(June 11, 2009)
(April 4, 2009)
The looming failure of Benedict XVI’s pontificate is seen in the closeness of his association with two very suspect politicians, Silvio Berlusconi and George Bush, and also in the fact that the most vocal enthusiasm is coming from the extreme right of the Catholic Church.
Berlusconi declared after his visit to the Pope: “My Government cannot but please the Pope and the Church.” He promised free books to Catholic schools (something even public schools do not have). He kissed the papal ring twice, something all recent Italian Premiers have avoided doing. In a passionate speech to the Italian bishops on May 29, Benedict greeted ‘with particular joy the signals of a new climate, more trusting and more constructive’ (clearly referring to the new Berlusconi government). ‘This is linked to the highlighting of more serene relations between the political forces and the institutions, in virtue of a livelier perception of common responsibilities for the future of the Nation. This is encouraging, as is the fact that this perception seems to be spreading itself to popular opinion, throughout the land and to different social groups. The desire is spreading to take up the path again, to face and resolve at least the most urgent and grave problems, and to launch a new season of economic, but also civil and moral, growth.’ But this climate ‘needs to be consolidated’. ‘As bishops we cannot fail to make our specific contribution to Italy knowing a season of progress and concord… We must witness… that no other human and social problem can be resolved if God does not return to the center of our lives.’
President Bush’s visit is reported in rather mocking terms in the Roman newspaper La Repubblica:
The two leaders agree on the defense of ‘fundamental moral values’; Benedict thanked his guest for this engagement. A decidedly unwonted circumstance was that in a very special ceremony Benedict XVI waited for his host for some minutes while his faithful secretary Don Georg, smilingly adjusted the cross on his breast,. “What an honor, what an honor, what an honor” exclaimed a happy and moved Bush, descending from his limousine and shaking Benedict’s hand. After a half hour alone with him, the Pope accompanied his friend Bush onto the terrace to show him the magnificent panorama. The two exchanged large signed photographs of each other. They laughed that they had both had the same idea. In addition the President gave Benedict XVI a photographic album of his triumphal journey in the USA. A gift highly appreciated. After the customary photo, Ratzinger Bush walked on foot in the Vatican alleys to the Lourdes Grotto. Here was an open-air salon with four armchairs in the shade of a giant cedar. The Pope, the President, his wife Laura and Cardinal Bertone seated themselves to hear the motets intoned by the Sistine Choir. Bush could not resist beating time to a piece by Palestrina. And then, breaking protocol, he wanted to greet the young singers.
I wrote to The Irish Times, June 18, 2008:
Madam, - Many Catholics, including several Cardinals, were distressed to see Presidents Silvio Berlusconi and George Bush paying fulsome homage to Pope Benedict XVI and being received by him as specially honoured guests.
Both men have reason to be grateful to the Pope. Berlusconi would not be president [or premier, Presidente del consiglio] except for the two-year papal campaign against Romano Prodi’s government. In a partisan speech to the Italian bishops, which also caused much unease, Benedict hailed a new day in Italian politics marked by closer co-operation between church and state. He seems to take Berlusconi at face value as a knight of Christian principle.
Nor would Bush be president if the then Cardinal Ratzinger had not intervened at his request in the 2004 election by urging bishops to crack down on pro-abortion politicians.
When the Pope embraces the president as a champion of moral values, with no criticism of his policies on war, torture and capital punishment, he allows him to claim blanket approval of his unsavoury record and hands him a trump card that will be used to help John McCain win the US presidency.
The following article by Francis X. Rocca published by the Religion News Service, Vatican City, on June 7, 2008, reveals how deeply Benedict is involved in the promotion of the Republican Party and its alleged values. The story of Bush complaining about Catholic Bishops when visiting the Vatican and of Ratzinger’s subsequent letter can be found here:
“When President Bush pays a visit to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Friday, it will be his sixth meeting with a pope, and his third meeting with Benedict in just over a year. Never in U.S. history has a president consulted so often with the leader of the Catholic Church. Carl Anderson, a former Reagan aide who now heads the Knights of Columbus, calls it ‘remarkable.’”
A failed President courts the Pope – but the failure may be contagious.
“Bush has emphasized his admiration for the papacy, and in particular for Benedict, whom he has called a ‘very smart, loving man.’ When Benedict arrived in Washington in April, Bush personally met the pope on the tarmac, the only time that Bush has so honored any dignitary.”
And Benedict plays along with this. Bush is famous in the world at large for two things : the promotion and legalization of torture, and the Iraq War, declared on the basis of cynical, mendacious propaganda and with the aim of securing US power in the Middle East and control of oil reserves. Benedict turns a blind eye to all this, because he sees Bush as a man sincerely devoted to fighting the evils of stem-cell research, gay marriage and abortion.
“Less obvious is how the pope views the president. It is not only Benedict’s relatively shy personality that prevents him from being so demonstrative, but the customary reserve that his office imposes on its occupants.”
If someone puts on a birthday party for me in their flashy mansion, and I gladly accept and appear beaming with joy on his balcony, surely that signifies high regard for my host?
“Yet according to informed observers, there is reason to believe that Benedict, despite some important policy differences with the president (most notably over Iraq), feels a genuine affinity with Bush as both a man and a leader. For the pope, part of the attraction may be found in Bush’s life story. ‘I’d imagine that he has respect for the president as a man who turned his life around, had a conversion experience, stopped drinking and started living a religious life,’ Reese said.”
Has the Pope read the President’s meretricious ghost-written autobiography, A Charge to Keep? In it Bush goes on about how he agonized before refusing pardon to an executed woman – whom he had mocked and jeered at on Television (and we know how little attention Bush and Gonzales paid to any of the pardon pleas that passed through their hands). If Benedict is impressed by Bush’s conversion narrative, he shows tacky taste.
“Benedict, who has warned against the increasing secularization of Europe and praised the prominent role of religion in American public life, is likely to appreciate a head of state who is ‘not afraid to express his faith as a Christian,’ said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of the pope who now runs Ignatius Press, Benedict’s principal English-language publisher.”
Heads of state expressing faith have an easy access to the papacy; Sarkozy also plays that game. Benedict may not be a dupe, but may believe he can dupe his would-be dupers, or use them to encourage others in this soft caesaro-papism.
“In the president, the pope finds a key supporter of the Catholic church’s positions on such controversial questions as abortion, stem-cell research and same-sex marriage. Bush’s arguments have frequently echoed Benedict’s appeals to “natural law” and even employ the terms of Catholic social doctrine (despite the fact that the president is a Methodist). Nowhere has the congruence of their thinking been clearer than at April’s welcoming ceremony at the White House, when Bush cited Benedict’s denunciation of the “dictatorship of relativism,” and the pope noted the importance of American religiosity as inspiration for abolitionism and the civil-rights movement.To which Bush replied, ‘Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech.’ ‘They could pretty much have given each other’s speech,’ said William McGurn, Bush’s former head speechwriter and a Catholic.”
This is a cartoonish comedy on the same level as Belusconi’s ring-kissing. Is the Pope taken in by these florid gangsters?
“Fessio agreed. ‘In terms of authentic, normative Catholic teaching, I don’t see any area in which the pope and President Bush disagree,’ he said. The most notable case of disharmony between the two leaders was over the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger opposed at least as ardently as Pope John Paul II. ‘But Iraq is not a matter of Catholic social teaching,’ Fessio said. Likewise, Benedict’s views on economics, taxation and government regulation (which are known to lie to the left of Bush’s) are merely his personal opinions, not doctrine that he holds as binding on the faithful, Fessio said.”
Catholic teaching on torture, just war and capital punishment is at least as important as teaching on abortion. Obsession with infallibility makes the latter appear overridingly important. In any case, in practice, there is probably very little difference between Bush and the Democrats on the necessity of legal abortions.
Benedict has cheapened the Papacy by his uncritical embrace of Bush and Berlusconi. He has allowed himself to be seduced by tacky glitz, when he should be making an effort to dialogue with all those of the faithful whose cries he has ignored throughout the years.
While Catholic commentators basked uncritically in papal euphoria, Ray McGovern told it as it is:
"Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Washington against a macabre backdrop featuring reports of torture, execution, and war. He chose not to notice.
Torture: Fresh reporting by ABC from inside sources depicted George W. Bush’s most senior aides (Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, and Tenet) meeting dozens of times in the White House during 2002/03 to sort out the most efficient mix of torture techniques for captured “terrorists.”
When initially ABC attempted to insulate the president from this sordid activity, Bush abruptly bragged that he knew all about it and approved. That comment and the National Security Council Action Memorandum that the president signed on February 7, 2002 (see original at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB127/02.02.07.pdf ) dispelled any lingering doubt regarding his personal responsibility for authorizing torture.
Execution: Meanwhile, the Supreme Court with a majority of judges calling themselves Catholic, was openly deliberating on whether one gram, or two, or perhaps three of this or that chemical would be the preferred way to execute people. Always colorful prominent Catholic layman Antonin Scalia complained impatiently, “Where does it say in the Constitution that executions have to be painless?”
Scalia did not seem at all concerned that the pope might remind him and his Catholic colleagues about the Church’s teaching on capital punishment; i.e., the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”
It was enough to bring this student of German history (and five-year resident there) vivid memories of frequenting those places where precisely these kinds of torture and execution policies were conducted at similarly high levels by Hitler’s inner circle-yes, including judges.
War: Can the pope possibly be so suffused with his peculiar brand of theology that he is oblivious to what happened when he was a young man during the Third Reich?
Is it possible that papal advisers forgot to tell him that the post-WW II Nuremberg Tribunal described an unprovoked war of aggression, of the kind that the Third Reich and George W. Bush launched, as the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole?” Could they have failed to tell the pope he would be hobnobbing with war criminals, torturers, and the enabling cowards in Congress who refuse to remove them from office?
For this Catholic, it was a profoundly sad spectacle – profoundly sad. Not since WW II, when the Reich’s bishops swore personal oaths of allegiance to Hitler (as did the German Supreme Court and army generals) have the papacy and bishops acted in such a fawning, un-Christ-like way. The message to Bush and American Catholics: like Benedict, Bush, too, is awesome; and whatever he decides to do now has a nihil obstat from the pope.
During the Thirties, with very few exceptions, the bishops (Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran) collaborated with the Nazis. Meanwhile, Hamlet-like Pius XII kept trying to make up his mind as to whether he should put the Catholic Church at significant risk, while Jews were being murdered by the thousands.
In 1948, in the shadow of that monstrous world war, the French author/philosopher Albert Camus accepted an invitation from the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg. To their credit, the Dominicans wanted to know what an “unbeliever” thought about Christians in the light of their behavior during the Thirties and Forties. Camus’ words seem so terribly relevant today that it is difficult to trim them:
“For a long time during those frightful years I waited for a great voice to speak up in Rome. I, an unbeliever? Precisely. For I knew that the spirit would be lost if it did not utter a cry of condemnation.
“It has been explained to me since, that the condemnation was indeed voiced. But that it was in the style of the encyclicals, which is not all that clear. The condemnation was voiced and it was not understood. Who could fail to feel where the true condemnation lies in this case?
“What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today. (emphasis added)
“It may be… that Christianity will insist on maintaining a compromise, or else on giving its condemnations the obscure form of the encyclical. Possibly it will insist on losing once and for all the virtue of revolt and indignation that belonged to it long ago.
“What I know – and what sometimes creates a deep longing in me – is that if Christians made up their mind to it, millions of voices – millions, I say – throughout the world would be added to the appeal of a handful of isolated individuals, who, without any sort of affiliation, today intercede almost everywhere and ceaselessly for children and other people.” (emphasis added)
(Excerpted from Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays)
Sixty years ago!
Perhaps the Dominican monks took Camus seriously; monks tend to listen. Vatican functionaries, on the other hand, tend to know it all – and typically caution the pope to be “discreet.” You saw that this past week with the pope in Washington and New York, as he forfeited the opportunity to follow the biblical imperative to speak truth to power – to speak out clearly, as Camus insisted, with whatever moral authority he could summon
Catholics All Around
Think back to the visit and the many prominent Catholics who flocked to see the pope – many of them officials with considerable influence in the Judiciary and Legislature, with important players in the Executive Branch as well.
There they were, with their families, the five Catholic Supreme Court justices, fresh from detailed deliberations on how best to implement state-sponsored killings, executions that are banned by the vast majority of civilized countries.
Justice Scalia audibly salivated over how much noxious chemical should be shot into the veins of a “condemned,” and how quickly. (For those with strong stomachs, C-SPAN captured the proceedings.)
I am embarrassed to acknowledge that, like me, Scalia is the product of a Jesuit education. He graduated first in his class from Xavier High School in Manhattan, where the students wore distinctive military garb earning Jesuit high school rivals the moniker “subway commandos.” Scalia went on to graduate from Jesuit Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude.
Despite his advocacy of “soft” torture techniques like driving nails under fingernails, Scalia continues to be lionized by many Jesuits and bishops alike.
In the House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, erstwhile doyenne of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and now San Francisco and minority leader John Boehner (R, Ohio) – also a Catholic – seem about to allocate another hundred billion dollars to death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan for the most reprehensibly crass of political purposes – the coming election. Congressman Jim McGovern (D, Massachusetts) last week tried to guild the lily, noting that Pelosi now insists that, in McGovern’s words, “We’re an equal branch of government; we’re no longer a cheap date.” Right.
Sadly, it appears that Pelosi’s key functionaries on House Appropriations (both of them Catholics) will cave in once again. It is not as though they do not know the right thing to do. Just six months ago Appropriations chair Dave Obey (D, WI) declared, “I have no intention of reporting out of committee anytime in this session of Congress any such [funding] request that simply serves to continue the status quo.”
Subcommittee chair John Murtha (D, PA) put it even more strongly a year before Obey did, and came close to calling the occupation of Iraq a lost cause – which, of course, it is. But it is not politic to say that before the election. Never mind the troops on the front lines.
Obey and Murtha caved last time. I will find it particularly devastating if Obey caves again now, for I have always considered him among the best legislators in Congress. Besides, we used to worship together at the Jesuits’ Holy Trinity parish in Washington, DC.
And since Obey is from Wisconsin, he recognizes better than most others the McCarthy-ite demagoguery coming from the likes of Texas Republican Michael Burgess, to the effect that anything short of giving the president all the war funding he demands is “basically giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” Thirty years ago, Obey told Holy Trinity parishioners that what drove him to a career in politics was having to play the role of Joe MaCarthy at a school play when he was a young teen.
Pelosi also has been unusually candid in admitting that it is electoral politics, pure and simple, that explain her resistance to holding President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney accountable for high crimes and misdemeanors via the orderly procedure given us by the Founders for precisely this purpose – impeachment in the House; trial in the Senate.
If, as widely expected, the war funding goes through, several hundred more American troops are likely to die before some common sense can be injected into U.S. policy next year – not to mention how many Iraqis.
Iraq is a shambles. Two million Iraqis have fled abroad; another two million are internal refugees. Am I the only one who finds macabre the raging debate as to whether the attack and occupation of Iraq has resulted in a million Iraqis dead, or “only” 300,000?
Apparently, the pope did not have any opinion on the Iraq war.
Surely the pope would speak out against the kind of torture for which our country has become famous: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, CIA “black sites” – the more so, since Jesus of Nazareth was tortured to death. The pope chose silence, which presumably came as welcome relief to five-star torturer’s apprentice, Gen. Michael Hayden, now head of the CIA. The White House has made clear that Hayden is ready to instruct his torturers to water board again, upon Caesar’s approval.
Hayden proved his mettle when he was head of the National Security Agency. He saluted smartly when the president and vice president told him to disregard the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act and his oath to defend the Constitution. One of Hayden’s predecessors as NSA director asserted that Hayden should have been court-martialed. Pelosi was briefed both on the illegal surveillance and the torture, but did nothing.
Having demonstrated his allegiance to the president, Hayden was picked to head the CIA. The general likes to brag about his moral training and Catholic credentials. At his nomination hearing, he noted that he was the beneficiary of 18 years of Catholic education.
And all the while it was quite clear he was positively lusting to be in charge of water boarding and other torture techniques – whatever you say, boss. I was somewhat crestfallen after adding up my own years of Catholic education – only 17. Clearly I missed “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques 301.”
Apparently David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff also took that course. Addington has been the intellectual (if that’s the right word) author of torture and the various strained legal justification for it. It was he who drafted the (in)famous Jan. 25, 2002 memorandum, signed by then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, upon which Bush relied in issuing his official authorization for torture on Feb. 7, 2002.
Addington, too, is Catholic. Like Scalia, he graduated from Georgetown summa cum laude.
Keep It General; Focus on Others’ Sins
At the UN, the pontiff pontificated on “God-given human rights” and “massive human rights abuses,” but pretty much left it at that. The Washington Post reported tongue-in-cheek that the pope was “short on specifics and long on broad themes.”
But there was one specific. Here in the U.S., the pope opted to dwell again and again on the pedophilia scandal – to the exclusion of much else. He is to be applauded for meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse and expressing deep shame, but he got a free pass from the media in disguising his own role in trying to cover the whole thing up.
While still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the Vatican office that once ran the Inquisition. In that capacity he sent a letter in May 2001 to all Catholic bishops throwing a curtain of secrecy over the widespread sexual abuse by clergy, warning the bishops of severe penalties, including excommunication for breaching “pontifical secrets.”
Lawyers acting for the sexually abused accused Ratzinger of “clear obstruction of justice.”
Very few American bishops have been disciplined. And when Bernard Cardinal Law was run out of Boston for failing to protect children from predator priests, he was given a cushy sinecure in Rome; many believe he should be behind bars.
In an interview with the Catholic News Service in 2002, Ratzinger branded media coverage of the pedophilia scandal “a planned campaign…intentional, manipulated, a desire to discredit the Church.”
It is nice that the pope has now changed his tune. And nicer still for him is that he found himself in the congenial atmosphere of Washington, where it has been a very long time since powerful miscreants have been held accountable.
So What Did You Expect?
I do wish my friends would stop asking me that.
While it was good that the pope addressed the pedophilia issue head on, it seemed as though he and his politically astute advisers made a considered decision to devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to the subject. An all-too-familiar side-benefit of this focus on below-the-belt sexual issues was that the pope was able to speak in glorious generality on other major issues – war, torture, capital punishment – in all of which, as we have seen, many of “the faithful” are deeply engaged – embarrassingly engaged. Or am I the only one embarrassed?
I had hoped – naively, it turned out – that the pope might encourage his brother bishops to find the courage to state plainly what 109 bishops of the Methodist faith, George W. Bush’s tradition, declared on Nov. 8, 2005:
“We repent of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the face of the United States Administration’s rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent.
“We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die.”
I had thought that perhaps the U.S. Catholic bishops could adopt the kind of resolution that 125 Methodist bishops signed on Nov. 9, 2007. Speaking truth to power, the Methodists called for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the reversal of any plans to establish permanent military bases there.
The Methodist bishops’ resolution noted: “Every day that the war continues, more soldiers and innocent civilians are killed with no end in sight to the violence, bloodshed, and carnage.” Bishop Jack Meadors summed up the situation succinctly:
“The Iraq war is not just a political issue or a military issue. It is a moral issue.” (emphasis added)
Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem
Visiting Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum in West Jerusalem last summer, I experienced painful reminders of what happens when the church allows itself to be captured by Empire. An acquiescent church, it is clear, loses whatever residual moral authority it may have had.
At the entrance to the museum, a quotation by German essayist Kurt Tucholsky set a universally applicable tone:
“A country is not just what it does – it is also what it tolerates.”
Still more compelling words came from Imre Bathory, a Hungarian who put his own life at grave risk by helping to save Jews from the concentration camps. Explaining why, Bathory said this:
“I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain: ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood was crying out to God?’”
Bush, Bible, and “Religion”
According to former President George H. W. Bush, George W. has “read the Bible straight through – twice.” Perhaps he skipped by that passage too quickly; or maybe he is highly selective with respect to those he considers his brothers.
No excuse for Benedict, though; he knows better. And yet he opted to squander his quintessential chance to speak out and make a difference.
Methodist bishop Meadors is right; the war is a moral issue. But President Bush has refused, time and time again, to meet with his Methodist bishops. And now he has the implicit blessing and nihil obstat of the pope.
The bottom line is our challenge: to the degree that right and wrong, moral and immoral considerations are to be injected into discussions about war, executions, torture – well, let’s face it. There is only us. As a post-Vatican II t-shirt once had it: “We are the Church. What if we acted as though we believe that?”
Yes; what if? Are we up to it? Shall we punt, like Benedict? Shall we behave like “obedient Germans,” waiting, as if for Godot, for top-down moral guidance we know in our hearts will never come?
“Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”
The Founders gave us incredibly precious gifts we dare not fritter away. I sense a lot of anger; I am confident we can summon the necessary courage. What about you?
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, DC. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Benedict XVI and Berlusconi : The diabolical marriage of throne and altar occurs once more in the history of the Church
In the virtually total and embarrassed silence of lay and democratic forces and the propagadandist applause of the televisual media, we feel obliged to offer some critical reflections on the recent development in Church-State relations in our country.
The Prodi Government was targeted for two years by the heads of the Italian Bishops Conference and the Vatican that this hostility was one of the main causes of its fall. Since April 13 the relation of church leadership to public institutions has immediately changed.
The President of the Bishops Conference, Card. Angelo Bagnasco and above all Benedict XVI, in the discourses they held at the recent Assembly of the bishops, in the name of a “healthy laicity” interpreted in a one-sided way, have accredited the new government, praised the national pacification, dictated the agenda of things to do without forgetting to “demand” favors in return.
Berlusconi was then interviewed by Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio and received by the Pope with great honors, accompanied by Gianni Letta, under-secretary of the Presidency, named “Gentleman of His Holiness” with a calculated purpose. To the adult Catholic, Prodi, they prefer a man who seems sent by Providence.
This opening of credit has been done with no caution or any careful assessment of the culture the new government represents, which is in evident contradiction with the social doctrine of the Church: total economic liberalism, extremism on the problem of immigration, scant feeling for democracy, weak resistance to criminal powers, indifference to the problems of the relation of the global North and South, lack of personal credibility of its leaders…
The repeated and well projected hand-kissing of Benedict by Berlusconi before the TV cameras is the very icon of the servility of the new political current in regard to ecclesiastical power.
As Catholics we believe in the laicity of the Republic and in the great values of fraternity and solidarity. We wish that our Church may become poor in worldly instruments and able to strip itself of privileges and roles it now enjoys in order to preach the Gospel with greater credibility.
Hence our sense of scandal at the pagan nuptials of throne and altar being pursued in our country, thanks principally to the bishop of Rome who has favored and accepted the servile act of vassalage of the head of the Government.
And we wish that adult Christians, who are present at every level in the Church, may open their mouth without timidity about this question, breaking the cover of conformism that weighs down on Italian Catholicism.
The National Assembly of “Noi Siamo Chiesa”
Milan, 8 June, 2008
The characteristics of today’s meeting between Benedict XVI and President Bush, after the one on the lawn of the White House in April, which was so far from any diplomatic style, indicate a radical shift in comparison with the positions of John Paul II.
Pope Wojtyla always maintained a policy of reserve towards the leadership of the American nation and, in particular, denounced the war in Iraq, which has now instead been recognized and, in practice, accepted.
It is an accord with a leader who is contested in a great part of the world, now having low support in his homeland and at the end of his mandate. The position of Benedict XVI can be understood only from his will to promote the anti-abortion positions of the President and at the same time send a message of preferential sympathy to the West and to its leading nation.
This message is diffused in the whole world by the programmed and extraordinary mediatic impact of this morning’s encounter.
The damage caused by this decision is enormous if one recalls that hundreds of millions of people in the world, not only in Islam, consider President Bush a war criminal and the leader of a great military power that wants to dominate a world full of inequalities and injustices, for which it is primarily responsible.
Many Catholics and Christians are disoriented and many are scandalized, noting that this position of today of Benedict XVI is in direct contradiction with the universal mission of the Church and with the Gosple of liberation and peace based on justice.
Vittorio Bellavite, ‘Noi Siamo Chiesa,’ Rome 13 June, 2008