Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pope Benedict: "What I Meant to Say..."

Pope Benedict: "What I Meant to Say..." in Time Magazine comments on five occasions where clarification has been made after the Pope has spoken.

"Benedict's supporters say that the world simply isn't adept at digesting a man of such conviction and confidence who, even they would admit, doesn't have the deft diplomatic touch of his predecessor. Particularly in these high-profile speeches, his main objective is to push the intellectual envelope, and prove a point with whatever historical and philosophical means are at his disposal."

One does wonder however if there is a conscious attempt to pick over evry word and comma of the what the Pope says or writes to pick out errors, real or apparent. It makes a good story.

Does the Church want to return to the days of the speeches of Pope Paul VI which were diplomatic but opaque and were not exactly "interesting". Often he was criticised for that, not being relevant and what people wanted to hear discussed.

Did Pope John Paul II always have a "deft diplomatic touch" ?

Could it be that the press still hankers after the image of Benedict as the tough Rottweiler of "the Inquisition" which they stuck on him during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II and that they don`t like what he has turned out to be, a rather friendly, amiable teacher always more interested in the pursuit of truth and to interest his particular audience in the topic which he wants to discuss.

One is reminded of the number of times that Saint Pope Pius X had to issue "clarifications" of what he said, especially in the early years of his Pontificate.

Professor Owen Chadwick in A History of the Popes 1830-1914 (at page 542) describes one particular incident:

"On 29 May 1910 the Pope [Pope Pius X] issued an encyclical which held Borromeo up as a model of pastoral zeal. He meant to speak to the Italians and issued it in Italian as well as Latin. But he took the opportunity not only to praise Borromeo but to denounce modernism.

The chief drafter was the Spanish cardinal Vives y Tuto. But Monsignor Benigni, hammer of the modernists, took a hand and pushed into the wording of the bull about Charles Borromeo quotations on Luther and the Reformers. He called them enemies of Christ's cross, and said that their belly was their god, and they were men of carnal mind and seducers of the people. The texts were of obsolete controversy of 200 years before.

Since the encyclical, being about an archbishop of Milan, was intended for Italy, no one in Rome thought of the effect in Germany. These phrases soured relations with the Lutherans as Leo XIII's efforts damaged amity with the Anglicans; and worse, for this time there were discussions in the Parliaments of Prussia, Hessen, Bavaria, and Saxony, talk of 'the smearing of the German nation by a foreign priest', protests in pulpits and press articles, and official representations in Rome from the governments of Prussia and Saxony.

Neither Pius X nor his Secretary of State were pleased at the wording which the drafters had put into the pope's mouth. Merry del Val said he first heard of the encyclical when it appeared in the Osservatore Romano. The Pope told the German bishops not to publish it. Merry del Val gave the Prussian ambassador a note—that the pope is sorry that he has been misunderstood and that he has much sympathy for all the German nation.

This ended the controversy; though some Protestant journalists were glad because, so they claimed, this was the first time that a pope publicly recanted one of his formal acts. "

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