TIME magazine's Jeff Israely compared Pope Benedict XVI to Charles Dickens' most famous character, Ebenezer Scrooge, in his latest column, which focuses on the “tough line on Church doctrine” the pontiff has taken.
Writes Israely, “...[T]here is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is...quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine.” Israely later put Scrooge's characteristic anti-Christmas exclamation in the mouth of the Holy Father: “...[O]ne can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: 'Bah Humbug!'”
The correspondent's Thursday column on Time.com, titled “The Pope's Christmas Gift: A Tough Line on Church Doctrine,”  began with Israely apparently lamenting that the old nicknames for the Pope are no longer effective tools: “Those nicknames from the past — God's Rottweiler, the Panzercardinal — don't seem to stick anymore. After acquiring a reputation as an aggressive, doctrine-enforcing Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI has surprised many with his gentle manner and his writings on Christian love.” He then saw it fit to give the Pope the “Scrooge” nickname, just in time for Christmas: “But with the Christmas season upon us, there is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is also quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine.”
How are the Pope and the Catholic Church being “rigid” this time around? The Holy See, which has permanent observer status at the United Nations, recently voiced its opposition to a proposed General Assembly resolution which calls for the end to legal discrimination against homosexuals. According to a December 1, 2008 article in The Times of London , all of the member nations of the European Union “have signed a draft declaration drawn up by
Israely quoted from the Holy See's nuncio to the UN, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who expressed why the Church was against the resolution: “...Migliore said the
The declaration may not mention “gay marriage” specifically, but the language of the resolution, “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” is so general that the Holy See seems to be justified in its concerns. The Vatican's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, actually took this line of reasoning in explaining the Church's  stance: “[The resolution] introduces a declaration of political value that could result in systems of control, according to which, every norm -- not only legal, but also related to the life of social or religious groups -- which does not place every sexual orientation on exactly the same level could be considered as contrary to respect of human rights.”
Later, Israely turned to another issue in which he thinks Pope Benedict is being “rigid” -- the “sign of peace” during the Catholic Mass:
Benedict has said repeatedly that the Church is forced to speak out against the tide of secularization, especially in Catholicism's home turf in
And that includes revisiting the Catholic liturgy if necessary. His top
Though there is no indication if or when the proposed movement of the peace would happen, this change would respond to a desire by the Pope to rein in some of the excesses that he sees in the ways the faith is currently celebrated. And to those who wonder why not just let everyone to say 'peace' when and where they please for Christmases to come, one can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: Bah Humbug!
One would think that Mr. Israely has witnessed Catholic Masses before -- he is Time's correspondent in
This isn't the first time Israely has been critical of the pontiff. In a September 2007 piece titled “Will the Pope Behave in
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the