Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI - One Year On

(Associated Press)

It doesn't seem to have been that long since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope by the College of Cardinals. As I have said before, I remember watching the announcement live and saying "Oh no!" to myself when the Cardinal Deacon mentioned his name. I had first heard of him several years before when he was mentioned as "The Pope's Rotweiler", crushing dissent wherever it lay. My main concern was not Ratzinger's convictions (I agreed with about 45% of the concerns he had that I had read about), but rather his way of dealing with it. But then how much of this is down to media hype and spin!
What bothered me initally about his election is that it would further damage relations within the Church. But then God moves in mysterious ways!
One year on, there is no sign of that feared purge against liberalism! If anything he seems to be rather gentle and placid, possible more so than John Paul II. True, he doesn't seem as energetic as his predecessor was at the start of his Pontificate, but then John Paul II was fifty-eight when he was elected Pope and Benedict XVI will be eighty next year, so his lack of official travelling is understandable. He has produced, what was a pleasantly welcoming encyclical, but that is about it.
Let's just watch this space. One isn't asking Benedict to compromise his faith, or indeed his integrity, but one hopes that his Papacy is that of a watchful, but benevolent Uncle, rather than that of a stern and vicious victorian schoolmaster!


the dĂșnadan said...

You asked how much of Pope Benedict's fiercesome reputation (when he was head of the CDF) was down to media spin. I would say a fair bit of it. I would suggest that the one issue that caused Cardinal Ratzinger to become known as the 'panzerkardinal' was that of liberation theology in the 80s. Given that this form of heresy (for insofar as it politicised Christianity, so it was) was of the liberal wing of the Church, his demonisation was inevitable.

I have read that in the last year, the Pope has sought to move in a 'collegiate' fashion. If this is so, then I can tell you right now that there will be no 'purge' of liberalism within the Catholic Church. Action may well be taken in ecclesiological matters or doctrinal, but anything remotely resembling a purge, no. Equally, I think it would be unwise to expect Benedict to be 'gentle and placid'. One of the last acts of the CDF before he became pope was to have the (liberal Jesuit) editor of America magazine, fired. Then there was the instructions concerning homosexuals and the priesthood last December.

I find it hard to credit any notion of Benedict being a gentler person than John Paul. The late pope may have taken stern action against various people through the years, but one cannot ignore his personability. Think of the rapport he enjoyed with young people or of his informality at formal events.

I would disagree that the sum of Benedict's achievements has been Deus Caritas Est. On his visit to Bari, Cardinal Walter Kasper called for a council with the Orthodox Churches. Benedict himself has made direct overtures towards the schismatic traditionalists, the Society of St Pius X. He met his old 'foe' Fr Hans Kung and has spoken out against genetic manipulation (in the Good Friday stations of the cross this year)
Reading a secular newspaper is not a good way to keep up with what the pope is doing or saying.

I hate to say it, but your wish that the pope play the part of the 'benevolent uncle' reminds me of C. S. Lewis's comment that most people prefer God to be a kind old grandfather who will let them do what they want. The Pope will never be that! And I praise God for it too.

Paul Burgin said...

I tend to choose my words with great care. Note I said a "watchful and benevolent uncle" I know what Lewis said about "kind old grandfather who lets them do what they want!" and I agree with him.
In other words what I like to see, and have seen from Pope Benedict, is not someone who changes his convictions, that would be too much to ask ;), but who has a loving and open attitude!