Bob McClory belongs in Perspective with his liberal viewpoint on will-the-pope-or-won't-he wake up and smell the coffee, as in the Sunday 6/12 paper. But not without a side-by-side from the right, of which there are many around if not in your tickler file. I would be glad to supply a list.
-- Bowman to Chi Trib Perspective editor, 6/12/05, re column: “POPE BENEDICT XVI: Reading a pope's mind: Conservative Ratzinger once acted more like a liberal: Will he do so again?” by Robert McClory, a former priest and an author and professor emeritus of journalism at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism
“A former priest and an author,” Bowman might have attached to his own name. And “longtime reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, the liberal Bible, and longtime publicist for Call to Action, the liberal shock troops,” Chi Trib might have also attached to McClory’s, while also identifying his latest book, Faithful Dissenters, but did not, let us say for lack of space.
Perspective indeed. “Liberal Catholics and many moderates have been in a state of profound shock [nothing serious, we hope] since the election of Pope Benedict XVI,” McClory begins, candidly announcing his perspective — his liberal viewpoint, as Bowman told the editor. McClory’s is The View from the Left, and Chi Trib would have identified it as such if its editors were not intellectually deprived in the matter, being hampered by their own view, also from the left. (Yes, the editorials are moderately conservative, but editorials do not a paper make one way or the other: it’s the coverage, stupid; but also in Chi Trib’s case, Perspective.)
McClory does not disappoint us, writing of the new pope as “tireless enforcer of orthodoxy . . . relentless scourge of dissenters . . . determined foe of . . . relativism . . . ‘God's Rottweiler,’" in a sort of hamming it up for dissenter groundlings while providing just enough eloquence and self-conscious overstatement — irony, you know — to pacify the rest.
He announces “more than a little trepidation in some quarters” — this is too coy — over what to expect from the Rottweiler as pope. All may not be lost, however, in view of his “amazing ability to reinvent himself,” which McClory proceeds to demonstrate amply, quoting the before-and-after of Ratzinger as liberal-mugged-by-reality-turned-conservative, except for the reality part, which McClory does not acknowledge.
Instead, he implies a falling from liberal grace by the new pope, beginning in the late 60s, when student revolts especially in his native Germany shocked him into new or renewed appreciation of tradition — but wait: McClory assigns no cause for the change of heart and mind except to cite speculation “about inroads of Marxism in the church . . . the decline of Catholic practice in the West” and “concerns of his immediate superior, Pope John Paul II.”
The new pope “has shown no such openness [as he did previously] to the views of significant groups of Catholics” since the late 60s. He ignores “the great disagreement . . . within the church” about ordaining women, for instance. Asking, “What are we to make of the contrast between the two Joseph Ratzingers?” McClory says nothing about reaction to 60s turmoil.
It’s been a “180-degree shift” for Ratzinger, but we should “stay tuned,” apparently for another shift that would put him on his original liberal course. In support of this advice, McClory cites the new pope’s recently telling an interfaith group, “Let us go forward with hope” in pursuit of the Second Vatican Council goal of “full communion . . . with true docility to . . . the Spirit.”
It’s not much of an argument — just a sort of liberal’s prayer, in broad daylight in a liberal newspaper.