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 CNS Story:

POPE-POLEMICS Feb-23-2009 (360 words) xxxi

Pope cautions against destructive polemics in the church

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following weeks of controversy involving two of his decisions, Pope Benedict XVI has twice cautioned against destructive polemics inside the church.

The pope, speaking in German at his noon blessing Feb. 22, asked for prayers to St. Peter so that "disturbances and storms do not shake the church" and that Catholics remain united in faith and love.

Two days earlier, addressing students at Rome's diocesan seminary, the pope recalled St. Paul's admonition to Galatian Christians not to "go on biting and devouring one another" but instead to be guided by the Spirit.

"St. Paul refers here to the polemics that emerge where faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is replaced by the arrogance of being better than the other," the pope said.

"We see clearly that today, too, there are similar situations where, instead of joining in communion with Christ, in the body of Christ which is the church, each one wants to be superior to the other and with intellectual arrogance maintains that he is better," he said.

"And in this way arise polemics that are destructive, and there arises a caricature of the church, which should have a single soul and a single heart," he said.

The pope was not specific about the recent internal church disputes in either of his talks.

In January, the pope lifted the excommunications of four ultratraditionalist bishops, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who had publicly minimized the Holocaust and said no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers. The Vatican later said the pope had not known about the bishop's views on the Holocaust and certainly did not share them.

The resulting criticism came not only from Jewish groups, but also from some Catholic leaders, particularly in German-speaking countries, who said wider consultation should have occurred before the excommunications were lifted.

A similar reaction occurred when the pope named as an auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria, Father Gerhard Wagner, who once linked the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to the "spiritual pollution" of New Orleans. After a no-confidence vote by senior clergy in the Linz Diocese, Bishop-designate Wagner asked the pope to withdraw his nomination.


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