Douthat on Newmania

Ross Douthat, an intelligent and literate Catholic observer, and a columnist in the New York Times, writes perceptively on the surprising turnout for Pope Benedict in light of the protests by atheists like Richard Dawkins and predictions of embarrassing crowds.  (The same phenomenon of surprised secular observers happened during the pope's visit to the States in 2008).  He's spot-on when it comes to the hidden Catholics who practice their faith and who are loyal to the office of the pope; he's less spot-on, I think, it comes to the trauma inflicted on the church by the abuse crisis.  But he's always worth reading.  See what you think.  A bit here:

No doubt most of Britain’s five million Catholics do not believe exactly what Benedict believes and teaches. No doubt most of them are appalled at the Catholic hierarchy’s record on priestly child abuse, and disappointed that many of the scandal’s enablers still hold high office in the church.


But in turning out for their beleaguered pope, Britain’s Catholics acknowledged something essential about their faith that many of the Vatican’s critics, secular and religious alike, persistently fail to understand. They weren’t there to voice agreement with Benedict, necessarily. They were there to show their respect — for the pontiff, for his office, and for the role it has played in sustaining Catholicism for 2,000 years.

Conventional wisdom holds that such respect is increasingly misplaced, and that the papacy is increasingly a millstone around Roman Catholicism’s neck. If it weren’t for the reactionaries in the Vatican, the argument runs, priests might have been permitted to marry, forestalling the sex abuse crisis. Birth control, gay relationships, divorce and remarriage might have been blessed, bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Theological dissent would have been allowed to flourish, creating a more welcoming environment for religious seekers.

Read the rest here.

James Martin, SJ


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
8 years ago
Catholicism is a religion not a political party to be swayed by the mere desires of its membership in a changing culture.  This quote from the article sums up the danger in treating it as the latter: 

"But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance."

Thomas Piatak
8 years ago
Thanks for highlighting this excellent column by Douthat, and for America's outsanding coverage of Pope Benedict's trip to Britain, a trip that inspired this American.
8 years ago
I wonder what Fr. Martin, Mr. Douthat or Mr. Ivereigh would think about Benedict's final address to the English speaking bishops beforeh is departure (stressing the "value" of the new Mass translation and urging said bishops to be "generous" in the welcomin gof anglican convert coomunities -which Benedict sees as an advance in Catholic/Anglican relations.)
Strikes me that the value of Benedict's visit may be a beautiful moment followed by scepticism and division of the policies he pursues subsequently.


The latest from america

The tête-à-tête between Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi in Manhattan was like a documentary about a once-popular rock band. (Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography)
Speaking in a deep blue stronghold, the Democratic leader of the House calls for “civility” and cautiously hopes that she will again wield the speaker’s gavel in January.
Brandon SanchezOctober 16, 2018
The lecture provoked no hostile reaction from the students who heard it. But a media firestorm erupted.
John J. ConleyOctober 16, 2018
Though the current synod appears to lack the sort of drama and high-stakes debates of the previous two, the role of conscience appears to be a common thread.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 16, 2018
When Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists on the Olympic podium, their act drew widespread criticism. Now Colin Kaepernick is the face of Nike.
Michael McKinleyOctober 16, 2018