Time magazine's Jeff "The pope's a Scrooge" Israely is at it again, lecturing Benedict XVI on his "inflammatory rhetoric."
Israely joins CNN's Jack Cafferty, Washington Post/Newsweek's "On Faith", and PBS's Bonnie Erbe in the bash-Benedict choir's latest oratorio. His March 19 article evaluated the pontiff's recent comments on condoms and HIV/AIDS as "candor over P.R.", lamenting Benedict's word choice and seeming lack of concern about how liberal secular media outlets parse his statements (emphases mine):
Amidst the outrage and consternation lies the question: Why? If we already know the basic tenets of church teaching — not to mention the extent of the AIDS epidemic and disproportionate ignorance about condom use in Africa — why did the Pope say what he said, when and where he said it? What do this and other recent episodes tell us about how the modern papacy operates at that unique nexus where philosophy meets public relations? And why, nearly four years into his reign, does this hyper articulate and well-versed Pope continue to see his attempts at mass communication blow up in his face?
First, to be clear, the Pope was responding to a reporter's question during the brief press conference that regularly takes place aboard his Alitalia jet just before take-off, on what have now been eleven trips abroad. But he could have hardly been taken by surprise, as the questions are submitted ahead of time. Benedict might have easily opted for a pat response along the lines of: "Church teaching is clear on contraception. We must instead focus on education, abstinence and caring for those already infected."Instead, the Pope chose to favor the letter of his philosophy over a smooth pr ride. Again. As with the recent controversy about his lifting the ex-communication of four ultra-traditionalist bishops, including a Holocaust denier, Benedict plowed ahead with what he believes is the right thing to do even if it may bring a maelstrom of bad press.
In other words, Israely is confounded that the pope is unapologetic --you might say he doesn't "behave" like Israely would prefer -- and that he doesn't mince words about church teachings on sexual ethics. The Time writer goes on to insist that "rigid" Catholic doctrine runs counter to "reality" and risks making the Church irrelevant to modern life (emphases mine):
Benedict's comments on Tuesday are the clearest sign that little if anything will change, as the Pope continues his quest to challenge secular trends both inside and outside his church by adhering to — and openly pronouncing — rigid stands on sexual and moral matters.
Of course, his philosophy runs straight into reality. Catholic missionary groups are at the center of efforts to reduce the rate of HIV infection in Africa, which accounts for just over 12% of the world's population but has more than 60% of its AIDS cases. Speaking on French radio, European Parliament member Daniel Cohen-Bendit called the Pope's latest comments: "close to premeditated murder."
It is gospel in this information age that Benedict, for better or worse, should have learned by now: inflammatory rhetoric begets inflammatory rhetoric. What is less clear is whether this and the other recent firestorms he's sparked make the Pope more, or less, relevant to the citizens of the world — and members of his own flock.