Old Time Religion!
YOU'VE got to give it to this Pope. Don't know what you've got to give him, but when it comes to making headlines and putting backs up, since taking office four years ago at the age of 76, this spokesman for the Prince of Peace has been, whatever his intentions, proving a right Holy Warrior.
First there was his seeming foray into the 'war on terror', or the Crusades. In a lecture delivered on September 12, 2006, at the University of Regensburg, where he had been professor of theology, Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, quoted words attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos in a 1391 work, as saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only bad and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
The Pontiff stressed that these were not his own words, and contrasted the Prophet's original teaching that "There is no compulsion in religion" with what he described as the newer teaching that allowed "spreading the faith through violence"; the distinction was lost in worldwide media coverage. From Morocco to Indonesia, Muslims felt their religion was under attack, and quite a few Western Catholic leaders and right-wing politicians were happy it should be taken that way.
Iran's Guardian Council said the Pope was participating in a "Western conspiracy against Iran", adding that while he condemned Islam as violent, Muslims were the victims of western violence. President Ahmadinejad was more careful, saying he respected the Pope as "all men who want peace". The Saudi Mufti said it showd there could be "no compromise between religions". Indian vice president Mohammed Hamid Ansari said "The language used by the Pope sounds like that of the Crusades".
The Pope apologised for any offence, and on October 12 an Open Letter from leading Muslim scholars and clerics, including from Bosnia, Kosova and Chechnya, accepted his apology, while pointing out that the allegations from the 14th century emperor had been wrong anyway. Meanwhile there had been attacks on Christians and their churches in several places, though we may note that attacks in Iraq and Palestine took place under occupation, involved not fanatical mobs but small groups of masked gunmen, and yet were not claimed by known organisations.
Just before Christmas, the Season of Peace and Goodwill, another wide section of people worldwide came under attack from His Holiness. Here's the Daily Mail:
Homosexuality is as great a threat as rainforest destruction, says Pope
'Pope Benedict, 82, known as God's Rottweiler for his hardline views, made the comments in his festive address to the Vatican's governing body, the Curia. He said: 'The Church must defend not only the earth, the water and the air as gifts of creation belonging to everyone, but it must also protect mankind against the destruction of itself. 'The tropical forests deserve our protection, but man as a creature deserves it no less.'
In a clear reference to homosexuality, he said the failure to respect the union between a man and a woman amounted to the 'auto destruction of mankind'.Humanity needed to 'listen to the language of creation' to understand the intended roles of man and woman, he added. Anything that deviated from this was a 'destruction of God's works'.
And the BBC (December 23):
Speaking on Monday, the Pope warned that blurring distinctions between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race. The comments were "irresponsible and unacceptable", the UK's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) said.Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former Italian MP, called his words "hurtful". The row erupted as news emerged that the pontiff is to pay his first visit to the Holy Land in May next year. Pope Benedict made the comments in an end-of-year speech to senior Vatican staff.Defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, he said, but also about protecting man from himself. It was not "out-of-date metaphysics" to "speak of human nature as 'man' or woman'", he said. It came from the "language of creation, despising which would mean self-destruction for humans". Gender theories, he said, led to man's "auto-emancipation" from creation and Creator. Earlier this month, the Vatican said that a proposed United Nations resolution decriminalising homosexuality went too far.
For full news report see:
The Israeli onslaught on Gaza took the headlines and outrage away. Over a thousand deaths and the scattering of white phosphorus and flechettes that tear into human beings are a more serious crime against humanity than offensive words by a prelate, however prominent. That leading Israeli rabbis not only endorsed the war but exhorted soldiers to show no mercy when killing civilians is a reminder that no religion has a monopoly when it comes to blessing inhumanity and murder.
Pope Benedict is back in the news again, however, with his efforts to bring the holier-than-the-pope schismatics known as the Society of St.Pius X (SSPX) back into the fold. This is the movement begun by French Cardinal Marcel Lefevre, insisting on the old Latin mass, with its bits requiring conversion of the Jews, and favouring more than a sprinkling of Vichy water. In non-Catholic countries it may seem unimportant, unless you're a devout Catholic, but in France it has been associated with the far-Right politics of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and more generally it seems to have attracted Holocaust revisionists and racialists. In 2007, Pope Benedict opened the way for restoring the Tridentine Mass, and now he has withdrawn the excommunication of four leading SSPX men. This has raised more than eyebrows. Here's Rome correspondent Philip Pullella for Reuters:
'Priests' comments on Jews, Muslims embarrass Pope
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Outbursts about Jews and Muslims by Italian leaders of an ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic group show the challenge facing Pope Benedict as he tries to bring them back into the Church.
Benedict tried on Wednesday to defuse an international furor over his decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops including Richard Williamson, who denies the full extent of the Holocaust and says there were no gas chambers.
'The Pope expressed his "full and unquestionable solidarity" with Jews and warned of the dangers of Holocaust denial. but the next day a priest who is a regional leader of the same ultra-traditionalist group as Williamson, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), made headlines by telling a local newspaper "gas chambers existed at least for disinfecting" inmates but he wasn't sure if they were used to kill them'.
Must admit, I had never heard of Bishop Williamson before, but he must have had his eye on me and fellow conspirators ever since we met in the old cemetery at Prague. Here's Damian Thompson, blogging as Holy Smoke in the Telegraph
Bishop: Jews planning world domination
In a Catholic Herald investigation published today, Bishop Richard Williamson, a senior English prelate of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), is exposed as a poisonous anti-Semite and 9/11 conspiracy theorist who believes that Jews are working on behalf of Antichrist.
Now I've had a look at some of Williamson's wit and wisdom, and found he offers quite an original take on a broad range of cultural interests. For instance you and I may regard Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music' as innocent family entertainment (bit sugary for my taste but my Mum loved it); and quite friendly to the Church. Bishop Williamson, worried for Catholic families tempted into video shops or watching it on Xmas telly, sees it differently. Julie dancing over the mountains is no nun, he says, and the emphasis on love and happiness is no way to bring up children. What's more, he says wittily:
"... enter now the villains! Firstly a glamorous Baroness previously engaged to be married to the Captain, who schemes to get Julie Andrews out of the way, back to the Convent (but didn't you know, "The path of true love never did run smooth"?). Secondly, villain of villains, a - a - a NAZI! (Original sin? - never heard of it! Isn't all sin Nazi sin?)"
Maybe there should be another version for SS Pixies, with strict nuns chastising original sin out of the kids, good Nazis only thinking of the nation's good, and heroic efforts to hide and rescue a war criminal. We won't go into the post-war Vatican ratline, but thank critical Catholic blogger Red Maria at Dolphinarium for reminding us of the case of Paul Touvier, the Vichy collaborator and only Frenchman ever convicted of crimes against humanity, who wnt missing before he could be brought to trial.
In 1989 Touvier was found hiding in the Society of Saint Pius X Priory in Nice. The SSPX stated at the time that Touvier had been allowed to live in the Priory as "an act of charity to a homeless man". You see, they are all heart.
The bishop has applied his brilliant mind to uncovering the conspiracies behind other events. Take the attack on the World Trade Centre:
“Politically, behind the Arab terrorists are most likely the would-be architects of the New World Order, who have long been using the United States as an instrument to achieve their control of the world. Long ago they planned three World Wars to achieve their aim.”
In case you are so unfamiliar with the genre not to know who he means, here's a clue:
“By lies, Judeo-Masonry is preparing for the Third World War” (In this piece, Williamson also commends the late South African apartheid-supporting journalist Aida Parker) More recently, Williamson has given his thoughts to the world at other sites. In his 2005 ”Denial of Christ creates chaos” he rails against immigration:
A few months ago, Rev. Franz Schmidberger of the SSPX German branch said in a letter that Jews could not be considered "our elder brothers in faith" -- the tribute Pope John Paul II used when visiting Rome's Synagogue in 1986. Schmidberger, a top SSPX leader, said today's Jews would be "complicit in deicide" -- the killing of God -- until they rejected "their forefathers' guilt" by accepting Christ as God and being baptised.
The Pope's attempt at rapprochement with the SS Pixies has upset people in his homeland. Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to calls on him to reaffirm his stand against antisemitism, and the Holocaust. Joseph Alois Ratzinger joined the Hitlerjugend when he was 14, but at the time people could say membership was not exactly voluntary. A cousin of his with Downs syndrome was murdered under the Nazi eugenics programme. What worries people now is not the Pope's past but the future to which his decisions may take the Vatican.
Israel's Chief Rabbinate has angrily - and hypocritically - complained, and suspended links with the Catholic Church. If I were foolishly optimistic I might hope that Pope Benedict had proved a blessing for the Middle East, by giving Jews and Muslims something they might agree upon. But I am not that foolish as to place any such hopes on any kind of religion.
Meanwhile, as the row still raged over the SS Pixies, the Pope managed to stir more anger by promoting an ultra-conservative Austrian cleric, Gerhardt Maria Wagner, to be auxiliary bishop of Linz. Wagner is renowned for his views on extreme weather conditions. In 2004 he said the Tsunami was God's punishment for Western tourists who flown to places like Thailand for Christmas. The following year he wrote that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine retribution. "It is surely not an accident that all five of New Orleans abortion clinics, as well as as nightclubs were destroyed."
To be fair, though some Linz Catholics are reportedly unhappy over this appointment, Wagner's weather view is very ecumenical. Prominent American Protestants, as well as some Jewish and Muslim voices, all said New Orleans was being punished for its sins and those of America, even if they were not all agreed for which sins specifically. But then, nor did any bother to explain why the city's poor suffered so disproportionately to the rich and powerful. The poor shall inherit the earth, but it's rich companies - in which the religious institutions have shares -who do well out of the real estate.
BUT DOES THE POPE EVER MAKE MISTAKES?
Whatever happened to infallibility? I suppose we all make mistakes, and forget things as we get older.
"Cardinal admits error over Holocaust denier" Guardian, Feb.4