Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jimmy Carter and Catholic Fundamentalist Popes Revisited

I have been kind of shocked these remarks of Jimmy Carter has not attracted more attention. At First Things though they have . See Jimmy Carter, Biblical Scholar and Theologian by George Weigel .

He pulls no punches to say the least:

...Obviously, the Georgian sage has never quite grasped the moral-theological concept of calumny.

But now he has taken to reinventing history.

I was on the north lawn of the White House in October 1979 when a beaming Jimmy Carter welcomed Pope John Paul II to the Executive Mansion, the trademark presidential teeth amply displayed as the Baptist Sunday school teacher gave the 264th Bishop of Rome a two-handed handshake. All seemed sweetness and light. But not so, Carter avers. Now he says he had a harsh exchange over the “Pope’s perpetuation of the subservience of women,” after which the two locked horns on liberation theology. John Paul’s adherence to settled Catholic doctrine, Carter charges, made him a kind of “fundamentalist,” a category of Bad People who, Carter has written, “are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even physical abuse against those who interfere with the implementation of their agenda.”

No doubt Carter, mercifully retired from the White House by the time of the Pope’s visit to Nicaragua in 1983, expected the “fundamentalist” John Paul II to punch out Ernesto Cardenal on the tarmac at the Managua airport.

In the hands of a theological illiterate like Jimmy Carter, “fundamentalism” is a “Gotcha!” word that substitutes flatulence for thought. Blessed John Paul II was no more a “fundamentalist” than the mid-20th century Protestant thinker Reinhold Niebuhr, whom Carter once claimed as an influence—an avowal that doubtless had Reinie spinning in his grave, for there were few, if any, modern American political figures less Niebuhrian than Carter. Indeed, Carter’s self-regard is the very inversion of the Niebuhrian ethic, which taught a healthy skepticism about anyone’s righteousness, not least one’s own....


Katy Anders said...

It sounds like former President Carter is trying to rewrite his own history, creating an alternate universe in which he feels that he stood up for women's rights and a lot of other things that he missed the mark on first time around.

The "fundamentalist" tag concerns me even by that standard, however. He's a Baptist who had a very public falling out with the Southern Baptist Convention a few years back.

You'd think he'd understand what "fundamentalist" means and the sense in which it can't be applied to Catholics.

James H said...

I totally agree. Plus what makes this worse is that Journalists make this error all the time. Jimmy Carter just makes the problem worse