Friday, April 29, 2005


The Pontificate of Benedict XVI on Meet the [De]Press[ed]

The pontificate of the newly installed Pope Benedict XVI was the topic on last Sunday's (April 24th) Meet the Press on NBC. The participants in the roundtable discussion included REV. THOMAS BOHLIN, U.S. Vicar, Opus Dei, JOSEPH BOTTUM, Editor, First Things, Contributing Editor, The Weekly Standard THOMAS CAHILL, Author and Historian
E.J. DIONNE, Washington Post Columnist REV. JOSEPH FESSIO, S.J., Provost, Ave Maria University, Founder, Ignatius Press, JON MEACHAM, Managing Editor, Newsweek
SISTER MARY AQUIN O'NEILL, RSM, PhD, Director, Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center For Women and host Tim Russert.

Of course, the roundtable was divded evenly (well, almost) into pro and con camps. In this case, the pro defending Pope Benedict's vision for the Church and the con taking issue with it.

This particular episode is picture perfect example of why Rush Limbaugh calls it "Meet the Depressed." The Pope's detractors' position, as well as that of the rest of the old media, can be summed up in one phrase: "How dare those Cardinals elect a Catholic as Pope."

I will spare the reader of an analysis of the entire sorry episode. They can read the transcript of the show. But I would like to comment on a couple of the exchanges that took place. All quotes are taken from the aforementioned transcript.

The first one is an exchange that took place between Fr. Fessio and Thomas Cahill:

REV. JOSEPH FESSIO: Tim, Jesus told us that he who hears you hears me. The glory of the Catholic Church, which we accept humbly, is that God has revealed his truth to us through human instruments. And Jesus appointed Apostle Peter at their head to maintain that truth in its integrity. And so, yes, the Catholic Church, when it speaks authoritatively, is giving us the truth of Christ, and those who rebel against the church's authentic teaching are rebelling against God.

...the church--when the church agrees with the culture, I mean, that's just a confirmation of the culture, but the church also disagrees sometimes with the culture. So, you know, we just saw a young woman who was not sick, who was not dying, who was allowed to starve to death and to be put to death by lack of water, the church, the church--because Jesus was a man, because God became flesh, tells us all human life is precious. And so the Pope Benedict, the bishops are going to say, "We can't do things like that." God created us for love and for community, for a marriage, for example, which is fruitful, and has children and creates culture. Homosexual marriages can't do that. And so the church, while loving those people and recognizing in them the image of God, says, "No, that what you're doing is not consistent with God's plan."

So Cardinal Ratzinger, who listens very carefully to God's Word and is one who promotes it and will proclaim it, is going to say, as Jesus himself would say, "These things I affirm, these things I must tell you are not consistent with God's will." One of the most important things he said today in his homily, typical Ratzinger--look, I've known the man for 33 years. The man is a listener, a very careful listener. He says, "I want to put myself ‘ascolto di Dio’ at the listening of God, hearing God"; not my ideas, not my plans, but God's will and God's plan. And so I think you're going to see in Cardinal Ratzinger just like you saw in John Paul II, someone who's totally given to Jesus and the church that Jesus founded. And that, therefore, we expect the master to have disciples like him. Jesus predicted this. Those who followed him will be persecuted like he was. I think Cardinal Ratzinger's going to make very deep friends and arouse a lot of loyalties. He's also going to make enemies, because he is going to be--have the courage to speak out against those things which really harm human dignity and harm human development.

Thomas Cahill: I think the kind of, what I would call, recidivist theology of someone like the previous speaker is, A, historical. It is not based on the true history of Christianity, it's fanciful, and it is lacking in compassion for millions and millions of people who can't meet the supposed standards. When Jesus sat down next to the woman at the well, he talked to her for a very long time, then he said, "Why don't you go and bring your husband out." And she said, "I don't have a husband," and he said, "You're right. You've had five husbands and the man you're living with right now isn't your husband." And she said, "Wow." And she went into the town and said, "I've just met the Messiah." Now this was a woman, he didn't say to her, "Before you have communion with me, you must go back to your first husband." No, he didn't talk about her div--he kind of engaged her on the subject of her divorces, but a church that says, for instance, of divorced people know they may not commune with Jesus I think is making the terrible un-Christian un-evangelical mistake and I think it does it in many other areas, largely related to either sexuality or women.

Only a shrill left-wing ideologue like Thomas Cahill could have the audicity to call Jesus Himself un- Christian. I mean this is exactly what he is doing here by referring to Fr. Fessio's remarks as "recidivist theology" and being "not based on a true history of Christianity". All Fr. Fessio did was repeat Jesus' words. It was Jesus who said to the Apostles (a charge which they in turn handed down to their successors) "He who hears you hears me." It was Jesus who also said to Peter (and by extension his successors) " I give you the Key so the Kingdom of heaven. What you bind on earth is bound in heaven. What you loose on earth is loosed in heaven." Anyone who has read the Gospels knows that Fr. Fessio isn't putting words in the Lord's mouth here.

Furthermore, it offends me to no end when upholding the truth and dignity of the human person in God's image is labelled as "lacking in compassion for millions and millions of people who can't meet the supposed standards." What is really lacking in compassion is standing in the way of people learing the objective truth about themselves, especially when they need to (although they may not want to) hear it the most. This reminds me of a story that my local bishop tells about an encounter Pope John Paul II had during one of his travels either to the U.S. or somewhere in Europe. Anyway, as the pope was making his way through the crowd, a young man began to heckle the Holy Father about the having the same "lack of compassion" that Mr. Cahill accuses Fr. Fessio of. The Pope walked right up to this man and said,"Young man, the Church loves you too much to tell you a lie."

Now, Tim Russert used to have a well-deserved reputation for being equally challenging to both sides of any given debate. But ever since he showed his true liberal stripes by softballing John Kerry during last year's Presidential campaign, he hasn't seemed to recover his objectivity, as the following exchange between Russert and Fr. Fessio illustrates:

MR. RUSSERT: Father Fessio, the Catholic Church, in fact, could alter its teaching on birth control, or use of condoms or on married priests or on female priests, true?

REV. FESSIO: Well, you put several things in that list, Tim, and the answer is three are false and one is true, and the one that's possibly true is married priests, but not on condoms, not on contraception and not on the ordination of women.

MR. RUSSERT: Why not? Why not?

REV. FESSIO: First of all, I want to say this, that...

MR. RUSSERT: Why are those three not true?

REV. FESSIO: You know, Tim, I'd love to--you want to give me an hour to explain that, or maybe two hours?

MR. RUSSERT: Well is it...

REV. FESSIO: I mean, this is--we are--we have a difficulty here. First of all I want to encourage all the listener-watcher-viewers here, for every hour you spend watching television, please spend five hours reading good books, because we really can't have a serious discussion on these very deep, deep, mysterious issues with a bunch of sound bites. So all I'm saying is...

MR. RUSSERT: Well, I think devoting--Father, with all respect, I think devoting a full hour to this discussion is a very serious attempt. And my question was, why would those three issues--the use of condoms, birth control and women as priests--why could they not be altered? Have they, in fact, become doctrine to the church or have they been taught infallibly by a pope?

With all due respect, Mr. Russert, spending an hour (which is actually only about 35 to 40 minutes when you consider commercial breaks) throwing a bunch of issues out in such a buckshotish manner like you just did in your statement quoted above is anything BUT a serious attempt at discussion. And for you to say otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has even a modicum of understanding of the Catholic Church.

Like I said in the beginning, this particular episode of Meet the Press lives up to Rush Limbaugh's calling it Meet the Depressed. The left is so down in the dumps about the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy, you might want to make Prozac stock a major part of your portfolio.


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