Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Usual Suspects Attack Benedict

With Benedict gaining more and more respect from previous critics on the left, it seems that the most trenchant criticism these days comes from the American right, especially when he touches on issues of war and peace. Recently, in his Easter Urbi Et Orbi address, he noted the following: "the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees". This "nothing positive comes from Iraq" provoked the ire of Bush's Catholic cheerleaders, Michael Novak and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

Here is what Novak had to say (in the pro-torture National Review):

"Benedict XVI's Easter Sunday remarks in St Peter Square hit a low point, I would think. He said that "nothing positive comes from Iraq." This is a very skewed report on the realities on the ground. But it might mean that the message the Pope wanted to convey is that of the American Left: 'Whatever the good or the bad achievements, it is time to get out.' In other words, not an accurate description, but a prescription for the near future.... [These words] sounded like a standard European view of reality — at least of those Europeans who have always disagreed with the American war aims, and now that things have become difficult and costly want to stick it to the Americans."
And Neuhaus:

"It is worth keeping in mind that in 2003 all the countries with developed intelligence services agreed that Saddam Hussein had or was quickly developing weapons of mass destruction that he intended to use in aggressive war.... It is further recognized by almost everybody that the current strategy led by General David Petraeus is a last effort to turn that situation around... I am impressed by the reporters and informed observers who have in recent weeks offered tentative but hopeful judgments about the success of the Petraeus strategy.... Pope Benedict is not so impressed. Catholics in particular pay close and respectful attention to the words of the pope, also when he is offering only his own prudential judgment with respect to this or that world problem. Admittedly, it is galling when Catholics and others who are usually blithely indifferent to church teaching seize upon a papal opinion with which they agree and, suddenly becoming hyper-infallibilists, elevate it to dogmatic status.... I hope he is wrong about there being nothing positive in what is happening in Iraq."
What strikes me most about these statements is the hint of desperation. After throwing in their lot with the Bush administration for so long, they find it hard to jump ship at such a late stage. Neuhaus is left is hoping against hope that the so-called surge will succeed, and repeating old lies about the whole world believing in the Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (it would ill-behoove a priest to admit that his culture war Bush and Cheney lied to go to war). There is also a tone of irritation. Neuhaus is angered by the notion that a man who prides himself on calling others to task for insufficient orthodoxy now finds himself on the other end of the stick. Novak is less concerned with theology than with the secular ideology he holds dearly, the Calvinist-inspired American exceptionalism that sees God giving the United States a divine mandate to remake the world in its own image (and getting rid of the "bad guys" in the process). Anybody who criticizes this is trying to "stick it to the Americans". It's sad, really, these guys just cannot let go. But that's what happens when you put nationalism instead of universalism, country ahead of God, expediency ahead of principle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Novak, Neuhaus and the third musketeer, George Weigel are clear examples of politics informing one's faith. The saddest character in this Republicatholic Fat Cat triumverate is RJN since one would reasonably expect a priest to recognize inordinate pride when it's staring at him in the mirror.