Skip to comments.Benedict XVI: The Pope and His Agenda
Posted on 04/20/2005 9:54:13 AM PDT by NYer
ROMA, April 20, 2005 They called him a conservative. But Joseph Ratzinger revolutionized even the conclave which, on April 19, made him pope, Benedict XVI, a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.
Never in the past century has the choice of a pontiff been spoken in a language so clear and sharp. And it came with a buildup which become more impressive as the hour of truth drew near. Until his last conference on the state of the world, which Ratzinger gave on the last day of the deceased popes life. Until, even more importantly, the last homily he proclaimed in Saint Peters at the mass pro eligendo romano pontifice, a few hours before the closing of the doors of the Sistine Chapel.
As a cardinal, Ratzinger put nothing on sale in order to be elected pope. The votes and consensus landed on him one after the other, month after month, scrutiny after scrutiny, attracted only by his agenda, hard as a diamond. At the last mass in Saint Peters he reproposed this with the words of the apostle Paul: the goal is that of being adults in the faith, and not children in a state of guardianship, tossed about by the waves and carried here and there by every wind of doctrine.
Because modern times are leading precisely toward this, he warned: to a dictatorship of relativism which recognizes nothing as definitive and leaves as the ultimate standard ones own personality and desires.
Against this deceit of men, Ratzinger opposed the principle that we have, instead, a different standard: the Son of God, the true man, who is also the standard of true humanism and the criterion for discerning between the true and the false, between deception and truth.
The plain conclusion: We must foster the maturity of this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it doesnt matter if having a clear faith according to the Churchs creed is frequently labeled fundamentalism.
Over the years, accusations of fundamentalism have been scattered against this German theologian who today is the new head of the Catholic Church.
During the 1960s, the young Ratzinger followed the second Vatican Council as an expert consultant for the cardinal of Cologne, Joseph Frings. He launched his first darts against the Holy Office, out of step with the times and a cause of harm and scandal, which he would direct many years later. But very soon after the end of the council, he began to denounce its effects, which were crudely divergent from what was to be expected.
The path he took was parallel to that of two other first-rate theologians of the time, his friends and instructors Henri De Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, both of whom also became cardinals, both of whom were also accused of having turned aside from progressivism to conservatism. Ratzinger never paid any attention to the label that was applied to him: I have not changed; they are the ones who have changed.
His was a strange conservatism, in any case. It was apt to disturb, rather than pacify, the Church. One of his favorite models is Saint Charles Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan who, after the Council of Trent, did nothing less than reconstruct the Catholic Church, which was almost destroyed in the area around Milan as well, without returning to the Middle Ages to do so; on the contrary, he created a modern form of the Church.
Today the transformations in civilization are no less epochal, in his eyes. The culture that has established itself in Europe constitutes the most radical possible contradiction, not only of Christianity, but also of the religious traditions of humanity, he argued on April 1 at Subiaco, at his last conference during the reign of John Paul II. And therefore the Church must react with all the courage it can muster, not conforming itself to the times, not falling to its knees before the world, but bringing, with holy consternation, the gift of faith to all, the gift of friendship with Christ.
Benedict XVI does not dream of the mass conversion of whole peoples for the Church of tomorrow. For many regions, he foresees a minority Christianity, but he wants this to be creative. He prefers the missionary impulse to timid dialogue with nonbelievers and men of other faiths.
Pessimism and angst have no place with him, and here also he breaks with the labels currently applied to him. He ended his homily-manifesto on April 18 at Saint Peters by invoking a world changed from a vale of tears to the garden of God.
He has been this way since he was a child: The Catholicism of the Bavaria in which I grew up was joyful, colorful, human. I miss a sense of purism. This must be because, since my childhood, I have breathed the air of the Baroque. He is distrustful of theologians who do not love art, poetry, music, nature: they can be dangerous. He loves taking walks in the mountains. He plays the piano, and favors Mozart. His brother Georg, a priest, is the choirmaster at Ratisbonne, one of the last pockets of resistance for the great tradition of sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant.
And this has been for years one of the points on which he has collided with novelties in the postconciliar Church. He has had harsh words for the transformation of the mass and liturgies into spectacles that require directors of genius and talented actors. He has said similar things about the dismantling of sacred music. How often we celebrate only ourselves, without even taking Him into account, he commented in his meditations for the Stations of the Cross last Good Friday. Here, Him refers to Jesus Christ, the one forgotten by liturgies changed into convivial gatherings.
Benedict XVI has never hidden his reservations even about the mass liturgies celebrated by his predecessor. No one in the curia of John Paul II was more free, or more critical, than he was. And Karol Wojtyla had the greatest respect for him for this reason, too. My trusted friend: this is how he defined Ratzinger in his autobiographical book Arise, Let Us Be Going, praise he never bestowed on any of his other close collaborators.
As prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger criticized John Paul II on many points, even the ones that most distinguished his pontificate.
He didnt even go to the first interreligious meeting in Assisi in 1986. He saw in this an obfuscation of the identity of Christianity, which cannot be reduced to other faiths. Years later, in 2000, a document came to dissolve any sort of equivocation, the declaration Dominus Jesus, published with his signature. It unleashed a storm of controversy. But the pope defended it completely. And in 2002, Ratzinger attended the meeting at Assisi in its modified form.
Another point on which the new pope did not agree with John Paul II was the mea culpas. Many other cardinals disagreed with these, but said nothing in public, with the sole exception of the archbishop of Bologna, Giacomo Biffi, who set down his objections in black and white, in a pastoral letter to the faithful of his diocese. Ratzinger voiced his criticism in a different way: in a theological document that responded, point by point, to the objections that had been raised, but in which the objections were all elaborately developed, while the replies appeared tenuous and shaky.
As a cardinal, Benedict XVI also criticized the endless succession of saints and blesseds that pope Wojtyla raised to the honors of the altar: in many cases, these were persons who might perhaps say something to a certain group, but do not say much to the great multitude of believers. As an alternative, he proposed bringing to the attention of Christianity only those figures who, more than all others, make visible to us the holy Church, amid so many doubts about its holiness.
He has always ignored politically correct language. In 1984, in a document against the Marxist roots of liberation theology, he delivered a deadly series of blows to the communist empire, labeling it the shame of our time and a disgraceful enslavement of man. During that same period, American president Ronald Reagan was speaking out against the evil empire. The news was spread that Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican secretary of state and the architect of a policy of good relations with Moscow, had threatened to resign in order to distance himself from the prefect for doctrine. It wasnt true. In any case, five years later the Berlin Wall came down.
Ratzinger has always distinguished himself as a man of great vision, not as a manager. He would love to see a Church that is simpler in terms of bureaucracy. He doesnt want its central and peripheral institutions the Vatican curia, the diocesan chanceries, the episcopal conferences to become like the armor of Saul, which prevented the young David from walking.
Partly for this reason, he reacted strongly in 2000 when another talented archbishop and theologian, his friend and fellow German Walter Kasper, charged him with wanting to identify the universal Church with the pope and the curia, with wanting in effect to restore Roman centralism. Ratzinger replied, confuting Kaspers thesis. The latter spoke again, provoking another public reply.
At the center of the dispute, which was fought on the terrain of advanced theology, was the relationship between the universal Church and the particular local Churches. This was the same question that the progressivist wing was discussing in more institutional and political terms during those same years, promoting a democratization of the Church, a balance of papal primacy with greater power for the college of bishops.
The controversy over the balance of power in the Church was also involved in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI, and a rejection of a greater role for collegiality was attributed to him, a rejection that would also create an obstacle to dialogue with the Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
But the reality is different. It was Kasper himself, whose motives are not suspect, who gave the name the Ratzinger formula to the thesis maintained by the present pope on relations with separated Christians, and called this fundamental for ecumenical dialogue. One written form of this thesis maintains that in regard to papal primacy, Rome must demand from the Orthodox Churches nothing more than was established and practiced during the first millennium.
During the first millennium, the college of bishops carried much greater weight. It will be, perhaps, a conservative pope like Benedict XVI who will clear the way for this reform.
Interesting just how many differences there are between JPII and Benedict XVI.
A man after my own heart :-)
Of all the differences, that's the one I most look forward to.
The election of Pius XII sent a signal nobody missed.
I'm not a catholic... but if I were I'd know that Benedict XVI was my kind of pope.
Interesting also how they were able to be great friends and still work together, both seemingly with God's blessing. John Paul was the man for his day, and now Benedict will have his, each to the glory of God.
It is interesting, the differences, and how evident the Hand of God is in these two successors to Peter. I am praying that Ben XVI appoints someone as the prefect of the doctrine of faith whom he admires and trusts, as much as JP II trusted him in that post.
With all the "Prophecies" running rampant out there, descernment is paramount, but one would have to be pretty foggy in the head not to see them being realized before our eyes.
"Benedict XVI has never hidden his reservations even about the mass liturgies celebrated by his predecessor. No one in the curia of John Paul II was more free, or more critical, than he was. And Karol Wojtyla had the greatest respect for him for this reason, too."
And this has been for years one of the points on which he has collided with novelties in the postconciliar Church. He has had harsh words for the transformation of the mass and liturgies "into spectacles that require directors of genius and talented actors." He has said similar things about the dismantling of sacred music. "How often we celebrate only ourselves, without even taking Him into account," he commented in his meditations for the Stations of the Cross last Good Friday. Here, "Him" refers to Jesus Christ, the one forgotten by liturgies changed into convivial gatherings.
Benedict XVI has never hidden his reservations even about the mass liturgies celebrated by his predecessor. No one in the curia of John Paul II was more free, or more critical, than he was.
This reinforces my opinion that Piero Marini will not be the pontifical MC for much longer.
Wonderful to hear. In America, political correctness is the club used by the ACLU Secular Taliban and their acolytes, to beat back believers----to oust religionists of every faith from claiming their rightful place in the public square.
PC needs to be quashed every place it raises it ugly head. We pray that Pope Benedict XVI will deliver the message far and wide-----political correctness is dead, its demise hastened by a devastated culture corrupted by secularism.
He is a superb thinker, an intellectual of the highest order. It will be difficult for some to grasp the huge ideas he wraps his mind around. We must forgive those who criticize this Pope---they simply cannot aspire as high as he does.
When you are as powerful as the Pope is, you end up surrounded by syncophants. You become desperately in need of someone who believes in the same objectives that you do, but are not afraid to tell you when they think you are wrong.
With the new Pope we have now taken off our gloves to fight evil. It will develop into an all out war. All one has to do is to look at the "Catholics" who want changes.
As one liberal said she was glad to see the Pope leave his position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I laugh as Cardinal Arinze will slide right over to that position.
Does anyone know why Kathleen Keating seems to detest Pope Benedict-XVI? I've always found her to be at least interesting to listen to (whether or not I agree with her) but lately she's sounding like a total wingnut. She talks in riddles - although I think I know what she means but I still can't be sure. Like many, I tend to like our new pope so I'd like to know what her problem is, if anyone can shed any light?
"into spectacles that require directors of genius and talented actors."
Heck, the American translation of the Scriptures is so flat that it take a trained actor to project their meaning with any clarity at all. We lectors have a devil of a time, and when you get someone who deons't have the faintest idea of how to read aloud, it can be prerty awful. But why is i t that modernists hate beauty? I guess because they are Purtians at heart, On the other hand, that it is to do injustice to the Puritans, most of whom were earthy men.
Hitler certainly didn't. Ironically, Pius has been tarred by people who haven't bothered to learn that Pius was the last man that the Nazis wanted to be pope.
Pius was elected on the third ballot, the fastest election in the last century. The cardinals knew he was their man and with war looming there was no time to fool around.
B16 was elected on the 4th ballot.
>> During the first millennium, the college of bishops carried much greater weight. It will be, perhaps, a conservative pope like Benedict XVI who will clear the way for this reform. <<
It is an important point to make that the re-establishment of Orthodoxy is the means by which collegiality can be established.