Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Delicate Choice

On January 24th, Pope Benedict XVI recently reinstated four renegade bishops into the Catholic Church. These men were members of the Society of St. Pius X, a conservative Catholic group that opposes the reforms made by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Pope John Paul II excommunicated the men after they declared themselves bishops without papal recognition. Now, in an effort to consolidate the beliefs of the Catholic church, the Pope Benedict has reached out to the Society of St. Pius X. In his view, the Church is losing influence in an ever more secular world, and he hopes to avoid a schism which may seriously compromise the power of the Church. The controversy over these reinstatements surrounds Richard Williamson. In an interview last week he denied the enormity of the Holocaust. He as also suggested that the US government staged the 9/11 attacks in order to justify an invasion of the Middle East. For many, these comments represent a backwards step for Catholic-Jewish relations. While the suffering of the Holocaust signifies an important event in collective memory, the Pope's actions have the threat of alienating large segments of people.
Chester Gillis, a professor at Geeorgetown University said, “I don’t think the Vatican doesn’t care about Jewish-Christian relations, but at least it appears that internal church matters trump external relations.” It seems then that the price of healing internal rifts comes at the denial of some of the worst human rights atrocities in history. If the Pope can easily write off the Holocaust, what else can he ignore for religious unity?
Shame on you, Pope Benedict.


Allie Noll said...

It's a shame that members of the Catholic church, especially members who are in the ruling body, deny human rights atrocities, especially one on such a level of the Holocaust. However, I agree with Chester Gillis (though I do not think his quote was meant in a good sense) that healing the internal rift and dealing with internal affairs is more important than dealing with external affairs at this moment in time. Do not take this as me condoning the behavior of the Catholic church. I simply believe that it is important for the Catholic church to present a united front when trying to deal with the present international situation. A consolidated Catholic power could prove much more influential and powerful than one split into factions. A perfect example of this occurred in our own country during the elections this past fall. Obama ran an incredible campaign, and despite Clinton's long run into June, the entire democratic faction of the US fell quickly behind Obama. On the other hand, the Republican party was in complete disarray, showing minimal support for John McCain as well as showing extreme indecisiveness during the process of choosing a candidate. A leader can not effectively run a group, organization, faction or country when it is split every which way. That is why it is in Pope Benedict's best interest to deal with the internal issues of the Catholic church before trying to tackle the external issues facing the church and I think unfortunately that the behavior exhibited by certain members are just a consequence of this consolidation.

mdtcy said...

In an overwhelmingly secular time, if the pope wants to maintain power it has to expand its audiences. Creating a broader and more unified front should generate more followers of the Catholic Church. However, in attempts to gain power the Catholic Church must also present an identity that serves to inspire good and understanding in its multinational community. The pope has to bear in mind not only the quantity of followers, but under what identity they are following. An anti-American holocaust denier is not the ideal role model for the newly expanded Catholic Church.

Additionally, the Church is not only reinstating Richard Williamson, but his own followers as well. According to the New York Times article Vatican Move on Bishop Exposes Fissures of Church, by Rachel Donadio (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/world/europe/05pope.html?hp) there are over 400,000 followers of the Society of St. Pius X.

Finally, if the church wants to regain power of the secularized world, condoning people who generate hate against Jews and Americans is counterproductive. Because of the strong, negative, controversial opinions of Richard Williamson, the church will turn away people who strongly disagree. By reinstating Richard Williamson, the church will lose followers in exchange. Regardless of the Jewish-Christian relations, the Catholic Church is welcoming in open holocaust deniers which will ultimately hurt their already dwindling masses.

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