On Thursday, “[n]early half a million people flocked to hear Pope Benedict XVI celebrate a Mass at the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, one of Christianity's holiest sites.” (Deutsche Welle ; BBC AOL ) . During the antecedent Rosary, Benedict alluded to the Burning Bush and spoke of the light which burns without consuming. The Pope reminded his listeners that,
Benedict took note of the “devotion and affection of all ... the faithful” who had come from all around the world to attend the centenary of the Virgin’s apparition.“We are merely a bush, but one upon which the glory of God has now come down. To him therefore be every glory, and to us the humble confession of our nothingness and the unworthy adoration of the divine plan which will be fulfilled when “God will be all in all”.”
“I bring with me the worries and hopes of our times, the sufferings of our wounded humanity and the problems of the world,” he said, “and I place them at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima ... so that the family of nations ... may live in peace and harmony, to the glory of the most holy and indivisible Trinity.”
The New York Times did not report the event... at least not anywhere apparent. This was strange because just a few weeks ago, the Times’ public editor, responded to criticism of his paper’s prominent and unrelenting reportage on 30 and 40 year old pedophilia scandals, by assuring readers that, “Painful though it may be, the paper has an obligation to follow the story where it leads, even to the pope’s door.”
Ah yes... the journalist’s dogged and fearless pursuit of the truth.
Public Editor begged off not “giving equal effort to sex abuse in the public schools, or in other religions” on the grounds that it was “perfectly appropriate for The Times, with a worldwide audience, to pay far more attention to the handling of a sexual-abuse case under the jurisdiction of the prelate who would eventually become pope.”
Surely Portugal is part of the world-wide audience? Surely half a million from around the world is not a parochial event?
Evidently not. Evidently, the Times thinks it is far more appropriate to focus on a supposed theological crisis in a Bavarian village with a population of 5, 364 people.
Thus, while the Times ignored the in-gathering of half a million faithful at Fatima, the day following it gave prominent play to a story entitled Church Crisis Shakes Faith of German Town
The story, which is actually an exercise in cunning incoherence, serves to illustrate how The Queen of Forty Second Street rubs pieces of fact to spawn a reality it desires to bring about.
Ostensibly the report is about Oberammergau’s famous Passion Play; and, indeed, random facts about this play, in every other paragraph, provides the construct for what the Times really wants to foist.
Taking note that the play has been criticised by Jewish groups (plus ça change), the report quickly pivots to the sex-scandal: “This year though, ... it was the players who were registering the criticism... Villagers were shaken by revelations of past sexual and physical abuse...” at a monastery “a few miles” down the road.” What makes this “shake” global is anyone’s guess, but never mind,
Point 1: Don’t forget the “abuse” in the Church.
From here, the Times goes on to do an in depth analysis of this supposed crisis-of-faith among 5,000 Bavarian villagers. Of course, the Times doesn’t work off of anything resembling a poll. Instead it quotes the opinions of the play’s “iconoclastic director” Christian Stückl. The word “iconoclastic” is designed to help us over the inconvenient fact that Stückl is rather an "apostate" who has left the Church, so that his own opinion tells us little of Catholics are thinking. But never mind, Stuckl provides the Times with quote worth shuffling for
Point 2: “The church has to get away from its dogmas and laws.”
How one manages a leap from scandal to articles of faith is not demonstrated. But never mind. Done with Stuckl, the Times journeys to Morningside Heights and quotes one James Shapiro -- “a literature professor at Columbia University who wrote a book about the Oberammergau play -- for his pronouncement that,
Point 3: “Many, many Catholics are disenchanted,”
On what literary analysis Shapiro bases this sociological opinion is never explained. But never mind, it provides a good leap off for the next point. Back to Bavaria.
Among the “disenchanted”, we are told, was one of the actors, Frederick Mayet, who portrayed Jesus. The Times quotes Mayet as informing us that “rehearsals were rife with discussions of what happened in Ettal.” One might wonder when they had time to practice their lines. But never mind again. We are informed that the actor is thinking of leaving the Church because,
Point 4: “I didn’t want to be a member of a church that welcomed Holocaust deniers with open arms,”
Not only is this a complete non-sequitur, it is also an outright lie, as the Times very well knows. Bishop Williams was not welcomed back because of his historical views but as part of a general reconciliation over theological issues with a schismatic group. But that distinction is of no concern to the Times.
Of course, being the type of outfit it is and given its rather particular ideological bent, the Times can’t mention “Oberammergau” without working up the usual and predictable Nazi tie-in, noting that “Hitler was enthusiastic about the 1934 production....” But putting aside an irrelevant Hitler obsession, what the Times wants us to “know” is that: the “Church” commits pedophilia; it welcomes so-called “holocaust deniers”; has to give up its dogmas and even Catholics are turning away.
There is no easily apparent connection between these points. The fact that a handful of priests committed various kinds of sexual or non-sexual “abuse” has nothing to do with dogma and “holocaust denial” has nothing to do with either. It can be supposed for the sake of argument that the hierarchy’s handling of sexual abuse cases has led to disapproval and at least some disenchantment among the laity. But what have “dogma” and “denial” to do with this?
More specifically, one might ask, what dogma should be renounced? That Christ was the spotless Lamb of God through whose sacrifice the world (all of it) earns forgiveness and salvation? Having given that dogma up, is it being suggested that something called “denying the Holocaust” should be declared some kind of heresy?
Of course the Times is not so stupid as to venture such offensive absurdities. The best propaganda is that which leaves the inference at the tip of what is actually said. The Times is tilling the ground, or better put, tunnelling under the ramparts of the City of God.
The total bad-faith cheat in the Times’ article can be seen once one knows that throughout his visit to Portugal, Benedict repeatedly called for greater reliance on the role of the laity, which is at the heart of his desire to revive the Benedictine ethic of ora et laboro (work with prayer). Rather than report on that, the Times article quotes villager Mayet as saying “The leaders should think less about hierarchies and institutions and more about Jesus and how to reach the people again.” That’s nice. But surely, the Times’ Public Editor, who has avowed the global newsworthiness of the Before-He-Was-Pope’s handling of the scandal cases, would also admit the global newsworthiness of the actual Pope’s views on the matter? Surely Benedict’s remarks on May 11th were of passing interest?
“[The] local Church has rightly concluded that today’s pastoral priority is to make each Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the Gospel perspective in the midst of the world, in the family, in culture, in the economy, in politics. ...“Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?“In order for this not to happen, it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigour and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity ... [to]... fully satisfy the profound longings of every human heart and give answers to its most pressing questions concerning suffering, injustice and evil, concerning death and the life hereafter.”
Evidently not. Evidently, more globally newsworthy were the opinions of an actor, in a small Bavarian village of 5,000 souls.
It is all very clear, however, once it is borne in mind, that what Benedict stated was the heart of the dogma the Times would rather see renounced (with “deniability” to be sure). In response to a barrage of letters excoriating the Times' sex-scandal reporting, Public Editor piously denied that the Times was "anti-Catholic". Bullshit.