Fools to Judge his Papacy

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Pope Benedict

I have always shuddered when a Pope dies because I am filled with dread of what comes next:   Endless reams of bad commentary by people who pretend to know something about the Vatican but who usually succeed only in revealing their bone ignorance of the subject.  The resignation of Pope Benedict I expect to inspire more of the same.

First up is John Moody, Executive Vice President, Fox News, and a former Vatican correspondent, who takes Pope Benedict to task for what he perceives to be a failed papacy.  Pope Benedict’s main crime appears to be that he was not Pope John Paul II:

By contrast, Benedict’s meek initial outings were public relations meltdowns.  His smile, though genuine, looked somehow sinister, as if he were about to bite  his audience. Determined to restore the Church’s luster in Europe, where it is  often treated like a dotty old aunt, Benedict gave a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006  that appeared to denigrate Islam. The non-Catholic world howled; the Vatican  cringed and apologized.

On his first visit to the U.S. as pope, Benedict offered contrite apologies  for the Church’s ham-handed treatment of the U.S. church’s sex scandal involving  its priests. Even the pope’s humble mien did not satisfy some, who pronounced  him cold and unfeeling toward the plight of victims of clergy abuse. He joined  the Twitterati, but his first attempt was a sterile: “I am pleased to get in  touch with you through Twitter. I bless all of you from my heart.” At least he  stayed under 140 characters.

In nearly eight years, Benedict issued three encyclicals – direct messages to  the faithful that often reveal a pope’s enthusiasms and interests. Benedict’s  first – entitled “God is Love” — is a caressing, simply worded, logic-based  reassurance that our Lord loves us. Yet even his writing about love suffers in  comparison with John Paul’s towering, intellectual yet intimate canon of  work.

None of which lessens Benedict’s place in the line of Vicars of Christ. His  decision to resign was a brave one, based on personal humility, in keeping with  his message to the faithful that the things of Earth are transient, but the  promise of heaven lasting and infinite.  For that he should be  remembered.

Go here, if you really must, to read the ignorant rest.  Not a word about the Pope’s Anglican Ordinariate, perhaps the most daring move made by a Pope in regard to Protestants since the Reformation.  Missing in action was the steady increase since 2005 in ordinations worldwide to the priesthood.  Forgotten was Pope Benedict’s emphasis upon the growth of the Church in Africa and Asia.  No discussion of course of the reform of the reform that has been a hallmark of Pope Benedict’s papacy.

There is a wonderful scene in the movie the Agony and the Ecstacy where Pope Julius brings two Cardinals to critique the work that Michelangelo is doing in the Sistine Chapel.  One criticizes him because he does not paint in the manner of the Greeks and the other attacks him for depicting Moses and other figures naked.  Michelangelo defends himself skillfully, but with growing exasperation and finally yells at the Pope, “Why do you bring fools to judge my work?”  Alas when it comes to judgments being made about the papacy of Pope Benedict, we will have many fools speaking in the weeks to come.

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  1. Of course he’s gotten the typical clueless disparagement from a lot of media folks, but I’ve actually been surprised by how many pretty orthodox Catholics have been relatively lukewarm, if not downright disappointed, with Benedict’s papacy.

    I had no complaints with his reign., but I guess I’ll at least hear out people who did.

  2. Yet even his writing about love suffers in comparison with John Paul’s towering, intellectual yet intimate canon of work.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve long felt that Pope Benedict was a much more concise and clear writer than Pope John Paul II. Both were/are tremendous intellects, but Pope Benedict was always able to take complex theological ideas and present them in a way that was somewhat more comprehensible.

  3. “but I’ve actually been surprised by how many pretty orthodox Catholics have been relatively lukewarm, if not downright disappointed, with Benedict’s papacy.”

    Too many Catholics, and I often include myself in that group, expect a Pope to come in and fix all the problems within the Church yesterday. The Church has never operated that way. Even in fairly revolutionary times the Church has almost always adopted a go slow incremental approach. Vatican II is a modern exception to that rule, and living in the aftermath of that Council I can appreciate the usual wisdom of the go slow incremental approach. We also live in a time which treasures that mysterious quality called charisma. John Paul II, at least until his final dying years, had that quality more in abundance than any other Pope I can think of, certainly of the modern era. A hard act to follow in that regard.

  4. The media are already making fools of themselves. They pass off opinion instead of reporting, and distort the facts.

    Pope Benedict took the job at 79 years old. He never wanted it. He wanted to go home to Germany. He is a nearly 88 year old man and I can think of no 88 year old who wants to work every day all day.

    The Anglican Ordinariate is a massive positive achievement. it is a shame that the Society of St. Pius X would not take the Pope’s offer, but so many of them are too full of themselves to see the world as it is.

    God Bless the Pope. He has earned a retirement.

    God bloess Pope Benedict XVI.

  5. For what it is worth, I think Pope Benedict XVI was one of the best ever. Comparing him to Pope John Paul II is unfair. Each one has his own unique strengths and weaknesses, and the Holy Spirit gave us each one at the right time for God’s often inscrutable purposes. I have heard it described that Pope Paul VI was more prophetic, Pope John Paul II more priestly and Pope Benedict XVI more kingly. That’s certainly an interesting allusion to the oft heard phrase, “Prophet, Priest and King.” I don’t pretend to be so informed that I can critique that assertion, but in modern times, while they all had their faults, we really have had a rash of good Popes since at least Leo XIII in the 19th century. God has been very good to us and we should be grateful.

  6. I read the Weigel book “God’s Choice…” a few years back and (rightly or wrongly) became convinced that Ratzinger was really God’s choice. And… that is all we can ask.
    I have prayed for him. I will pray for his successor.

  7. I had a friend who was a German WW2 vet. (Suffered on the Russian front, but survived.) German boys were drafted into the army at age 16, then were provisional soldiers performing non-combat duty until age 18 when they received full rank and privilege of a soldier.

    I read an interview with a similar German vet about the time they were still under 18, in training. I try to reproduce it here from my memory…

    Our squad sargeant asked us all what job we hoped to hold someday, and I specifically recall my answer: “Pilot”. In fact, I think most of the boys wanted to be pilots….or tanker, or engineer, or some other manly profession. But when the sargeant came to our radio operator, he clearly and surely said “I hope to become a parish priest” We all laughed at him. Sarge said “Private Ratzinger, I doubt you’ll get very far in life as a parish priest.”

    I’d say he made it pretty far.

  8. As a country we are rapidly following the rest of the world into abject secularism. Moral values are forgotten. “Gay marriage”as “equality” will open the door to polygamy and Lord knows what else. We need leadership and moral direction, or else soceity is in big trouble.

    Understand he’s a long shot, but I think Timothy Cardinal Dolan is the man. Charismatic, pastoral and one the world would admire and listen to.

  9. I thought his first encyclical was brilliant and perfectly addressed the issues we are facing as a church today. I haven’t been able to make the time to read his second encyclical, but I expect it to be just as awesome. I recall giving “Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club” coffee mugs to friends for Christmas presents the Christmas before he became Pope.

    I had to roll my eyes when I read that Fox editorial this morning. I expected it, though. The news media can’t be expected to praise him in today’s world, which tries to undermine everything the Church teaches. Fox has a reputation for being conservative, but they have so much immorality in their “entertainment” headlines and pictures that I can’t expect that they’ll understand where social conservatives are really coming from.

  10. Benedict gave a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006 that appeared to denigrate Islam. The non-Catholic world howled; the Vatican cringed and apologized.

    True only if the non-Catholic world is restricted to Islam, the rest were not bothered at all. Some dhimmi in the Vatican may have gone into preemptive damage control, but the Pope himself did not. In fact his clarification may have infuriated the intellectuals among the Muslims even more, as the main philosophical point of the Regensberg address is that the attributes of God, require even Him not to act arbitrarily for otherwise He is merely a tyrant. The Holy Father is one those who regard Greek philosophy as a kind of fifth Gospel, this established the high intellectual level of his ratiocinations.

    Possibly for the sake of Christians living (and now fleeing for their lives) in Syria and the larger Middle East, JP11 kissed the Koran. Some Muslims tried the same trick when Pope Benedict was in Turkey later in 2006, but he deftly passed on the koran to his aides. From then it was clear that the (brief) period of kowtowing to Islam and succumbing to the blackmail of its minions was over.

  11. @Alphatron

    His third encyclical, “Caritas in veritate,” is also a good one. He had some strong words to say to free-market purists.

  12. “His third encyclical, “Caritas in veritate,” is also a good one. He had some strong words to say to free-market purists.”

    Actually, I didn’t take that away from it. It seems he spoke what has pretty much been said about the free market in previous encyclicals.

    What I think differed was his radical rooting of Charity in Truth. Gone should be that raw emotionalism that calls itself Charity per Benedict. Important words as we continue to order our world with bankrupt (literally as well as figuratively) ideas from the past.

  13. I have a calm faith that the Holy Spirit will bring forward the man whom He knows is the right man for these evil times. I also can’t help but pray that it’s Cardinal Burke.

    And may God forgive me but I also pray it isn’t Cardinal Dolan. The times we live in call for a lion, another Pius X, not an “oh-so-friendly, easy-to-talk-to, pastoral” man such as Dolan.

  14. Moody forget to mention that Gisele Bundchen AND Lady Gaga didn’t like some of the stuff that Pope Benedict XVI said either. Just more proof of his failure as a pope, I guess.

  15. even his writing about love suffers in comparison with John Paul’s

    Really? JP II was a great intellect and good writer, but BXVI is just as strong intellectually and a better writer. And that he was not JP II is a feature, not a bug. Each has his strengths, we did not need a JP III.

    Let us hope the Holy Spirit brings forth the pope we need, and not the one we deserve.

  16. I think we should go back to telling everybody that the Pope can do whatever the hell he wants and if you don’t like it you can take it down the road. Then smack ’em with a ruler.

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