Pope's supporters petition in defiance of the "naughty ones"

By staff writers
February 6, 2009

In a move which is likely to puzzle many both inside and outside the Vatican, conservative Catholic groups have launched a petition to express support for Pope Benedict XVI, after recent worldwide criticism.

The backing organisations for the venture include The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, Una Voce, Catholique, Apologetica, Radio Conviccion and Gloria TV.

"Nothing emboldens more the audacity of the naughty ones than the weakness of kind people" is the document's stilted English rendition of a statement from Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Sapientae Christianae, from January 1890.

So far the petition has attracted endorsement from around 25,000 of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

It specifically congratulates the pontiff for putting "an end to the excommunication which pressed on the bishops of the The Society of Saint Pius X", calling it a "brave decision". There is no mention or repudiation of Holocaust-denying Bishop Williamson.

The identity of those who sign the position, or the number of times they have signed, will not be revealed to the public, but only to the Holy See.

Signatories are encouraged to declare the number of children they intend to bring up in the faith. The petition declares: "We wish, by affixing our signature to this letter and indicating our age and the number of our children to say to You that with You, we want to build Christendom for the generations which will follow us."

A commentator on Catholic affairs told Ekklesia that the petition was a "rather odd 'vote of confidence' move" by those supporting attempts to turn back the tide of reform within the church, and was ironically likely "to fuel a sense in some quarters that this is a Pontificate in crisis."

In citing the pontificate of Leo XIII, the petition's creators chose a figure who, though a reformer, was theologically influenced by the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) and preceded Pius X - at a time when the more radical changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965) are under attack.

The four bishops whose excommunications were ended by Pope Benedict have denounced Vatican Two as "heretical". But the Vatican says they must come back under the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church) if they are to have any future role.

Others in the Church feel that the Pope needs to re-engage with the wider world and the concerns of ordinary Catholics, rather than producing what is being described in some quarters as a "fawning endorsement".

The distinguished Catholic theologian Professor Hans Küng, disciplined by his former Vatican Two colleague Cardinal Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict), said earlier this week that the pontiff "is so cut off from the real world that he has no idea how disastrously his actions are received."

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