On top of Tuesday's Drudge Report at one point appeared two reports. "Human Clone Experiment 'Repeated Successfully,'" said one. "Vatican Official Slams Handling of Saddam," said the other. The proximity of the reports effectively captured the fecklessness of the post-Vatican II Church: As countries hurtle toward an increasingly demented moral culture, Church officials are squandering their moral authority on liberal causes beyond parody.
Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace department, makes Howard Dean look circumspect. Martino, described remarkably as a "diplomat," thought it appropriate this week to nitpick America's treatment of Hussein. "I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures," he said. "Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I have compassion for him."
At the very moment secular society needs the moral wisdom of the Church, Martino exposes it to mockery. All so that he can indulge his customary bashing of the U.S. He frequently makes wild comments about America. During the war, he accused it of a "crime against peace," allowing himself inflammatory rhetoric American officials would never dream of using about him. What makes this even more obnoxious is that his position on war isn't even remotely orthodox. He is committing the Church to a pacifist position Augustine and Thomas Aquinas would regard as rank heresy.
Asked directly earlier this year -- can any war be just? -- Martino said no. So much for the just war teaching. This of course sows immense confusion amongst the faithful. Does the Church dispel it? No, they let the confusion-maker sow even more of it. Martino's perverse solicitude for a savage dictator makes the Vatican look as frivolous as the ACLU.
Liberal Church officials -- who didn't make a peep when Terri Schiavo's cloddish husband tried to dehydrate her to death -- will now speak up for Hussein's right to life. The same pacifism that leads Church officials to forbid war against a mass murderer will forbid the death penalty against him. In its official documents Church officials can't quite bring themselves to oppose war or the death penalty outright. But nevertheless they portray a pacifist position their predecessors would consider heretical as a "development" of teaching. They deform Catholic teaching and call it development. And it is one -- a development of Catholicism into modern liberalism.
The opposition to war and the death penalty is not coming from a more acute understanding of Church teaching but from a culture of modern liberalism hostile to it that has long grown inside the Church.
In another moment beyond parody this week at the Vatican, Church officials, panting after the modern liberal world, invited a Hip-hop singer to perform at their Christmas festival, only to see their oh-so enlightened rapprochement with modern pop culture blow up in their faces when Lauryn Hill lectured them on moral responsibility. The Hip-hop performer even used a word most Catholics haven't heard from a Catholic pulpit for decades-- "repent." Lauryn Hill isn't exactly Catherine of Siena, but Church historians may find it notable that 21st century bishops were the subjects of moral lectures from rap performers. Hill basically called the bishops whitened sepulchers, "I did not come here to celebrate the birth of Christ with you but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death inside the place," she said. "God has been a witness to the corruption of his leadership, to the exploitation and abuses…Therefore you must repent, repent." Hill, then, according to Variety magazine, performed such songs as "Damnable Heresies."
It was a public relations embarrassment Renato Martino must have wanted to preempt.