Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

another stunning clear insight from the Pope

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 16, 2010

Pope Benedict has a disconcerting way of hitting nails directly on the head. It's disconcerting, I say, because I struggle and strain to make a point, never satisfying myself that I've made it clearly, and then along comes the Holy Father, and he pounds home the same point in a simple, clear, remark. 

For example, in writing The Faithful Departed I tried to explain that when Church leaders seek after public affirmation, they lose focus on the faith, and eventually lose public affirmation as well. To be honest, I've always had trouble summarizing that argument quickly; I have trouble boiling down the message of the book into a single paragraph.

Then today, as he met with the journalists who are accompanying him on his trip to Great Britain, the Pope made the point deftly, clearly-- and quite unexpectedly, I think-- in response to one journalist's question. The question was how the Church could be more attractive to the public. Notice how the Pope, in the very first phrase of his reply (which I emphasize below), steers the conversation off its predictable course to make a more important point:


I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ.

I spent many months, and 264 pages, trying to get at that point. Pope Benedict nailed it down in one stroke with an extemporaneous comment. Disconcerting. But beautiful!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: humblesoldier4christ - Sep. 18, 2010 7:25 PM ET USA

    Perhaps you can easily be mistaken for being arrogant because of your zeal, like Saint Paul and Saint Jerome. Pope Benedict, even more elegant than Pope John Paul II (notwithstanding of JPII's mastery of stage drama) has a knack for letting Truth snipeshoot those who avoid stray bullets. As the Bible illustrates many times, Jesus always know what the person [asking question] is thinking.

  • Posted by: skladach - Sep. 17, 2010 6:03 PM ET USA

    Cheer up, Phil: heavy responsibility, willingly accepted, marvelously concentrates the mind. Then, too, you don't happen to have the charism of preaching. Finally, the Pope's "impromptu" remark neatly applies to the present situation a lengthy reading from one of the prophets in the Divine Office this week.

  • Posted by: AnnH - Sep. 16, 2010 11:54 AM ET USA

    "When Church leaders seek after public affirmation, they lose focus on the faith, and eventually lose public affirmation as well." The best expression of that truth, in my view, came from C.S. Lewis: "Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made. . . . You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first."

  • Posted by: - Sep. 16, 2010 11:19 AM ET USA

    There can be only one "smartest guy in the room" by the very definition of the term.