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Catholic Culture Dedication

Readers comment on Pope Benedict's challenge

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 20, 2009

 It's Friday, and time for another round of comments from CWN readers.

All of the comments below are in reply to my Commentary essay, "The Crucial Test for the Pontificate of Benedict XVI."

Daniel Kintz writes:

Your negativity is unfortunate. Like the media, you are choosing to focus on the negative and end the discussion there. Like them you are weakening the perceived state of the Catholic Church. Wouldn't it be better with your voice to make mention of the negativity and then the possible positive outcomes it could lead to?

Phil Lawler responds: Honestly, I didn't think my analysis was negative. I see the Pope facing a test; the results have not yet been determined. But I do think the stakes are high. Does it weaken the Church to face problems frankly and directly? I've always argued against the proposition. The editorial policy of CWN is based on the belief that honesty-- even when it is painful-- builds strength.

Daniel McGlone writes:

Probably like a few, I am depressed by all these developments. I have always been a fan of the gentle, humble, scholarly man. I have little time for duplicitous opinions of the world. Yet it seems that truth is taking a battering once again. Still thank you for such a succinct but accurate appraisal of the situation. Am glad someone can see what seems to me all too obvious. It's also nice that a Catholic media outlet has been level headed enough to publish it.

Peter Stokes writes:

How you can call the Catholics of Austria "dissident" is beyond me. No appointment to bishop should be made without the input or advice of the local church. This centralised appointment of bishops by Rome only, began around the time of Vatican I. Indeed prior to then appointments were jointly agreed by the Catholic monarchs and the Vatican. Even after Vatican I especially in the very conservative Catholic Austro Hungarian Empire the Emperor always had a right of veto and even nomination. The appointment of bishops solely by the Pope on the advice of the local nuncio is a phenomenon which reached its peak during the papacy of the late JPII and is surely to be deprecated as being contrary to all the insights and teachings of Vatican II. Unfortunately Vatican II was brought to a close before its work of reform was finished and a huge percentage of the church know and feel this. Are you suggesting that local recommendations are ok providing the candidate is conservative?

Phil Lawler responds: So bring back the Habsburgs, and I'd readily give them their traditional right to approve episcopal nominations; they generally did quite well at it! But seriously, I think it's bad history to say that the appointment of bishops by the Pope, acting through the local nuncio, peaked only during the era of John Paul II. Here in America we speak of the "Jadot bishops" who transformed the face of the American Church, hand-picked by the late Belgian archbishop for appointment by Pope Paul VI. (And by the way it was the same Paul VI who closed Vatican II; are we now to think that he was undermining the Council?) Local input and local recommendations are certainly desirable in the process of selecting bishops. Local control is an entirely different matter-- particularly in a country like Austria, where the low rate of church attendance and the high rate of theological novelty testify to the need for reform from outside.

Bernard Collins writes:

Austria is just a presently visible source of dissidents. Netherlands, Belgium, France, USA, Britain, Canada, Australia, Brazil, etc. all preceded it. Unfortunately the point of contention is not so precise as with Arianism, but the scene is somehow reminiscent. As for me, I gave up on the locals a long time ago. They still say Mass and dispense the Sacraments validly, but I have as little consort with them as I can. Looking to The Pope exclusively is probably not the best thing, but that's where I am. The poor men who confuse the Church have much to pay for. I don't want to be one of them.

Phil Lawler responds: Don't give up! There are strong local bishops who need your encouragement-- and others, less strong, who need encouragement all the more!

Anne Archer writes:

If Pope Benedict weren't so "right on" he wouldn't be getting so much flak. We do need to pray for him to be able to withstand those forces from hell that seek to destroy the faith and Pope Benedicts efforts to bring us back to our Catholic center.


That's just a quick sampling of this week's correspondence. Thanks to all the readers who have offered their views. Again, I'd be delighted to hear from readers who have any suggestions on how we could improve this forum.


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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