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Catholic Culture Podcasts

Perceptive Commentary: Warren, Douthat, Henneberger, Horowitz, Oko

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 18, 2013

Several informative and/or provocative commentaries on the Pope’s resignation and the impending papal conclave appeared over the weekend. There were many inaccurate reports and misleading columns as well, of course. But for now let's call attention to some of the best:

  • Benedict’s ‘wager’—David Warren mentions the ignorance of the mainstream media, emphasizes that the Church’s main enemy is the power of secular ideology, and observes that Pope Benedict encountered a great deal of resistance from inside the Church. He suggests that the papal resignation is a “gamble,” with the Pope banking on the Holy Spirit to break the stalemate that he has encountered:
    Benedict is saying, in effect, “Lord you must act in these circumstances, which have passed beyond my power.” And praying thus, as he will continue to pray, with all the gravity of a man who has represented, as Priest before God, more than a billion living Catholics. He is taking the weight of this upon himself, as he has taken the weight of the consequences of his decision.
  • The End of a Catholic Moment—Ross Douthat writes in the New York Times that the influence of Catholic thought in the US was considerable a decade ago, but has subsequently declined, and is not likely to recover soon. The problem, he argues, is a failure of leadership, which can be remedied only by a surge from the grassroots:
    If this era is now passing, and Catholic ideas are becoming more marginal to our politics, it’s partially because institutional Christianity is weaker over all than a generation ago, and partially because Catholicism’s leaders have done their part, and then some, to hasten that de-Christianization.
  • Blaming Benedict, and missing the point—Melinda Henneberger, who is not ordinarily a fan of Pope Benedict, writes in the Washington Post to defend the Pontiff against a scurrilous op-ed attack by John Patrick Shanley in the New York Times. Contrary to Shanley’s complaint, she says, the Pope did not defend pedophile priests; he did his best to discipline them. Henneberger goes so far as to suggest that Shanley has done what he accuses the Pope of doing: covering up evidence that does not fit into his preferred line of thought.
  • Pope Benedict XVI’s leaked documents show fractured Vatican full of rivalries—More analysis that commentary (although definitely opionated), this Washington Post piece by Jason Horowitz gives a reasonably clear picture of conflicts within the Vatican bureaucracy, as seen through the lens of the Vatileaks scandal. Not really a report on the papal resignation or succession, this story does open eyes to the very human problems that any Pontiff will grapple with.
  • With the Pope against the Homoheresy—In a very long article translated by the Rorate Caeli blog, a Polish priest, Father Dariusz Oko, argues that the most important division within the Church is created by a powerful subculture of homosexual clerics, and provides persuasive support for that thesis. The argument is sure to be controversial, and some will shy away from it, but those who are open to persuasion will find that Father Oko has assembled his facts and made his arguments persuasively.


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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