Pope Benedict XVI's Visit to
The United States of America
Without a doubt, Pope Benedict's visit drew largely favorable attention to the Catholic Church in these United States. Apart from the bent crucifix inherited from his predecessor, the Pope projected the splendor and dignity of the papacy everywhere he went. One has to marvel at the stamina of a man who was constantly on the move at the age of 81 delivering several addresses each day. Yet, looking back over those addresses after Benedict's departure, one has to ask whether or not the visit brought anything more than a few days of good public relations.
One cannot read the various addresses and not come away with a strong sense of the internal contradiction in the papal mind. Just before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a marvelous sermon in which he condemned the “dictatorship of relativism” (ZENIT), giving great hope to the Catholic faithful that Pope Paul VI's “autodemolition of the Church” might finally be drawing to an end. We heard similar remarks in several of the American discourses, wherein the Pope criticized the “relativistic approach to Christian doctrine” (D.7) and “relativism” (D.9), while praising the Church's involvement in “humanity's struggle to arrive at truth ... purifying reason, ensuring that [society] remains open to ultimate truths....” “It is the Church that sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.” “One can recognize that the contemporary “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”” (D.4). One would be thrilled at hearing such words from a post-Vatican II Pope—except that they were spoken within the context of a visit to promote “ecumenism,” and the United Nations Organization and the sixtieth anniversary of its “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”!
The UN was called upon to support “inter-religious dialogue ... Dialogue should be recognized as the means by which the various components of society can articulate their point of view and build consensus around the truth concerning particular values or goals. It pertains to the nature of religions, freely practiced, that they can autonomously conduct a dialogue of thought and life. If at this level, too, the religious sphere is kept separate from political action, then great benefits ensue for individuals and communities”(D.6). Amazing! The Church founded by Jesus Christ, which “subsists” only in the Catholic Church, is going to combat relativism by “build[ing] consensus around the truth”! Amazing, as well, that the Holy Father holds that in the separation of Church and state “great benefits ensue for individuals and communities.”
“Indeed, the Holy See has always had a place at the assemblies of the Nations, thereby manifesting its specific character as a subject in the international domain.” A “subject”? “Subject” to whom or to what?? Is the Pope on the organization chart just below the Secretary General, or simply on the list of member nations at position “V” in the alphabet?
“This emphasis on individualism has even affected the Church (cf. Spe Salvi, 13-15), giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community”(D.2). Omigosh! There is a danger that the grand community meal that is the Novus Ordo—“We are the Body of Christ”—might degenerate into members of the faithful who enjoy a personal relationship with God, and recognize individual responsibility for their salvation? This concern with “individualism” was repeated at Saint Joseph's church in New York (D.7). Are not all of these individuals aware that the Conciliar Church proclaims itself to be “the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8)” (D.3)?
Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict's recent encyclical, is an interesting piece of work in itself, in which he confuses hope with faith, and suggests that hope is somehow a communal virtue. In Spe Salvi 16, Benedict asks “How did we arrive at this interpretation of the "salvation of the soul” as a flight from responsibility for the whole, and how did we come to conceive the Christian project as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others?” The answer, of course, is that we have not arrived at such an interpretation—except, perhaps, where Catholic education has degenerated to books filled with butterflies and rainbows instead of the Gospel.
According to the .pdf issued by the USCCB (where one can find some of the Protestant ditties sung for the Pope) the Holy Father is still using the Universalist mis-translation for the consecration of the Mass wine. This in spite of a Vatican moratorium, Prot. n. 467/05/L, that requires everyone to correct the error by later this year.
In a number of speeches Pope Benedict mentioned the Church's problem with the “sexual abuse of minors” (D.2), (D.3). “Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people.” Now that it is clearly understood? Now? Where have these people been hiding for the past forty years? Father Enrique Rueda wrote The Homosexual Network in 1982. And do they really understand the problem? How many of the clergy have been punished under canon 1395 for “sins against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue” with a consenting adult—perhaps also a member of the clergy? How many abusers of minors have been punished without first being convicted by civil authorities? There is a state of denial about the infiltration of the seminaries (caution: revolting picture). What sort of action can we expect from this man? Or from this former auxiliary bishop of the South African Diocese of Cape Town (picture here)? What new action can we expect from Rome? Perhaps the Holy father might start by reading the literature of The Roman Catholic Faithful—Perhaps he will name Stephen Brady a Cardinal.
Finally, the Pope was received at the White House and treated to a birthday celebration. While it is bad manners to criticize you host in his own home, he might have inquired of Mr. Bush about when he might stop his war. And he should have given the President a copy of The Creature from Jekyll Island (before gas gets to be $12.999 a gallon).
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