Saturday, May 28, 2005

Is the Pope Catholic?

“Is the Pope Catholic? How can this be?” seems to be the attitude of The World’s commentators towards the new Pope. One such World contributor, Mort Kondracke, rebuked his new Holiness on April 29 for his failure to get along with other religions like Islam. Kondracke chides the former Cardinal Ratzinger for calling such other religions “deficient”. Apparently the Pontiff should adopt the journalistic attitude that all faiths are equal. That Benedict XVI disagrees may have something to do with Jesus’ admonition that no one comes to the Father except through Him. But Kondracke – who claims to be a church-going Protestant – seems to think the Vatican should lengthen its list of Saviors, perhaps by adding Mohammed and Buddha. Honor diversity

More apoplectic yet are Cokie and Steve Roberts, in a column of April 25, also in The World. The famous media couple wonder if Benedict XVI can: “…impose a rigid worldview on unwilling followers?” And Cokie and Steve disclose their answer: if he doesn’t loosen up, financial reality will come down hard on the new Pontiff who “…won’t be able to control the laity, the people who fill the pews and collection plates every Sunday.” In exchange for their nickels and dimes this laity will insist on Benedict’s blessing of Catholic birth control, feminist nuns and feminist priests, abortion, homosexuality – in short, the Vatican must join the parade pushing all the latest notions of social progress. The two Roberts also think his new Holiness should be less judgmental – like them: “…as a mixed religious couple – Cokie is Catholic, Steve is Jewish – who respect and embrace each other’s traditions, we find this element of his theology particularly disturbing.”

Actually, plain facts and figures show that these literary luminaries have things completely backwards. The Presbyterian Church USA, the Methodists, the Episcopalians – all of these mainstream denominations have turned liberal along the lines of the Kondracke/Roberts prescription, and a powerful lot of good it has done. All have lost millions of members and tons of money. Many of these churches are now in danger of being ripped apart by disagreements between evangelical conservatives and the honor-diversity-crowd, which is led by left-wing elements ensconced in each church’s central bureaucracy. A good deal of the conflict was sparked by the efforts of militant lesbian “theologians”, a few years ago. With the financial support of these mainstream Protestant denominations they had a big meeting of far-left earth muffins at which they prayed to Gaia the Earth Goddess and set out to “re-imagine” Christianity. The dust has not settled yet, and if the Vatican wants to kill the Catholic Church, it should go down this same road.

That Cokie Roberts (Catholic) and Steve Roberts (Jewish) “respect and embrace each other’s traditions” is nice; so is respecting the Easter Bunny and Santa. But do Cokie and Steve respect and embrace each other’s theology? That is hard to believe, since the two have big disagreements, far bigger than, say, those between Presbyterians and Methodists. So the likely answer is that Cokie and Steve don’t care very much. Because they worship cultural diversity, their priority is “traditions”. With respect to theology such people are willing to believe anything, which means they believe nothing. But if you believe nothing, why bother going to church on Sunday? (or Saturday, as the cultural case may be.) Don’t waste your time and money: spend it on an extensive – and expensive – Sunday brunch. That many people do so is one reason membership and attendance are down at so many churches; the other is that serious worshippers have left for other churches, ones that take the Bible seriously and make moral demands of their members. Those churches are growing by leaps and bounds; unlike what modern journalists think, no Church can afford to be a democratic institution, forever changing its core beliefs to accommodate the latest fads.

(Letter from Wim de Vriend, Oregon.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Next May 29, France will decide once again, as so often in history, the destiny of the Old World. It is a question of the plebiscite on the new European Constitution, which in order to go into effect needs the unanimous ratification of the twenty-five member countries of the Union.

The constitutional text, which occupies no less than 474 pages of the Official Newspaper of the Union, contains numerous contradictions and ambiguities, and therefore it is no surprise that vast sectors of the French center and the right give weighty reasons to vote for the "No." Diverse opinion polls indicate that at least half of all Frenchmen are inclined to vote "No."

In administrative and economic matters, the Constitution establishes a gigantic supranational bureaucracy with headquarters in Brussels, a species of neo-totalitarianism with powers to intervene in all economic life, with regulations without end, of which not even the famous French Camembert and "foie gras" will be saved. An omnipotent Leviathan, capable of suffocating with its regulations all free initiative, but at the same time useless for promoting authentic economic progress.

In matters of historic roots, the Constitution, to describe the philosophical origins of Europe, avoids any reference to the Christian substratum of the Old World, as if almost twenty centuries of her history (and fifteen of France, since the conversion of the Franks in the fifth century) could be erased with a single stroke.

In moral matters, the Constitution, at the same time that it injures the concept of the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, opens the doors to pseudo homosexual marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc.

It would be childish to say that the 474 pages of the Constitution do not have anything acceptable. What we do affirm is that they contain sufficient contradictions and ambiguities so as to stir up thoughtful and serious motives for voting "No." If the "No" succeeds, it will be possible to open up in France and in Europe a healthy process for a reformulation of the constitutional text, which would at least make it acceptable.

In addition to the above, a paradox exists in the French debate about the European Constitution: among the followers of the "No" are the clear and healthy elements of the center and the right to which reference has been made - but also active are anarchist groups of the extreme left, linked to the World Social Forum, which have even assumed the leadership. A noisy left, discredited and losing more prestige, which is engaged in the triumph of the "No," without being worried about the sovereignty and independence of France, desiring in reality that this nation and all Europe be directed along the path of chaos and of fragmentation, because for them "the worse it becomes, the better."

A certain part of the French press that is partisan to the "Yes" has also taken advantage of that paradox, and the consequent confusion created, to try to discredit the healthy sectors of French public opinion that will vote for the "No," identifying them as allies of the extreme left and presenting them as primitive, reactionary, against economic progress and the interests of Europe.

It is our desire that in the current French battle over the plebiscite, truth, common sense and lucidity predominate, and that public opinion in that country know how to differentiate the wheat from the chaff.

The above text was emailed to me from "Destaque Internacional - Year VII - No. 168 - Buenos Aires / Madrid - May 13, 2005 - Coord.: Javier González. (

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Why "Media Watch" needs watching

Viewers of ABC television's "Media Watch" program last week must have felt that The Australian's columnist Janet Albrechtsen had done something really wrong. For the "soft left" journalism of Media Watch, her real crime was to contest the media focus on the bad news out of Iraq. But, rather than substance, Media Watch searched for a chink to smear Albrechtsen. It came in an Albrechtsen quote: "When something positive does happen it either gets filtered through the anti-war eyes of the media or is all but ignored. And that's what the terrorists are counting on. They must detest The Wall Street Journal. Each fortnight the paper's website ( includes a round-up of good news from Iraq..."

Gotcha, suggested Media Watch's Liz Jackson. Media Watch couldn't find the good news round-up on That was until it linked to a "spin-off site", a "sister site" or a "Dow Jones" website There, the round-up of Iraq good news was the work of a Brisbane blogger, not a WSJ journalist. His blog was not edited, nor paid for. Albrechtsen had falsely given it the credibility of The WSJ.

No Liz, the OpinionJournal editor, James Taranto, points out that OpinionJournal is in fact a WSJ website. It's the website of the paper's highly influential editorial page. Both he and its assistant editor work for the WSJ print edition as well. They pay the Iraq good news contributor a modest fee and edit his work. Taranto would have told Media Watch this if they'd have rung. Albrechtsen was correct to say The WSJ's website carries the Iraq good news round-up. Her "honest, and very small error" was to refer to the wrong WSJ website. "Since the goal was to make another journalist's honest mistake look like a deliberate misrepresentation, one cannot credit Media Watch with acting in good faith," Taranto says. The Australian looks forward to Media Watch's correction on Monday night.

The above editorial appeared in "The Australian" of May 14, 2005 but such editorials tend not to stay online for long so I have reproduced it here