So this is why it took Ross Douthat so long to utter an opinion about the recent Synod on Family Life in Rome. He was weighing whether to call for schism! For the record: for all my questioning and concern about the direction Benedict XVI was taking the church, I never wrote a column that actually called for open revolt against him.
Well, let’s think about this. The Synod officially ended with the release of its final report on Sunday October 19. Ross Douthat’s first column after the Synod ended was — wait for it — about the Synod. How, exactly, could Ross Douthat have written a column any sooner?
About never writing “a column that actually called for open revolt” against Pope Benedict XVI, I will assume for the sake of argument that that is true. However, he has contended that Benedict is a closet case:
So Benedict’s handsome male companion will continue to live with him, while working for the other Pope during the day. Are we supposed to think that’s, well, a normal arrangement? … This man – clearly in some kind of love with Ratzinger (and vice-versa) will now be working for the new Pope as secretary in the day and spending the nights with the Pope Emeritus. This is not the Vatican. It’s Melrose Place.
He blamed Benedict for the collapse of the Church’s authority, even though the abuse crisis in the Church began decades before Benedict’s papacy:
He did not just fail; his papacy has been a rolling disaster for the Church in the West.
He lost Ireland, for Pete’s sake, if you’ll pardon the expression. His version of Catholicism entered the public square and has been overwhelmingly refuted, rejected, and spurned by not just those outside the Western church but by so many within it. And in his inability to rise to the occasion of unthinkable evil in the child-rape conspiracy – to clean house by removing every cardinal and every bishop and every priest implicated in any way with it – he has presided over the global destruction of the church’s moral authority. By his refusal to face the fact of huge hypocrisy in the church over homosexuality – indeed to double down on the stigmatization of gay people, reversing previous gradual movement toward acceptance – he has consigned the church to what might well become an institutional tragedy.
Funnily enough, Pope Francis hasn’t removed “every cardinal and every bishop and every priest implicated in any way” with the scandal. But not a peep out of Andrew.
He has contended, against evidence showing that John Paul II was the bad guy in this case, and Ratzinger the good guy, that in the case of the wicked Fr. Marcial Maciel, Benedict is a defender of “evil”:
Evil remains at the heart of the Vatican. And I am not going to pretty it up. I’m going to get in its face. And stay there. I do not know what else to do. What else is there to do?
Andrew wondered if Benedict ought to be dragged to the Hague in chains:
What fascinates me is whether he can now be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” for having enabled and concealed the rape of countless children in an institution under his direct authority – from the moment in 2001 when every single sex abuse case went to his office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to his decision to leave Marcial Maciel alone to keep raping the innocent and continued cover-ups even after the reality had been so brutally exposed.
To put it more bluntly: now that he is no longer protected from legal accountability as a head of state, can lawsuits proceed?
And so forth. So yes, it is possible that Andrew has never written a column that actually called for open revolt against Benedict. But that is a distinction without a bit of difference.
These remarks about Benedict I’ve highlighted are manifestations of rage, or at least of an astonishing degree of anger. It’s what Andrew Sullivan does. Hey, it takes one to know one; I rage too. We both lead with our hearts on things that matter to us, something that’s sometimes a strength, and at other times a weakness. I share his rage at some of these things, especially child abuse in the Church. But rage is not a substitute for clear thought, as I have had to learn, and continue to learn.
But look: the one word that no one who has read Ross Douthat or who knows him personally would use to describe his thinking and writing is “rage.” It’s completely unhinged. If you haven’t read Ross’s column about the Pope from Sunday, please do. You may disagree with it, and disagree strongly, but to call it “rage” is nothing more than a hysterical act of projection.
In related news, Pope Francis yesterday denied that gay marriage is really marriage:
He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”
“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.
He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”
If Benedict had said this, my friend Andrew would have been tearing his garments and howling at the moon.