Benedict the Radical

UNORTHODOXY By Patrick J. Deneen Recent commentary on Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to Anglicans to enter the Catholic fold has … Continued


By Patrick J. Deneen

Recent commentary on Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to Anglicans to enter the Catholic fold has predictably fallen into the well-worn rut of seeing his action through liberal/conservative lens. Our domestic battle lines have been so firmly drawn, with daily sorties probing for the opposition’s weaknesses while heavy arms stand at ready for attack, that we are largely incapable of putting our heads above the ramparts to discern whether something else entirely might be going on.

One need only consult David Gibson’s weekend article from the pages of the very host of this site, which asked the question: “Is Pope Benedict A Closet Liberal?” (to which “On Faith’s” own Thomas Reese has here responded, “not enough”). Gibson finds evidence of the Pope’s “liberalism” in his extraordinary activism. “Thus far, Benedict’s papacy has been one of constant movement and change, the sort of dynamic that liberal Catholics — or Protestants — are usually criticized for pursuing.” Gibson regards any form of “constant movement and change” to be a form of liberalism. While he acknowledges that this “liberalism” has been exerted by Benedict XVI toward a “conservative agenda,” he concludes that the embrace of change opens the Church to orienting these “liberal means,” eventually toward liberal ends.

Gibson is thus working with the following definitions of liberalism and conservatism: liberals seek change while conservatives defend the status quo. Maybe. But a suppler grasp would recognize that it depends entirely on the status of the status quo. Whether one embraces “change” or defends the “status quo” will depend on whether the current status quo more or less reflects a set of substantive commitments. Thus, in liberal times, conservatives are likely to seek change, while liberals are likely to defend the status quo. We have seen this oddity most recently during recent Senate hearings considering nominations for the Supreme Court. In that context, liberal Senators have sought to find out if nominees will be suitably respectful of precedent – namely and especially Roe v. Wade; conservatives, meanwhile, have called for more “activism” in seeking to have that ruling overturned. Are those seeking change therefore “liberal” and those defending the status quo therefore “conservative”? According to Gibson, yes. Reality suggests otherwise.

One’s respective view on the relative need for, and direction of, change will depend finally upon one’s assessment of where one is now. Gibson goes seriously awry when he confuses the Pope’s “constant movement and change” as a form of “liberalism.” Nor would it even be proper to call him a “conservative,” given that he sees little worth “conserving” in a secularizing, materialist modern age with decreasing respect for human dignity in all of its forms. The word that better captures this Pope is that of radical: he is seeking to get to the root of matters – in particular, the two millennium tradition of Catholicism – and on that basis to re-orient the Roman Church for a future that he regards with some foreboding and grimness. He chose his Papal name with care and deliberateness: in many respects, he foresees a new Dark Age approaching, and is seeking to build a Church that will resemble the monastic order originally established by St. Benedict – a monastic order governed by an austere rule that can weather the dark times ahead.

Few have better captured the radical aims of this Pope than Robert Moynihan in a recent “Letter from Rome“:

If one looks at … the context of recent events, the essential point is this: Benedict XVI, though now 82, is moving on many different fronts with great energy in a completely unexpected way, given his reputation as a man of thought, not of action. (We are going to have to revise our understanding of his pontificate.)
He is clearly reaching out to reunite with many Christian groups: the Lefebvrists, as these meetings show, but also Anglicans, the Orthodox, and others as well.
He seems to be trying to make Catholic Rome a center of communion for all Christians.
This activity, occurring at an accelerating speed over recent months, looks almost like a “rallying of the troops” before some final, decisive battle.[…] In short, many eyes are now on Benedict, wondering what he really intends here.
The answer seems simple enough: Benedict is trying energetically to “get his house in order.”
But which house?
On one level, it is the Christian Church — a Christian Church under considerable pressure in the highly secualrized modern world.
In this “house,” this “ecclesia Dei” (“church of God” or “community of God”), dogmas and doctrines, formulated into very precise verbal statements, are held as true. These verbal formulas are professed in creeds. Benedict is seeking to overcome divisions over the content of these creeds, these doctrinal formulas, in order to bring about formal, public unity among separated Christians.
He is trying to find unity not only with the Lefebvrists (and all Traditionalists within the Church) but also, as we have seen in recent days, with the Anglicans and the Orthodox Churches.
So this dialogue with the Lefebvrists must be seen in the context of multiple dialogues, all occurring at once: Catholic Traditionalists, Protestant Anglicans, the Orthodox Churches.
One might almost say this pontificate is become one of “all dialogue, all the time.” But on a second level, considering world events and the evolution of the world’s economy and culture, something else is also at stake.
Benedict is rallying his troops. He is trying to reunite all those factions and denominations and groups in the West that share common beliefs in the eternal destiny of human beings, in the sacredness of human life (since human beings are “in the image and likeness of God”), in the existence of a moral standard which is true at all times and in all places (against the relativism of the modern secular culture), in the need for justice in human affairs, for the rule of right, not might.
And so he is doing his best, in what seems perhaps to be the “twilight of the West,” to build an ark, centered in Rome, to which all those who share these beliefs about human dignity may repair.
And this means that what Benedict is doing in this dialogue which got underway today is also of importance to Jews, to Muslims, and to all men and women of goodwill. Mankind seems to be entering a new period, a period in which companies and governments may produce, even for profit, “designer humans,” a period of resource wars, a period of the complete rejection of the traditional family unit.
Benedict, from his high room in the Apostolic Palace, seems to be trying to rally the West in the twilight of an age, so that what was best in the West may be preserved, and shine forth again after the struggles of our time are past.

This “ordering of the house” of Christianity goes beyond any simple – and frankly, almost laughably irrelevant – invocation of “liberal” and “conservative” position reflected in today’s American politics. If one reads Benedict/Ratzinger’s writings as a whole, one sees that he has consistently argued that Christianity is entering a period in which it will, as a whole, need to strengthen itself by shrinking to a core of the faithful. His is not an electoral strategy, but a gambit to preserve Western civilization. In the book Without Roots, then Cardinal Ratzinger (in a conversation with Italian Prime Minster Marcello Pera) articulated his view that the future of Christianity (and specifically, the Church) will lie in “creative minorities.” He wrote there that he viewed such “creative minorities” (comparing them explicitly to the monastic communities of the Middle ages) as a “yeast [Matthew 13:33] – a persuasive force that acts beyond the more closed sphere until it reaches everybody…. The minorities renew the vitality of this great community at the same time as they draw on its hidden life force, which forever generates new life” (122-3).

What’s important to note about Benedict XVI’s “radicalism” is that it does not rest upon success in the political sphere; his vision for the Church fundamentally eschews much of what actually is shared in common between contemporary “liberals” and “conservatives.” In the American context, “liberals” and “conservatives” alike are too much and too often in the throes of the modern orthodoxies, particularly a near-fanatic embrace of science and technology, devotion to “progress,” “choice,” and “growth,” and a fealty to “the Market.” Both are essentially earth-oriented, power-hungry and materialist.

We make a grave mistake if we interpret and understand the actions and activities of Pope Benedict XVI through the narrowly political lens that we all tend to wear in these times. He’s engaged in a project far greater, and with world-historical significance. He is a radical traditionalist, and in a most untraditional age, such devotions call for radical creativity. Just don’t call him “liberal” or “conservative”; both labels are too narrow for his capacious ambitions. He is endeavoring to save Christendom – from those outside it who would wish its demise – but even more, from those within, regardless of their political label.

By Patrick J. Deneen | 
October 28, 2009; 11:29 AM ET

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  • reasonisstupid

    Patrick,A brilliant summary indeed of Benedict’s mission as Pope. His legacy will be the crystallization of the central messages of Christianity and the best of the Western thought. Having succeeded in this purpose, I hope his successor will vibrantly and vigorously promote the messages that he’s so carefully clarified for the church.

  • Comunista

    Nice article. It’s obnoxious how almost any time a news article summarizes something the current Pope is doing, or a columnist comments on the same, it’s always through some sort of political lens, which without fail neglects to account for the fact that the Catholic Church doesn’t fall on some political spectrum like other churches may. Not to mention that they try to slam or praise the man on one single pet issue of theirs, rather than take the time to understand the bigger picture and what he’s trying to accomplish elsewhere.

  • saintcrown

    “… Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to Anglicans to enter the Catholic fold….”The fact is that the Pope’s action was not an invitation, but a response to many Anglican requests.Among the Anglicans who have requested this of the Pope is the “Traditional Anglican Communion” whose members are about 400,000 worldwide.

  • lichtme

    Phew!I’m glad Benedict saved Christianity.I was getting worried there!Weren’t you?

  • GABinOdenton

    There are sound reasons why Protestants can’t and shouldn’t enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. However, they are our brothers and sisters, and more importantly, they are our comrades in a fight for the soul of the world.Normally I say the divisions of the Protestant churches is a strength, not a weakness, as long as there is a unified view of Christ as Lord and Savior of the world and of lost individuals. The details in these cases are trivial compared to this central view. However, in battle, there should be one unified leader. The Roman Catholic Church is the most organized religious institution in the world. Benedict XVI is a great man who, having seen the disaster of weakness in the face of evil, is rallying us all. May the Holy Spirit guide this man and may God the Father give him strength and health to carry on the fight.

  • baseballguy

    He is endeavoring to save Christendom What an outrageous statement. If Christianity needs “saving” I question whether it was god-ordained to begin with. Does the pope think that God wasn’t capable of forming a “one true and holy church”, that god’s creation is faltering, so his holiness has to step in and save it? Blasphemy!

  • lufrank1

    Sigh! . . . .The BANE of intelligence, reason, and . . . .civilization.

  • Catholicus

    This is one of the best assessments I have read in a while. The American notions of “liberal” and “conservative” are only country-specific, and they certainly do not apply to the Church. Benedict is indeed a deep traditionalist, as every Catholic by necessity must be, on dogma and substance, but he is more open to change in forms than any of the recent popes. This indeed baffles self-styled “liberals”, particularly among American Catholics. Yet “conservatives” should not rejoice too soon – the Holy Father will not retreat from Vatican II although some changes to the liturgy are likely. Maybe he is simply — Catholic? Let us pray that he may enjoy a long period in office.

  • bmariner

    Great review of Pope Benedict profile indeed!I think you are right. He firmly believes that God the Father sent Jesus Christ to redeem the man and “to teach him what the man is” in words of the late JPII. So his activity is driven by the conviction that the teachings of Christ are like the soul of the humankind, the salt that preserves its corruption, the light that guides it through the History.Also, as Mrs Thacher put in an ocasion, the development of the Western World and some core concepts as Freedom and Human Rights, flow from the Jew-Christian stream. As you say “Just don’t call him “liberal” or “conservative”; both labels are too narrow for his capacious ambitions… In the American context, “liberals” and “conservatives” alike are too much and too often in the throes of the modern orthodoxies…Both are essentially earth-oriented, power-hungry and materialist”. You just have to follow loosely his words after his meetings with all kind of religious leaders to know that Robert Moynihan is right. Not just “He seems to be trying to make Catholic Rome a center of communion for all Christians. This activity, occurring at an accelerating speed over recent months, looks almost like a “rallying of the troops” before some final, decisive battle”, but he is also trying to wake up other religions in these Dark Ages to come to be aware of their mission before the only God and their very “raison d’etre”. Religions are not here to talk about the Climate Change, or other earthly things but specifically to remind us about the very special link between us and our Creator. We men are “brethen” because we are “children” of the same Father. If we lose the sight of the second, we easily will lose the first.Maybe precisely because he is 82 he feels more urged to “rallying of the troops” to get this task done.

  • owlafaye

    Benedict is endeavoring to save Christendom? Laughter He seems to be doing this by ducking responsibility throughout the world of Catholicism. It is a business enterprise folks, a criminal business enterprise. Don’t for a moment think that the upper echelons believe in a God or a Jesus Christ. They are there for their demonstrated competence in handling business as usual and defending the church in a competent manner, and the generation of income funneled into the Vatican (after their elegant lifestyle is covered).In 300 years the RCC wil refer to these times as “one in which the church was falsely and malignantly attacked by atheists, non-believers, government and enemies of Christianity. In a massive effort to discredit the piety and chasteness of the clergy the church and her followers fought a protracted battle against evil and eventually triumphed to the greater glory of the church.”I assure you that this will come to pass…this is the history of the criminal enterprise called Catholicism.May the light of knowledge shine on your path,

  • elizdelphi

    Thanks for this refreshing article. One of the best commentaries yet, thanks particularly to the author actually having read more deeply (and with understanding) in Pope Benedict’s writings and able to give a fuller insight into his thought. I’ve seen a lot of glaringly ignorant commentary about this, from people who know or care little about how the Church really works or thinks and often tend to see malice in everything.

  • missgrundy

    If the Pope were a true liberal he wouldn’t stop priests from marrying. As a lapsed Catholic, I can’t understand how you can allow Anglican priests who are married, to remain married and become Catholic priests when our own clergy do not have that luxury. It doesn’t make any sense. The church would have a two-tier system: ex-Anglican priests who are married with children and Catholic priests who can’t. If an ex-Anglican priest who is married and a father can direct the activities of a parish, a Catholic clergyman should be allowed to do the same.

  • Omyobama

    MAP529 said it all. Radical, indeed, and for those of you who believe this pope has no intention of undoing Vatican II, why don’t you inquire into the status of the literal “witch” hunts involving the community of American Nuns? God forbid that any woman, anywhere, anytime should have a voice in this patriarchy — read Maureen Dowd’s excellent NY Times column last week for some vastly underreported information on this pope’s true agenda. Cardinal Ratzinger is alive and well in the doctrinal shifts back into the nether regions of the 20th (or 15th) Century. I hope he’s successful with the Anglicans, because I and millions like me don’t even pretend to call ourselves Catholic any longer.

  • rmcgolden

    mormons…catholics..all the same old crap

  • ArchieHaase

    Outside the Evangelical Christian movement where they are trying hard to morph into a kinda super Jewish sect. The rest of western Christianity is pretty much the same.Most mainline protestant have more in common with each other and Rome then differences. I think this Pope sees this and is acting accordingly.

  • Cthulhu3

    This is one of the best pieces on contemporary Catholicism that I have read in the Post in recent years. Stevens-Arroyo and Father Reese, SJ, add little to a deeper understanding of the Church. They just drone on about the same liberal/conservative tug-of-war (we know which side they are tugging for). To recognize the forces that have made the theological liberals the “status quo conservatives” of the Church in recent decades, and the traditionalists the outcasts of the Vatican II “coup” takes a deeper analysis than they seem to be capable of.Dear Post Editors, I nominate Patrick Deneen as head columnist for “Catholic America.” Stevens-Arroyo is so hackneyed who merely parrots all liberal positiosn as foregone conclusions. Toss him out!

  • flamingliberal

    I find the Greek mythology much more interesting than Christian myths. With their feuds and their alliances, their bacchanals, their willingness to experiment sexually and push the bounds of sexual behavior; all this makes their stories much more interesting.Christian gods and goddesses don’t like sex, in fact, they’re born without having it.

  • ccnl1

    There are many flaws in the foundations of Catholicism. One is the papacy. It relies on one passage in Matthew and most contemporary NT exegetes after a thorough analysis, have concluded that said passage was not uttered by the simple preacher man aka Jesus. Time for new management with leaders chosen by democratic voting!!!

  • SteveR1

    When will we see some press time for other Christian leaders? The Roman Catholic Church is only one of many Christian denominations.

  • hotdogme

    I’m no holy roller but I will say this about the Pope, he may well be trying to save the papacy and Western Civilization but he is doing it with words and not explosives like another religion I know of who shall not be named here. I dont want a fatwah against me.

  • JillCalifornia

    It is a wonderful male dominated world of male religion. And all the male fools lost the words from God.

  • mikepost1

    “creative minority” indeed! If there is a better phrase to describe the gay community than creative minority I haven’t heard of it yet.

  • DCguy6

    Thanks very much for this very insightful article, and for communicating more light than heat.

  • SubbuIyer

    The fundamental problem with the Abrahamic religions is that they axiomatically introduce “a God” and follow it up with a religious (pun intended!) zeal to establish that “their God” is “better” than “everyone else’s”. This approach is intolerant at its core and, as has been demonstrated repeatedly over time, quickly leads to contradictions and strife.On top of this is the price that one has to pay if one begs to differ from them. One goes to “Hell”, one is eternally damned etc. etc.Built on such intellectually flimsy foundation, no wonder the Pope feels the need for desperate measures to keep the sheep together!One only needs to take a closer look at ANY of the Eastern thought streams for refreshing alternatives.

  • ssbalepu

    Anything that requires “saving” is “man-made” or a result of a problem created by humans. Religion(and God) are no different being a human creation. Hopefully the effort to save will not turn into breeding more radicals and add add fuel to the fire of religious fanaticism engulfing and polarizing the world today.

  • Roism007

    I dont know why but when I look at him, he reminds me of the Devil himself especially with his red shoes on….there is something creepy about him when I see his footage on News maybe because he represents lots of Child Molestors across the world under the banner called the Catholic Church….I dont know but there is definetly something creep about this Pope

  • Maerzie

    Since I am no theologian, I can’t put my 2 cents worth in because I barely understand what I have read above. However, obviously we do have many expert theologians here who have all dissected and analyzed the purpose, the intent, and the outcome already anyway. I have only 16 years of Catholic education, including superficial skeleton theology, but they obviously have a much better grasp of this astonishing and unique undertaking.

  • nlcaldwell

    I wasn’t convinced by your argument until I read the comments. If the discourse on this page is any indicator, Western Civilization does need saving.

  • gibo

    Hes not trying to save Christianity but build a ONE WORLD CHURCH that consumes all other religions.

  • tfburke19

    I am sympathetic to your plea to read Benedict on a non-political plane; however, you ascribe political sensibilites when none necessarily apply. After all, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” were used to describe the influence of certain bishops and theologians at the Second Vatican Council. In fact, Joseph Ratzinger was even considered a “liberal” at the time. To be honest, you need to provide a more through analysis of Ratzinger, and you’d do well to compare him to other pontiffs, especially John XXIII and Paul VI. They were certainly activist bishops in their own right.What Ratzinger has done to the church – to all of us – is really a story that will only be told decades into the future. But without a doubt, he has left an indelible mark on the life of the church, and it would be disengenous not to label him an activist who has reacted against liberalizing tendencies in a new-born church that was only beginning to find its way after the revolution of Vatican II.

  • tojby_2000

    The last time we had a pope who decided to save Christianity he lost the Papal States and damned near lost his Vatican.

  • dubhlaoich

    “So oft in theologic wars,John Godfrey Saxe

  • uzs106

    The idea is continuity, the catholic church is the oldest institution in the world and still global like the Roman empire. Continuity is a value in itself. It is a peacefull movement, just an element of opposition in a material and — as the president of Iran likes to call it in his precise and convincing way — arrogant world.

  • outofplaceinthebeltway

    I concur with many of the early posts praising the author and recommending that he replace the Post’s existing Catholic “On Faith” representatives. This post was a welcome breeze of fresh air from the comments of Father Reese (predictably critical of the Church) and Mr. Stevens-Arroyo (alternately predictably critical of the Church and predictably apologetic for liberal politicians).

  • Mary_Cunningham

    I was of two minds about responding here. Firstly, I’m still in shock from the vicious attack on the Church by Richard Dawkins. How could a responsible org. Like WacoSad, really, a sad state of affairs.But Patrick Deenan’s article is good. It’s a platitude, I guess, to say we’re in a time of transition because history is nothing but a series of transitions. Still, from an American point of view, this particular transition is fraught: the country is losing its dominance to Asia. Europe is declining even faster: its birth rate fell below replacement years ago and it feels threatened by a dangerous, unassimilated and fast growing Muslim minority. Against this background the Holy Father—an old man in a hurry—has taken steps to consolidate his flock with true believers from other apostolic churches and those who separated from the Church due to liturgical changes. IMHO this is not due to the darkening political background, rather it is a response to the evangelical challenge. Catholicism, more than any other Christian faith, is a ‘cool’, highly centralized religion. Protestant religions that resemble the Church have been losing members—imploding almost—to the evangelicals (a ‘hot’ religion). Also in Asia and Africa—where much of the future n Christianity lies–the evangelicals are a fast growing sector of the Christian faith. Only in Latin America, profoundly Catholic, has the evangelical tide been countered. In Brazil, the best example, Catholics have risen from 70% of the population in 2000 to 75% in 2007, whilst the Protestant evangelicals have remained constant. What Benedict is doing is consolidating Catholicism’s hold on the traditional segment of Christianity. He is not so much ‘poaching’ as hastening the decline of the old established state religions, on their last legs in any case.

  • Mary_Cunningham

    PS: Would very much support the inclusion of a younger, more traditional Catholic on the board, like Patrick Deneen. He might even be courageous enough to object to some of the more vicous anti-Catholic rants to which the Post occasionally succumbs.

  • razzl

    If Benedict is a “radical traditionalist”, then that’s the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it? We’re at a moment in the development of human society where the values Christians espouse have largely taken hold of secular civil society, and yet he’s willing to accept the idea of defending theological extravagances like the patriarchal, celibate priesthood even if it means allowing the church to shrink to a tiny core of unquestioning, deluded people? How sad, what a limited vision. The Christ of the gospels was a radical egalitarian whose religion was about interpersonal relations, not institutional relations. Benedict owes it to history to become a “fundamentalist” in the true sense of the word and begin reforming the church, not continuing it in its present state in a mistaken nod to “tradition”…

  • Mary_Cunningham

    Do you really think the values Christians espouse have taken hold in secular society?For example: a) abortion: going back to the earliest Church Christians eschewed abortion and infanticide

  • gpcarvalho

    A two-paragraph note on “creative minorities.” Among my Catholic, and even non-Catholic, friends in Brazil many still refer with enormous respect and admiration to an extraordinarily innovative bishop, Helder Camara (known simply as Dom Helder), who lived and worked among the poor and ended up being marginalized by the government for his considerable efforts to defend human rights. In addition to his courageous attempts both to combat violence and to reduce poverty, Dom Helder, my friends recall, organized the Brazilian Conference of Bishops and played a key role in the establishment of the Latin American Conference of Bishops. According to my Brazilian friends, because of Dom Helder and some of his colleagues the Catholic Church was then perceived as dependably aligned with the poor in their desperate struggle for survival. Such perception apparently evaporated. My friends believe that with the recent papacies the idea of social justice is gone, being replaced by themes such as sex and abortion.

  • ccnl1

    Once again, there are many flaws (e.g. Resurrection, Ascension, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Original Sin, Atonement Theology, Transubstantiation) in the foundations of Catholicism. Another major flaw is the papacy. It relies on one passage in Matthew and most contemporary NT exegetes after a thorough analysis, have concluded that said passage was not uttered by the simple preacher man aka Jesus. Time for new management with leaders chosen by democratic voting!!!

  • Alex511

    fr tfburke19:>…What Ratzinger has done to the church – to all of us – is really a story that will only be told decades into the future. But without a doubt, he has left an indelible mark on the life of the church,…That he has. He’s really done a number on the Church. Too bad he’s completely forgotten all of the good that Pope John Paul II did.

  • lizard2

    Its amazing how many loons there are analysing the meaning of the Catholic church and the Papacy with gross illogic;and irresponsiblity.Benedict is moving ahead mindful of the Prophecy of St Malachy and the Virgin Mary of what is to befall the Church of the future.God bless us all.

  • tfburke19

    There is an important element to highlight here. “Gaudium et Spes,” the groundbreaking pastoral constitution on the church, made a remarkable statement just by its title alone: The Church “in” the Modern World. The document had originally been titled, The Church “and” the Modern World, as if the church was a separate entity from society. But the bishops at Vatican II rejected that idea and voted to cast the church as a partner to the world and a help to the well-being of all people; and in a later document, the church is described as leaven for the world, that which allows society to rise to the occasion, as it were, to become harbingers of justice and peace in a world full of need. I think that, without a doubt, this epitomizes the congenial demeanor and hopeful vision of the late John XXIII.Joseph Ratzinger, however, took a long, hard look at the world and decided otherwise. And I suspect that his view of the church is far more prevalent today than it was in the 1960’s. Benedict sees the church as a safety harbor or lifeboat, still present in the world but as an alternative to the horrors of a society gone mad which, sadly, now includes Archbishop Williams and the world-wide Anglican communion. Catholicism is “the” atlernative for those who long to resist the nefarious work of a maniacal, death-dealing world. Given the recent statement by Levada, I think it’s safe to conclude this forsaken world includes openly gay men and women Anglican bishops.Whatever people think about Benedict’s approach, it is hard to argue that he is not making political waves. Surely, his work is not entirely political; there are theological reasons for rejecting gays and women. But it would be wrong to ignore the political motives or implications of Benedict’s papacy. He’s too shrewd and too intelligent. No doubt, John XXIII understood the political nature of his work as well (e.g. see his beloved Pacem in Terris). The difference is that John saw the world as a potential friend and partner in solving the problems of human misery. Benedict, however sees the world more as the instigator of evil than as a potential ally in its resolution. Both are valid “political” positions for these two. But make no mistake, they are clearly political.

  • Mary_Cunningham

    I don’t know if any here have it but I’ve been reading Christopher Dawson: Benedict’s worldview has more in common with that of the early Christians than we realize. These men and women, egalitarian and devout, held themselves apart from the Empire, although, unlike the Jews, despite terrible persecutions, the early Christians never revolted. Rather than compromise their religious beliefs, they accepted martyrdom, but they were not violent. For the decadence of the Roman Empire, substitute the decadence of Western Europe and (more recently)the US.Benedict is probably the most learned and intelligent of any who have held the Papacy in modern times. It is disheartening that he holds contemporary times in such low esteem, but who is to say he is wrong? Not this Catholic surely.

  • ccnl1

    From Malachy’s prophecies?????/(more like fortune telling)”Spanish writer father Benito Jerónimo Feijóo wrote in his Teatro Crítico Universal (1724-1739), in an entry called Purported prophecies, that the ones by Saint Malachy’s were a shameful forgery, claiming that they were created ad hoc during the 16th century. As a proof, he offers an accurate fact: that the first time the prophecy is mentioned is on a handwritten account by patriarch Alfonso Chacón (a.k.a Alphonsus Ciacconus, 1540-1599) in 1590 (this account would be later published, in 1595, by the abovementioned historian Arnold de Wyon); in this account, Chacón only comments the prophecies until the papacy of Urban VII (whose papacy only lasted September 1590, and was the current pope at the time Chacón wrote the comment). According to Feijóo, Chacón, who held a great intellectual prestige at the time, was lured to comment the prophecies by someone who wanted to help cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli (1522-1605) reach the papacy. By showing them to be accurate till Urban VII, it was expected people to believe the next ones; that way, Girolamo Simoncelli could be easily elected pope, since the prophecy after Urban VII’s one tells about a pope Ex antiquitate urbis (from the antiquity of the city), a fact that seems to fit him, who was cardinal of Orvieto (literally “old city”, urbs vetus), or at least better than Gregory XIV, who was elected pope after Urban VII. Thus, the forgery would have been useless, since Simoncelli was not elected pope. Jesuit father Claude-François Menestrier also claimed that the prophecies were forged in order to help the papal candidacy of Girolamo Simoncelli, offering similar reasons to those of Feijóo. Spanish historian José Luis Calvo points out that the prophecies seem to be very accurate till Urban VII, fitting perfectly even the antipopes, but that afterwards great efforts have to be made in order to make the prophecies fit their pope. Feijóo’s explanation is usually regarded as being the most probable proof of the forgery.”

  • persiflage

    I have to say, it’s amazingly liberating not to be a Catholic, after generations of Catholicism in the family background.The truth seems so remotely distant from doctrinaire Catholicism, that one wonders how intelligent humans continue to buy into it. The doctrines of Catholicism are not only otherwordly, but unnecessarily impossible in this or any realm. The utter lack of reality testing is evident, and yet perfectly intelligent people continue to buy into the superstitious dogmatism from whence Roman Catholicism bases it foundations. Mysteries abound, but they appear to be of the psychological kind. Finding the divine is not really so hard – it’s right in front of you…..but the explanation is elusive. Neither God nor the Pope are the answer to this prisoner’s dilemma.

  • JB78

    The pope might not be theologically conservative, but he comes across as organizationally conservative. Both can be inferred from the event; he does not mind Anglican theology or see it as unorthodox, if he can accept Anglicans in the Catholic church, but he accepts the kind of Anglicans who are against women or gay clergy, which is a matter of church organization.

  • persiflage

    Thanks for the Dawkins link Farnaz – couldn’t help but leave some spoor of the apostate on my way through :^)

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Persiflage,Great post, yours, on Dawkins’ thread!

  • Mary_Cunningham

    TFBURKE19:The other clue to Benedict’s worldview is his name: Benedict the former of monasticism in Western Europe. This would tie in to the “creative minorities” phenomenon mentioned in the article, an example furnished by GP Carvalho in Brazil.What is interesting is, in contrast to (much) later orders like the Franciscans and most famously, the Jesuits, these early orders were enclosed: small islands of Christian knowledge,morals and works in a sea of warfare and ignorance. It seems the Holy Father is very pessimistic indeed. I hope it is not too late. I will go to mass today for our Church.

  • JB78

    @Mary_CunninghamRecognize this guy?

  • ccnl1

    And the strange and sad “gibberisher” returns with yet another ID/email address.

  • ccnl1

    And the strange and sad “gibberisher” returns with yet again with another ID/email address.

  • Paganplace

    Hrm, columnist. If this is what this Pope has in mind, I say this to you and he: Change most certainly needs to happen in the West, but ‘More of the same’ …radicalized… doesn’t lead to anything productive. That’s not ‘saving civilization,’ …as phrased here, it just sounds more like planning to come out on top from some disorder when you crash it. Can’t even seem to talk about it without blaming freedom and choice and civilization itself as petty and empty. But that’s what you *teach,* and then don’t want the responsibility for people tending to act that way. Or for the divisions and callousness and even senses of helplessness that causes. Makes people want for more control and absolutism, which suits some authorities just fine. But if it’s as the columnist says, well, sounds more like using polarization to just keep on blaming ‘nonbelievers’ for the effects of your own teachings. You can *claim* it’s everyone but you that’s materialist and all these other things you don’t like. This doesn’t make it so. Seems to me no one’s been able to get *elected* in this country without professing such beliefs for a long time. If something’s gone rotten about Western society, well, maybe all these centuries of being obsessed with controlling sexuality and maintaining political influence… Isn’t something that can be just denied like so many clergy abuse situations.

  • ccnl1

    Fear not, the Wiccans are here to save us all from debauchery and sin!!!All bow to the great Horned god and his Three Goddesses!!!

  • JB78

    @PaganplaceThere is nothing wrong with western society, and to equate the Catholic church with western society is dumb; the Catholic church couldn’t really care less about liberal values (which is what you think of usually, when you say ‘western society’).And when someone does something illogical, you can bet that there is something weird in their worldview.

  • coloradodog

    Now if Benedict were only radical enough to defrock and send to prison several hundred pedophile priests he and his cardinals and bishops are still aiding and abetting.”Christ’s Church” indeed.