A Lot of “Doubt” about John Patrick Shanley’s Anti-Ratzinger Op-Ed

My letter to the New York Times in response to John Patrick Shanley’s 11 February 2013 Op-Ed, “Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope.”


Dear Editors,

Despite my respect for John Patrick Shanley’s artistic talent, the fact that he was a Catholic kid in the Bronx doesn’t make him an expert on the Catholic Church or the papacy, and his celebration of the abdication of Benedict XVI (“Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope,” 11 February) is misleading and superficial. Trotting out the hackneyed “they’re just a bunch of old men” argument to explain Church sexism, for example, is scarcely worthy of the Times.

I’m as glad as the next thoughtful person to see Ratzinger go, but there’s no reason just yet to sing “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.” The incoming Pope will do little or nothing to reverse or even temper the direction of Church policy, which Shanley sums up in his accusation that the “Catholic Church [has] turned into a subsidy for wrongdoing and a prop for the continuing campaign against women’s rights and homosexuality.”

Shanley finds Ratzinger “devoid of charm.” Be that as it may, he’s still the wrong scapegoat. The architect of the Church’s non-response to pedophile priests was Ratzinger’s predecessor, John Paul II.

John Paul II also directed and approved the infamous 1986 “Letter to the Bishops On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” (which introduced the appalling phrase “intrinsic moral evil”). Threats against and official censure of activists, women, and lesbian and gay clergy expanded under John Paul II, including the severe rebuke suffered in 1999 by Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, who, after decades of promoting “justice and reconciliation between lesbian and gay Catholics and the wider Catholic community,” were “permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons” and named ineligible “for any office in their respective religious institutes.”

It was John Paul II again in 2005 who attempted to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia (and sidestep the sex-abuse scandals) in “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders,” a document whose preparation by the Congregation for Catholic Education John Paul II continued to oversee until shortly before his death.

To be sure, Ratzinger was deeply involved in each and every one of these affairs, and his handiwork is everywhere. But let’s not forget who gave him the job.

Finally, is Shanley certain he wants to say that John XXIII was “the last pope … who showed signs of spiritual vision”? This is the Pope who wrote, in 1961, that “Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers.”

That’s some spiritual vision. It is not, however, John XXIII’s, John Paul II’s, or even Benedict XVI’s. It’s the official vision of the Church, though a loathing for Ratzinger compresses Shanley’s criticisms into an ad hominem attack. That’s a shame because the real issue is a half century of “modern” Vatican orthodoxy.

And that’s not going away in a puff of white smoke.



Posted on 12 February 2013, in Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order), Write ... che ti passa and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. BRAVO, Vita….right on!!

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