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when less is more

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 17, 2007

Back in the early Fifties, a papal allocution to an assemblage of ENT specialists might deploy a phrase like "the divinely ordained harmony among ear, nose, and throat."

Thus George Weigel begins his weekly column in the Denver Catholic Register, gently poking fun at the old-style papal pronouncements that offered "baroque trills on Just About Everything."

Weigel notes that such statements have rarely been produced by the Holy See in the last few years, and few people have missed them. But then in June the Pontifical Council for Migrants, under the Cardinal Renato Martino, produced the remarkable "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road," which wrapped about 5 paragraphs of meaningful content in 46 pages of grandiloquent prose. Reporters, caught off guard by this unwonted verbosity, soon recovered enough to chuckle at the Vatican's "Ten Commandments for Driving."

What Weigel wants to know is why the Vatican would release a document that is so hard to take seriously.

Waxing phenomenological in lame imitation of John Paul II, the document informs us that “Driving...means co-existing” – a line that could only have been written by someone utterly unfamiliar with Massachusetts Route 128 or the Capitol Beltway.

There are serious issues covered in this document: not only the moral imperative for safe and sober driving, but the problems of homelessness, abandoned children, and sex-trafficking. "But who was paying attention," Weigel wonders, "after all that blather about cars and driving?"

The Holy Father has indicated that he does not plan to issue many documents during his pontificate. He recognizes that when it comes to authoritative teaching, less is more. Or as Weigel puts it, with Cardinal Martino's oeuvre in mind:

An evangelically-minded pope like Benedict XVI (a BMW man, by the way) might consider whether all this faux-theological blah-blah isn’t an embarrassment to the Holy See and an impediment to the Church’s evangelical mission.

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