Counting on the world media to give one an accurate picture of the Pope, the Vatican, or the Church in general, is a pretty unreliable way to gain understanding. There are so many inflammatory articles about the Church in the news. Scandal, cover-ups, exaggerations, lies, commentaries from within and outside–the list goes on. How much is true, how much is rumor, how is one to discern what is really happening? Even reading various current books on Catholicism, as one of my book groups is presently doing, adds more confusion than understanding. One book makes a staunch case for conservative action, for moderating some of the changes of Vatican II. A second book takes the opposite stance, equally staunch and convincing, arguing persuasively for more and bolder change. Scathing criticism from one, spirited defence from the other. Both books, as I read them, were completely convincing in the moment. Swayed completelyby the arguments put forth, book by book, left me bewildered and uncertain as to what was right, what was good. How can anybody understand what Church teaching really is, or defend their faith and beliefs, when they haven’t a clue as to what is true in the allegations, reports, and the arguments of each faction.
Perhaps it would be wise to begin at the source. I decided to start with the Pope. Who is he? Is he a humble servant of God leading us wisely into a new era? Is he a reactionary leader determined to return to medieval traditions? Is he the Rottweiler of the Vatican? Pope Benedict XVI has written many books, so I decided to read at least a couple of them. I am glad that I have begun to do so, and I urge you to do so as well. Just to balance out the world media reports. I began with a book called “Light of the World”, an interview with the Pope by Peter Seewald. I was surprised many times by what Pope Benedict said. There are many pertinent, pointed questions, and simple direct answers to them in his own words. It was good to get a sense of who the leader of our Church is, his accomplishments and ideas, his thoughts on a wide range of recent events, by reading his own words.
I didn’t necessarily agree with everything I read. I am keeping an open mind and trying to understand the reasoning behind the thoughts, to step outside of my own agendas and opinions.
I was surprised to learn about many positive programs and actions that I did not know of before, that were never mentioned in the daily news. Even after one book, I feel that my knowledge is more balanced. I will continue to research and explore, and hope to make sense out of the jumble of words that comes to the world daily, and think carefully through the information offered. I don’t have any answers right now, just a sense that I am headed in the right direction by looking at other sources besides TV and newspapers. Approaching any important topic by looking at source documents and materials, by listening to the voices of those involved, can’t help but give you a more accurate picture. It is foolish of me not to have done it sooner.