‘Be prepared to make a defense’

The recent Time magazine cover story on Pope Benedict, sniping and unprofessional and at times juvenile, is getting the attention it sought. And some that maybe it didn’t…

George Weigel breaks it down, though the case was poorly constructed to begin with.

It’s not easy to understand the decision of Time’s editors to run the magazine’s current (June 7) cover story, with its cheesy title, “Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” The lengthy essay inside breaks no news; it recycles several lame charges against Benedict XVI that have been flatly denied or effectively rebutted; and it indulges an adolescent literary style (e.g., “mealymouthed declarations buttressed by arcane religious philosophy”) that makes one yearn and pine for the days of Henry Luce.

The lengthy story is also poorly sourced, relying (as many such exercises do) on alleged “Vatican insiders”…

…which are easy pickings tabloid-style journalism.

As real Vatican insiders know, real Vatican insiders don’t give back-stabbing and score-settling sound bites to the American media. That practice is more typically indulged in by clerics far down the Vatican food chain, monsignori who have no real idea of what’s happening within the small circle where real decisions get made inside the Leonine Wall, but who are happy to chat up journalists over a cappuccino or a Campari and soda while pretending to a knowledge they don’t possess. Such sources can be occasionally amusing; they are almost never authoritative.

But that has never stopped Time, at least since the days I was there. Henry Luce days.

The Time story may serve a useful purpose, however, in that it encapsulates, within ten pages, many of the things the world media continue to get wrong about the Catholic Church, the Vatican, and the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

So to that end, follow the guide Weigel provides and be informed. It will come in handy as these attacks on the Church continue.

Witnesses to peace and charity

Two ‘old men’, in a brief and little noticed exchange on a distant island, show the way to get along.

The Roman Catholic pontiff slipped away to a meeting with an Islamic leader, to share some mutual goodwill.

Pope Benedict held a surprise meeting with a Turkish Cypriot Islamic leader from the divided island on Saturday, underscoring his view that inter-religious dialogue should be used as an inspiration for reunion.

Benedict had a brief encounter with Sheikh Nazim, the 88-year-old head of the Islamic Sufi Naqshbandi sect based in northern Cyprus, the Vatican said…

“I am happy to come here to visit a great man …. may Allah grant him a good life here and hereafter,” Nazim told reporters as he arrived at the Church complex which has served as the residence for the pope during his three-day trip…

“I am happy … I hope that despite our faults our hearts are moving in the same direction,” said Nazim…

I’m glad Reuters noticed, and ran this, but I like the VIS account even better.

The brief meeting took place outside the apostolic nunciature, before the Holy Father’s Mass in the church of the Holy Cross. Sheikh Al-Haquani explained how he lived in northern Cyprus and had come especially to greet the Pontiff. According to Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., the sheikh had excused himself for awaiting the Pope seated. “I am very old”, he said, to which the Pope replied, “I am old too”.

Sheikh Al-Haquani gave the Pope a cane, a plaque with the word “peace” written in Arabic and a Muslim rosary. For his part, the Pope gave him a medal of his pontificate. The two men then exchanged an embrace. Before separating, the sheikh asked the Pope to pray for him, to which the Pope replied: “Of course I will, we will pray for one another”.

Sweet.

Time for some news

It is not news that Time magazine has suffered the same cutbacks over recent years as other major media and consequently redirected their editorial energies to whatever sells in a pop culture seeking constant entertainment. It’s no surprise that translates to pop psychology and pop theology and liberal politics. But this is interesting…..

Time does a cover story on Pope Benedict that serves up the latest broadside disguised as a highbrow dissection of faithful from church hierarchy. And touting that cover on a news show, the editor gets confronted with the question of serious news coverage.

Just when the panel is winding down and heading to a break, just after they had declared that Church hierarchy is ‘isolated from reality’ and ‘unable to handle a crisis’, Mika asks Time managing editor Richard Stengel whether this new issue has a story, any coverage whatsoever, about Congressman Joe Sestak and the growing controversy over White House involvement in his run for the Senate.

Um….no…says Stengel. It’s getting enough coverage elsewhere. Mika asks…’You don’t think it’s newsworthy?’ and then there’s more hedging. Mika says ‘well I think it’s a story.’

So do other serious news outlets.

Where the ‘oughts’ come from

Activists have been trying to drive religiously informed voices out of public debate for a very long time, with some success. But what’s their basis for arguing what we ought to do?

The Church holds that it’s the natural law, expressed in the Golden Rule attributed to Augustine of Hippo. And also holds that it shapes everything we do, or should.

The pope said as much when he met with the new ambassador from Belgium, assuring that the Church would serve all sectors of Belgian society. But he was talking about a much larger society in his message.

Look, he said, (actually, I added that part)….the Church is actively contributes through educational institutions and social services, among other ways.

“Nonetheless”, he continued, “it is worth pointing out that the Church, as an institution, has the right to express herself in public. … She respects the right of everyone to think differently from herself, and would like to see her own right to expression respected. … The Church, having the common good as her objective, wants nothing other than the freedom to be able to present this message, not imposing it on anyone, and respecting people’s freedom of conscience”.

It was his religious roots that inspired St. Damien to devote his life to lepers shunned and marginalized by society, showing that “the Gospel is a source of power [people] need not fear.”

Benedict took the opportunity to bring up a point he makes often: political consensus can’t replace the truth, because

“without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present”.

The logic of power, we have plenty of that. We need the power of logic. And reason and the natural law.

Or…’what you can’t not know.’

Remember your identity

I’ve been going over Pope Benedict’s messages in Malta, short as that trip was, and appreciating the depth of his message. He does so much with brevity.

Pope John Paul II so often urged his audiences to recognize and claim their identity as Christians made in the image of God, never to allow themselves to be redefined or demeaned by cultural or political forces. His book ‘Memory and Identity’ is outstanding.

Pope Benedict has told Europeans the same thing repeatedly in his pontificate, urging them to recall their Christian roots as they re-shape their political identities and government. Tough message for populations who’ve strayed so far from those roots their government didn’t want to acknowledge it in the European Constitution.

But no matter the political and cultural forces, Benedict keeps encouraging his listeners with the same message in the voice of the gentle shepherd. Be aware of your identity. And…

“…embrace the responsibilities that flow from it, especially by promoting the Gospel values that will grant you a clear vision of human dignity and the common origin and destiny of mankind…

“Unity, solidarity and mutual respect stand at the basis of your social and political life. Inspired by your Catholic faith, they are the compass that will guide you in the search for authentic and integral development. The treasure of the Church’s social teaching will inspire and guide these efforts. Never allow your true identity to be compromised by indifferentism or relativism. May you always remain faithful to the teaching of St. Paul”.

Amen to that.

Look what a shipwreck can do

Pope Benedict has been in Malta over the weekend, and gave his usual compelling addresses at the events scheduled there. But it’s interesting to note what he said in brief remarks to journalists traveling with him. He focused on the role St. Paul played in bringing Christianity to Malta, and emphasized the shipwreck that brought him there.

Considering the historical truth of that, and the fact that Malta is celebrating the anniversary of Paul’s arrival 1950 years ago, the remarks were entirely within context. The Vatican Information Service link is broken at the moment, but here’s what they issued:

“I think we can summarise the essential point in words he [St. Paul] himself used at the end of the Letter to the Galatians: ‘Faith expressed in charity’.

“Faith, the relationship with God which then transforms itself into charity, is still important today. But I also think that the memory of the shipwreck says something to us. For Malta, the opportunity to have the faith was born with the shipwreck. Thus we too can see how the shipwrecks of life can be part of God’s project for us, and be useful for a new beginning to our lives.

Like, today, for instance.

“Faith, the relationship with God which then transforms itself into charity, is still important today. But I also think that the memory of the shipwreck says something to us. For Malta, the opportunity to have the faith was born with the shipwreck. Thus we too can see how the shipwrecks of life can be part of God’s project for us, and be useful for a new beginning to our lives.

What a timely message.

Look who’s defending the Church

Over here, we have two big media columnists working out their thoughts and concerns about the ongoing crisis, and their ideas about how it will ultimately impact the Church….and there’s some irony in the scenario.

And all over the site we have some very interesting people around the world weighing in and supporting Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church……some very big non-Catholics.

There’s a little cross-section of a lot of stuff available in one place. It’s one to bookmark. And pass along to everyone still stuck with slogans on their mental bumpers. Reminds me of the old ‘Dragnet’….Jack Webb….’Just the facts, Ma’am’. ‘Just B16’ deals in just that.

Church, news and….reliable sources

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley says that during the U.S. bishops intense efforts to tackle the whole abuse crisis, prevent anything like that from happening again, and above all safeguard children…..their strongest ally in Rome was Cardinal Ratzinger.

Media were vital in drawing the crisis to the surface in the first place in 2001, and deserved the Pulitzer for that. Who’s watching the watchdogs now, and how are they behaving?

Stay with ‘Just B16’ for comprehensive coverage and analysis.

‘Regimes in which God does not count’

This article is making its way around the internet, generated by different messengers but the original message is exceptionally acute and aware and incisive.

Why are old and very often well-known cases being exhumed in 2010 on a daily basis, always attacking the Pope? This is paradoxical if one considers the great severity of then Cardinal Ratzinger and of Benedict XVI on this very theme. The moral entrepreneurs who organise the panic have an agenda which is increasingly clear and which is not essentially the protection of children. This is a time when political, juridical and even electoral decisions in Europe and elsewhere are being made about the abortion pill RU-486, euthanasia, the recognition of same sex unions. Only the voice of the Pope and the Church is being raised to defend life and the family. The reading of certain articles in the media shows that very powerful lobby groups are seeking to silence this voice with the worst possible defamation — and unfortunately an easy one to make — that of favouring or tolerating paedophilia.

This is the centrifugal force driving the attacks. Sunday on a morning news show, veteran journalist Liz Trotta analyzed the media attacks on the Pope and the Catholic Church as a transparent assault by liberal secularists on moral values. Their agenda, she said, is to mainline homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion. And what stands in their way is the Catholic Church, so they are out to discredit and dismantle it.

This is truly a dark hour. It takes one back to the prediction of a great Italian Catholic thinker of the 19th century, Emiliano Avogadro della Motta (1798-1865). He predicted that after the devastation caused by secular ideologies an authentic “demon worship” would spring up which would attack the family and the true concept of marriage. Reestablishing the sociological truth about moral panics over priests and paedophilia will not of itself resolve the problems and will not stop the lobby groups. But it is a small and proper tribute to the greatness of this Pope and to a Church which is wounded and defamed because they will not be silent on the issues of life and the family.