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 April 12, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA

Pope Benedict’s record
Develop healthy skepticism of media reports

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

Persecution is no stranger to the Church. In every age, the Church — which in our Catholic piety we rightfully refer to as our “Holy Mother” — has somewhere, in some way, been subject to persecution. Our Lord foretold that it would be this way for his followers: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18).

On the other hand, Church leaders and other prominent Catholics certainly are not exempt from mistakes and wrong-doing. We cannot dismiss all criticism as unjust or unfair. We all need to look to the ongoing purification of our minds, hearts, motives and desires, echoing the classic Latin maxim of the Church always standing in need of reform: Ecclesia semper reformanda.

That having been admitted, though, it is no exaggeration to say that criticisms of the Church in more recent years, in the form of revisionist history, have gone way beyond the inordinate, practically painting the Catholic Church as unilaterally responsible for perpetrating the lion’s share of historical evils.

The usual litany of indictments — the Crusades, the role of the Church in World War II (and especially that of Pope Pius XII), the Inquisition, the Galileo affair, and the question of slavery, to name the more popular ones — are typically either wildly exaggerated or patently false.

Moreover, such attacks often constitute an attempt to weaken and marginalize the Church, especially by sowing seeds of doubt and division among her members, thereby advancing an agenda opposed to her moral principles.

Space does not allow for an in-depth treatment of all this, but to cite just one example: In his research on the Pope Pius XII question, Church historian Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni has demonstrated that false accusations of his “complicity” with the Nazis began to circulate already toward the end of the Second World War as a propaganda ploy by the Soviet Union to discredit the Church, which stood as a fierce obstacle to its imperialistic ambitions.

As distressing as it is, then, we should not be surprised that the exact same thing is happening now to our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I urge our people to develop a healthy skepticism of the mainstream media’s treatment of the then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s tenure as Archbishop of Munich and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and instead turn to reliable sources.

Two such sources have recently become available. One is an article by Pope Benedict’s successor as the Prefect of the CDF, our own Cardinal William Levada (former archbishop of San Francisco), in which he recounts in a calm and cogent manner, and in contrast to what certain journalists would have us believe, the truth of Pope Benedict’s record. The full text of his article is available at: http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_card-levada2010_en.html.

The other is an interview with the Promoter of Justice of the same Congregation, Msgr. Charles Scicluna. Since 2001, cases of clergy sexual abuse throughout the world have been reserved to the CDF, and, as the Promoter of Justice, it has been Msgr. Scicluna’s duty to review every case reported and suggest how it should be handled.

In this candid interview, Msgr. Scicluna separates fact from fiction about the Church’s handling of this heinous crime. The interview is available at SciclunaInterview.pdf.

It is in times such as these that we must take strength from Christ’s promise to stand with his Church to the end and that the gates of hell will not prevail against her (Mt 16:18), while at the same time renew our resolve to pursue the path of ongoing conversion, especially by reconciling with those whom we have offended.

Let us also keep Pope Benedict in our prayers in an especially fervent way at this time, taking consolation in the truth of the words with which Vatican radio begins and ends every broadcast: “Christ reigns. Christ conquers. Christ rules.”


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