Following John Zmirak’s advice that non-Catholics should not say anything about Pope Benedict’s lifting of bans on four SSPX bishops, I am not going to offer any comments about the decision itself. It is the Catholic Church’s business and a matter of internal discipline and order. It is noteworthy that outsiders in the media seem to be horrified by schism when it is a matter of theologically conservative Christians resisting the introduction of modern fads and deviations from tradition, but regard the healing of schism even more horrifying if it means bringing traditionalists back into the fold.
Ross’ take on the subject is worth reading. What I will say relates to the response to this decision. I agree with Ross that media treatment of such a topic, especially one that has the potential for political controversy, is bound to be superficial, sensationalist and sometimes simply wrong. To make the story seem more relevant, there is always a desire to find a controversial, and preferably political, angle. We in the Russian Orthodox Church discovered this last year when the reconciliation with Moscow was taking place, and we were treated to various breathless reports that Putin was taking control of the Russian Church Abroad. This latter point falls under the “simply wrong” heading, but the reconciliation received this treatment from media outlets, particularly The Wall Street Journal, because it fit with a preconceived story about Russia and reinforced negative stereotypes about the Orthodox. Obviously, the same thing is at work here in the treatment of Pope Benedict XVI and Catholicism.
I am sympathetic with our Catholic friends, as Pravoslavophobia, as Dr. Trifkovic once dubbed it, is probably one of the few other broadly acceptable prejudices in the U.S. besides anti-Catholicism, and it takes many of the same forms and derives from the same sources. In this most recent episode, those inclined to impute the worst motives and willfully misunderstand or distort Catholic history have latched on to the aspect of the story that they believe validates their view and have chosen to pursue the most political reading of a fundamentally and exclusively religious matter.