The Pope keeps failing to hit the note

Why does the Pope fluff his lines so badly and so often? Or have I got him wrong? As a non-Catholic I see it like this. First of all, the Pope matters: it won’t do to sneer and dismiss. He reaches out to the world and the world should try to understand him – or that part of the world which has an interest the Roman Catholic Church and Christianity as a whole. That’s the deal. Inevitably, all Catholics are implicated too, whether they like it or not, because what he’s up to so much defines them to the wider world they live in. Although there’s much more to it, lack of charisma is part of the problem. BXV1 walked in the footsteps of JP11, but just compare the different accounts of the two Holy Land visits. Yet life and faith are not all about PR. Benedict has different strengths, but how to describe them? It isn’t good enough for one unnamed Vatican apologist to say “Benedict is a rare, politically incorrect voice in a world cowed by intellectual conformity.” In the Holy Land last week Benedict XV1 trod the fault line between three faiths and a political chasm and only just managed to avoid falling over. Two papers not especially well versed in hermeneutics, the New York Times and the Economist, appreciated his better efforts but marvelled at his failures to connect. Take the visit to supposed site of Jesus’s baptism on the bank of the Jordan, as witnessed by the NYT.

Benedict XVI said that he wanted to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and experience the Holy Land first hand. So photographers waited eagerly by a turgid pool in the Jordan River for the pope to peer from a wooden promontory to a central spot in Christianity, where Christ is believed to have been baptized.
Benedict declined to get out of the golf cart that brought him there.

The Economist sources the disconnect in

the formal atmosphere of German academia, where charisma is a dirty word; and then the upper echelons of the Vatican, a world whose ethos, reasoning and vocabulary are utterly remote from the lives of most lay Catholics, let alone everyone else.
No surprise, then, that he lacked the street sense to send the right signals on a trip to the front line:

At the Holocaust memorial Vad Yashem, he disappointed by failing to speak as a wartime German.

The pope then made things worse for himself by speaking of the “tragedy of the Shoah [Hebrew for the Holocaust]” without attributing blame…. And yet another mistake: the pope used the word “killed” rather than “murdered..”. A tactful statement the next day at the Western Wall might have improved matters.

Although the Israeli paper Haaertz was gracious enough to point out he did something more important:

He reminded the world that anti-Semitism is still rearing its ugly head, and he committed the Catholic Church to combating it worldwide – today and tomorrow.

More widely, the Pope is responsible for three blunders:

the rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop; a statement, en route to Africa, that condoms were no help against AIDS; and the church’s heartless reaction to the nine-year-old Brazilian girl who had an abortion after being raped by her stepfather. The Archbishop of Recife declared that everybody involved in procuring the abortion (the girl’s mother, the doctors) was excommunicated. In all three cases, the story was not quite as simple as the headlines suggested

And for Moslems to complain about, he failed to recant

the lecture at the University of Regensburg in 2006, the shadow of which he failed to dispel in the Palestinian territories , when he quoted (though without endorsing) a Byzantine ruler who said that Muhammad brought “things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached

The Papacy has of course a right to its own agenda , even when some of it is unfathomable, such as the canonisation of Pius X11. Even though he may not deserve to be demonised, what on earth ( or in heaven) did that cautious, dry old diplomat achieve that deserves sainthood? The irony is, it would take little for the Pope to confound the lay critics of his wider mission beyond the pastoral . I was disappointed to read the normally critically-aware Tablet dismissing criticisms of his Jerusalem appearances outright.

Here seemed to be a strange doctrine of collective guilt behind these complaints, and a suspicion of bad faith that will never be completely banished because it is irrational.

Appeals to rationality are ill-judged, when it comes to defending the Pope. Regensberg exposed the gap with orthodox Islam. Jews, and not only Jews suspect that although the Church “forgave” them for killing Christ ( the charge that is the theological pretext for anti-Semitism), its continued insistence on the exclusive truth of Christianity emerging from Judaism remains a barrier that will be hard to breech.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “That’s the deal. Inevitably, all Catholics are implicated too, whether they like it or not, because what he’s up to so much defines them to the wider world they live in.”

    Not sure “implicated too” is the correct terminology here – suggests a degree of responsibility – probablby better to say “there are implications for all Catholics”.

  • Gram

    Tis a real nuisance that we don’t have a celebrity pope. The jewish leaders would like catholics to drop the blood libel references and take responsibility for the holocost. Mmmm

  • 6countyprod

    The use of the spelling ‘Moslem’ is considered a corruption of the Arabic word and is offensive to many Muslims. Brian, you need to try to be a little more sensitive to those who follow Islam. I know that you know that there is no risk when you are insulting Catholicism, but others may not be as gracious.

  • John O’Connell

    In fairness Brian, you’re not in the family so maybe you shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon of being critical about that which you really realise will only inflame those who are in the family.

    Being a journalist and believing that you’re in the same league as the Pope so that you can sit in judgement of him is a little like sitting in judgement of Jesus and I’m sure you would realise that that would be foolhardy.

  • So what exactly did the Pope do that was wrong?

    It’s suggested that he “disappointed by failing to speak as a wartime German” when there was no point. This trip, unlike JP2’s trip, wasn’t really about reconciliation between Catholics and Jews, but about more practical and relevant matters, like the Middle East peace process, and securing rights for Christians within Israel. Those who care to look will find that Benedict has already spoken about such matters, and his history prior to becoming Pope on matters relating to anti-semitism is relatively impressive.

    Benedict is not a media Pope, but that is not what is required of him. Most of the problems he has encountered, stem from shit reporting on the part of groups like Reuters and the BBC.

    As for Pius XII, well, if you want to know why there have been calls for his canonisation since his death, try this website:

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Being a journalist and believing that you’re in the same league as the Pope so that you can sit in judgement of him is a little like sitting in judgement of Jesus and I’m sure you would realise that that would be foolhardy.”

    Perhaps that should be on another thread John, because surely thats the same sanctimonious shite that was fed by our now “old” and “infirm” pedophiles as their excuse to abuse countless children…

  • John O’Connell

    Pigeon Toes

    Do you have personal experience?

    I think you’ll find that Pope Benedict is not a paedophile and I think you’ll realise that every mention of the Catholic Church is not a licence to mention paedophile in any other sense than it had its evil men just like every other organisation involved with children including every other Church.

  • I am the Pope

    I am of so great dignity and so exalted that I am not mere man, but as it were God, and the vicar of God.

    I am the divine monarch, and supreme emperor, and king of kings.

    My superiority and power by no means pertains only to heavenly things, but also earthly things, and to things under the earth, and even over the angels, whom I am greater than.

    Hence I wear a triple crown, as king of heaven and of earth and of hell.

    Whatever I do seems to proceed from the mouth of God.

    For I am of so great dignity and power that I forms one and the same tribunal with Christ.

    I have commanded that whatever belongs to priests cannot be usurped by king and the constitutions of princes are not superior to ecclesiastical constitutions, but subordinate to them.

    As I am the Pope, only I can excommunicate emperors and princes, depose them from their states, and assoil their subjects from their oath of obedience to them.

    And if a temporal prince, being required and admonished by the Church, shall neglect to purge his kingdom from this heretical pravity, the metropolitan and other provincial bishops shall bind him in the fetters of excommunication; and if he obstinately refuse to make satisfaction within the year, it shall be notified to the supreme pontiff, me, that then he may declare his subjects absolved from their allegiance, and bestow their lands upon good Catholics, who, the heretics being exterminated, may possess them unchallenged, and preserve them in the purity of the faith.

    I have ordered that it is not lawful for laymen to impose taxes or subsidies upon the clergy. If laics encroach upon cleric immunities, they are, after admonition, to be excommunicated.

  • You can’t eat a flag

    Well, I’m “in the family” and I am completely flummoxed as to why Pius XII is “Venerable” for being as inoffensive as he could be to the Nazis.
    The Ultramontanes run the show so the rest of us can bugger off and leave them to demand obedience or at least the utter disengagement most Catholics in the pew have save putting their children through Catholic managed schools.

    Unfortunately, there is no way I can as a Catholic in the pew express my opinion on anything within the Church. I am not a bit “inflamed” about what Brian Walker has written and maybe if he is an adherent of one of the Churches that use the Nicene Creed in their worship he should reconsider his self description as “non catholic”.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “I think you’ll find that Pope Benedict is not a paedophile”

    Do you know this for certain or are you just making assumptions,like so many did that “the clergy would never do such a thing”?

    Therein lay the reason, why so many children were not believed…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I am the Pope,

    that all sounds well thought out and seems fair enough to me and you do appear to have good leadership qualities offering s cleasr vision to followers but can you just clarify what youth organisations you belonged to in 1930s Germany?

  • I am the Pope

    Sammy, you should know better than to question the Pope. 200 hail marys and 20 lashes.

  • John O’Connell

    Pigeon Toes

    Do you know this for certain or are you just making assumptions,like so many did that “the clergy would never do such a thing”?

    Still being a non-Catholic mischief maker?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    ja Führer

  • I am the Pope

    I the Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth…by divine right I have supreme and full power in faith, in morals over each and every pastor and his flock. I am the true vicar, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. I am the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God himself on earth.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I am the Pope,

    how do we you know it is you Führer – can you send us a sign – the bible was not clear on the use of the internet to spead your Word.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Still being a non-Catholic mischief maker?”

    Still making assumptions?

  • Pigeon Toes

    I am the Pope,

    “how do we you know it is you Führer – can you send us a sign – the bible was not clear on the use of the internet to spead your Word.”

    And according to ould John there, He wouldn’t have liked journalists either.

    Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
    Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
    Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
    Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
    Brian: Now, fuck off!
    Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

  • I am the Pope

    [i]”how do we you know it is you Führer – can you send us a sign – the bible was not clear on the use of the internet to spead your Word.”[/i]

    I, the Pope, have the power of changing Scripture and of adding to it, and taking from it, according to my will.

    Whatever new thing I ordain including the use of the internet, rather it be in Scriptures or not in Scripture, and whatever I command is true, divine and salvific; and therefore ought to be held by Lay People in greater esteem than the living God.

  • “the rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop”

    Richardson wasn’t rehabilitated. He is still suspended a divinis. All that happened was the lifting of his excommunication for receiving episcopal consecration without a papal mandate.

    “and the church’s heartless reaction to the nine-year-old Brazilian girl who had an abortion after being raped by her stepfather.”

    Can’t blame the Pope for that. It was the Archbishop of Recife who gave that announcement. Participating in abortion results in excommunication latae sententiae – it’s incurred regardless of whether it’s declared or not.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I am the Pope,

    one thing, Führer, you should be aware of, although I do appreciate you move in mysterious ways, here in the Norn Iron end of the webosphere, some people and perhaps even a majority consider you to be something of an anti-Christ* and spend a large part of their summers marching up and down in funny costumes telling people who are fans of yours precisely that.

    *Allegations of a similar nature have been levelled at a fellow countryman of yours, a funny looking little mustachioed chap who sought revenge against those who were biblically implicated in the death of Christ and whose youth organistation I was querying your membership of all those years ago.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I’m sure he was guided by the “Holy Spirit” when he joined that particular “Community Organisation”….

    Ask John

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Pigeon Toes,

    ah Holy Spiriting excellent, immaculate work if you can get it – once the 007 of the middle east.

  • I am the Pope

    Sammy, those heretics in the North of Ireland who spend their time marching in the summer and calling me the Anti-Christ I have excommunicated, and also those who harbour, defend, or assist them, or who converse familiarly with them, or trade with them, or hold communion of any sort with them.

    Because of the heretic Protestant and his oath against me he shall not hold public duties and private rights, ecclesiastical or civil. Confiscation of all their goods and in the last punishment by DEATH; sometimes by the sword,–more commonly by fire.

    The bond of allegiance which the Protestant heretic has taken against me does not bind those who have come under it.

    An oath sworn against the good of the Church does not bind; because that is not an oath, but a perjury rather, which is taken against the Church’s interests.

    It is for this reason that I have announced that those are not to be accounted homicides who, fired with zeal for Mother Church, may have killed excommunicated persons and heretical Protestant.

  • John O’Connell

    If you’re looking for the Antichrist, take your pick:-

  • Pigeon Toes

    Pigeon Toes,

    ah Holy Spiriting excellent, immaculate work if you can get it – once the 007 of the middle east.

    How does one apply?

    Feel a need (Oh Hello its the White Dove of Peace/War on Terror/Holy Spirit/Peter Andre/Gerry Mc Cann)

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    a word of caution here – my own Granny oft remarked that “sums are the work of the divil”.

    I am the Pope,

    You display great, even Cameronian leadership qualities and speak with great wisdowm but I’m afraid your last paragraph is open to the misninterpetation that a similar fate may await the “heretical Protestant” as was visited upon the Jewish people by your felow German countryman thus adding substance to the rumours that you were indeed a starring pupil in the Junior Antichrists class of 39.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Pigeon Toes,

    I’m not sure you will have to check it out with Fuhrer but I understand you need to have a background in impregnating middle-eastern women on the quiet to have any chance of getting the job.

  • 6countyprod

    Wall Street Journal: ‘Pope’s Israeli trip a success

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    On a serious point relating to the thread – the Romans must have had some spin doctors to spread a religion like Christianity to further their (admittedly declining) empire in which they had ordered the excecution of its leader and yet told the story so that the Jews got the blame.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Repent, repent, there’s a pope benny on the lose!

    The present pope believes we still live in such times…..

  • Pigeon Toes

    Flamin dove, hey I knew there was a reason it shit on me arm.

    That might be a tad impossible, but erm wasn’t ould Mary there erm below the age of 15?

    I would have a bit of a job impregnating anyone…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Pigoen Toes,

    I would have a bit of a job impregnating anyone…

    Holy Ghosting work not for you then – without a miracle.

    Regarding Mary’s age – again we will have to check with the Fuhrer himself – who appears to have disappeared in mysterious sort of way – but I dont think on that particular divine operation consent was required.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Is that not a “Mysterious” sort of way, and we shall only reveal himself (perish the thought) at the “end of times”.

    Are ye allowed to take the piss this much on Slugger?

    It’s normally not allowed.

  • Pigeon Toes

    But sure said Holy Spirit works in “Mysterious Ways”. Husband might be concerned though!

  • Pigeon Toes
    “If we want our leaders to see the bigger picture, they have to see the world through other people;s eye’s”

    Bolloxology at it’s finest,,,,

  • Rory Carr

    Never mind, Brian. At least you tried. Pearls before swine and all that.

  • Seymour Major

    I have to take issue with one of your criticisms as being a mistake.

    That is the one which relates to the lecture at the University of Regensburg in 2006. He was criticising, in his own way ‘Jihadism’.

    He may not have been diplomatic to the Muslims but he actually received support at the time from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Carey and praised in some of the national UK newspapers.

    Do we go round tiptoing about what extreme muslims do just in case we dont provoke them into violence?

    As to your last line “exclusive truth,” come on Brian, all religious leaders position themselves with the view that theirs is better than everybody elses.

  • abucs

    Sammy, for the first 300 hundred years the Romans were trying get rid of Christianity.

    They only gave up because large numbers of their fellow citizens became Christians and the persecutions and killings against their own people got to the stage that it made no internal domestic sense.

    In affect, the state’s anti Christian laws became a threat to its own internal security.

    Christianity was a people led movement, and in no way a Roman spin doctor movement.

    As far as some people making the claim that the Pope makes all these ‘so-called’ mistakes – yeah whatever you reckon. There’s millions of us who would disagree with you.

    It’s no surprise that the secular press criticices the Pope for not following their agenda and then presents him in a bad light.

    Another reason not to watch the partisan secular press.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    As I indicated in my post, the Roman empire was in decline when it embraced Chritianity, but my point is that it did then use for it own purposes and what is interesting is that they managed to tell the the story but still avoided most of the ‘blame’ for Christ’s death – the extent to which they may have managed/spun the story is surely therefore an issue?

  • abucs

    Wouldn’t everyone (Roman authorities / Christians etc) see a death 300 years ago as not linked to that days successors ?

    Then again ……

  • Clady cowboy

    I’m a bit spooked.

    I tried my name out on Mad John O’Connell’s anti-christ name-number calculator.

    I got 888.

    I am also a member of

    Does that make me the ante-Christ?