Briefly about the choir of Benedict XVI’s critics

Czeslaw Ryszka

The media publicised the statement of the Senate Speaker Bodgan Borusewicz who on 29 January 2009 on the Polish Radio, during the programme ‘Sygnaly dnia’ [The news in focus today], publicly accused the Holy Father Benedict XVI that ‘he departs from the directions that were formulated and realised by John Paul II’ and that he ‘makes one mistake after another.’ Furthermore, the Speaker claimed that ‘this is not a good situation. As a member of the Church I am anxious about it’. Borusewicz referred to the papal decision to remove the excommunication of the four traditionalist bishops of the Society of St Pius X, who had been ordained in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without the consent of the Holy See. Someone can say that the Speaker as a Catholic can agree or disagree with the views and decisions of the Pope. As a matter of fact we are living in the times of freedom and democracy. It is true but when referring critically to the Holy Father one should know the core of the issue. Therefore, at first I would like to remind you that the decision of John Paul II concerning the excommunication, which he had made 21 years ago, was a source of unimaginable pain for him. The Polish Pope postponed his decision for a long time. He took it because the situation was unique. But the important thing is that it was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now the Pope, that had many talks with the Society of St Pius X. And it was him again that decided to remove the excommunication. By the way, he did it at the request of the Superior General of the Priestly Society of St Pius X Bishop Bernard Fellay, who in his letter of 15 December 2008 to the Holy See persistently implored to remove the excommunication. The matter is simple: the decision of Benedict XVI was the answer to his request and at the same time it was the consequence of the ministry of John Paul II. Additionally, the removal of the excommunication was announced purposely during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is a good sign, a very positive one in the Church, for which we should be thankful to the Holy Father Benedict XVI. Cancelling the excommunication the Pope wanted to show that the Church did not break with the tradition. And since the Church embraces those who reject the post-counciliar changes it means that the Council did not undermine the continuity of the way of the Church. Therefore, this decision is of a strictly religious character and in no way means the Vatican’s acceptance of the political or social views of the above mentioned bishops of the Priestly Society of St Pius X. Returning in this context to the criticism of the Pope by Mr Borusewicz I would like to discuss a very important political problem. The Speaker of the Senate is the third person in the state whereas Benedict XVI is the head of the Vatican State and the Holy See, with which Poland has signed a concordat agreement. Can the critical words of such an important Polish politician be recognised as infringing the autonomy of the Holy See? I think that the Speaker of the Senate should know and remember about it. I wish that higher state officials would express their comments after having thought them over. Especially, when they declare themselves to be believers. The one who belongs to the Catholic Church should know that he is obliged to listen to the voice of the Church, the voice of the Teaching Office of the Church – and the Pope is the highest authority and this teaching is expressed both in words and in gestures. Does it mean that no politician who presents himself/herself as ‘a member of the Church’ can criticise the Pope? It is worth reflecting on this problem because we face an important issue. The thing concerns a certain custom of politicians to comment and evaluate all things regardless of the field. This is risky especially when one evaluates religion and morality. Here political thinking can lead you astray because besides your own opinion you should have knowledge and ability to listen to the voice of the Church. Entering the way of polemical discourse – as it is the case in the Parliament or in the mass media – is out of the question. One cannot conduct a political debate on moral subjects. Generally, one should not quote the arguments of conducted surveys, party decisions, votes in committees, etc, concerning moral subjects. In a word, the statements of the people of the Church, especially bishops and the Pope, have a completely different quality and value. The members of the Church are obliged to show certain fundamental loyalty and even humility if they do not understand them, and not some kind of ‘leeway’, a feeling of their importance and superiority. Finally, I want to quote the words of Rev. Prof. Waldemar Chrostowski who in ‘Nasz Dziennik’ (30 January 2009), evaluating the statement of the Speaker of the Senate, said that ‘it would be absurd to claim that in religious and theological matters Mr Borusewicz, a Catholic, is far more advanced and trustworthy than Pope Benedict XVI. Whereas if the Speaker of the Senate acts as a politician and dares to criticise the Pope openly, let us turn our attention to the fact that our politicians show much more balanced views and prudence while criticising other politicians. Perhaps it is easier for them to criticise the politicians of Belarus and Russia, in many cases too easy, but as far as Western or American politicians are concerned – and they could have much more to say about them in the perspective of religion and morality – they do not say a word. One can come to a very sad conclusion: criticising the Pope, using very unrefined words, is not only the method of those who have nothing to do with the Church and openly harm it or fight against it, but also the method of those who declared to be Catholics and belong to the circle of the state officials… The Church must undergo constant renewal but it cannot be done by the temporary applause of her self-appointed reformers’. In my opinion similar statements and behaviour are the result of globalisation of public life; they come from the ideological pressures flowing from the opinion-making Western environments, first of all from the European Union. Today the choir of critics of the Holy Father is a longer list of European and world statesmen, people belonging to anti-Church environments and liberal theologians.

Warsaw, 5 February 2009.

"Niedziela" 7/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: