"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When it's arrogance to cry 'arrogance'

What's so disgusting about the lead article from the June 7 issue of Time is not just that its headline, which disaffected Catholics will latch onto, is false. The Pope has apologized to victims in the U.S., Ireland, Malta, and God knows how many other places. What's worse is that the lengthy but tendentious "analysis" of Catholic doctrine and church order is sourced only by unnamed "Vatican insiders." Such is the arrogance of crying 'arrogance'.

Of all this, George Weigel has said:
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., “mealy-mouthed 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.” …

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.
Now as Orthodox blogger Terry Mattingly points out, one cannot dismiss Weigel's words as the knee-jerkings of a prominent Catholic "conservative" whose goal is to defend Rome at any cost. For instance, prominent conservative Catholics have written savage books about the recent failings of the hierarchy, such as Philip Lawler's The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture and Leon Podles' Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church. As a not-so-prominent conservative Catholic, I endorse those books (with the usual scholarly quibbles, of course). But let me repeat: the current attempt to discredit the Pope is scurrilous. As head of the CDF, he was the Vatican official chiefly responsible for convincing John Paul II that there was a serious problem, and to obtain the authority needed to do more about it.

My own contribution to this controversy, "Crucifying the Pope," does not argue that Joseph Ratzinger made no mistakes in his past handling of clerical abusers. Given the Church's long-entrenched legal culture, and the "black wall of silence" that officials such as Cardinal Sodano preferred to maintain, I would be very surprised if Ratzinger had not let too much slide before he became fully aware of the extent of the problem. But he's known now for quite some time, even before he became pope. And he's doing what he can about it. The current pounding is just arrogant malice and vindictiveness. It's what motivates the irony of calling for the Pope to do more, as if he had the centralized, CEO-style power that most of the media and the non-Catholic world wish he didn't.
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