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Pope Benedict’s Agenda

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Pope Benedict XVI apparently chastised Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi over her views on abortion. Pelosi is Catholic and pro-choice. After a private meeting with Pelosi at the Vatican this week, Benedict issued a statement saying all Catholics, especially lawmakers, should work to protect all human life. Meanwhile, there’s been sharp criticism of the pope for his appearance of insensitivity to Jews when he reinstated an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust.

We have perspective on all this from John Allen, longtime Vatican correspondent for National Catholic Reporter. He joins us from Denver. John, welcome. Let’s start with the Pelosi visit. What struck you about that?

JOHN ALLEN (Vatican Correspondent, National Catholic Reporter): Well Bob, I think it was a classic Vatican balancing act. On the one hand, by giving the meeting to Pelosi over some criticism from some pro-life groups in the States who thought she had no business seeing the pope, Benedict signaled the desire to keep lines of communication open with the new leadership in the States. On the other hand, by publicly rapping her on the knuckles, he also called pro-choice legislators in the States to task. So it was their attempt to cover all the bases. Whether it will leave everyone fully satisfied remains to be seen.

ABERNETHY: And then, John, there’s been this strong, sharp criticism of the Vatican process, the bureaucracy, for permitting the pope to say things recently that were offensive, perhaps unnecessarily so. What do you make of that? I’ve read words like “chaos” and “incompetence” and “fatal flaw.” What’s going on?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, I think what we’re seeing is the culmination of a series of events. I mean it didn’t just begin with this controversy having to do with this Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop. I mean we can roll the clock back three years when the pope triggered a firestorm of protests in the Islamic world with a lecture he gave in Germany; to last year’s controversy over a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews. In recent days, there’s been a controversy regarding a bishop who was appointed in Austria. It had to be withdrawn when it became clear he had fairly extremist views. Basically, I think what’s happened is there’s a growing consensus in the Catholic world left, right, and center. But the Vatican simply has to get its communications act together, because what is happening is that the pope’s message is not getting through because it is repeatedly being obscured by these unnecessary public relations meltdowns.

ABERNETHY: And what would that involve? I mean, the pope knows the bureaucracy. He came out of it. What would it involve now?

Mr. ALLEN: Well look, Benedict XVI is one of the great intellectuals ever to occupy the papacy. He’s a brilliant theologian. He is not a public relations expert. There needs to be someone in his inner circle who can bring that kind of savvy.

ABERNETHY: And then there’s the pope’s coming trip to the Holy Land. How does all this affect that?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, it recalibrates that trip significantly. It was supposed to be about advancing Catholic-Jewish relationships, in addition to the Vatican’s diplomatic relationship with Israel. I think now it becomes almost exclusively about damage control. I think the perception in the Vatican is that Benedict desperately needs this trip in order to send signals to the Jewish community that he remains committed to good working relationships.

ABERNETHY: John Allen of National Catholic Reporter, many thanks.

  • Peter Robinson

    Pope Benedict’s descent in the moral landscape continues.
    While the Pope may decide to diplomatically insult Nancy Pelosi, the third in line for the presidency, for holding views contrary to his own – the world continues to focus on a more serious moral question – how can Benedict court the SSPX? – given the documented anti-Semitism.
    Every Papal move is tainted by this grotesque dance.
    And the smell isn’t dissipating – Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner, who believes Hurricane Katrina was Divine retribution for New-Orlean lust, turned down his Papal promotion because of “fierce criticism”.
    There has been nothing from him, or the Vatican, repudiating the notion of meteorology as divine feedback.
    The Vatican continues to pitch for the credulous and nasty at the expense of the thoughtful and tolerant.

  • Channah

    Perhaps Pope John Paul spoiled the world, as he was a good and understanding man. This Pope just doesn’t understand people and how to get along with them. He has no clue what people are all about. And, he never will.

  • Channah

    Maybe the last Pope spoiled us——–such a kind and loving man, who understood and cared about people.

    This Pope does not have people skills or understanding, and I think he really does not care about people-they are just something he has to put up with. He is a very cold and thoughtless man.

    As a Jew, I take offense at his attitude toward both Jews and Muslims. He has no respect for either.

  • Marian

    There are glaring inaccuracies in this reporting, mainly due to anti-Catholic bias–or should I say, anti-Pope bias. The Lefabre heretic bishops have no authority or bishoprics in the Church, nor were they “re-instated” to postions of authority. Pelosi has made erroneous statements about Church history to defend her stand on legalised abortion and her support of FOCA. The Church defends life at all stages, from conception until natural death. Your article is offensive in its anti-Catholic and anti-Christian bias. Even Orthodox Jews revere Pope Benedict XVI for his pro-life stand, even if they were confused by his attempt to reconcile heretical members back to the authority of the Church. Try doing better research in a less biased manner. Religious readers do not like having their intelligence insulted.

  • Eugene A Stephens

    I became Catholic at the time Pope John Paul was dying and was confirmed Pentacost Sunday that same year when Benedict was elected Pope.

    When I became aware that Benedict XVI reinstated the excommunicated Bishop who is denial of the Holocost I immediately felt as though the pope had exposed his underbelly revealing his still strong connection and perhaps love for the Hitler Youth and their beloved Adolph.

    My father spent 1 1/2 years in Stalag Luft III in Germany until being liberated at the war’s end. I know the stories my father told me about his experiences in Germany during WWII. My father was a gunner on an American bomber, was shot down 3 times, once over Northern Africa, once over France, and then over Germany when he was captured and taken to the prison camp. My father was in his early 30′s when he volunteered to join the military to fight for freedom for his family and country.

    On the other hand Benedict joined the Hitler Youth. What did he do to oppose Hitler? Nothing.

    It is of little surprise Benedict would reinstate a person who would deny the Holocost and most likely was an active supporter of Hitler and his evil campaign to wipe the Jews from the face of the earth.

    There has been a dark cloud over the Vatican since Benedict was elected to the Papacy.

    My father died in 1989, twenty years ago, and my love and respect for him has only grown through the years. My father died with honor.

    I cannot respect anyone who was a part of a movement that lead to the captivity of my father and hundreds of thousands others, the torture and death of millions, and broken hearts of untold more.

    I think Benedict should give his actions more consideration than he gives selecting his red Gucci shoes…it is unfortunate that a man who could do so much good choses to reinstate a Bishop who would potentiate lies and the evil of Adolph Hitler.

    I have been a Christian all my life. I was raised to know and follow the teachings of Jesus. When an ideology is in conflict with Jesus’ teachings then I must chose.

    Thank you for your article…I think your questions and observations are interesting.

  • MArk

    Eugene first, Pope Benedict never has nor endorsed this Holocaust denying bishop. And Second he is not a Bishop in the Catholic Church. Just because he was not excommunicated doesn’t mean they are in Communion with Rome. And third Pope Benedict cousin died in the hands of Nazis and to accuse someone of being part of the “Hitler Youth” is outright slander and typical liberal shot at the CAtholic Faith.

  • S. Shamphan

    The Pope has every right to dicipline Mrs. Pelosi or any other catholic that does not live according to the Catholic Doctrine.
    What the Pope binds on earth is bound in Heaven.
    He wants to restore the values of the Catholic Church and we should listen to him.

  • Paul Adams

    I agree with everything Marian (#4) says. Nancy Pelosi’s (as well as Joe Biden’s) pro-abortion stance, coming from a Catholic public figure close to the presidency, is a scandal. It is not just the Pope’s personal position she repudiates, it is the clear teaching of the Church that it is always wrong intentionally to take innocent human life from conception to natural death. It would be a dereliction of duty if the Pope did NOT rebuke those public figures who so egregiously and publicly deny and defy the teaching of the Church in which they publicly claim membership.

  • Robert

    I try and respect the Pope, but when he says things and does things like this, I really get unhappy. Why can he not respect the views of those who disagree with him? That’s not a lot to ask.

  • K. Neufeld

    Is right. I fell the same way! The Pope is like Mose was. A leader for Christ. His position is to protect the the teaching of God. Gods word is life and peace. WQe need to rember what God has done for us. We have only been a great nation because are country was founded on the principles of Gods word. May our Lord bless our Nation and open our eyes to were are Country is being lead.

    The Pope has every right to dicipline Mrs. Pelosi or any other catholic that does not live according to the Catholic Doctrine.
    What the Pope binds on earth is bound in Heaven.
    He wants to restore the values of the Catholic Church and we should listen to him.