Why does the world hate the pope?

Aldo Maria Valli, a Vatican expert for the Italian television network RAI, has recently published a book titled, The Truth About the Pope: Why He Is Attacked, Why He Must Be Listened To. In it, he poses the question: “Why is the present Pope the absolutely most attacked public figure and why are his words the object of strong manipulation?”

Valli offers his theory:

“Because at the heart of his teaching there is a battle against relativism, a battle fought with calm and gentle tones, and which focuses on the problem of present-day humanity.”

“It’s a convergence of interests and people who do not want others to pose to themselves the problem of truth,” he added. If they did, the author noted, they couldn’t be as easily manipulated. . . .

“[T]he attacks are due to the fact that the Pope poses several questions, in which the problem of truth is absolutely central, because it is a genuine battle against relativism.”

This happens “because what permeates our present culture and mentality is [the belief] that truth doesn’t exist,” the author explained.

He noted, “With great simplicity our Pope indicates that truth exists and that if it isn’t sought it’s not possible to be fully men, that man has this longing and that if this desire is denied part of him is amputated.”

Therefore, “if this underlying problem isn’t enunciated his pontificate cannot be understood,” the journalist asserted.

This all strikes me as true — though I’m always bemused that Benedict is singled out for this kind of attack, when his (much-beloved) predecessor would have agreed with every word of Benedict’s “battle against relativism.” There must be an element of popular perception at work, too: John Paul II was always seen as a warm ad gentle man, whereas Benedict was so long portrayed as the “enforcer of the Faith” in his role at the CDF — even if he is every bit as kindhearted as JPII.

What do you think contributes to the public’s distrust and dislike of Benedict — over and above the dislike some have for the institutional Church in general? Why this particular pope?

[H/t Catholic Herald]

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

  • dymphna

    If the world loved the pope I’d know that something was wrong with him.

  • Francis Wippel

    Hopefully, Popes and bishops realize that if they are being faithful to Christ and his Church, the world will despise and ridicule them. Jesus spoke of this, and His words are as true today as ever.

    The Pope’s duty is to be faithful to his calling. In doing so, he hopefully understands that he’s not going to win any popularity contests, and he needs to be comfortable with that.

    Bishops who have been more concerned about garnering positive media attention than remaining faithful to their office have done a great deal of damage to the Church over the past few decades. Let’s hope that’s a lesson that doesn’t have to be learned again.

  • bill bannon

    I don’t see any resentment of him in the US media ever since his trip here in 2008 brought a touch of Renaissance color. Nor do I think US bible conscious people see him as non relativist. These last two Popes were firm on sex….loose as a goose in attacking the traditional death penalty as “cruel”. Bible people who know Romans 13:4 are not impressed about this selective non relativism. The late 19th century and early 20th century Popes were firm on sex and showed a new flexibility on labor issues. Sure you can dig up a bull or two prior to that on workers but you can also dig up 5 Popes in the second half of the 15th century who affirmed perpetual slavery for any new found peoples like the Incas who resisted the gospel. The relativism thing seems only to be about sex
    and it would be more honest to say that out loud. It strikes me as a pop thing for the sound bites of the media.
    What we need in future Popes is not authors or world leaders….we need people who love administration as soon as they wake up and they enter into a constant relationship with priests worldwide both disciplining them but also listening to them. St. Benedict said an abbot was to listen to the least brethern…BECAUSE….God may send His will through the least brethern on purpose. The report on the poll of Australian priests at Insight Scoop was quite awful in it’s implications. We need a Pope who travels toward priests not toward stages to be cheered by millions who are not obeying him anyway. There can be no progress without healing/disciplining/ healing the priesthood.

  • SWP

    I had approvingly read posts at the Ratzinger Fan Club website prior to the conclave that elected Benedict, and even I found myself dismissing Ratzinger as a papabile when I heard his name listed. I was hoping for Arinze, and I feared the public portrayal of Ratzinger would hinder the Message.

    I actually underwent a sort of interior cleansing of my heart the day before the conclave, when I realized there was no good reason to harbor animus towards the man or even make allowances for the animosity of those who hated him as a messenger. If God so wills it, let it be.

    When he appeared on the balcony, my heart overflowed with love for this Dear Papst, this man who taught me the meaning of spousal love. I have continued to love him more and more, as I have encountered him in his words and with The Word. He is precisely the best choice that could have been made, the perfect antidote for our times, the surest successor of JPII Magnus.

    I feel for His Holiness as St. John must have felt resting his head in the bosom of Jesus. The world will never comprehend such a love, but I rejoice that I have tasted its sweetness.

    My wife, whose grandparents are Polish, has held her candle for JPII ever since World Youth Day in Rome, when this beloved pater tucked her into bed, along with thousands of pilgrims, on the penultimate night of the event. His voice soothed her to sleep, and she will always consider him THE pope.

    My heart belongs to Benny, but I am a visual learner, a reader, and that is where Pope Benedict triumphs. I think many more people responded to the charisma of the late pope, and haven’t read his texts, which are far more stratospherically unapproachable compared to the simple profundity of Ratzinger the Professor and Bookworm and Lover of Cats.

    May God’s peace shine on him!

  • SWP

    My swooning distracted me from the point:

    I don’t think people actually read Ratzinger. He earned my admiration when I read the dialogue/exchange between the CDF and Hans Kung the Adolescent Pipsqueak.

    More often than not, when people admire the Catechism promulgated by JPII, they are admiring the work of Ratzinger, but not giving him credit. When they are admiring or despising JPII’s moral stand, the whole time it was the CDF that bore the brunt and received none of the credit for the truth it held fast.

    JPII was the warm face; Ratzinger the whipping boy- now he finally gets to bask in the radiance that was his due. People may have hated the message JPII was delivering, but they had to admire the way he packaged it. Ratzinger’s package is immediately off-putting (my wife hates his eye sockets, so dark!) and because they know nothing of his HEART (to be found in print) they never make it past their own biases.

    Hasn’t the same always been true of Jesus? Tolle lege, and then opine. Or to borrow from GK, Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it has been wanted and gone untried. Even I, as papist as I am, had to let go of bias in order to really see Pope Benedict as he is, a man of Love.

    Telling people the Truth is a form of tough love that only adolescents and demons buck against. Wise people receive it as Love, and respond accordingly. Dear Papst has never missed an opportunity to express total Love. And thus like Christ on the tree, he is hated for it.

  • Kathryn

    I haven’t noticed any significant attacks on the Pope, except, perhaps, from the liberal Catholic crowd. But perhaps I am reading and listening to the wrong stuff.

    And (this scares me!) I tend to agree with Bill Bannon. I’d like to see future Popes take care of the house cleaning that needs taken care of. I think we have enough on our reading plates with JPII and Benedict to last us awhile.

  • bill bannon


  • Brian

    I guess that “the world” has attacked the pope because “the world” (really, human beings) have unjustly seen him as a font of reaction, treachery, and hatred.

  • Tony Esolen

    There are two things we all need to remember about the World. The World is old, and the World is stupid. Being old, as old as boiled sin, the World does not like to be reminded of its lost youth and innocence, so the World will do its best to snicker at purity, or at anybody who defends it in any form. Being stupid, as stupid as a broken post, the World does not like to take any lessons from someone as wise and learned as the current pope, and most especially not when he does things that the intellectual elites just wouldn’t be caught doing, as for instance praying for the intercession of Mary.

    We really can’t, finally, give a darn what the World thinks, because the World in point of fact doesn’t think. Half the time we’re hated for being pacifists, and half the time for being warmongers. Half the time we’re hated because we are too indulgent with sins of the flesh, and half the time we’re hated for being puritans. Half the time we’re hated because we drink, and half the time we’re hated because we don’t. The Jesuits were hated because it was said they did not have a stable moral code; now we’re hated because it is said that we do. If we minister to the poor, as Mother Teresa did, we’re hated because we don’t go in for huge government programs, or we’re accused of doing it because it makes us feel good. If we don’t minister to the poor, we’re accused of hardheartedness. If we uphold moral laws, we’re hypocrites, and if we don’t, we’re hedonists. We’re hated because we oppose sodomy, and we’re hated because we didn’t oppose sodomy strongly enough.

    There’s no winning the World. It’s old, and it’s stupid…

  • Margaret C

    “as old as boiled sin…”

    Love that line, Tony. All very well said!

    Thanks to everyone for all the thoughtful responses.

  • Ismael

    I think >90% of the people who attack the Pope, even educated people like journalists, mind you, do not even listen to what the Pope says.

    Look at all the distorsions and idiotic sensationalism the media created by twisting Ratzinger’s words on different occasions, for example.

    I think most people hate what their OPINION is of the Pope or the Church, without actually knowing the facts and the truth.

    So they scream at the Pope, but what they hate is a fictional strawman they created in their minds and not the real Benedict XVI.

  • savvy


    I don’t see this as just relativism on sex. The arguments posed on both the death penalty and slavery are consistent with the natural law. The Catholic church has never supported slavery officially. They have however realized that the positive laws of a given country that violate a natural law, at times cannot be got rid of overnight. And have also learnt the hard way that the marriage of state and church is a bad idea.

    On the other hand anything said about sex gets picked up by the media quickly.

    Read Aquinas on rights.

  • Robert

    Atheism has taken over and the atheists are stupid and dangerous.