Pope deserves a break
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, February 5, 2009
This letter is in response to Andrew Nesi’s collumn on Pope Benedict XVI’s re-incommunication (he was right, it’s a good word) of Bishop Richard Williamson (“A Papal Fallacy”, Viewpoint Feb. 5). In this collumn, Mr. Nesi bemoans the amnesty the Vatican has shown to Williamson, a certifiable nut-job who holds such lovely tenets as male chauvinism, gender discrimination, and good old-fashioned ignorance.
Mr. Nesi, the pope has been forced to handle a very tricky situation. It is clear from his responses that the view from the windows of the Vatican may not be all that great, I will grant you that. He has long been criticized as “out-of-touch” with the rest of the world. But really, isn’t that the point of the Papacy? I wasn’t aware that the term “Holy See” referred to seeing the world and the world only; the bishop of Rome must act with the heavenly kingdom in mind. I understand that Benedict has said some incendiary things. But the Church is not in the business of telling people what they want to hear; it is in the business of telling people what they need to hear “in order for the salvation of souls.” Controversial teachings are not made for the sole purpose of getting free press; if the Church speaks truth, and it pricks my conscience, maybe my conscience is out of line. And readers, please don’t turn this into a “Who says the Church is the ultimate authority?” debate. I personally believe in the ability of the Church as a whole (the pope “in union with the college of bishops,” remember?) to make sound moral doctrines and conclusions. Like I said earlier, Pope Benedict had a lot of factors to consider.
First and foremost, the Catholic Church has a schism on its hands. The Society of Pius X espouses some very flawed notions, including dissent over the Second Vatican Council and the authenticity of the modern Mass (because these people are right, but all the bishops in the world in the 70’s must be wrong). Williamson in particular holds some seriously flawed beliefs. As was remarked in an article on Wednesday (“Professor defends pope on disputed bishop issue,” Feb. 4), it would be much better to have wayward clergy under the vigilance – and discipline -‘ of Rome. And reinstating a bishop with controversial views does not an approbation make.
Furthermore, in case you weren’t aware, there is a serious shortage of priests in the world. According to Cleveland-based futurechurch.org, the number of priests in England has fallen over 20 percent in the last 30 years. Half of the current priests are over age 60. On this side of the pond, the number of American priests has fallen 23 percent since 1965, while the number of yearly ordinations has been cut in half. In that same time, the number of priest-less parishes has nearly sextupled. This is a crisis situation, folks.
I understand that Williamson is a terrible figure for the Church to embrace, but really, our dear Vatican has been forced into a corner. For the reason above and a number of others more befitting an actual article than a letter to the editor, the Church decided to extend an olive branch to these four priests while distancing itself from their radical beliefs. So Mr. Nesi, if you really want to ensure that radical priests don’t end up speaking from lecterns on Sundays, maybe you should become a priest yourself. It’s a shame that the religious vocation has fallen by the wayside in many modern Catholic families. If the Church had more candidates to choose from, maybe they could rely on priests who aren’t as incredibly controversial as Richard Williamson.