No sentient Catholic can fail to have noticed that the Pope has made news through his press conferences and spontaneous public comments. The secular press has made much of these comments, which are generally reported to be either 1) changes in Catholic teaching; or, 2) changes in emphases of Catholic teachings that the press hopes signals future changes to Catholic teachings.
The response of some in the Catholic world to these fairly discouraging events is to maintain that the Pope being systematically and unfairly misquoted and quoted out of context by a hostile press with its own agenda. To these people, the Pope isn't doing anything but reaching out to the world with the constant teaching of the Church, and is being manipulated by the press through no fault of his own. This simple Pope, they say, just doesn't have the experience in dealing with the media to manage it all well.
Certainly the mainstream press has a definite agenda that is contrary to that of the Church. But there is one thing that I propose we give a permanent rest: the idea that the Holy Father is unaware of the reaction his words will provoke.
Can we stop blaming the secular press for all this?
He knows exactly what he is doing.
But, but!... But nothing. The first misquoted press conference, yes. The second even. Maybe, in an effort to stretch a best case scenario, three clunkers.
We are way beyond that now. There have been many such shocking reports about what he did or did not say. The blame-the-media crowd would have us believe that the Holy Father is too naive or unintelligent for the job. I give him credit for intelligence and awareness. The Pope himself has shown in press conferences that he is aware of the reaction to previous public comments.
He says things on purpose, and knows how they might be reported. He knows how they have been reported, even if he did not intend the things reported.
If you'll pardon me, you won't get bad-old-media line here.
So, then, why is the Holy Father doing this? Two general categories of explanations seem to be out there:
1. He is super shrewd, and engaging the remnants of modern anti-culture in a way people are not used to hearing from the Church, in the hopes this will get people to look at the Church in a new way, and thus draw them back.
2. He is trying to signal that the Church will not insist on enforcing doctrines, but instead will focus on the big tent, ecumenical approach to building the Church. Dialogue instead of ecumenism of return. The 'Spirit of Vatican II'.
For purposes of this post, I do not choose, and allow all to make their own call, as to which is more likely. There may be other reasons. Feel free to share.
But don't tell me the Holy Father isn't acting with purpose.