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Now the conclave is about to begin, we can look forward with relief, not only to having a pope again, but to the secular media’s sudden loss of interest

Then we can all get back to the business of completing the work of the pontificate so unexpectedly ended

By on Monday, 11 March 2013

The Sistine Chapel is being prepared for the conclave (Photo: CNS)

The Sistine Chapel is being prepared for the conclave (Photo: CNS)

“The conclave,” writes Fr Lombardi on the Vatican Radio website, “is an event that can be really understood, and lived serenely and peacefully, only from the perspective of faith. The two leading figures of the previous conclaves have given us an intense and unforgettable witness. Pope John Paul II contemplated Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in his poem Roman Triptych: ‘All things are naked and open before the eyes of God, … the clarity of events, the clarity of consciences.’ ‘You who see all things – point him out!’ ‘He will point him out.’ And the future Pope Ratzinger commented: ‘the patrimony of the keys handed to Peter … To place these keys in the right hands: this is the immense responsibility of those days.’

“By his extraordinary renunciation, Pope Benedict has led the cardinals to cross once more the threshold of the Sistine Chapel, to discern the one who will be entrusted with the keys. Now, silently, but with profound understanding, he is with all of us in prayer: ‘Spirit of God, who sees all things – point him out.'”

Well, we Catholics, who are awaiting the results of the conclave this time with, I suspect, more than the usual level of uncertainty (even anxiety) given the destabilising effect on many of us — certainly on me — of that “extraordinary renunciation”, know very well that the conclave can be really understood, and lived “serenely and peacefully, only from the perspective of faith”. Serenely and peacefully, however, is not how the secular media want to understand it. They are interested only in superficiality and, if at all possible, prurience. “Wary cardinals seek holy man to oust ‘dirty dozen’” is the headline over a ludicrous piece by someone called John Follain in yesterday’s Sunday Times. The “dirty dozen” turns out to be a blacklist of cardinals drawn up by an American victims group which claims they failed to take a stand in child abuse scandals. The “wary cardinals”, however, have almost certainly not heard of this blacklist. It includes, if you can believe this, Cardinals Ouellet, Scola and Sandri: according to a “senior Vatican official” (oh, yes?), many cardinals have misgivings about Cardinal Ouellet. “All the cardinals know him but the trouble with Ouellet is that his brother was convicted of sexual assault on an underage girl. How can you ignore that?” That’s how he gets to be among the “dirty dozen”.

In the early stages of what has been, because of the unusual circumstances of this particular period of sede vacante, an unusually prolonged media picking over the Church’s entrails, our own Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith wrote of the “ordeal” awaiting us, of “having to watch the airwaves fill with a whole load of people who are very marginal to Church life, and yet who will be invited to pontificate on all matters papal and religious, giving it their own particular slant, which they will advance as a mainstream view”.

And so it has proved; it began (before the usual ill-informed chatter about alleged papabili got under way) with demeaning and contemptuous stuff from non-Catholics about the condition of the Church and even about Pope Benedict himself; this I found particularly difficult to stomach. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, and a fellow of my own college (if I had still been a fellow of St Cross at the time, I would have voted against his election), who is himself an unbeliever openly hostile to the Catholic Church, began a piece in the Times by suggesting that the Church, in the wake of Pope Benedict’s abdication, was quite simply falling apart. He went on to sneer (it’s the only possible word) at Pope Benedict himself: “His very title, though perhaps a slight improvement on my immediate suggestion of Pope Father on the analogy of Queen Mother, is fraught with unfortunate implications. One emeritus professor, when asked to explain his title, explained that it was derived from the Latin e, meaning ‘out’ and meritus, meaning ‘deserves to be’. Now we watch Benedict’s conditions for retirement (my italics) unfold: continued use of his papal name, continued use of the white garments reserved exclusively for the Pope, the continued position of his faithful companion Georg Gänswein (a newly minted archbishop) as adviser not merely to Benedict but to the next incumbent Pope… A common syndrome among the reluctantly retired is wanting to have their cake and eat it.” If ever there was an undeserved slur, it is surely that: MacCulloch’s sneering suggestion that Pope Benedict is “among the reluctantly retired” is simply nonsense: as for the contemptible snigger that he wants “to have his cake and eat it”: the late Holy Father’s palpable humility — visible to everyone except McCulloch — makes it unnecessary to waste any time on thinking up some sort of retort.

The point about all these pontifications, whether over the airwaves or in the print media, either by secular commentators or by the kind of Catholics the liberal media like to give a platform to because their views on the Catholic tradition are so similar to their own, it is that this wonderful free for all is the only chance for many of them to be heard at all on this subject: as soon as the excitement following the election of a new pope has died down, comment editors will abruptly decide that they are all poped out, and move on: and we will all return to the secular world’s usual condition of indifference to the Church.

Then at least, left to ourselves, we will be able, under the guidance of a new Holy Father (who will, I hope and pray, see it as his aim to complete the work of the pontificate which has just come to such an unexpected end), and with God’s help, return in the light of a new Eastertide to the business of building up the Church once more, free of the attentions of the roving media protagonists who so rarely care a jot about what, for a week or so, is currently attracting their fitful attention.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     ‘Lack of understanding of the recidivist nature of pedophilia’
    There is some hope for pedophiles.Some may be treated. There is a program available to them in jails in NSW, Australia which boasts of some success.
    Although it is certainly true that those who offend and have no sense of guilt, and see their actions as part of a new norm, are impossible to rehabilitate.However that does not mean that there is no attempt to try.
     Eventually pedophiles have to be let out into the community.
    Needless to say this causes a lot of angst.
    One of the reasons that pedophile priests seem so prominent is that they tend to fess up when accused.
    Within the secular world they are more likely to hide behind effective smokescreens, or in plain sight.
    However the state in NSW is interested in rehabilitating as many prisoners as possible, consistent with the safety of the community.
    Pedophiles are on that list.

  • Benedict Carter

    “As an aside when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s …”.

    Thanks for confirming what this one already knew. 

    As to the list of names you mention, please don’t lump me at least in with Cristina Odone, a liberal hack with one or two remaining Catholic elements in her thinking. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Yes, Mr Byrne’s views are … well, “deeply confused” i think is the politest one might be. 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     IN other words, you want the Catholic Church to completely destroy Her faith and become identical to the morality you see on the average TV show.

    If that was the plan of Jesus for His Church, He wouldn’t have bothered. He would have simply said “lets not change anything in the word, lets just tell everyone they can do anything they want and feel great about it, all this “virtue” and “holiness” thing is so outdated anyway”.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Where have I said I am fine with rape? I want to see its use
    drastically reduced. I see campaigns to ban it completely as ridiculous
    and dangerous, as it would just drive it back underground.

    Makes a lot of sense!

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    I pray we have a worthy successor to the awesome stream of popes we have been given recently.
    I pray for a strong, clear, sincere man who calls good good and evil evil.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     Of course something can change. Just not the Faith.

    The Church will always affirm the sanctity of human life, the universal call to holiness, the importance of prayer, the beauty of marriage.

    You look to the last 50 years and think “the world has changed, the Church will too”.
    You are awfully myopic. The Church is 2000 years old.

  • Percy_Fleur

    Apology accepted.  You can forgive us for being disappointed when you lecture others elsewhere on this website about how “using the correct words” is important (to try to justify abortion, of all things), and then can’t be bothered to write proper English in your excitement to have the last word on almost all of the threads to which you contribute.  Those of us looking to you for “illumination” feel rather let down.

  • teigitur

    He is a total bigot. Thats much worse than his sexual orientation. Of course the BBC love him.

  • $20596475

    You can read the reports just as I can. The one I refer to was published yesterday in the USA and can easily be found. It has too much to reproduce here.

  • $20596475

    Rape is illegal. No need for a campaign. Abortion isn’t.

  • $20596475

    The blindness is being shown by those who fail to realise that the pace of change is now so fast that this old response, of being “2000 years old”, no longer has the validity it once might have done. We now know so much more. Unless you start to use that knowledge, and apply it within your Church, you will find yourselves increasingly marginalised and ignored. You MUST be able to see that this is already happening, but too many are stubbornly holding to the view that what has been, will always be. Extinction follows for everything which fails to adapt to changing environments. 

  • 2369fred

    Quite right and if anything it is worse in Australia. We do not have the sneering intellectuals like Dawkins ( always lionised in an embarrassing way on his visits here) or the others but we do have plenty of ignorant loud-mouths, and a number of dissident priests or ex priests who cannot wait to get the boot into the ‘institutional church.’ The secular media love these guys and run to them for comments regularly. By this time next week they will have moved back to the perennial favorites – doping scandals in sport and the like.

  • Peter

    Why is the Church afraid of the media?

    She should tackle the media head on instead of running away.

    The secular values of the media are founded upon a heap of hypocrisy motivated by material greed.

    What is there to be afraid of?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     The point is that all the arguments for abortion (such as “if you criminalize it it will happen underground”) work equally as well for rape.

    If we reject rape, we must reject abortion. Abortion is murder.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     Straw man.
    I did not say that the Faith should remain the same _simply_ because it is 2000 years old.
    I simply pointed out your myopia, thinking that this current phase is unique and that the world never changed before. The world changes, and changes, and changes yet more, and for 2000 years the Faith has remained the same. To think that the “sexual revolution” (for example) is absolutely new and unique is to ignore History.

    The Church will keep her Faith because it is true. We refuse to destroy the Faith simply because someone says it is outdated.

  • CullenD

    Darn right… Let’s get back to the almost daily reports of the RCC’s monetary and sexual scandals. 

    This conclave thing is just a distraction!

  • W Oddie

    If the media’s only ambition were to tell the truth, there would be nothing to be afraid of. Do you REALLY think that is the case? What is there to be afraid of? Lies. Lies are powerful: they damage, they destroy. And they have been massively destructive of the Church. To suppose anything else is simply foolish.

  • $24570317

    “Decadence usually carries the seeds of its own demise.”

    Yes, exactly the point I’m making.

  • $24570317

    “IN other words,…..”

    Your words entirely, not mine.

    Jesus of Nazareth would not recognise the “official” Church of today as an organisation having anything much to do with his teachings.

  • $24570317

    Is it still the Church’s teaching that rape is preferable to masturbation, because the former is at least open to procreation?

    Let me answer my own question: “yes”.

    But as a Catholic fundamentalist, Fides_et_Ratio,  how do you justify this wicked teaching?

  • $24570317

    Well half the seminarians in the USA are homosexuals – many of whom are sexually active.

    They, rightly, see nothing wrong in this.

  • $24570317

    Thanks asa2222.
    The fairly obvious nature of the website you cite suggests that some caution be exercised.
    This website gives no reference which can be directly checked – but simply makes a claim. But I would not be surprised if the claim were true.

    I carry no torch for Dr Goebbels or for the wicked beliefs he held, but it is undeniable that the Church had its “ups” as well as its “downs” with the Nazi party. The latter were well to the fore during the party’s final years.

  • $24570317

    Ecclesia abscondita est.

    But as the love of God is unbounded, and probably for that reason alone, He will be present at the conclave – while the very un-hidden and earthy (not “earthly”, although that too) Church does battle.

    It is worth not overlooking the fact that Emeritus Pope Benedict (and his predecessor JP2 to a much lesser degree) was a schismatic pope whose effect has yet to be fully demonstrated. There is reason to hope that he has unwittingly started an avalanche which will bring the necessary change much earlier than previously supposed.  

  • Peter

    The secular media represent the values of a society which has destroyed 7 million human lives since the 1970’s.

    Frankly, who cares what they think?  They have no moral authority whatsoever.

    All they care about is making themselves rich by brainwashing the public.

    And they have not been destructive of the Church, for globally the Church is flourishing and vocations are booming.

  • guest

    If the secular world’s normal attitude to the Church was one of indifference, I would, perhaps, agree with Doctor Oddie, but it is not.  Whether it is someone describing himself as a gay historian making the idiotic claim in a programme about Evolution that it had been Church dogma that the world was created in six days (one assumes each with 24hrs) or another, describing himself the same way lamenting, after an expensive TV series, that the church had done nothing to help the Jews during WWII, despite the work done by some Jewish historians to prove that the Church, particularly Pius XI,I was very much involved in saving Jews from the Nazis, it is clear that the secular media is not indifferent.  There are many more examples of blatant inaccuracies in documentary type programmes, where the Church is part of the subject.  More worrying perhaps are constructed news items.  The news value in a recent general slander against Scottish priests on BBC news by an unamed “leading Catholic layman” could only have been in the identity of the person involved.  Without this, it was, merely, like the two examples above, anti Catholic propaganda, and hate propaganda at that.  Yet, such is the culture of the medium. 

    Perhaps it is to Dr Oddie’s credit, but I do not think that he watches much TV

  • The Catholic Herald

    Let me answer your question: “no”.

    (Editorial Assistant)

  • $20596475

    That is not the point at all. Abortion is NOT murder. If it was, it would be illegal. Saying we must do anything, when it is not actually in your power, is just silly. You can campaign to make abortion illegal. You can campaign to have it regarded as murder. You don’t have to campaign to establish rape as illegal. 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    You have been clear in the past that you are a follower of Hans Küng. You support the assassination of babies, sodomy, everything the unconverted world wants. You made peace with the world at the cost of your soul.

    Regarding your disdain for the Church, Jesus thinks otherwise.

    “HE WHO HEARS YOU, HEARS ME” (referring to the apostles)”Whatever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and
    whatever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in Heaven”

  • Peter

    If you profoundly disagree with the influence of the Church on the poor, why don’t you give up some of your money to make them less poor?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Please read:

    In summary: your knowledge of Catholicism is comparable to the knowledge that Richard Dawkins has of the Bible: negligible. Just enough to take sentences out of context and dishonestly portray them in a bad light.

    You should get to know the Faith before you vilify it.

  • $20596475

    Of course the world has always changed. That though is NOT the point I was making, and which you continue to be blind to. The point is that it is now changing now in a very different way and requires a different response. That the “faith” remains unchanged is fine. There are though different ways to interpret and apply that faith, that respond to the changing environment. 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    What?! ” If it was, it would be illegal” ?

    You seem to naively trust society.  You seem to be arguing that “the law says something, therefore it is true.”

    But laws, and democratic majorities, can be enormously wrong.  Just like blacks were enslaved yesterday, today we assassinate 60% of babies whose prenatal testing show they have Downs Syndrome.

  • $20596475

    You have no idea what I do to support the poor! Precisely what is between me, my wife and our consciences. You can be sure though that I do a lot. Around 50 people are directly supported by us in the third world and I am also involved there with a major infrastructure project. This is in conjunction with a Rotary club and the local Catholic Church, with whom I enjoy excellent relations! 

  • $20596475

    It is not a question of trusting society. It is a question of accepting the democratic way we determine our laws, and then of abiding by them. If you believe them to be wrong then you, like everyone else, have every right to campaign to get them changed. No-one should be above the law, or be allowed to believe that their opinions matter more than any other.

  • arcadius

    Yes, it’s not a peer-reviewed paper. However, the author is a respected Italian sociologist. There is no reason for him to put his academic reputation on the line in order to lie for the Catholic Church, is there? I’m not sure what “ups” you would be referring to. Mit brennender Sorge was published in 1937, well before the Nazis’ “final years.” One could somewhat uncharitably suspect that such vague references constitute a politicization of history and perhaps even a form of defamation?

  • Guest

    It’s interesting how you know so much about what goes on there. You must have some very well-placed connections…. And it’s always easier to criticize someone else, isn’t it?

  • Lewispbuckingham

     ‘ Rape preferable to masturbation’?
    Come on JB, better stick to Physics.

  • Akp

    Well he thinks exactly like Michael Knowles, guest contributor to The Tablet (blog) – in fact they used practically the same words. and if you read the comments you’ll find many ‘catholics’ agreeing. Bring on Benedict XVII in spirit even if not in name!

  • TreenonPoet

     I can verify your assertion about lies in some of the media, and these are not always due to incompetence. I am aware of deliberate mendacity by the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times, and the BBC, as demonstrated by their refusal to correct certain lies once the truth has been pointed out to them.

    I support the freedom to express one’s thoughts, but deliberate mendacity is, in a sense, the opposite of this because it involves conveying information that is knowingly counter to one’s thoughts.

    Language, especially the English language, does not help. For example, speculation can sometimes come across as factual statement. Limited fact-checking (for example, due to budget constraints or secrecy by your target) is another problem.

    I suggest that religious attitudes (readiness to believe without evidence, contortion of language to make falsehoods seem true, supression of rationality, etc.) are partly to blame (and infect some non-religious), so I think that to some extent you reap what you sow.

  • Frank

    “I suggest that religious attitudes (readiness to believe without evidence, contortion of language to make falsehoods seem true, supression of rationality, etc.)”

    Thanks for highlighting exactly the kind of nonsense that we find so distasteful. I disagree with every word and find it a fundamental misunderstanding of religious attitudes.

  • TreenonPoet

     The traits that I listed are repeatedly demonstrated by some comments in various threads on the Catholic Herald site. Examples are insistence on the existence of beings such as demons and angels, the use of the word ‘truth’ to describe something that is not known to be true, and the belief that God is still almighty after having ceded some power to man.

  • Peter

    The spiritual wasteland of Western society is the spawning ground of dogmatic materialism.

  • Fred

     you have confused sin and crime. Many sins are not crimes according to law. Abortion is killing but it is lawful according to UK law to kill an unborn infant. Even supporters of abortion have been forced to acknowledge that it is the destruction of a living entity, but they regard a foetus as not fully human. Catholics and other believers regard the foetus as fully human, even if it is not fully developed.

  • $20596475

    I am not in the least confused, although I suspect that you might be. What is a “sin” is a matter of personal belief. Personal beliefs have no connection to what is lawful or not. You can believe whatever you like, but the law applies to us all. That you believe abortion to be a sin, and that a foetus is fully human, does not make it unlawful to not share those beliefs. You have the absolute right to campaign, within the law, but not to try to replace the law with belief.

  • TreenonPoet

     As your comment has attracted so many ‘Like’s, I feel driven to respond…

    JByrne24 replied to your comment:

    The point being made, Dr Oddie, does not concern any “convincing ranking” but rather the fact that the reason you gave for Ouellet’s inclusion on the list was false.

    If you didn’t make it up, it would be interesting to know where you found it.

    and that was 2 days ago. Does your failure to reply indicate that rather than conduct some easy research, you lied? And what is worse, it appears you lied in order to harm an organisation dedicated to helping victims of priestly child abuse (SNAP), in favour of the organisation that metaphorically sticks the boot into those victims. You compound your villainy by calling SNAP ‘phony’. (Note that E.Collins has watered down his accusation.) You refer to their website as evidence for your accusation, but I cannot find anyrhing on their website to indicate that they are phony, so that looks like another lie to me. If what SNAP get wrong is not deliberate, then they are not phony.

    Finally, you write:

    They will be ignored by the Cardinal electors and deserve to be.

    Since I am sure that you did not ask all the electors whether they would ignore SNAP’s points, and since I would have thought that the electors would not want to ignore relevant facts, I think you made that up too.

    Yet you have the hypocrisy in another comment to complain about lies in the media.