Monday, April 25, 2005

Maureen Dowd & the Pope

From the standpoint of a Protestant clergyman, there was much to be celebrated in Pope John Paul’s reign. As a result, I am generally hopeful for the new pontificate. Benedict XVI was a close confidant of John Paul II, and I expect many of the same policies. I am amazed, however, at the venom directed at this Pope.

In a recent article, Maureen Dowd compares Pope Benedict XVI with Vice President Dick Cheney awarding both with prominent positions in the pantheon of villainy.

The two, from rural, conservative parts of their countries, want to turn back the clock and exorcise New Age silliness. Mr. Cheney wants to dismantle the New Deal and go back to 1937. Pope Benedict XVI wants to dismantle Vatican II and go back to 1397. As a scholar, his specialty was "patristics," the study of the key thinkers in the first eight centuries of the church.
Granted, both Pope Benedict and John Paul have been critical of excesses done in the name of Vatican II. Still, both were at Vatican II, and both have publicly embraced the council. In fact, Pope Benedict, in his former role, excommunicated an outspoken critic unwilling to heed the reforms of Vatican II. Moreover, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which Benedict headed is a far cry from the Inquisition. In fact, to suggest otherwise is to dishonor the memory of those who faced the Inquisition.

Finally, I almost groaned at Dowd’s mention of "patristics." Actually, I wished more church leaders had knowledge of the first eight centuries of church. The protestant reformers certainly knew the Church Fathers as well as they knew the Scriptures. Athanasius or Augustine can certainly teach us more about the church than the New York Times.

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