Hitchens and Dawkins contra Benedict

It sounds like the start of a joke … Did you hear the one about the two atheists who plotted to arrest the pope? I don’t know how serious they are, but they are certainly getting headlines. And they have succeeded in recruiting some Christians to their cheering section.

Stories about sexual misconduct by Catholic priests, and cover-up by church and civil authorities, are nothing new. What is new are the accusations that Benedict XVI is a major malefactor in the scandal.

In fact, he’s one of the good guys. He took action as head of the CDF. He has responded by reminding Christians of the call to holiness and the need to be prophetic in upholding Christian teaching. He has taken action as pope (unlike his predecessor).

See Peggy Noonan’s recent op-ed:

Some blame the scandals on Pope Benedict XVI. But Joseph Ratzinger is the man who, weeks before his accession to the papacy five years ago, spoke blisteringly on Good Friday of the “filth” in the church. Days later on the streets of Rome, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported, Cardinal Ratzinger bumped into a curial monsignor who chided him for his sharp words. The cardinal replied, “You weren’t born yesterday, you understand what I’m talking about, you know what it means. We priests. We priests!” The most reliable commentary on Pope Benedict’s role in the scandals came from John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who argues that once Benedict came to fully understand the scope of the crisis, in 2003, he made the church’s first real progress toward coming to grips with it.

See John Allen, who argues for the importance of “keeping the record straight,” and Rod Dreher. Rod links to Lee Podles, who said,

We are witnessing a cruel irony of history: Joseph Ratzinger, one of the few ecclesiastics to evidence genuine horror at the sexual abuse of children by priests and the one pope since perhaps Pius V to act against corruption in the Church, is receiving a massive international attack for his failures in handling abuse cases.

Rod also links to my review of Podles’ book, Sacrilege.

The point is, lots of us have been following this story for a long time. We know lots of the major players. We have expressed plenty of anger. So, please, listen to us when we say, pay no attention to the enemies of Christianity on this–listen to the Christians who have been covering the story from a perspective of faith, and get your facts right.

More importantly, let’s consider the solutions these folks offer. Hitchens and Dawkins say there is no God; that Christianity is based on a lie. They say we are products of random evolution (or transplanted aliens), and that morality is an evolving human construct. They say there is no God to judge us, no Christ who died for us,  no eternal hope awaiting us. All they can offer to frustrated and angry Christians is more anger and the dissolution of everything we stand for.

What does Benedict offer? Consider what he wrote to the people of Ireland. He calls the sinner to look at their lives in the light of God’s law, recall his coming judgment, and repent. He calls all to holiness, and to faithfulness in upholding God’s law and the standards of Christian morality. He calls all to remember their Creator, and to take refuge in him. He, too, is angry. He is ashamed. But he knows in whom he has believed, and knows that he is able to see us through.

Who has the better response? That’s a no-brainer for me.

One thought on “Hitchens and Dawkins contra Benedict

  1. The media’s desire to pin this on Benedict is detracting from the impact of this crisis on the Catholic mind, IMO: read, the Vatican’s mishandling of its response thus far.

    At most, he is guilty of not reducing a few priests, already removed from ministry, to the lay state with the speed that we would hope for, or choosing not laicize (in one instance). His actions have not contributed to the abuse of victims, to secrecy or any “cover up”.

    The more that these shameful abuses are used to exploit ideological ends by the media (or anyone) and to get the “big story” of “taking down a pope” the more that it consolidates battle lines.

    In attacking the Pope unjustly, Catholics begin to feel that Catholicism is under attack, which is a poor climate for reform. There is a clerical culture that needs to be interrupted, resourced and renewed.

    Dawkins and Hitchens entering into this will just take up the ideological pitch.

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