Response to John Allen’s article in NCR, April 2, 2010
John, I don't know if you read these comments; I hope you do. 'Is there room for a middle ground?' you ask. Let us continue to hope so because if there isn't then rational discourse will have disappeared along with a respectful listening to those with whom one disagrees. True knowledge depends on speaking what we believe to be the truth, listening to others' arguments, revising our opinions, and articulating the next level. In rational discourse, there is no 'final' truth; only increasingly accurate approximations of truth. But, then, there is also no final act of justice, no final loving. After the Second Vatican Council, the Pope and the papal curia could have moved forward toward decentralization and greater democratization of the church. None of the post conciliar popes have chosen to do that. The present crisis around the pope's possible involvement in the covering up of priestly sex abuse when he was the archbishop of Munich and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has to do, in part, with the separation of the figure of the pope from the life of the person who becomes pope. The donning of the white apparel from the moment of his election (a 16th century custom); the changing of the name of the person elected (not an ancient custom); the seclusion of the pope as the 'prisoner of the Vatican' up until Woytyla; and the radical separation of the pope from the ordinary life of people all contribute to the mystification of the papacy. Josef Ratzinger, like his predecessors from the middle of the 19th century, has disappeared, has been obliterated by His Holiness, the Holy Father. The demythologization of the papacy would help us to accept the mistakes in judgment made by the person before his election to the papal office as well as mistakes made in office. 'Papal infallibility' is so carefully proscribed as to be almost non-existent; it certainly does not apply to either ordinary, every day utterances of the pope or even ordinary official statements on faith and morals. Admission of errors made during his administration of the archdiocese of Munich and his prefecture at the CDF would go a long way toward helping us to understand better the man who has been called to the highest office in the largest Christian Church in the world—and to support him with our prayers.