Election of Benedict XVI ‘a moment of grace’
Pontiff knows the soul of the world depends on the Church’s faithful witness
Moments after the Holy See announced the election of Pope Benedict XVI last week, a friend of mine quipped that “Some folks will think that God isn’t a very good listener” because He had ignored — yet again — the advice of most of the American media.
Despite days of televised counsel from media experts about how the Church needs to change her teachings on a wide range of issues, the cardinals, many of them from the Third World, selected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in near-record time.
At the archdiocesan Pastoral Center, dozens of people were glued to portable TVs they had brought into the office for the occasion. The cheering broke out as soon as Cardinal Ratzinger’s name became public. Anyone who knows the man and his work understands that Benedict XVI is a great gift to the Church — a leader of simplicity, humility, gentleness and warmth. The reason those who oppose authentic Catholic teaching resent him is not because he’s harsh — he is exactly the opposite — but because he has a unique serenity and courage.
Benedict XVI is not only more experienced in the life of the intellect and Christian conscience than his critics, he’s also more faithful to the mission of the Church and more anchored in the peace that comes from knowing and loving her founder — Jesus Christ.
So the smearing begins. A New York Times columnist summed up the anger of the Disappointed last week when she wrote that, “The white smoke (of the papal election) signaled that the Vatican thinks what it needs to bring it into modernity is the oldest pope since the 18th century: Joseph Ratzinger, a 78-year-old hidebound archconservative who ran the office that used to be called the Inquisition and who once belonged to Hitler Youth.”
There’s an ingenious, almost elegant, dishonesty to that kind of writing. It requires real skill in misrepresenting the man and misleading the reader. It also reveals more about the columnist and the newspaper that publishes her than either might like.
But they’re hardly alone. Another prominent American columnist said he was “petrified” by Benedict’s election. Cartoonists have had a field day over the past week engaging in anti-Church bigotry. And even our own Colorado media have repeatedly — and wrongly — described the Holy Father as a “hardliner,” as if living and defending what the Catholic faith teaches is somehow fundamentalist.
One of the lessons from last year that too many American Catholics still don’t want to face is that it’s OK to be Catholic in today’s public square as long as we don’t try to live our beliefs too seriously; as long as we’re suitably embarrassed by all those “primitive” Catholic teachings; as long as we shut up about abortion and other sensitive moral issues and allow ourselves to be tutored in the ways of “polite” secular culture by experts who have little or no respect for the Christian faith that guides our lives.
The reason Pope Benedict XVI will get no media honeymoon is simple. It’s the same reason he instantly won the hearts of committed Catholics, worried the lukewarm and angered the proud and disaffected. He actually believes that what Jesus Christ and His Church teach is true, and that the soul of the world depends on the Church’s faithful witness.
As one columnist bitterly observed, “the cafeteria is now closed.” Of course, for believers, it was never open.
In the homily for his inaugural Mass, echoing the hope of his great predecessor and friend, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that “the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future.”
We live in a moment of grace. The task now for every son and daughter of the Church is to support the Holy Father’s work with our affection, enthusiasm and prayers