Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

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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