Monday, October 24, 2011

Responding to Criticism Over Pope Benedict and the " Pope Mover "

Goodness Benedict can do no right. This is some commentary over at that Benedettoxvi Forum over some silly criticism the Vatican is getting.

Why do some commentators think
Benedict XVI is not entitled to
conserve his energies at his age?

It's surprising how much negative commentary there has been about the use of the mobile platform for Benedict XVI - with someone like Vaticanista Aldo Maria Valli, who has generally been approving of Benedict XVI - claiming that it smacked of idolatry with the Pope 'held up' on a platform like a 'pagan idol'. Well, images of saints are held up on platforms all the time for processions, yet no one has said that the practice smacks of idolatry! And how different is the mobile platform from the Popemobile in this respect? But Valli has not criticized the use of the Popemobile.

He even criticizes the Pope for carrying his pastoral staff while on the platofrm, because, he says, the pastoral staff is supposed to be the physical support for the Pope! Anyway, the arguments he presents are inexplicably silly, as of someone who was just waiting for the right opportunity to pounce and unload his repressed hostility against Benedict XVI.

Even worse, someone like Paolo Rodari on his blog appears to endorse Valli's views since he counsels his readers that Valli's blog is a 'must-read"! What's with these people????

Valli's thoroughly boorish and insensitive blog entry goes on to say that that John Paul II had reason to use the platform because he was ill, but not Benedict XVI who apparently is not suffering from any major health problems and could well walk those few hundred yards! And the natural decline of physical strength with age does not qualify as a reason for sparing the Pope - any Pope - unnecessary expenditure of energy??? Especially when he has to preside at a two-hour liturgy??? Or does Valli think that this particular 85-year-old man should be able to do all that without a sweat!

As I remarked earlier after the first negative comment I read about this issue, why do some people now expect Benedict XVI at 85 to be Superman, when at the time he was elected, few thought that he would survive long enough to be anything but a transitional Pope!

The PR problem about this started with Father Lombardi's labored announcement that the Pope would be using the device. It was, of course, good and necessary that he announced it beforehand, but his statement sounded too defensive and raised unjustifiable doubts among those who are most likely and ready to express doubts about this Pope.

It was fine that Lombardi first said that the device would help the Pope conserve his energies, and that its use is not prompted by any medical reasons. By simply adding to that first part of the statement that "After all, he will soon be 85" would have been the only 'explanation' necessary. That bit about 'better security' and making the figure of the Pope more visible to the crowd inside St. Peter's was sort of overkill. They should have been presented as additional advantages, not as reasons.

And of course, Cardinal Bertone appears to have made it worse by his statements last Thursday that the main reason for using the device was to make the Pope more visible. Even sympathetic commentators like Jean Mercier of La Vie found that a bit too much!

Benedict XVI himself was up front about his physical strength in Light of the World telling Peter Seewald he felt his physical forces waning. Those who watch his appearances on video regularly know that compared to when he was 78, little signs have gradually appeared of age taking a phyical toll on him, and that in recent months, he has been photographed using a walking stick.

But we also see him still moving about normally and with his characteristic brisk pace in circumstances other than a liturgy, where he necessarily moves in a more measured manner, both because of the occasion and because he is wearing liturgical vestments and has to be helped up and down any steps lest he trip. [More than one observer has noted that his movements whenever there are any steps to be taken are also hampered by the apparently impaired vision in one of his eyes.}

While we would all like him to be eternally youthful and strong, he is not exempt from physical laws, and we must trust that God knows best about looking after his Vicar on earth.

Meanwhile, Vatican officials should take a cue from the Holy Father himself and not be almost risible in their unnecessary efforts to 'put a good face' on something that is as completely natural as the effects of age in an 85-year-old man, especially one with the schedule that Benedict XVI has to keep. Even if it has been pared down to take his pysical capacity into account, it is still much more than any other 85-year-old man or woman anywhere is called on to do!


William said...

Platform-mobile or no platform-mobile,Pope Benedict's ability to preside at very lengthy ceremonies has always astounded me. Decades his junior, I simply could not hold up the way he does. His stamina is nothing short of divine intervention in my view. Vivat! Vivat Pastor!

James H said...

I totoaly agree. I mean he still keeps up a schedulte that would exhaust me too

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