ChiTrib's Religion Blogger Chastises Pope, Suggests He 'Undermine(s) Faith' in Church

"So which is worse? Denying the Holocaust? Or condemning New Orleans?"

That's how Chicago Tribune religion blogger Manya Brachear began her Feb. 11 The Seeker blog post, practically considering the Pope to be another politician who must watch out for how his PR blunders affect his poll numbers (emphasis mine):

Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI quelled concerns last week regarding the excommunication of a Holocaust denier, he caused another stir closer to home. He reportedly tapped a bishop who once described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for sin and debauchery in New Orleans.

According to the Times of London, Father Gerhard Maria Wagner, an ultraconservative parish priest at Windischgarsten in Austria, published his theory of divine retribution in his parish newsletter four years ago.

"The conditions of immorality in this city are indescribable," he wrote, pointing out that Katrina destroyed nightclubs, brothels and abortion clinics.

Wagner, who has been appointed as auxiliary Bishop of Linz in Austria, has also accused the popular Harry Potter books and films of "spreading Satanism."


But with the pope’s popularity waning in recent months and controversy swirling over the olive branch extended toward a schismatic bishop, Richard Williamson who has denied the Holocaust, was this really the most prudent decision for the pope to make? Could it and should it undermine faith in the infallibility of the pontiff and the Roman Catholic Church? Happy Mardi Gras!

That God sometimes ordains natural catastrophe as a sign of His judgment against sin is hardly a foreign concept to anyone who is biblically literate. What's more, Williamson was illicitly ordained by a schismatic as "bishop" in the first place. The Vatican has made clear he who may not take up his episcopal duties unless and until he renounces his Holocaust-denying views.

What's more Brachear's post essentially equated a regrettable PR faux pas -- lifting excommunication for Williamson in ignorance of his inexcusable Holocaust views -- with the legitimate exercise of a priest of his duty to warn parishioners about sin and God's judgment upon it. 

You don't have to be a Catholic -- yours truly is not -- to grasp that a Catholic priest's or bishop's job is to proclaim quite unpopular things about sin and divine judgment precisely because, well, it's his job to do so.

As a religion blogger, Brachear should attempt to respectfully cover her beat without unnecessarily imposing a secular political reporter-like spin on matters of faith, theology, and ecclesiology.

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