Was it wrong to criticize the Pope on the day of his death?

Two readers of VFR are very unhappy with me for posting an article criticizing the Pope on the day of his death. Here is their letter:

You know that I appreciate your writing and opinions and value many of the personal qualities that I see in you.

You are entitled, of course, to any opinion about the Pope; I don’t quarrel with that. Perhaps you think that observing a decent interval of time before jumping into critical comments after death is a silly and absurd custom.

If the latter is your opinion, I’m afraid I don’t respect it. You should have kept quiet about these matters for a few days. I am personally grieved by the death of the Pope as are—I daresay—most Catholics, even those who agree with you about his Pontificate. I would hazard a guess that you have offended even many of those readers. You have surprised and offended me.

I wish you success in your career as writer on political and social questions. I admire your courage and value your writing. I will remain a loyal reader. I will continue to direct others to your website and articles. I will keep you in my prayers. But you should be ashamed of yourself.

[name withheld]

P.S. Mr. Auster, this is [the writer’s wife]. I want a Pius XIII too, but I don’t understand how you can be unmoved by JPII’s life & death, today. Isn’t there something rather non-traditional in rushing to speak ill of the dead?

Here’s my reply:

Dear —— and ————-,

I appreciate what you’ve said. I feared that I might offend some people with my post. And I’m sorry that I offended you and perhaps lessened your respect for me. But I took the decision to post this item based on my urgent sense that the glorification of this Pope (similar, though on a different level, to conservatives’ glorification of Bush) is leading the West and America into a deadly delusion by making it accept his radical redefinition of Christianity as humanism (just as Bush and his followers are redefining conservatism as hyper-Wilsonianism). If the notion sets in that JPII was a great Christian leader instead of the leftist and neoconservative ideologue that he was, who, far from promoting traditional Christianity, has promoted the religion of man, the religion of human rights, the religion of open borders, the religion of openness to Moslems and non-Western cultures, the Pope who says that keeping illegal aliens out of your country is as much the “culture of death” as performing an abortion; as I said, if the false notion sets in that John Paul II was a great Pope and a great conservative, then it will be very difficult to uproot it later, and his liberal/neoconservative redefinition of Christianity will have become unassailable and permanent. And that’s why I felt compelled to speak now, despite the probably negligeable effect my efforts will have.

If I have done something wrong by posting that item today instead of, say, in a few days, then I will have to pay the cost of it, including, perhaps, losing the respect of some readers. But I cannot stand the sight of the whole world speaking of this man as a great conservative and hero of our civilization, when in most ways that count he was just the opposite. I wish I hadn’t felt this to be necessary. If there were already present in the mainstream some understanding of the things I’m saying, then I wouldn’t have felt the urgency to speak out in dissent. But the reality is that both left and “right” today think of JPII as a traditionalist who held the line against liberalism. There is thus a pressing need for someone to speak the truth about this. To me, this is more important than civility or traditional deference.

I acknowledged JPII’s extraordinary personal qualities and his genuine achievements. But overall, I think this papacy has been a disaster for Christianity and the West.

Best regards,
Lawrence Auster

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 02, 2005 08:29 PM | Send

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