04/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is my Google More Powerful than your God?

In a column in 2003, Thomas L. Friedman asked a seemingly off-the-wall question:

Is Google God?
His point was that wireless access to Google's
massive database of humanity's wisdom, hopes and fears can feel a lot
like communing with something omnipresent and omniscient.

That's why I found it particularly ironic to read the href="">letter his
Holiness Pope Benedict XVI released on March 12, 2009. It apologizes
for and defends his decision to rescind the excommunication of four
bishops, including one whose estimate of the number of Jewish lives
lost in the Holocaust appears to be off by a factor of twenty or more.

The letter itself is addressed to church insiders, some of whom
obviously stung the Pope with their public and unrestrained
criticisms, and includes a wide variety of arguments to explain the
decision. Some came from the heart:

Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and
narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for
the whole?


Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear
witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection
of hatred and enmity -- this is the social dimension of the Christian

Others were more legalistic:

There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary
level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level,
at which ministry and institution are involved.


An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the
danger of a schism, since it jeopardizes the unity of the College of
Bishops with the Pope.

But, my favorite argument in the official letter to Bishops was simply

I have been told that consulting the information available on the
internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on.
I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will
have to pay greater attention to that source of news.

Google succeeds where the Pope falters -- maybe Friedman was onto
something. Mel Brooks' 2000-year-old man said they used to worship a
guy named Phil until he got hit by lightning and realized, "there's
someone bigger than Phil..."

-Michael and Lisa Littman