Monday, June 8, 2009
Personal Aside: Benedicts Press Secretary Who Softens Up (and Changes) the Words the Pontiff Uses More Also About Obamas Cairo Speech The Usual Catholic Bishops Praise the Speech.
As Benedict XVI is probably the most accomplished theologian and philosopher both at one time the papacy has had in at least 400 yearswho, as author of the scholarly work Jesus of Nazareth, has given unrivaled profundity to the study of the 2nd person of the Trinity that biblical scholars Catholic and non- are studying it probably the last thing he needs is a press secretary who pretties up his words for popular consumptionor changes his views in press briefings.
Yet, thats what he has. Along with LOsservatore Obama, the ad hoc Vatican house organ which for decades has been taken to represent papal thinking and which unaccountably has been riffing a pro-Obama tune out of step with the facts, theres a creature named Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, who since 2006 has been director of the Vatican Press Office. Lombardi has taken unto himself the job of explaining the pontiffs actual words--which usually means prettying them up for more general secular acceptance. Just what we need at this time when return to authenticity in Catholic thought is desperately needed and fortuitously we have an acknowledged master at exposition who gives it to us straight, without dilution.
When questioned about his fooling around with papal language, Lombardi says I dont think my role is to explain the popes thinking or explain the things that he already states in an extraordinary clear and rich way. Correct, Lombardi: then why do you do it?
Interviewed on his plane to Brazil May 9, Benedict got this question from journalists: Do you support the excommunication of the Mexican politicians who voted the prior month [April] to legalize abortion? His answer was: Yes, this excommunication was not something arbitrary but is foreseen by the Code [of Canon Law]. It is simply part of Church law that the killing of an innocent baby is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ. The Mexican bishops did not do anything new, surprising or arbitrary.
There: thats crystal clear, isnt it?
But the next day when the Vatican Press Office released the official transcript of the press conference, the Popes words were polished with a p. r. finesse. His first word yes was removed as were his reference to the Mexican bishops. When asked about the massaging he had performed, Lombardi said, [I]t is routine for the Vatican Secretariat of State to review the popes extemporaneous remarks and clean them up a little for publication.
Clean them up: get that? After all, no actual excommunication had occurred.
So you see its far more than cleaning upif you believe a crack theologian like Benedict needs a liberal Jebbie to tell the world what he meansbut its actual re-doing of the papal remarks. Another item, from InsideCatholic.com: In November, 2008 Benedict addressed the International Organ Transplant conference co-sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life, which had been criticized by some leaders of the pro-life movement for failing to critically examine brain death, how it has been applied to death criteria and the application of organ transplants. It seems some medical practitioners are a little hasty at removing organs at the first hint of what is called brain death and that other doctors are quick to pull the plugala Teri Schaivowhen they presume brain death is synonymous with physical death.
The Popes address was seen as a rebukeby the world pressto the organ transplant experts when he said:
There must not be the slightest suspicion of arbitrariness. Where certainty cannot be achieved, the principle of precaution must prevail.
The Vatican website, under the supervision of Lombardi, carried Benedicts statement but a day later published a dissenting minority report from an earlier meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, dated 2005, which directly contradicted the pope, arguing that brain death WAS acceptable. Thus Lombardi is turning the official website into a debate about as stunning as if the White House website in addition to publishing Obamas stuff also ran Newt Gingrichs. It leaves the question as to whos in charge of the Vatican theological line: Benedict or some Jesuit named Lombardi.
Lombardi has allowed his buttinsky fingers to get involved in changing the papal injunction on the issue of condoms and AIDS. The Pope said in March on the way to Africa that condoms only made the problem worse by giving a false sense of security to the participants. When the statement came out in official text it had Benedict saying the condoms risk increasing AIDS. Lombardi said the changes came from an official in the Secretariat of State: if so, on an issue of this supreme importance, the Popes should prevail, Lombardi.
And on the same African trip, Benedict told government officials of Angola: How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of maternal health care! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health! At a news briefing later Lombardi insisted the pope absolutely was not talking about therapeutic abortion and did not say this must always be rejected. Again: liberal theology ala Lombardi.
U. S. conservatives will recall this has been a problem with some of their presidents as well, when press attaches start fooling with actual words. This, we hope, will be ironed out when Benedict sends Lombardi who has edited a number of Jesuit magazines ( a bad sign in itself) to a monastery where he can repent his efforts at misdirection.
More on Cairo.
One guy who has Barack Obama down pat patter (if I can invent this usage of the word) than anyone Ive read is Victor Davis Hanson, military historian and scholar of ancient times. He says a tenet of postmodernism is relativismthe notion that neither morality nor wisdom is absolute and definable but instead simply predicated on what those with power and advantage say they are. Essentially, the postmodernist sees `competing truths and `rival moralities at least roughly equal merit These canards are as old as the sophist movement in ancient Athens but they became popular again in the 1980s and 1990s in the academic world.
Nothing is so replete with postmodernism than Obamas supplication to the Muslims in Cairo. By casting around as to who praises it, its an easy index to media- and faculty-wide relativism: saves you time reading their crap when you can make an instant judgment this way. Ive written about Cairo but reading the speech yet again (now for the 4th time), here are some further observations:
He describes Irans development of a nuclear weapon as a misunderstanding of sorts, hinting they are right to assume that all nations have rights to nuclear weaponry but only if they adhere to international rules. Thats the faintest-hearted statement of outlaw nations in possession of weaponry Ive ever heardfainter hearted than even Jimmy Carters.
Pushing on with his studied equivalence between cultures, he says on one hand theres the United States which in 1953 carried out under the Eisenhower administration (devised by Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill) after a pro-Communist Iranian premier expelled the Shah and moved to nationalize the oil fields with the aim to put the Iranian oil fields at the disposal of the USSR which would have tipped the balance at that stage of the Cold War. We utilized our CIA which joined Britains M16 to topple the premier which resulted in the Shah, a friend of the West, returning to Iran and keeping the oil fields open.
This purported evil Obama listed on one hand counterbalanced by 30 years of Iranian terrorism against the U.S. and world, taking American hostages, help to Iraq in the killing of Americans, developing of nuclear missiles and threatening the world with weapons.
Another equivalence. On one hand: Obama mentions womens rights using a very vague reference to oppression of females in the Muslim world where they are forced to wear veils, some endure acid being tossed in their faces if they discard the veil, are beaten in the street in Saudi Arabia if they show an ankle and are stoned to death in Iran after being accused of adultery. On the other: Obama says we have more to accomplish for womens rights in this country! As if more vigorous application of Title IX matches the foregoing.
McCarrick and the Usual Catholic Suspects.
Barack Obamas Cairo speech received fulsome praise from liberal Christian leaders including the usual suspects from the left wing of the Catholic hierarchy according to the website of the U. S. Catholic Conference starting off with (who else?) Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, D. C. and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, chairman of the Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The group issued a statement that praised the two-state solution as if it is something unpalatable to Israel and therefore gutsy for Obama to suggest it. Dont they know that in 2000 at Camp David Ehud Barak offered it to Yasir Arafat including the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, Gaza and the Golan Heights and he turned the offer down? Dont they know that after the Israelis pulled out of Gaza, the Palestinians used it as a launching pad to fire missiles to Israel?
It doesnt matter because the Left is unresponsive to logic. Other Catholic signatories include Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Bishop Gabino Zavala, auxiliary of Los Angeles, president of Pax Christi USA; Franciscan Sister J. Lora Dambroski, president, Leadership Conference of Women Religious; Marie Dennis, director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Franciscan Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, president, Franciscan Action Network; Redemptorist Fr. Thomas Picon, president, Conference of Major Superiors of Men.