Salon readers share their opinions on Pope Benedict XVI. Plus: Time's John Cloud responds to Eric Boehlert's story about Ann Coulter.

Published April 20, 2005 8:00AM (EDT)

[Read "The Church Will Continue to Suffer," by Father Andrew Greeley, Michael Lerner, Frances Kissling, Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Fox, Amy Sullivan, John T. McGreevy and others.]

No, I wasn't happy or excited over the election of Pope Benedict XVI. But as an active, faithful Catholic, it affects me very little. I pay little attention to the hierarchy because I have found the ordinary people of the church (lay and ordained) to be the true leaders of the church, the more powerful part of the "body of Christ."

We give the hierarchy far too much power in our lives and our church. I listen respectfully to the hierarchy; I study what the tradition of the church says with regard to its spirit, not just its law; I see what the people of the church have to say, and I make an informed decision.

Maybe Benedict will surprise me. If not, I'll continue to work with the "Pilgrim People of God" to most fully be the body of Christ in the world.

-- James C. Mitchell

Only one person you chose to talk to about the election of the new pope, Fr. Bretzke of the University of San Francisco, said anything positive about him. Do you really believe that a 13-to-1 negative ratio is a fair reflection of Catholic attitudes in the United States toward Pope Benedict? Even among political liberals in the church?

As Dorothy Parker would say, your list of those reacting to the election runs the gamut from A to B.

-- Kevin Salmon

How can anyone be surprised that the new pope does not appear to be enlightened? Just look at the job listing.

Wanted: Replacement pope for Catholic Church. Must try to resolve complex modern crises by reference to cryptic, ancient, incomplete, self-contradictory and apocryphal writings. Must believe that a virgin had a baby. Must disparage homosexuals, even though significant numbers of co-workers are gay. Must assert that all other religions are false. Must believe that women are not qualified to be leaders in the organization and they must serve the men. Must believe himself to be infallible. Must be willing to stand up in expensive clothes in posh surroundings and declare himself "a simple, humble worker." Willingness to tolerate rape of children by co-workers a plus. Typing skills not required.

-- Erich Vieth

I see that Salon's three-week pope-a-palooza has reached a new crescendo with the election of the Benedict XVI. I suppose we can all look forward to another round of hand-wringing as lapsed Catholics, devout believers and everyone on Salon's payroll weighs in on this momentous event.

Since the only faction not represented in Salon's coverage is the skeptic secular humanists -- who, I am willing to bet, make up a fair percentage of your readership -- let me be presumptuous for just a moment and throw in our two bits.

Nothing is going to change. The church will continue to do what it has always done for the past two thousand years; sow fear, self-loathing and empty promises to its adherents. The Catholic Church, like most other religious organizations, is -- and always has been -- an institution built on the fundamental idea that the rabble need to be kept in line so that the elites can exploit and plunder them with as little resistance as possible. Give a peasant a work ethic, a fear of a jealous and wrathful almighty, and then add a promise of rewards in the afterlife for his servitude here on earth, and bingo: an ignorant and docile subject! If this sounds cynical and harsh, I'm sorry, but as the Bible says, "By their works ye shall know them." You only have to look at Cardinal Ratzinger's treatment of liberation theology (an oxymoron if there ever was one) to see that his election is business as usual for the church.

While Salon continues to nitpick Benedict's intentions toward his peons, I can't help but recall the words of the philosopher and revolutionary Denis Diderot: "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." I can't condone the means -- but the end is a noble goal.

-- Chad Bagley

[Read "Time Hearts Ann Coulter," by Eric Boehlert.]

I just want to correct a few errors in Eric Boehlert's quick item on my story in Time about Ann Coulter.

1. The story was finished weeks ago but was delayed from running on the cover by little things like the pope's death. Otherwise it would have run well before the Time 100, which I had nothing to do with. The idea that the Time 100 item was a "justification" for our cover is just silly, as I could have told Boehlert if he had asked me about this. I'm curious if he would like to share his sourcing on that assertion?

2. My story is fair. It quotes not only your publication but Eric Alterman, James Wolcott, Andrew Sullivan and others (including conservatives) harshly criticizing her. It even quotes Jerry Falwell criticizing her as aggressive! It quotes one friend of hers calling her a fascist and another saying she's a polemicist. I say in the story that I want "to shut her up occasionally." I call some of her writing "highly amateurish," and I say she can be "callous and mouthy." I am not sure how you define all this as "cheers" for Ann Coulter.

3. I suggested this story because I found Coulter a fascinating figure. I could not care less what "conservative critics" think of Time (as Boehlert could discover with a quick Nexis search of my previous work). Nor, by the way, did Boehlert quote any actual sources for his assertion that Time was trying to "placate conservatives." I suspect he has none.

4. Boehlert willfully misreads the opening paragraphs of my story. I did not marvel at Coulter's prattle regarding partial-birth abortion. I marveled at the fact that she actually blushed when speaking with such extremism. It was a side of Ann Coulter I had not expected to see.

5. Boehlert runs together quotes I gave him during a 10-minute interview into a single paragraph. This is a sleazy journalistic trick. I asked him before publication to ensure that my quotes were placed in the proper context, but he refused. I expected more from Salon.

-- John Cloud

Eric Boehlert's response: I stand by my story.

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The most offensive thing about Time's baffling decision to put that harridan Ann Coulter on the cover was the timing. This is also the week of the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing -- an event that prompted Ms. Coulter to say the following:

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." (New York Observer, Aug. 20, 2002)

Funny that this particular gem didn't make it into Time's sidebar of wacky Coulter quotes. How insensitive and tone-deaf can Time be?

-- Tom Pryor

While I applaud the effort -- taking Time magazine to task for its fawning coverage of a misguided doofus like Ann Coulter -- I doubt it'll do any good.

If you ask me, Ann Coulter's main goal in life is to promote... Ann Coulter. I don't think even she believes half the crap she spews out. In fact, I'm pretty sure she gets a big chuckle out of it all. And why not? She can tick off "liberals," make a fat paycheck, and splash her skinny self all across America -- and she doesn't even have to form a single original thought.

Now that Salon has chosen to rip her a new one, I'm sure she'll find a way to cash in on that, too.

-- Vance Cariaga

By Salon Staff

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