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PONTIFICATIONS: Catholic Faith and Culture By David Gibson

Benedict XVI's letter to the world's bishops (official text released today) was a good idea and probably inevitable, as no one was happy and the furor was not going away, inside the church from the highest echelons to the lowest. Did the pontiff's letter help matters? Maybe it will reinforce the "move on" mantra, but the long-term answer is "no." The problems are manifold.

ONE, from the outset the pope strikes the tone of the wronged victim, and in doing so points the finger at his list of usual suspects--namely the "great defenders of the [Second Vatican] Council"--as if promoting Vatican II were a bad thing. And the schismatics of the right-wing traditionalists SSPX sect dosee Vatican II as a bad thing, though Benedict seems to minimize their views: He was pleased they had "expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council." Some reservations? Umm, it's a bit more than that.

Instead, the pope chides those who are NOT schismatics but are faithful to the Church: "But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life." Why does he continue to beat that dead horse in a letter that should address his own mistakes and to explain better his outreach to a group that does NOT accept that which the rest of us do?

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