Pope Benedict the XVI has come in for much criticism lately, especially since the problems with Bishop Williamson. However, what we have actually witnessed is a few dissenting voices, who I suspect were never enamored with Cardinal Ratzinger and his theology, trying to put the boot in when they perceived the Pope to be at his most vulnerable.
How has Benedict reacted? He has been extraordinary! The open Letter to the Bishops of the World is a masterly explanation of why he lifted the excommunication of the Society of Pius X (SSPX) Bishops. Regarding the doctrinal issue, the Pope makes the following important points:
“The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.” (Letter to the Bishops)
The Holy Father generously refers to the numbers of priests and religious involved with the SSPX and the work that they do, and asks. "Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity?" Furthermore Benedict states:-
“But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint” (Letter to the Bishops)
Again there has been vociferous carping against the Pope relating to his comments that the promotion of condoms promotes AIDS. Again even some in the Church have added their dissident voices. Yet this is the teaching of the Church! The Church cannot change its position on these issues, like a political party, the Pope was simply stating Catholic teaching. It’s a pity that we hardly ever hear Catholic teaching about the immorality of artificial contraception being preached in our Parishes, it’s a pity the Pope has to preach this doctrine almost single –handily. But he does so and he does it fearlessly and he is a hero for doing so. Let us all pray for Benedict that he continues to do such a good job.