The left's discontent with Pope Benedict XVI
By Carol Devine-Molin
Let me start out by saying that I very much liked and respected the late Pope John Paul II, a man of true virtue who helped Ronald Reagan bring down the Soviet empire. And from what I've garnered so far, I'll probably feel similarly toward this new pope, Benedict XVI, who is a strong believer in freedom for all of mankind. But let me be totally candid: I'm a former Catholic. More than twenty years ago, I came to grips with the fact that I was significantly dissatisfied with the Roman Catholic Church and I did the wise and prudent thing – I left the Church.
However, the "reformers" of today's Catholic Church won't be easily denied, even if they have to generate unprecedented upheaval in that two thousand year old institution. In short, they're selfish and manipulative, products of our time. There's nothing gracious about their moaning-and-groaning, and eagerness to disparage the Church and its new pontiff. And the so-called reformers or dissenters are being egged on by the liberal elites, which have palpable distain for inherently conservative institutions.
Here's the crux of it: Catholic Church leaders have every right to maintain that "It's our way or the highway" when it comes to doctrine or dogma. That's not going to change, nor should it. The Church hierarchy will run the institution as it sees fit, and there's not a heck-of-a-lot that "progressives" can do about it. Primacy of the pontiff and other dogma are immutable – not subject to change – and represent God's truths, according to Catholicism. If you want to take-on the Church and come up against dogma, you'll find yourself on the losing end of an argument.
That being said, it irks me that so-called "progressive" (liberal) Catholics are attempting to foist their interpretation of what is morally and religiously acceptable upon Church leaders. The Catholic Church is not a democracy! Nor is it a private business or civil service. Moreover, it's not an institution that can be sued for failing to be all-inclusive and responsive to modernity. One must either "take it or leave it", as the old adage goes. On a favorable note, if you forgo Catholicism, there are so many churches and denominations from which to choose.
But, no, the left-leaning crowd will have none of it. They're weasels and they're going to dig-in. They're largely from the baby boomer generation, which is rife with narcissism and self-absorption. They're bent on having their beliefs and views validated by the "establishment", which of course includes the institution of the Catholic Church. And if you disagree with the liberals, they'll demonize you. Welcome to the brave new world of rank selfishness and character assassination. Pope Benedict XVI has been called "strident and inflexible", "a strict doctrinaire" and "God's Rottweiler" by the mainstream media because he was among the Church's top theologians and in charge of promoting and safeguarding Catholic dogma. And Time magazine even had the temerity to refer to Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope, as an "unpalatable candidate" for the papacy. Oh really? Then why did 95 out of the 115 cardinals in the conclave vote for him to become pontiff? Sure he was an "unpalatable candidate" for the papacy, but only to the twisted political Left. The Church bigwigs, who were the real arbiters, found Ratzinger most suitable for the job.
Not surprisingly, the liberal elites also continue to remind us that Pope Benedict XVI was a member of the Hitler Youth. What they forget to tell you is that all young boys of that era in Germany were automatically signed up for that infamous organization. Those boys had no choice in the matter. Ratzinger, born in 1927 was only 17 by the end of the war, and he was a fierce anti-Nazi who deserted the German forces and ran back to his seminary studies.
The mainstream media is only happy to take advantage of the public's limited knowledge of Catholicism and blur the salient issues. Questions surrounding dogma or doctrine are certainly confusing for non-Catholics. Some Church teachings are not dogma (which must be obeyed), but "disciplinary teachings" or "disciplinary canons" that can be modified, if deemed appropriate by Church officials. Celibacy of priests, designation of Lenten requirements, and wearing of "liturgical vestments" by priests are some examples of traditions that could conceivably be altered. However, the issues that create the most dissention and controversy within the Church stem from dogma that prohibit a variety of acts, including abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality.
And this brings me to journalist Andrew Sullivan's latest column. Sullivan was once a right-leaning libertarian. He's now an embittered left-leaning libertarian who has truly lost his way. The man is acting-out in an unseemly manner - to the point of being obsessive and angry - regarding the Catholic Church's uncompromising stance against homosexuality and gay marriage. Sullivan's expectations were always unrealistic. Although I would never say never, the chances have always been virtually nil that the Catholic Church would reverse or even soften its position - rooted in dogma – on the question of homosexuality. For his own sake, Sullivan really ought to come to terms with his deep discontentment with some of the Church's teachings. He might just want to exit the Catholic Church and align himself with another church or denomination that doesn't cause him this level of angst. I'm almost sorry to be this blunt but this guy is eating himself up alive about circumstances that are not going to change anytime soon.
In his April 24th column in the UK Times, Sullivan states: "In a culture where women have reached near parity in the world of work and family, the Pope has declared that women should pursue either motherhood or virginity. Everything else is a surrender to ‘masculine' values. In a society with a huge gay population, the Pope has declared that homosexuals have an innate tendency towards ‘intrinsic moral evil' and are therefore ‘objectively disordered'. He has also argued that the exercise of conscience is a sinful delusion if it doesn't comport with church doctrine. This shock, of course, is at the core of what the Pope is intent on providing. If his predecessor focused primarily on breaking the evil of communism, Benedict XVI is dedicated to confronting what he regards as the evil of democratic capitalism and permissive liberalism."
Sullivan further notes: "If this forces liberal Americans to leave the church, so be it. In 1970 Ratzinger wrote of the 18th-century church in Europe, reeling from the Enlightenment, that it was ‘a church reduced in size and diminished in social prestige, yet become fruitful from a new interior power, a power that released formative forces for the individual and for society'".
Sullivan quotes Ratzinger from thirty five years ago, but I'm not sure that it's fair to say that those past statements are indicative of the Pope's current views. But what about this concept of only attracting and retaining the "true believers" of Catholicism as a significant force to be reckoned with? William Donohue of the Catholic League is spot-on when he notes that "orthodoxy sells, moral absolutes sell". In other words, it's not wishy-washy moral relativism that attracts people to the Faith, but strong delineated "truths".
Frankly, I think that Sullivan is demonstrating an incredible amount of negativity toward a Pope that has just begun his journey on the international stage. Before making any definitive judgments, I'd like to sit back and watch what the Pope can do. If he can exude a warm pastoral style, being conciliatory and collegial while reaching out and bringing people together, then his papacy will have been a success. And, of course, given his past, it would behoove the Pope to make compelling inroads with Jews around the globe.
Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.
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