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Pope Benedict’s speeches in Portugal were all very fine and worthy of consideration, but I wish to call attention to one speech in particular, his address on culture in Belém. Normally, we try and lift a couple lines from a long quote, but I want to call attention to the final paragraph in its entirety. (You can get the whole speech here.)

Pope Benedict said: "Precisely so as ‘to place the modern world in contact with the life-giving and perennial energies of the Gospel’ (John XXIII, Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis, 3), the Second Vatican Council was convened. There the Church, on the basis of a renewed awareness of the Catholic tradition, took seriously and discerned, transformed and overcame the fundamental critiques that gave rise to the modern world, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In this way the Church herself accepted and refashioned the best of the requirements of modernity by transcending them on the one hand, and on the other by avoiding their errors and dead ends. The Council laid the foundation for an authentic Catholic renewal and for a new civilization – ‘the civilization of love’ – as an evangelical service to man and society. Dear friends, the Church considers that her most important mission in today’s culture is to keep alive the search for truth, and consequently for God; to bring people to look beyond penultimate realities and to seek those that are ultimate. I invite you to deepen your knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ for our complete fulfilment. Produce beautiful things, but above all make your lives places of beauty. May Our Lady of Belém intercede for you, she who has been venerated down through the centuries by navigators, and is venerated today by the navigators of Goodness, Truth and Beauty."

The entire talk highlighted an openness to the modern world, a commitment to dialogue with the modern world, and a confidence about such an engagement that is, frankly, very different from the defensive posture that seems to characterize too many of the public expressions by the hierarchy in this country and by those who often claim to speak for the Pope. It is not so much that Benedict is unafraid of dialogue with the modern world, although he clearly is unafraid. It is that he communicates his love for modernity, and that his critique of modernity comes from that love, not from some hatred of contemporary culture and its questions or, still less from any self-hatreds buried deep in his psychology.

The Pope emphatically is not looking for a culture war, unlike so many of the uber-Catholics stateside who seem to want nothing more than a daily battle between the Church and the world. This difference in one’s stance towards the modern world was evidenced, as well, in the differing postures adopted by the archdioceses of Boston and Denver regarding the acceptance of children of same-sex couples in Catholic schools, about which Father Martin wrote so eloquently yesterday. I understand why a churchman can feel defensive, living in the same century as the Holocaust and in the same decade as Srebrenica, residing in a country that permits abortion-on-demand and which, despite its astounding wealth, allows poverty and want to define the lives of too many fellow citizens. But, I know too, that such defensiveness finds no justification or warrant in the Gospels nor in the writings of Pope Benedict. The Holy Father sees the possibility of the Christian faith generating culture, and defensiveness cannot generate anything except a snarl and anxiety.


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11 years 6 months ago
Vince -

What I object to is MSW constructing thoughts from the Pope from a selected passage of text; in essence, MSW suggests that the Pope is coming around to agree with MSW's leftist perspective. Surely the Pope is not looking for a culture war; that would not be in his or the Church's best interest. But that does not mean that there is a leaning towards acceptance or even consideration of MSW's view, which is where I saw MSW's post going when he mentions "Uber Catholics" and the children of same-sex couples (on which we all know MSW's view).

I see nothing wrong with a defensive position by the Church; it is ok to defend God and the law of God. I think trouble begins when we start chipping away at the law based on human worldly desires.

Jim McCrea
11 years 6 months ago
"He's reporting on a bright spot that  is indeed good news if B16 practiced what he preaches. It would be nice if he did but I'm not hopeful."
Oh, you mean hold him accountable?  Nah - he's POPE, remember?  He can say whatever he darned well please and the legions of theocon slobberers will prostrate themselves at his feet and say "Yes Your Super Holiness - whatever you say" - no matter what he says.
Talk is cheap.  Pastoral leadership - that's another matter altogether.
Dale Rodrigue
11 years 6 months ago
Oh, I agree with you Jim.

In no way did my tongue in cheek mean to absolve him from accountability. Just when we think he gets it he doesn't follow through.
He's no different than the curia members.
Good Lord, even Lombardi doesn't have an open channel to him.

Actions do indeed speak louder than words.
11 years 6 months ago
Great comment by the Pope.
Can an uber liberal like Mr. Winters write anything without taking a gratuitous shot at people he does not like.
11 years 6 months ago
To isolate one speech by Pope Benedict, a wordsmith much more than any pope in recent modern history, from the rest of his words, particularly as Prefect of the CDF such as the now-famous interviews where he questions much of the application of Vatican II, and talks of a faithful minority, is foolish.  There is a reason traditionalists feel much more closely and much more energized by Pope Benedict than they ever did about JP II.  The isolation of the Pope's speech from any context and his attempt to divide the "defensive" "shrillness" of "state-side Catholics" renders this post somewhat flat, to say the least.
11 years 6 months ago
Your daily dose of pro-homosexuality brought to you by that Catholic-in-name-only Protestant group, the Jesuits....

First: Just because the world is changing does not mean that it is changing for the better. Shall we delete the story of Sodom and Gommorah from the Bible, or should we learn from it that societies are susceptible to changing in ways that do not please God? Good and evil do not change with the times; rather, good and evil are static, and society changes its views as to which evil and good it chooses to accept.

Second: If there is a battle between the Church and the world, it has not been started by the Catholics. It's been started by the left-wing wack-jobs who find the Catholic church to be the primary obstacle to their desire for socialism, secularism, and moral relativity.

Third: Someone who writes about "Uber-Catholics" (which, I assume is one who actually practices the faith as opposed to those who want to redefine the faith on a daily basis based on their personal wants) should not be writing for a Catholic publication's blog, unless presented as a contrary opinion.

Sorry, America, but I'm thinking it's time for the Jesuits to spin-off from Catholicism, since they seem to have such disdain for the faith.
david power
11 years 6 months ago
Jr Cosgrave is correct about the predictable mudslinging of MSW with regards anything touching on the culture wars.  It is tiresome.However,there is only one writer in my opinon working for America that has the capacity to show the beauty of the faith without seeming kitschy or awkward and that is the fellow traveller Winters.None of his critics on these comments comes close to showing the fulness of the Catholic Truth and  his orthodoxy does not buckle under a blow from lived experience.It would be great to see Mr Winters prepare some essays on the documents of the council and to put hair on their chests so to speak.I am now reading them and they are at times turgid at times magnificent.Within five years we will be celebrating the 5oth anniversary of the great moment of the Church and it is time now to prepare.What do you say Mr Winters?  A book of essays by Winters and Weigel and others with ideology left at the door could be a fitting tribute to Pope John.I am sure there are many catholics like me who could use a guide to the richness of these texts. 
Vince Killoran
11 years 6 months ago
I wasn't clear exactly what part of MSW's take on Pope Benedict's speech JR Cosgrove, Jeff Landry,Michael Brooks, and David Power considered flawed. Specifics please!
James Dominic James
11 years 6 months ago
I agree with Winters on the Benedict speech. Engagement and dialogue puts us in a position of strength in the service of mission. Defensiveness does not.
But what to wear in the work of engagement and dialogue? Here Winters is silent. But I say, may the Holy Father continue to strengthen the brethren, now commanding them to ditch the man-robes.
This one small reform would do so much to extend the mission of transcendence discussed by Benedict in Portugal. This one small reform would take Gaudium et Spes into its embrace and make her come alive! Remember the image of Josef Ratzinger and Karl Rahner in suit-and-tie German priest-academic uniforms at Vatican II? Cherish it. Cherish that image of the future, you Catholics. Make the future happen now. Make it happen everywhere. God the future of man be with you here and now. No! to man-robes. Yes! to life. Let's go, Easter People. Forward!
If you find this idea silly, ask yourself how many people became even more angry over the abuse crisis as they watched media coverage that included footage of people in man-robes. Remember, on the abuse issue, the subtext is always that the Church at the top is out of touch. And then the media hits you over the head with these images of man-robes. It's a disaster. No matter how vestments can be read to communicate humility, etc., the public doesn't know the language. What the vestments in our context say is this: here come the Special People. It's too much. The clothes aren't good. They are in the way. Back in 2009, people weren't very open to the idea that someone wearing a man-robe nowadays speaks truth about matters of ultimate concern. Well, it's 2010 now, and things are even worse.
James Lindsay
11 years 6 months ago
Ultimately, I believe MSW is saying what some of his critics don't seem to want to hear - that B16 is a bit more open to modernity and change than many realize or are willing to accept.

We shall see. Words are, of course, easy to argue over. Actions will not be. For those critics of MSW, you could be right, however I don't believe so. Michael is providing you with hints that you might not be. I can only wonder what your reaction to B16 will be if MSW's prognostications are on target. Again, we shall see.
11 years 6 months ago
to clarify, what I find mystifying about this post is that Mr. Winters isolates this recent speech by the Pope from a very hefty body of work & thought to attempt to make an argument - that the "shrill" US conservative Catholics are out of step with Pope Benedict's more open approach to "modernity"- that is highly tendentious when one puts the Pope's thought in the CONTEXT of his earlier writings.  There is a very real reason many of these people (whose defensiveness I sometimes find frightening) feel much closer to this pope (what with fiddelback, lace, fur, "ad orientam" liturgies, etc.) than the previous.  I think Mr. Winters is stretching on this one to both twist Pope Benedict's thought and to bludgeon the heads of a group Winters clearly dislikes with that construct.
Molly Roach
11 years 6 months ago
Actions speak louder than words.  I am seeing extreme foot dragging on the very beginning of a road that could, if followed, acknowledge the corruption in our hierarchical structure due to the combination of secrecy and clerical entitlement.  Talking truth ain't enough.  Walk the walk.
Dale Rodrigue
11 years 6 months ago
Geez, give MSW a break will you.
I don't always agree with him but I don't find any fault with the above.
He's reporting on a bright spot that  is indeed good news if
B16 practiced what he preaches. It would be nice if he did but I'm not hopeful.
But that is not MSW's fault.
As far as his uber Catholic comment, well, after reading some of these responses, I think he is exactly right.  No need for further proof. As MSW says: ''defensiveness cannot generate anything except a snarl and anxiety.''
Romans 12:10:''In brotherly love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important than yourself.

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