Christ Our Hope
A Look Back at Pope Benedict's 2008 Missionary Journey to the US

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

(Posted May 5, 2008 When Pope Benedict looks through the window of his papal apartment, over the Piazza San Pedro and out to the world beyond, consider what he sees…

Christians and Muslims comprise half the world’s population. Half of that half, however, is suffering an identity crisis so severe that Islam recently replaced Catholicism as the world’s largest religion. The Vatican’s Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, compiler of the Annuario Pontificio, recently confirmed that “For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us.” 

In Europe, Christianity is dying, of course, and the remnant that somehow hangs on is gradually being driven underground by a neo-fascist European Union, which, by the way, is currently cajoling Poland—one of the last holdouts of old Europe—to make sodomy and abortion as Polish as golonka!

In Ireland, the Lisbon Treaty is pending. If ratified it would force the Irish to effectively surrender their national sovereignty to the European superstate, which would eventually suppress the Irish Constitution and make abortion and gay “marriage” as Irish as corn beef and cabbage. 

In the UK and thanks to the Sexual Orientation Regulations, bishops and priests face prosecution for the “crime” of preaching Christianity in their own schools; while in South America the Catholic Church is hemorrhaging members to Protestant super churches experiencing growth nearly as dramatic as their doctrinal disarray.

Below-the-fold news stories feature grizzly accounts of bishops and priests being murdered in an increasingly chaotic Iraq; Catholic Canada might as well be the People’s Republic of Canada; and here at home, homosexual indoctrination is routine at the grade school level, while abortion and same-sex marriage have become the sacraments of our new national religion: Sexual Deviantism. Catholic hospitals and orphanages comply with the international laws of Sodom or close their doors, while the perverse V. Monologues are as apt to be welcomed on Catholic university campuses as Hillary Clinton.

All the while, wolfish “theologians” terrorize the sheep as emasculated shepherds doze on the ecclesiastical hillsides where their vast flocks used to graze.  It’s difficult to imagine a period in history that sets the precedent for ours.

Given this dreary reality, it was gratifying to see much of the East Coast of the United States shut itself down for six days when the most powerful pro-life and pro-family leader in the world came to town. When ‘Shepherd One’ landed at Andrew’s Air Force Base on April 15, 2008, every major news organization was on hand to see it. And when Pope Benedict deplaned, even CNN broadcast images around the world of the President of the United States walking out to meet him, hat in hand.

Is there another world leader—religious or otherwise—capable of commanding such respect? L. Ron Hubbard could come back from the grave and it wouldn’t generate half the media attention of a single ‘missionary journey’ from the 81-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, did anyone even notice that England’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in town for an official state visit over that same weekend? And yet 10 Downing Street described the Prime Minister’s three-day trip to the United States as “the most important in his whole premiership.” Sorry we missed you, Gordon.  The Holy Father was in town!

Even mainstream America—busy aborting, drugging and sexing itself to death—stopped for a few moments, wiped the blood from its chin, and stared at the “freak” who still speaks out against avarice, sin, self-indulgence and the moral relativism we claim as an inalienable right. Like Moses descending Mount Sinai and finding the Israelites engaged in idol worship, Benedict landed in an America delirious with dissipation and bereft of moral leadership, even from its Catholic shepherds. The Am-Church’s perpetual frat party had to take a brief hiatus; beer cans were shoved under tables, kegs were rolled out the back door, and limousines of theological strippers were spirited off into the night. When some particularly brazen apostates strutted up to receive the Holy Eucharist during the Pope’s Mass, even Cardinal Egan stirred himself, blasting Comrade Giuliani in the New York press in the process. 

The Pope—a guest in a foreign land—gently encouraged and implicitly corrected his American flock, keenly aware as he is that, compared to Europe’s Christophobic stalag, America is a Christian Disneyland. At the Mass at Nationals Park, however, the Holy Father got right to it:

Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.

You got that, Archbishop Wuerl?  Georgetown University doesn’t need more gay outreach on campus…it needs a confessional!

“We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom,” Benedict told Catholic educators on April 17.  You can say that again!

At other moments, however, the telltale signs of “papal insecurity”—a kind of ecclesial Stockholm syndrome—were evident. As the Transalpine Redemptorists recently observed in their “Declaration on Relations with Rome,” the Holy Father “sadly finds himself deprived of much of the control we would have associated with the Pontiffs of ages past. He rules now more by diplomacy than by monarchical authority.” Indeed, and with armies vanquished and Papal States annexed, Peter’s modern successors have been holed up behind the stone walls of what’s left of their temporal power—Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, a veritable metaphor for Christianity in the modern world, which is allowed to function in private (for the moment!) but has little place in the public square and none in politics. Liberty sees to it that popes and pilgrims will thank their “enlightened” jailers for their “freedoms”. Papal furloughs are granted, of course, so long as oaths of fidelity to dialogue and ecumenism are duly sworn.

But it’s easy to be armchair popes these days.  One might ask: Why didn’t Benedict take the UN to task for its miserable record on abortion and so-called population control? Why indeed! But others more schooled in machinations of the globalist agenda ask another question: Given the desperate state of affairs in the world, do we really want the Holy See to let the UN have its way? The Holy Father must find a way to influence them!

 “It is inconceivable,” Benedict told the UN General Assembly on April 18, “that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology...”

Inconceivable? Perhaps, once upon a time. But today it’s just part of life in the new order built on the tomb of Christ the King, where even Peter is reduced to pleading with the UN for help against the EU and others who would charge Catholic priests, teachers,  and bishops with the “crime” of Christianity.  The Roman Pontiffs reason with the neo-pagans who have assumed all the power in this world but who, like Pilate, would have none were it not given them from above.

Personally, I prefer the anathemas of old! That approach might lead to martyrdom, but maybe that’s precisely what’s required if any Christian is ever going to get out of here alive. And yet, Benedict—the world’s most powerful pro-lifer—received a standing ovation at the UN, an ovation that made fools of his critics who’d been bashing him and the traditional Catholic Church in the secular press ever since July 7, 2007. 

In many ways, the Catholic Church is hogtied today. In this brave new, non-Catholic world of ours, Catholic countries no longer exist, Catholic armies are the stuff of dreams and history books, and even the moral authority of Catholic priests and bishops has suffered a devastating decline, inflicted by the spirit of Vatican II.  A new reality, a new order, a neo-Roman Empire, has arisen, and not a few Christians are looking around for old catacombs. We’re all strangers in a strange land now, even Popes! There are no translators at the UN who speak Catholic. And so the Pope speaks a language in which his jailers are conversant; like Saint Paul, he appeals to the rights of the Roman citizen—not for himself but for his flock. But, God help us, we all know what happened to St. Paul in the end.

On the Other Hand…

Benedict’s visit to the U.S. is like a book with many chapters—some may be unfortunate while others well worth reading, but the book can only be evaluated as a whole. The UN address, for example, checked the papal anathema at the door and, as one commentator put it, “must have had the 19th-century pontiffs turning in their sarcophagi”. The visit to the Synagogue sent mixed signals to both Catholics and Jews, the nub of which was captured in a single exchange between EWTN’s Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Rabbi Joseph Patasic during the Pope’s April 18 brief stopover at Park East Synagogue.  Father Neuhaus asked the Rabbi: “What is the lasting image of Benedict’s visit to this Synagogue?” The Rabbi replied: “That there are different paths to God; we all select our path to walk, and there’s no reason we can’t have respect for each others’ traditions; Jews need to be better Jews and Christians need to be better Christians.”

The official EWTN response to the Rabbi’s assertion was, you guessed it—silence. And there in a nutshell is the problem with the post-conciliar approach. What is the message Benedict wished to convey? Was it merely a political gesture of fraternal good will?  Or was it something more sinister?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Perhaps the answer can be gleaned from subsequent “chapters.” At St. Joseph’s Church, for example, during the ecumenical meeting, there was a striking departure from protocol when the Pope and his cardinals positioned themselves alone at the head of that assembly. There were no Orthodox participants in the sanctuary, no Protestants, no potted plants. The symbolic deviation from Assisi was encouraging. In his address, Benedict stressed the necessity of maintaining doctrinal integrity and prayer if there’s to be any hope for unity. “Even within the ecumenical movement,” he warned his hearers (which included high profile personalities such as the insufferable Pat Robertson) “Christians may be reluctant to assert the role of doctrine for fear that it would only exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division. Yet a clear, convincing testimony to the salvation wrought for us in Christ Jesus has to be based upon the notion of normative apostolic teaching….” Apostolic teaching!

Of religious indifferentism, the Pope noted that “for Christians to accept this faulty line of reasoning would lead to the notion that there is little need to emphasize objective truth in the presentation of the Christian faith, for one need but follow his or her own conscience and choose a community that best suits his or her individual tastes. The result is seen in the continual proliferation of communities which often eschew institutional structures and minimize the importance of doctrinal content for Christian living.”

In a previous “chapter”, when the Pope addressed  the American bishops at the National Shrine on April 16, he exhorted them to take Christ’s message to the world and become an influence again in secular society and  political affairs:

By ensuring that the Gospel is clearly heard, you not only form the people of your own community, but in view of the global reach of mass communication, you help to spread the message of Christian hope throughout the world.

Clearly, the Church’s influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done.

The highlight of the apostolic visit was surely the Holy Father’s meeting with the youth and seminarians in Yonkers. When EWTN commentators repeatedly expressed reservations about Benedict’s ability to connect with the youth (compared to John Paul “The Great”), the Holy Father might have resorted to rock ‘n’ roll, Frisbees and papal handstands to prove them wrong. Instead, there was a magnificent display of dignity, boys in suits and girls in dresses, classical music, old-world gifts of bread and rice, in-depth presentations on the lives of the saints by the children, countless rosaries handed out by the Pope, and an address that was his longest and most challenging.

In a world dominated by MTV and American Idol, how refreshing to hear the Holy Father urge young people to recognize the importance of “silent contemplation!” “Saint John,” Benedict told them, “tells us that to embrace God’s revelation we must first listen, then respond by proclaiming what we have heard and seen. Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening? Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth into goodness? Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore Him in the Eucharist. Let His word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness.”

To the seminarians the Holy Father counseled a deepening “friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd. Talk heart to heart with Him. Reject any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit. Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom you are to become living icons.” 

Tears gathered in my eyes at these words. Benedict, like every Christian living in this anti-Christian world, may be disoriented; he hasn’t yet managed to break the spell of conciliarism; but he has the Faith and seems to be doing everything he can from atop Catholic ramparts clearly engulfed in flames and threatening to collapse. The Pope’s address was so challengingly Catholic that poor Fr. Neuhaus grew visibly perturbed, contending rather bitterly at one point that it was too long and certainly wouldn’t measure up to the high standards set by John Paul “The Great”. 

Oh, well!

“The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ,” continued Benedict, “the saints show us the selfless love of his way. As disciples of Christ, their extraordinary journeys unfolded within the community of hope, which is the Church. It is from within the Church that you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord. Nourished by personal prayer, prompted in silence, shaped by the Church’s liturgy you will discover the particular vocation God has for you. Embrace it with joy. You are Christ’s disciples today. Shine his light upon this great city and beyond.”

And CNN, Fox News, and other secular media outlets broadcast this to the whole world!  Clearly, the Pope’s apostolic journey to bring ‘Christ Our Hope’ to a nation on the brink of moral, spiritual, and financial collapse cannot be dismissed as entirely a waste of time. There were many moving moments of clarity when the Holy Father’s firm reiteration of Catholic truth gave the world a much needed reminder of why we’re here on this earth, and, at the same time, gave American Catholics reason to hold their heads up again.  His emphasis on Christ the hope of the whole world certainly obviated to some degree the dreary Vatican-II speak of the UN address and inter-religious exchanges.

How unfortunate it was, then, that, liturgically, the Pope’s visit failed to measure up to his call for Catholic integrity. The state reception hosted by President Bush at the White House was more traditional and certainly more edifying than the putrid stew of liturgical novelty served up by Archbishop Wuerl and his stellar team of effeminate nincompoops and mediocrities.  Bush provided a drum and fife corps in traditional military garb on the South Lawn, stirring anthems, a world class marching band, military salutes—the President was unstinting in this spectacular show of respect for the dignity of the papal office. Would that the Catholic Church in our nation’s capital had provided something other than a three-ring circus conducted by liturgical clowns.

The USCCB-approved papal liturgy at Nationals Park in Washington was so appalling that EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo called it “Amazonian,” while Fr. Neuhaus didn’t even attempt to conceal his disgust at its blatant disregard for authentic liturgy. And though in New York there was vast improvement, Communion in the hand was still prevalent (even from the Pope), women readers were brought in, and the Pope’s use of the faulty translation of pro multis as "for all" was disappointing, especially since he officially corrected pro multis as “for many” for use throughout the universal Church. Is even the Pope himself forbidden to deviate from the novelties and abuses of the post-conciliar epoch? Obviously, the iron grip of the conciliar revolution has not yet been released, even on its deathbed.


As the magnificent Christus Vincit soared to the heights of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York during the papal procession, I longed with all my heart for the Pope to ascend the altar of God and commence his Mass with “introibo ad altare Dei!”  Though I have no doubt this will happen one day, it didn’t happen in America. The Holy Father’s visit made it clear that this is all going to take some time, and that, while the Church is slowly beginning to steer a course back toward Tradition, the ship is still haunted and the captain still hounded by the spirit of Vatican II. There’s much work to be done before we return safe to harbor. 

What’s certain, however, is that Benedict sees a restored liturgy as an integral part of the restoration of Catholic identity and influence throughout this prison that is the modern world. Summorum Pontificum can be seen as a papal cry for help in carrying out the monumental task of undoing forty years of liturgical abomination by restoring the Roman Rite to the altars of the Catholic Church. That’s the crusade Benedict has called, and we must answer his call!

On July 7, 2007, our aged pontiff—the virtual prisoner of a relativist regime whose effects on the Church are called the “spirit of Vatican II”—handed his loyal subjects a standard and asked them to march it out into the world for him. Wolves both within and without the Church will try to stop us at every step of the way, but so be it!  Let the word go forth that Roman Catholic Traditionalists stand with the Holy Father, and that they are willing to help him drive the wolves all the way to Armageddon in this fight for the soul of Holy Church.

For when all is said and done, Benedict XVI is Christ’s vicar on earth, and on balance his pontificate is not proving to be the world-pleasing spectacle provided by “John Paul the Great.”  The wolves know this as well as we do, which is precisely why, as this article goes to press, Time magazine has conspicuously omitted Benedict from its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people—an omission as ludicrous as it is telling.

The coming months may well prove to be very interesting. Pray for the Holy Father!