Wednesday, April 06, 2005

How the stories evolve 

Among the generally positive commentary about John Paul II, Reuters has managed to unearth the liberal theologian Hans Kueng (or rather Kueng has helped to unearth himself by releasing a statement), who obliged the critically-minded and blasted the Pope ("Catholic rebel decries Pope's legacy"):

"The Polish Pope's internal policies were devastating... [There are] many average, even incompetent bishops, some countries where over half of all parishes are without priests, and less and less qualified new blood... This Pope continued to forbid priests from marrying, he forbade women to use the Pill, men to use condoms, women to take Church ministries, lay theologists to preach and Christians (of other denominations) to share the eucharist."
In other words, a typical laundry list of ultra-liberal complaints from a man who has been John Paul's theological nemesis throughout the whole of the pontificate.

By the time the story had arrived in Australia, just like loaves and fishes it has miraculously multiplied, with our very own public broadcaster ABC titling its article
"Church figures question Pope's legacy". So who are these "Church figures"? Well, there is Kueng, and there is... Kueng. The only other person quoted in the piece (from another Reuters' story) is Jean-Luc Melenchon, a Socialist Senator from France, who's annoyed that his country's flags are flying at half-mast in the sign of respect for the Pope. Melenchon, hardly a "Church figure" (unless one considers that famous church of lost causes, the French Marxism), grumbles: "For five days there has been a hagiography about the sovereign Pontiff without any critical spirit." I'm sure Senator Melenchon will be working very hard to remedy that.

All this not to say Kueng is the only critic of the Pope out there. Far from it; the news coverage and the commentary of the last few days have almost managed to make us forget how unpopular the Pope was among the "progressive" sections of the Church, particularly in Europe and North America. I have a feeling that the media has by now overdosed on niceness and we will see an inevitable backlash, although not necessarily a large one, with more and more critics given air time to vent their frustration at "conservatism", "obscurantism" and "backwardness" of John Paul II.


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