Friday, November 10, 2006

Is the Pope above criticism?

Tom Bethell, in a letter to the Editor of the most recent issue of the New Oxford Review (November 2006), addresses this question. He referes to an attack by George Kendall in The Wanderer on NOR for criticism of the Pope. Bethell says that as far as he knows, The Wanderer allows no criticism of the papacy to appear in its pages, presumably because drawing attention to papal shortcomings will only give offense to readers. But he questions the wisdom of such a policy: "If such shortcomings are real, why should readrs be shielded form them?" he asks.

He notes that it is widely accepted that Pope John Paul II did not pay much attention to the governance of the Church. "Surely this was a defect," he says, " and I don't see why readers should not be told. Editors who think their readers need to be shielded from the truth are probably in the wrong line of business."

More importantly, Bethell observes that the papacy in recent years has received a great deal of criticism from the heterodox side of the aisle. "If at the same time there is nothing but praise from the orthodox side, the Vatican will be subjected to a constantly lopsided pressure. That has overwhelmingly been the case in the decades since Vatican II."

A few years ago, says Bethell, a priest in New York told him that an article about Cardinal O'Connor, criticizing his weak governance of the New York Archdiocese, was submitted to The Wanderer and rejected. The response tiven was that "our people must have someone to look up to." Bethell observes: "Yet such an article might have had the effect of alerting O'Connor to the existence of dissatisfaction among his more orthodox parishioners. Things might have changed for the better."

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