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Pope Francis celebrates the opening Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family at St. Peter's Basilica on October 5, 2014. John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews.com
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Priest: ‘Ad hominem attacks’ seem to be Rome’s new style under Francis

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

November 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews)--The "new mode of Vatican rhetoric" that uses personal attacks "is one of the greatest contrasts with the 35 years of St John Paul II and Benedict XVI," a Canadian priest and the editor-in-chief of Convivium magazine wrote.

In a Catholic Herald column, Father Raymond J. de Souza outlined how ad hominem attacks rather than logical arguments seem to have become the norm within the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

De Souza began by explaining that one of his recent columns on the contentious synod on the family "earned a rebuke" from Father Thomas Rosica, the English-language attaché of the Holy See Press Office.

Rosica called de Souza's column "truly ridiculous and irresponsible" and said it was "hardly the case" that the publication is a Catholic messenger as its name suggests.

The priests are old friends, de Souza wrote, so "I don’t get bothered by his comments."

However, Rosica's statements are indicative of "a larger dynamic of pointed attacks upon those who deviate from the official line in Rome," according to de Souza. 

One of these attacks includes the publication of a list of conservatives who are supposedly enemies of the pope. A journalist close to Pope Francis published this list, titled "Catholics who are anti-Francis but love Putin."

"The commentary, indicative of the current ethos, did not address the arguments made or questions posed by those, including eminent scholars and scholarly eminences, who have doubts about particular aspects of Pope Francis’s agenda," wrote de Souza. "Instead, there were an assemblage of speculation about motives, assertions of conspiracies and a weird reference to the 'mythological idealisation of Vladimir Putin.'"

During the last two papacies of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, "persons were rarely attacked" and arguments "were vigorously engaged and teachings explained in great detail."

De Souza noted that Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), "who could be devastatingly biting in his scholarly work, nevertheless refrained from questioning motives and character."

But the "different approach" of Pope Francis has created a "challenge" for his spokesmen, according to de Souza.

Pope Francis "has told the American bishops that 'harsh speech does not befit the tongue of a pastor,' but nevertheless he advocates frank speech and open debate in a spirit of fraternity. The Holy Father peppers his daily homilies though with severe judgments and frequent condemnations," de Souza wrote. 

He continued, "That is a challenge then for the papal spokesmen, official, quasi-official and unofficial. How to combine the tenderness and mercy which Pope Francis has placed at the centre of his pastoral approach while remaining true to the bruising rhetorical style of the Holy Father?"

When Rosica made some of his sharpest statements blasting the Catholic blogosphere's "cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol," de Souza argued, he was "doing his best to imitate the Holy Father’s style."

It seems as if Rosica's comments then and his recent criticism of de Souza's Catholic Herald article show he is "simply trying to say things the Holy Father would say in the manner in which he would say them. After all, one doesn’t remain an official of the Holy See Press Office for three years if the Pope is not pleased with the approach," de Souza reasoned.

"The new style in Rome," de Souza concluded, consists of "the avoidance of constructive arguments, replaced instead by assertions and ad hominem attacks...implemented by those heralds eager to instruct the rest of us in how to be Catholic."

Read Fr. De Souza's article here.

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