Tuesday April 6, 2010

Lutheran Pastor Defends Pope Against Attacks over Sex Abuse Crisis

By Patrick B. Craine

April 6, 2010 ( – As Pope Benedict XVI faces media accusations over his handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, Lutheran theology professor John Stephenson has issued some “ecumenical thoughts” in defense of the pontiff, and has called on Lutherans to offer prayers for the pope.

On the blog of Logia, a Lutheran journal of theology, Dr. Stephenson points out that the secular media has been attacking Pope Benedict XVI since at least 1985 when The Ratzinger Report, a book-length interview with him conducted by Vittorio Messori, was published.

He describes Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, even before he was pope, as “a favourite target of the unbelieving world’s impassioned hatred for Christ Jesus our Lord and the members of His mystical body.”

“Shrewd observers must wonder about the startling disproportion between the enormous hue and cry artificially whipped up by the media and the softly spoken real life figure who seems always to have avoided hyperbole like the plague,” writes Stephenson.

He offers an overview of the attacks against Ratzinger, beginning with the response to his supposed crackdown on theologians while head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“The disciplinary measures dealt out by Ratzinger against barely a score of wildly Modernist (actually mostly apostate) theologians over more than two decades add up to a string of fairly mild censures, gentle slaps on the wrist in most cases,” observes Stephenson. He notes, for example, that while Hans Küng lost the right to teach theology, he was also allowed to remain a priest despite his denial of the divinity of Christ.

Stephenson also points out that the pope is far from an “ultra-conservative,” as the press makes him out to be, but rather takes a “centrist position,” and is “at most mildly ‘conservative’.” Contrasting the Modernists and traditionalists (such as the Society of St. Pius X), Stephenson explains that Pope Benedict “belongs to the centrist mass of Roman Catholics who accept Vatican II, but decline to see the Council (as do Küng & Co.) as a brutal rupture with the foregoing tradition.”

To understand Pope Benedict’s papacy, he says, “we must realise that he is endeavouring to steer his massive ecclesial ship back into a centrist channel after a good forty years of disastrous leftward lurch.”

Stephenson suggests that the current attacks against the pope should be expected in light of past media treatment. “As even more lamentable reports surface of the horror of sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests and religious brothers, it goes without saying that the secular press has tried, convicted, and executed Ratzinger for a string of alleged cover-ups as archbishop, cardinal, and Pope,” he writes.

“The press, spoon-fed by Roman Catholic Modernists, cannot be expected to highlight insignificant details such as the fact that Benedict XVI has vigorously addressed this issue from the first days of his papacy (remember the disciplining of Fr. Maciel, once the protecting hand of the former Pope was withdrawn?),” he continues.

Despite the differences in theology between Pope Benedict and Lutherans, Stephenson suggests that Lutherans “might fitly major in sympathy, understanding, and prayer for the courteous and learned aged prelate who is right now a walking target for innumerable hellish darts launched by theological Modernists and by the unbelieving world that have between them zero tolerance for any crisp, clear, and confident confession of Christ Jesus our Incarnate God.”

See Dr. John Stephenson’s “The dictatorship of relativism strikes back—and goes nuclear.”