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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pope in America

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The arrival today of Pope Benedict XVI is a welcome event. It is always interesting to watch the reaction of the msm, which loves the pomp and ceremony that invariably accompanies Papal visits but is also hostile to the Pontiff, forever looking for weakness in the church and seeming to revel in the difficulties that it faces.

The press is especially conflicted with this Pope, who has expressed disagreement with the Iraq War, which they are sure to mention with joyous regularity. But George Weigel, one of the the most astute observers of the Holy See has insights that the media is likely to either miss or ignore:

In my own conversations with senior Vatican officials over the past 18 months, I have been struck by the fact that the debates of 2002-2003 are over. That there was serious disagreement between the U.S. government and the Holy See prior to the invasion of Iraq is, and was, obvious. Today, however, the page has been turned, and despite what Winters’s Vatican leakers may be telling him, the people who make the decisions tell me, as they have told the Bush administration, that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster for both Iraq and the entire Middle East.

Pope Benedict will likely urge President Bush to demand that the Iraqi government be more assertive in defending the Christian minority population of Iraq; but that means more and stronger American involvement in the evolving politics of Iraq, not the end of an “occupation.” As for a papal “denunciation” at the U.N., Winters and his friends among Catholic Democrats are likely to be disappointed; Benedict XVI is far too shrewd to give fall campaign sound-bites to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton (either of whose victory in November would cause nightmares for the Holy See at the U.N. and other international agencies).

There is much for conservatives to like in Benedict, a man who has little use for moral relativism and is fully aware of the dangers a radicalized Islam presents.
Nor would a pope who thought in Eurocrat terms about world politics have appointed as his “foreign minister” Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a man who combines extensive experience of Islamist aggression (he was formerly papal nuncio in Khartoum) with a fondness for the United States and a clear-eyed view of the weaknesses and corruptions of the present U.N. (where he served for three years). Furthermore, Benedict XVI and Archbishop Mamberti are both fully aware that the “dictatorship of relativism” of which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned just prior to his election as pope is not only being imposed across Europe by radically secularist governments like the Zapatero regime in Spain; it is also being imposed by the E.U. bureaucracy, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European human rights courts. Rather than the pope and Mamberti being driven by the “Brussels-think” in the permanent Vatican bureaucracy, it is far more likely that this pontificate will continue to challenge those default positions; it may even start the process by which the defaults are decisively changed.

Benedict has had large shoes to fill, following as he has the unusually popular and successful Pontificate of John Paul II. Benedict XVI may not have the personal dynamism of his extraordinary predecessor but Americans would do well to get to know him better as his intellect, natural conservatism and devotion to God are resources that America would be wise to tap.

Cross-Posted At Liberty Pundit

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