Time Editor: As Cardinal, Pope Benedict Was 'Hatchet Man'

Appearing on Morning Joe a couple weeks ago, Time editor Rick Stengel was quick to blame the controversy over Rev. Wright's past remarks on "the incredible ignorance of white Americans" about what goes on in black churches.

But the Time editor wasn't quite so forgiving when it came to the past of the current pontiff. Appearing on today's Morning Joe to discuss Time's cover story on Pope Benedict XVI's impending visit to America, Stengel blithely referred to the Pope as having been the Vatican's "hatchet man" during his years as a cardinal.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: So Rick, tell us about the Pope.

RICK STENGEL: Why the Pope loves America. You know, the Pope of course is coming to America for the first time as Pope, to New York and Washington. And, you know, one of the things we discovered about him, he's not as familiar [to Americans] obvioulsy as his predecessor, and he was the kind of hatchet man of the Vatican as Cardinal Ratzinger, but he loved America his whole life.
In fairness, Stengel's overall tone toward the Pope was respectful, even laudatory. He went on to describe him [as does the Time cover story] as someone who has praised our constitutional system as promoting religion and is very pro-American.

But that still leaves the "hatchet man" slur. This was an unexplained allusion to Cardinal Ratzinger's service as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office. In that role, Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for "defending and reaffirming Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue."

In Stengel's mind, defending the venerable doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church made Cardinal Ratzinger a "hatchet man." But criticizing Rev. Wright for calling on God to damn America? That just exposes white America's ignorance.
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.