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say it ain't so

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 11, 2004

Pope John Paul has asked an Austrian bishop at the center of a sex scandal involving his seminary to resign from his office, according to the Kathpress news agency on Friday. "Church sources in Rome said on Friday that the Vatican has suggested to St. Poelten Bishop Kurt Krenn, who is in Rome this week for talks, that he retire due to health reasons," the Kathpress news agency reported. Bishop Krenn's spokesman declined to comment to the Austrian news agency APA.

I hope this story is false -- well, half-false, anyway. It's good news that Bishop "Kiss Me Kurt" Krenn will get the hook. The bad news is the heart-breaking dishonesty of the words the Austrian Catholic news agency attributes to the Pope. Why the official fiction of retirement "due to health reasons" when health, as commonly understood, had nothing whatever to do with it?

To be fair, we don't have the Holy Father's exact statement in its original language, and there's still room for pious maneuver. Following the praesupponendum of St. Ignatius Loyola, let's try to come up with a favorable spin:

  • Best Case: the Pope spoke in Latin, whence propter salutem can mean "for the sake of [Krenn's] salvation" -- a spiritual purpose -- as well as "for reasons of health."

  • Next Best Case: the Pope spoke in Italian, whence per motivi sanitari can mean "for the sake of hygiene" -- a prudential purpose -- as well as "for reasons of health.
  • Third Best Case: the Pope was sending a message in the Mafia mode, delivered by a thick-necked goon meaningfully hefting a length of pipe: "If you value your health, Eccellenza, you will retire at the earliest possible opportunity." This explanation has, at least, the virtue of pastoral solicitude toward the diocese.

The remaining possible interpretation of the words is: a flat-out lie.

We might yet hope the Holy See's "suggestion" came not from the Pope's own pen but from the office of some mid-level apparatchik. Most of us have become accustomed to government agencies' issuing (in the Soviet fashion) transparent lies that aren't meant to be taken at face value but must be decoded by experts who sift official falsehoods for crumbs of truth. Still, it's discouraging to have to resort to such measures in straining to understand the man that Christ left us as the prime Evangelist of his Church.

The motto of this pontificate is "Be Not Afraid!" -- implemented to so much good in so many ways. So why do they seem afraid to trust us with the truth?

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 16, 2004 4:36 PM ET USA

    1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 1Ti 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer [is] worthy of his reward. 1Ti 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 1Ti 5:20 THEM THAT SIN REBUKE BEFORE ALL, THAT THE OTHERS MAY ALSO FEAR. I think Paul is rather clear.

  • Posted by: RC - Sep. 14, 2004 11:22 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, I haven't been able to find any actual examples in which the Vatican gave phony "health reasons" as the ground for some scandal-tainted bishop's resignation. Usually they just cite canon 401(2), which is diplomatically vague about whether the reason is health or some "other serious reason" that makes the bishop unsuited for office. Can you back up your complaint with some evidence?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 12, 2004 12:02 AM ET USA

    After everything that hasn't happened but should have, I suppose I'm just grateful the Pope is willing to do something besides smile and issue another encyclical.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 11, 2004 5:33 PM ET USA

    Dear ScupoliFan, Perhaps a convenient (and somewhat valid) excuse, but clearly not the epi-center of the the present shaking. If the Vatican cared so much about the poor man's health, and perhaps thought it was even hindering his administrative abilities, they surely should have spoken up sooner. Perhaps it sounds selfish, but let them address the matter that generally would concern the laity-at-large the most. Everyone suffers, but ultimately that is not an excuse for sin.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 11, 2004 10:44 AM ET USA

    Bishop Krenn has said he almost died from blood poisoning: http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=31064. While living in Austria, I attended 3 Masses at which he was celebrant. He was clearly ill: his head was slouched at shoulder level and kept bobbing up and down. He preached excellent homilies. When he denounced homosexuality and contraception at Easter Mass in 2000, a woman stomped out of the cathedral. It's sad he's made such indefensible comments in the wake of the scandal.

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