In a short but stunning talk before some 90 Bishops, eight Cardinals and 1000 Knights, the Primate of Canada, Quebec City Archbishop Marc Cardinal Ouellet, addressed the subject of unity at the 127th annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus last night. Ouellet spoke of the "hard winter" Pope Benedict XVI had to "suffer" this past year as he was "harshly criticized both within and outside the Church and was not adequately defended by those who share his ministry."
The two biggest controversies that sparked criticism of the Pope in recent months from the liberal, mainstream media, and even from some in the Church hierarchy, were the lifting of the excommunications of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, and the Pope’s remarks against the use of condoms. Although Cardinal Ouellet mentioned by name only the Pope’s "effort to bring back the Schismatic group of the Lefebvrists to full communion," he noted the Pope was criticized "for this and various other reasons."
Only one other controversy – that of the condom comments – caused an international outcry against the Pope, even from some within the Church. AIDS "is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems," the pontiff said to reporters aboard the papal plane on March 17 this year.
The comments were followed by heavy criticism from world leaders , including Catholic leaders , and even veiled criticism from bishops in Portugal , Germany, and Canada . Two cardinals, one retired and one active , were among those who were unsupportive.
"At every level of leadership in the Church, unity with Peter and solidarity with him has not been a great achievement in this past year," said Ouellet in his address.
In a rousing call for unity with the Pope and also an affirmation of his teaching authority, Cardinal Ouellet said: "It is fully time to take action and stand with our Holy Father who is himself so admirably peaceful and coherent in fulfilling all his duties. We are greatly blessed by the quality of his teaching."
The Quebec Cardinal congratulated the Knights on their theme for the convention: "We stand with Peter in Solidarity with Our Bishops and Priests."
"Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us all to give stronger witness to our loving loyalty to the Church and its Chief Shepherd, successor of Peter," he said. "Unity in the Church is the key to the realization of its mission."
The Primate of Canada pointed to dire hardships in the Church as the fruit of disunity with the Pope. "When there is a lack of unity within the Church we quickly see a decline in vocations and in Church attendance and disintegration of family life," he said.
Concluding, Cardinal Ouellet said: "Let us stand with Peter’s successor, our Pope, at this challenging time courageously taking up our Christian duty of building unity and solidarity everywhere."
To watch the Cardinal’s full address begin at 24 minutes in this video (place mouse in bottom of video window and video controls will show):