The ghost of Archbishop Fitzgerald

The ghost of Archbishop Fitzgerald

Looks like Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald is having his revenge or something like that, if Fitzgerald’s former employee is to be believed. Fitzgerald is the former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the former point man at the Vatican for Islamic affairs. He was shipped off to Cairo earlier this year as nuncio to Egypt and the Arab League in a move widely seen as Pope Benedict’s criticism of how such dialogue had been handled by Fitzgerald.

Now Fitzgerald’s former aide on the council, Fr. Tom Michel, SJ, the purported Vatican expert on Islam, is saying that if Pope Benedict had not exiled Fitzgerald he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in today. (To be accurate, none of this is from Fitzgerald himself and as far as I know, he hasn’t said anything publicly.) Michel claims that Pope John Paul II submitted all his addresses to the council to be vetted and was open to correction, but Benedict does not. The implication here is that Benedict is hardheaded, prideful, and not as smart as he thinks he is.

While “every pope has his own style,” John Paul II “was always ready to make good use of his Vatican staff,” Father Michel said. “My feeling is that a mistake of the order we saw last week in Regensburg would not have been possible with that pope,” he added.

In other words, if only the Pope ran his speeches by Michel first, this wouldn’t have happened. Then again I wonder if anything useful would have been said either. Sometimes such experts in other religions gain a little too much empathy for them and I wonder if he would even have allowed the Holy Father to say that Islam should not spread its faith by the sword. As for Michel’s former boss:

“With Archbishop Fitzgerald’s departure, there remains no one in the Vatican who is properly trained in Islamic faith practice and tradition, and the lack becomes glaringly evident on occasions like that of the Regensburg address,” Father Michel wrote.

“Had the pope’s talk been reviewed and controlled by any competent staff person, they would immediately have told the pope that the citation of Manuel II Paleologus, which was in fact marginal to the pope’s main point, should not be included in the speech,” the Jesuit scholar stated.

If only the Pope would listen to the bureaucracy—a bureaucracy, incidentally, which the Pope has said he intends to trim—all problems could be avoided. Michel goes on to say that the Pope’s comment was made out of “ignorance or lack of sensitivity.”

I wonder if Michel still works in the Roman Curia. If so, I wonder if he’ll still be working there by the end of the year. Maybe his friend, Archbishop Fitzgerald, needs some help in Cairo.

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