Another ridiculous AP article deconstructed

AP, logowhich unprofessionally has declared open season on Pope Benedict – engaged in a relentless ad hominem – has a piece which cites as the mainstay non other than Richard McBrien.  They drag in a "conservative" for reasons of ballast, but they crack on upon their course.

My emphases and comments.

Pope’s ivory tower past adds to his detachment

  By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press Writer Vanessa Gera, Associated Press Writer [AP’s correspondent in Poland]  – Sun Apr 11, 1:41 pm ET

VATICAN CITY – Long before entering Vatican life, Pope Benedict XVI won renown as a theologian and a German university professor, penning more than 40 books and winning a devoted following of students who respected his prodigious memory and brilliant mind.

One thing absent from his resume? Significant time as a parish priest. [I think what we are about to see here is a common liberal trope: when you want to discredit someone or something, say that it or he isn’t "pastoral".  Personal anecdote: I was once told by a chancery hack in a diocese where an ultra-liberal bishop was in charge that their concern about me was that I was conservative but I was intelligent.  I am not making this up.  If I were "less intelligent", and, say, more "pastoral", well… then….  First, liberals only think liberals are really intelligent.  But when they run across [FILL IN BLANK] on the other side which is smart, effective, successful, etc., they label that thing or person "not pastoral".  A perfect example is what Bp. Trautman says about the new translation.  I already have the sense that that is what you are going to see in this article.]

Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, only worked 15 months tending to a flock in the 59 years since taking his vows, [First, Ms Gera, diocesan priests don’t "take vows".  They make promises.  Also, when he was a diocesan bishop he tended to a flock.  Third, I’ll bet that Fr. Ratzinger also did what you think are pastoral things on campus with those students and on weekends in parishes.  Furthermore, who are you to suggest that teaching isn’t pastoral?] instead closing himself in the ivory tower of academia [He closed himself in the tower… nice, huh?] — a background that may help account for his troubled handling of the sex abuse crisis engulfing the church. [Hmmm… you know… John Paul II was Pope when Ratzinger was Prefect.  But you don’t hear this person suggesting that he didn’t have "pastoral experience"… even though he was clearly also an academic.  Of course… she is working in Poland.  That false suggestion would be worth her life.]

For one, it adds to the impression of an out-of-touch pontiff [Get that?  "adds the impression"…. Whose impression?  Your impression, Vanessa? The impression you and your editors are purposely trying to create?  Would the word "smear" be better than "impression"? ] who simply doesn’t grasp the enormity of the fury [He is brilliant, but he doesn’t grasp this.  Good.  Good.] around the world over mounting evidence [Incessantly desperate attempts to create "evidence" …] of sex abuse by priests, and inaction on the part of the Vatican and Benedict himself.

Benedict’s very legacy will be shaped by whether this aging pontiff, who turns 83 on Friday, [Watch this move.  This reveals what the AP’s editors, and the powers behind them, actually want.  They are trying to force a change to the Catholic Church.  Watch this:] can embrace a new openness and express remorse in straightforward language free of the stilted defensiveness of many Vatican pronouncements to date. [AP hasn’t read the letter to Ireland or anything this Pope has said in public about the Church’s sorrow over clerical sexual abuse?  Do these people not use Google?  Or look at their own archives?  Do they think you are so stupid that you don’t use Google?]

"Pope Ratzinger, more lucid than many of his defenders, must keep from being suffocated by Professor Ratzinger," Marco Politi, a [very liberal] veteran Vatican reporter, wrote in a column last week in the daily Il Fatto.

But in his native Germany, the prominent [liberal] Der Spiegel magazine has already declared his papacy a failure[there’s journalistic objectivity for you]speaking in its most recent issue of "the tragedy of a man who had set out to write books and, only near the end of his life, was summoned to assume the Herculean office at the Vatican."

Even the pope’s staunchest admirers say he’s not the best manager. [Even the Pope has admitted that he isn’t a great administrator.]

"Benedict XVI is only infallible as an authoritative teacher of the faith, not as an administrator," noted the Rev. Joseph Fessio, [Who certainly knows Pope Benedict well.] who wrote his doctoral dissertation under Ratzinger and participates in the annual "student circle" discussions Benedict hosts each summer with his former students.

Some of Benedict’s critics, however, say the pope’s real problems lie mainly with a practice of surrounding himself with unqualified advisers. [His supporters say that too, btw.]

"He doesn’t have grade A types around him — but he picked them," said the [extremist liberal] Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and frequent critic of the pope. [And someone who doesn’t in any way know Joseph Ratzinger.]

McBrien noted that although Ratzinger served only a short time as a parish priest, his five years as archbishop of Munich and Freising gave him ample real-world experience. [Note the contradiction.  At the top, the Pope is said to have had little experience.  But it is better for McBrien, who is a little sharper than the writer, knows that he can hurt the Pope’s reputation more if he admits that the Pope did have adequate experience.]  He said Ratzinger engaged fully with even the small details of administration [He simply made that up out of whole cloth.  There is no way that McBrien could possibly know that.  The fact is that the contrary is true.  Ask anyone who worked with him or knew him in his years as Prefect of the CDF.  The Holy Father is the opposite of a micro-manager.  But that doesn’t help AP and McBrien smear the Holy Father.] there and later as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s doctrine office.

Yet his tenure in Munich provides precisely one of the more damning cases of sex abuse that have swirled around the pope himself: ["around the Pope himself"!  Oooo.  As a dog returns to its vomit, so AP returns to a story that has been explained and explained and explained.] In the 1980s, Ratzinger approved therapy for a suspected pedophile priest, [Is Vanessa serious?  He wasn’t "suspected"… he was in fact a child molester!] but the prelate was allowed to resume pastoral work while in therapy.

The Vatican has insisted that Ratzinger’s vicar [Vicar General] took full responsibility for letting the Rev. Peter Hullermann resume pastoral work and that the future pope was unaware. Hullermann in 1986 was handed a suspended sentence for molesting a boy. [In German dioceses the VG handles personnel.]

In addition, while running the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger resisted pleas from a California diocese to laicize [Note what has happened.  They have dropped the vague word "defrock" and are now using "laicize".  "Laicize" is also an incorrect term, of course.  A priest is a priest forever and never a layman in a strict sense.  But he can be dismissed from the clerical state or dispensed from its obligations.  But, in emergencies, such as the case of a person dying, he would automatically have faculties to absolve in case of need.  Anyway, perhaps AP can be taught after all.] a priest who had pleaded no contest to lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two boys, according to correspondence obtained by The Associated Press.

The Vatican’s lawyer [They changed their language here, also.  No longer is he a "Vatican lawyer".] has insisted the California bishop was responsible for making sure the priest, the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, didn’t abuse while Rome processed his case to remove him from the priesthood. [And that is indeed the case.  The Oakland Diocese was responsible also for allowing him to work with youth after the facts about him emerged.]

"The pope’s background as a professor of theology has little or nothing to do with the present controversy. It is simply one of the excuses offered by his well-intentioned defenders," McBrien told the AP. [Okay… a line from Fessio, who actually knows the Pope.  But now we are back to McBrien.  Was he ever chairman of the theology department at Notre Dame?]

Despite Benedict’s missteps [Get that? "Missteps"?  When is AP going to talk about the other part of the story?  The part where Card. Ratzinger lead the charge in getting the Holy See’s procedures and the Church’s laws changed so that these cases could be handled swiftly?  You would think that a professional might mention that.], there are a few signs that some understanding of the outrage is starting to penetrate the Vatican’s medieval walls. [In AP speak "medieval" is a bad thing.]

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, long a bastion [First "medieval walls"and now bastion.  What prowess.] of protecting Vatican secrecy , [HUH?  The CDF is focused on the open teaching of the truth.  The CDF imposes secrecy  when there is a case open and the rights of people and their good names have to be protected.] is seeking greater openness with plans to post on its Web site Monday a concise and simply written guide to how it handles sex abuse allegations. [Ummm… what they will do is put it into baby-useful form and spoon feed it to you.  The essentials are already known.] And in his recent letter to the Irish bishops, Benedict urged greater cooperation with civil authorities in cases of pedophile priests and said he’d meet with more victims.

In a way, the scandal may be bringing Ratzinger full circle back to his short term as a parish chaplain. [Here is another example of the writer perhaps not understanding what she is writing about.  That word "chaplain" is simply an anglicized rendering of the German "Kaplan" which is the term for a parish assistant, or associate priest.] Ratzinger served as chaplain at the Precious Blood church in Munich for just over a year, teaching religious instruction, hearing confessions and running a youth group. [Saying Mass might also have been included… sick calls, etc.] In his memoirs, Ratzinger said he felt unprepared for such practical work, [I think a lot of priests feel unprepared in some ways for some of the things they encounter in a parish setting.] yet once back in academia, said he missed the day-to-day contact with people that it entailed.

Peder Noergaard-Hoejen, a Danish theologian on a Catholic-Lutheran commission [Perhaps not on the Catholic side of the commission?] seeking to forge better understanding between the two faiths, [Remember: all these AP articles have a greater objective: they are trying to apply pressure, through gullible readers, to force changes to the Catholic Church.  Any change.] sees some movement toward a more modern approach. [Because the Church has "medieval bastions" .. or something else that’s bad.]

"A new openness and a turn away from secrecy mark a break with a tradition going back centuries," he told the AP. [So… effectively Vanessa gets her main points from a Lutheran Dane and Richard McBrien as well as already debunked AP articles.  Right?]

Still, he admits Benedict lacks the ideal credentials for his current job. [Remember that the CDF under Ratzinger shot down a joint Lutheran-Catholic declaration on justification.]

"I think he was very good for the position he had before he became pope because this was an intellectual position," Noergaard-Hoejen said. "It is of course important that the pope be able to think, but Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is no politician. His type is that of a German professor." [And so we have come full-circle.  They say he is "smart" and then juxtapose that to "pastoral".]

 Again, AP shows that its writers are half-informed about their topic and that they have an objective beyond the simple reporting of facts.  Furthermore, they are not doing much homework.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Clerical Sexual Abuse, The Last Acceptable Prejudice. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Mike says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z, for deconstructing that mendacious piece.

    The Pope’s foes from 4/19/05 on are licking their chops as this kind of trash. He will weather the storm. However, when I see the almost 80% doctrine-free zone of my own NO parish, the too many to count, 90% female EME hovering around the altar (whose dress often leaves very little to the imagination) while the cantor screams Broadway hymns ad infinitum, when my pastor doesn’t bother to answer an email request for a more traditional liturgy, I fear for the future.

  2. I second Mike.
    Your commentary is absolutely “deconstructing”:<)!
    Will these people never learn?
    My fear is that unsuspecting folks are gonna eat this up like “hot cakes”.
    But we just have to keep on refuting this nonsense and just live the Faith with ‘class’ (to quote Fr. Groeschel!).

  3. Hank_F_M says:

    I remeber reading a tidbit from the news stories at the time he was elected.

    In the Theology faculties in Germany the junior faculty is given the duty of student Chaplain. Joesph Ratzonger is on of the few who continued in this role after he had the seniorty to avoid it. Apparently up to his appointment as Archbishop./

  4. GordonB says:

    This and nearly all other “reports” from these news agencies are editorials masked as “news” when in reality there is a clear clear agenda and point of view in the article- gone is reporting the news, instead its shaping the view it wants its reader to take from the article. There is only soft opinion news in here…

  5. trishamtan says:

    This argument holds absolutely no weight whatsoever, but, for those who would decry Benedict for not being “pastoral” due to not spending significant time in parish ministry, I felt I should point out that, by personal admission, liberal poster-boy Fr. McBrien has only had one parish assignment himself.

  6. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    It should be noted that Mcbrien has been ordained since 1962, and has been a professor continuously since (at least) 1965. Which means he has had, at most 3 years spent in a parish full time.

    Yet he is quoted to criticize Pope Benedict as being out of touch pastorally?

  7. Agnes says:

    Ah. So Benedict simply has a job.

  8. medievalist says:

    So the liberal commentators NOW say that the Holy Father was “very good for the position he had before he became pope”.

    Funny, but I thought that five years ago the same commentators liked nothing better than to tear into then Cardinal Ratzinger for being ill-suited to CDF because he wasn’t pastoral enough (recall Dominus Iesus?). I guess they have to go back and admire his previous work in attempts to show how he is not qualified to be pope.

  9. Athelstan says:

    If Hans Kung had been elected Pope, does anyone think we would ever see the headline “Pope’s ivory tower past adds to his detachment” in any of these media outlets?

  10. NDPhys says:

    Whereas when academics are “liberal” they are okay for the media, but academics who hold fast to tradition, for instance, are simply out of touch and not “pastoral” enough. After all, isn’t it so called academics who gave us some of the goofy theology and ecclesiology we have been dealing with in the past years?

  11. sejoga says:

    Salvatore_Giuseppe, as Fr. Z. points out, only liberals are allowed to be intellectual. Liberals in the Church are already inherently pastoral, so it’s perfectly all right that McBrien has been a professor for so long… we’re just supposed to KNOW what a wonderful pastor he would be. Clearly Benedict would be less of an evil tradition-monger if he had had any experience in a parish setting; that’s why it’s such a crime.

  12. elmo says:

    This morning I was thinking about how the media are applying pressure to the Church in order to make it dance to the world’s tune. Every news article to date has had as its subtext the message that “the church is not who she claims to be.” The pope is not “pastoral”, priests are not celibate, women are oppressed, especially nuns, the Vatican is filled with power mongers, etc. etc.

    There are agendas behind these news articles: women priests, married clergy, “spirit of Vatican II” nonsense, but there’s a larger agenda at work here: To force the Church to become ever more secular, more worldly, more like a business, and less like the Church founded by Christ. These secularizing forces know that if they can separate the Church from Jesus Christ then the Church itself can be overcome by the world. They know they can’t achieve this by gunpoint or even by law (not yet) but they can destroy the Church’s communion with God by applying this pressure to become “modern” and “savvy” regularly over a period of time. The Devil knows this can be done only if we let it. The question is, does the Church — the people of God — know it?

  13. eiggam says:

    While the press is attacking Pope Benedict, why are the rest of the pages of the paper filled with an agenda promoting evil such as homosexuality and the general immorality that persists in the world today? This was brought to my attention at this morning’s homily. Will keep praying for the Holy Father.

  14. deborah-anne says:

    The AP has become notoriously virulent and biased regarding the Pope and the Catholic Church. It seems they like going for the sensational rather than the factual.

  15. Al says:

    Whatever credibility hits he takes on the world stage because of the mud slinging perhaps he should use the hard work being done by the secular media and take the “Credibility and power he maintains from within” to clean house on the liberal clergy trying to hold on to power. I would use this snow-job to be quite expeditious about cleaning up the old internal house and replaces the lib heterodox with orthodox clergy up and down…

    my two cents.

  16. emily13 says:

    …he admits Benedict lacks the ideal credentials for his current job.

    Does any man possess the “credentials” for being the Vicar of Christ? Would any man be prepared for that? It isn’t called the Room of Tears for nothing…

  17. Doc Angelicus says:

    AP’s strategy is clearly to repeat it over and over until it becomes true. Very Orwellian things happening here and all over the place.

    And if anyone is in an ivory tower, it’s the urban-dwelling liberal intellectuals who are too far above the people in the trenches to care about them. I recently got an email newsletter from Europe for Christ in which some folks in Germany comment on MSM coverage:

    ( A victim of child abuse in her own family writes: „Are the media really interested in the victims – or do they abuse the victims to reach another goal? If it is true – as the Kriminologische Institut Hannover says – that every year up to a million children are
    being abused, then the media are terribly biased. What is going on in families is not mentioned – and this is by far more than what is happening in Catholic institutions.

    (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) Manfred Lütz schreibt writes „…Before Jan Carl Raspe became a member of the [terrorist group] RAF, he praised in his „Kursbuch“ (1969) Commune2, in which adults forced children against their wishes to try sexual intercourse [amongst themselves]. The Green Party tabled a request to de-criminalize sex with children in 1985, and still in 1989 a book published by the renowned German Publishing House of Medical Doctors supported the legalisation of paedo-sexual contacts. In these times Catholic sexual morals were seen as
    a repression of the “emancipation of a child’s sexuality”. … Whatever one may think about Catholic sexual morals – in times of belittlement of paedophilia it was a bastion against child abuse. …” 11. Februar 2010

    And back on our side of the pond, the oh-so-in-touch folks in Maine have decided that elementary schools discriminate unjustly by having separate boys and girls locker rooms and rest rooms sports.

  18. As a Pope Benedict fan, I’m here to tell you that when he first became a priest, his bishop threw him into parish work at the deep end. On purpose, because he knew young Fr. Ratzinger was not so great at the people thing, and because university teaching is about people.

    So yeah, he was working as a young priest in a parish, doing whatever the pastor said, and that meant marrying and burying and counseling… and teaching religion at parochial school to every grade they offered. Every grade. We’re talking second graders and big kids. Every grade. He learned how to communicate with everybody, the hard way. He used his sister as a sounding board for homilies. When he returned to university his teaching and people skills were five thousand zillion times better. (And I think he says somewhere that he learned that if you can’t explain a piece of theology to a kindergartener, you don’t really understand it yourself. So he ended up explaining a lot of theology to his younger classes.)

    (And you know those little kids loved it. Nothing they like better than somebody who’ll actually try to answer all their questions.)

    So yeah, all the time that he was in the parish, he was at People Skills Parish Boot Camp for Introvert Priests. I wonder if McBrien ever did that.

    But heck, McBrien can’t even relate to adoration of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, much less teaching serious theology to kindergarteners.

  19. William A. Anderson says:

    The phrase “mounting evidence” is a routine journalistic technique to finesse the fact that there is “insufficient evidence” to support the conclusion that the writer is trying to sell. Use of the phrase signals that what follows is advocacy — not journalism. Trite and deceptive as the phrase may be, however, one should not underestimate its effectiveness.

  20. Norah says:

    There is something bizarre about all of this *cue Twilight Zone music*. First we have the media “discovering” sexual abuse scandals from decades ago and trumpeting in their headlines that Pope Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger covered up or was slow to discipline abusing priests. Responses have been made to these claims which show that the documents provided by the media don’t support their case. Now we have the media and quislings within the Church using their discredited claims as examples and pontificating about the Pope’s mishandling of these abusive priests – mishandling which exists only in their fevered imaginations.

    Joanna Bogle says,they [the media] genuinely believe they can crush the Church’s moral authority and render the voice of the succcessor of St Peter useless for decades to come. There’s a shrill glee about this, and there’s an evil in it which can only be stopped by prayer..

  21. Alex P says:

    One of the biggest mistakes in recent years has been the advent of 24 hour news. Previously, here in the UK, we’d have the lunchtime bulletin, another at 6pm, then a final one at about 9 or 10 at night. Now we have channels devoted solely to bringing us the news, presented by dolly birds with a grin, who simply read off the screens in front of them. The job would be boring to anyone with an enquiring mind, and yet they sit behind desks, hour after hour, feigning enthusiasm for something they’ve already reported 10 times over. So to curtail the almost certain boredom involved in such tasks the news has to be sensationalised, made into something akin to a fantasy novel. Facts are not reported now, reported so that the listener/viewer can make up their own mind; no, opinions and biases are conveyed, with Joe Public simply being seen as ignoramuses who need to have their opinions given to them. All sense of impartiality has been lost, and instead we have stories presented that have basic facts omitted and which simply end up being fictionalised renderings of news events. The media should be embarrassed- deeply- for their inaccurate, biased and fabricated accounts of the child abuse problem in the Church, and yet media outfits have the gumption to present themselves as bastions of truth, as disinterested conveyors of factual events.

  22. Scott W. says:

    Personal anecdote: I was once told by a chancery hack in a diocese where an ultra-liberal bishop was in charge that their concern about me was that I was conservative but I was intelligent.

    This confirms the rule of progressivism that it is all about process, not content. Smarts, affability, virtue, etc are all irrelevant. The only thing that matters is where you lie on the progressive graph. This is why Catholic dissidents can look at the smouldering pile of rubble that was once the Episcopal Church and not only not see the rubble, but actually recommend it for the Catholic Church. It’s so progressive! So if a normal person looked at the Diocese of Rochester and saw that they won’t have another ordination until 2014 (if everything goes as planned, which is one big “if”), the closings, the empty pews, they’d say they need to stop the flaky nonsense. But nooooooo. Agents of chaos are blind to the chaos they create.

  23. Hidden One says:

    Good post, Father. I’m not wise enough to have anything to add. The only fault that I could find with it was that the simple past form of the verb “to lead” is “led”, not “lead”.

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