Italy's Il Foglio newspaper noted over the weekend that in the nearly five years of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate, he has been criticized repeatedly, often being accused of turning back time to the period before the Second Vatican Council. The Vatican journalist Paolo Rodari underscores that despite the attacks, the Pope's teachings remain, because "you cannot run away from his words."
Rodari, Il Foglio's Vatican analyst, explains that "words are the first way with which the Pope guides and addresses the Church" even if his detractors maintain that they are "old fashioned when compared to contemporary culture, to the progressivism of the new times."
In his General Audience on March 10, recalls the author, the Pope cited the style of St. Bonaventure, for whom "governing was not simply doing, but was most of all thinking and praying." The Pope provided insight into his own thought when he added "the Church is not governed only through commands and structures, but through the guidance and illumination of souls."
This style, continues the journalist, typifies Benedict XVI's pontificate and is evident in the "illuminated thought" of his recent pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland on bringing about the renewal of the Church in their country.
"Words are the first way with which the Pope guides and addresses the Church, aware that the diffusion of authentic Christian thought is the true 'sword' brought into the world."
The article goes on to illustrate specific criticisms launched at the Pope for his way of thinking.
For example, in Africa when the Pope proposed that AIDS cannot by overcome by the distribution of condoms, many in the media attacked. But, Vatican journalist Benny Lai told Il Foglio, "he had said a just thing: to combat AIDS, the education of man is needed to bring him to consider his own body in a different way."
In his now famous address at Regensburg, the Holy Father spoke of the relationship between religion and civilization, affirming that using violence for conversion is against reason and against God. These words unleashed a media frenzy and the indignation of some within the Muslim world.
And, even then, pointed out Rodari, "the words of the Pope remained. Because you cannot run away from his words."
In Dec. 2005, when he spoke to the Roman Curia for the first time, Benedict XVI challenged those who would like a Church "of the world" and not a Church that is "for" or "close to" the world.
In saying this, notes Rodari, the Pope was agreeing that the Second Vatican Council was not a "break with the past," and that those with a contrasting interpretation only “align themselves with the ‘sympathy of the mass media, and also of a part of modern theology.'”
The publication of Summorum Pontificum, which brought back the Tridentine Rite, and the lifting of the excommunication of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X have also been met by accusations that he would like to return to the past.
Between the two, the accusation remain the same, observes the author, that the Pope is against modernity and wishes to return to the pre-Conciliar times.
To this, the author offers the words of the Pope himself, who said, the Church cannot remain "frozen in the year 1962," however, "whomever wishes to be obedient to Vatican II, must accept the faith professed in the course of centuries and cannot cut the roots by which the tree lives."