U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican Wednesday morning.
No journalists or other impartial observers were present.
Perhaps they were on parallel, nonintersecting timelines.
After the 15-minute audience the Vatican reported:
His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”
Speaker Pelosi’s office reported:
It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show his Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.
In neither account did the pontiff remind Speaker Polisi, who supports abortion rights, that he has said that those who don’t oppose abortion shouldn’t take communion.
Perhaps His Holiness is feeling more diplomatic of late, after jarring collisions over un-excommunications and an Austrian now-withdrawn appointment. That may displease our acquaintances on the Catholic right. And forecast calmer seas for Catholicism at large.
Today Bild reported:
Theologian Hermann Haering went so far as to say that the Pope should resign: “If the Pope wants to do something good for the church, he should step down.”
But Hamburg bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke told BILD:
“A mistake was made and it was in his name. He was probably badly advised. There is now a need for damage limitation, the rehabilitation process should be stopped. People want to hear clear words. If he had known what the unenlightened Williamson had said, he would not have undone the excommunication. The matter was badly dealt with.”
Marty approaches it tongue in cheek, asking:
How and why did he get into this situation?
Theories abound, as they did when the Vatican-Muslim flap occurred.
This time is different, says Father [Edwart T.] Oakes, [writing in the Jan. 30 Wall Street Journal], since the offenders are not medieval Byzantine rulers (as in the Muslim case) but living, breathing excommunicated schismatics for whom the pope will do anything, including offend the whole Jewish world and millions of bystanders, among them those who do remember the Holocaust, in order to reincorporate Bishop Williamson and his three Episcopal leaders in the Pius X society.
Put simply, as Father Oakes and numerous Catholic commentators have thus put it:
Benedict XVI has such a horror of schism that he and his team can let almost anything else go – including Pius X Society’s insults to the Vatican II bishops and their successors, and interpretations of Catholicism which the previous pope and team adjudged to be heretical – in order to stall or demolish schismatic movements.
Unlike Bishop Jaschke, Marty doesn’t lay blame at the feet of Vatican curia who should somehow have better advised their pope. Instead Marty asks:
“Is Benedict XVI” too much the history-preoccupied German scholar, driven by the memory of Martin Luther and “other 16th century ‘schismatics’” and consumed by “an inordinate fear of repetition?”