brazilian bishops conference, which met from 1-9 May, put out a document with many of the same themes the Pope addressed.  He also noticed the Pope’s treatment of the need for individual confession and not general absolution, as well as obedience to liturgical norms.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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