Around the time that Benedict was elected to the highest office on God’s green earth, a number of clever souls drew our attention to the unfortunate similarities between Benedict and Emperor Palpatine.
Just kidding, of course.
Now, a few years back when Benedict’s antics as Pope were only beginning, I wrote this article about Pope Benedict’s decision to reinstate the old-school Tridentine Mass. Of his penchant for extreme traditionalism, I had this to say:
But this past week on July 6, the pope declared that “what earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”
The Catholic Church is precariously dangling between modernity and tradition. Its efforts at modernity are only meant to distract from Benedict’s plan to time-travel back to the dark ages. He longs for a simpler time, when God wasn’t dead and no one questioned absolute power.
Benedict is up to his old tricks again, this time returning the indulgence system to a level of prestige unknown since…er…the dark ages, or at least since the ’50s (which were their own kind of dark ages). But this is after several weeks of absolute turmoil, in which Benedict first welcomed back a schismatic sect of conservative bishops known as the LeFebvrists, all the while apparently unaware that one of these bishops is a Holocaust denier (not to mention that the bishop LeFebvre himself was politically aligned with xenophobic and racist extremist French politician Le Pen).
Today the New York Times ran a story about f*#($& indulgences and the Church today. The publication of this article was bad timing of the politically motivated sort, as the paper clearly wants to further sully the name of Benedict in wake of his recent actions. But still, the article begs a valid point. If the guy is really up to these kinds of doctrinal shenanigans, now’s as good a time as any to talk about them.
This pope truly needs some better public relations management. But perhaps it would be better to say that even the best PR broker in the world could not save this man from himself.
Say you like the idea of a certain amount penance balancing out an equal amount of sin (this is roughly the idea of indulgences). It seems a little rudimentary and even a little barbarian, not at all part of Catholicism’s history of nuanced and mysterious theological explanations. But say the word for these particular penances, that is, indulgences, is mired in one of the world’s largest controversies to have ever taken place (that is, “The Protestant Revolution”). Say what this word represents led Martin Luther to nail his theses to a Wittenberg church door; say this word tumbles off the tongue, accompanied by the words “schism” and “Dark Ages” and “Spanish Inquisition.” Would you then decide to promote the idea behind this word, using its old name, when the whole world is frowning at your recent blunders? The answer is, clearly, NO!
I think Benedict ought to pray a few hundred rosaries for stirring up such tension between his flock and the other flocks out there in the field. He already pretty much permanently alienated our monotheistic brethren the Muslims back in 2006 when he said, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Then he alienates our other monotheistic brethren, the Jews, with his reacceptance of a Holocaust denier to the Church. (Granted, he later tried to force Williamson to recant.)
Then he reminds everybody of why Protestants exist in the first place and reinforces divisions within Christianity by reintroducing a highly charged word like “indulgence” back into our Church vocabulary.
Please, Benedict, will you pray for a little tact and media savvyness? Our ability to indulge your papal grace is wearing thin.