A response to: Smearing an Anniversary; Orphans in Rubble

Dear Editor,

The secular press has attacked Pope Benedict as it has perhaps no other pope in history. Perhaps it is because he is a much gentler man than John Paul II whom, one suspects, they were just too cowardly to attack while he lived. But why should a man of Benedict's goodness and holiness, a man of such blameless life, be the target of such venom, a fair proportion of it biased, caricaturing or just plain mendacious?

Benedict himself has set their agenda, and far from rushing to the attack, they are dancing to his tune.

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he already, within the Church, drew fire from heterodox or liberal Catholics who could not stomach the solid orthodoxy of his publications. Remember the strong reactions to the Instruction on Certain Aspects of Liberation Theology in 1983? Or to the more recent Dominus Iesus? Both of these were carefully nuanced, balanced presentations of Catholic Teaching, which itself represents the revelation made to human beings by God through Jesus Christ. He addresses the specific target of his attention with an objective, surgical precision.

Something similar, I believe, has happened since Benedict became pope. At his Mass of installation he addressed the secular world forcefully, declaring unequivocally his rejection of its agenda in sentences like "vast interior deserts of unbelief" [paraphrase]. Whenever Benedict addresses the issue of secularism, he speaks with a fiery conviction.

I believe that the secular world recognises only too well what he is saying, and how accurately and precisely he has analysed and understood their position. It would explain the vehemence with which he has been attacked, a vehemence notably at odds with the charity he displays towards his opponents. His first Encyclical, Deus caritas est, wrested the term "eros" back from its debased secular usage. And his analysis and dealing with secularism has not wavered.

The secular world, it seems, has never felt itself in a stronger position over and against the Church than today. And certainly its tactics are more subtle than in any other age, though the gloves at this stage would appear to be off. But then, many other world powers have acted in the same way, not least the mighty Roman Empire.

Recently, all the technology of the modern secular world could do nothing about one erupting volcano in far-off Iceland. The modern secular world should be wary of hubris, of believing in its own apparently limitless powers. There is no doubt that the Papacy will survive; but modern secularism may very well turn out to be the latest Ozymandias.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. Fr Phillip Vietri C.O.

Oratory of St Philip Neri.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa.