My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


On Pope Benedict XVI

I was going to blog yesterday about about E.J.Dionne's innane column purporting to analyze the mindset of the Cardinals going into Conclave. But then they elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to be Pope, and that idea kinda got washed out of the mix.

I was then going to run with a follow-up on reactions from a variety of places to the election of this Pope; luckily, Hugh Hewitt has done a very thorough job of this, complete with articulate fisking, so you don't have to suffer through my commentary on the same subject.

But in the process of looking over articles for that idea, I stumbled on today's E.J.Dionne piece, which, if anything, is even more ridiculous than yesterday's. Here's his analysis:

At a moment when liberals and moderates in the church want to open questions (such as whether only celibate men may be priests), Ratzinger thinks it is time to end uncertainty. Because of his crackdowns, the new pope will take the seat of Saint Peter with an exceptionally large battalion of public enemies inside the church. "Joseph Ratzinger is afraid," the liberal Catholic theologian Hans Kung declared in 1985. "And just like Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, he fears nothing more than freedom."

Thus the question: Why did the College of Cardinals make such a controversial choice, and with such dispatch? The simple answer is that the 78-year-old pope is a transitional figure. Barring a medical miracle, it is likely that a new pontiff will be elected in a few years. One need not be Machiavelli to suggest that potential popes sitting in the Sistine Chapel decided they did not have the votes or the standing to make it this time, and would use a Ratzinger papacy to prepare for the next.

Now, I don't know if Dionne is a Catholic or not, but he certainly writes as if he has never met a serious Catholic theologian. Machiavelli? Seriously? He's talking about a group of men who have devoted their lives to service; men who are extremely bright (was there a single Cardinal described over the last few days who didn't speak at least four languages?), and who, if they desired power, certainly had the personal wherewithal to pursue such goals; and he's talking about men who spend hours a day in prayer, opening themselves up the the Will of God through the Holy Spirit. Does Dionne really think that this group of men is thinking through the process of their own ascendancy after the "impending" death of this Pope?

This is symptomatic of the ridiculous lack of understanding of the secular world of what is going on in the Sacred World. Here's another example, from the Rocky Mountain News

Amy Sheber Howard, local spokeswoman for National Call to Action, which advocates married priests, women clergy, and acceptance of artificial birth control and gay rights:

"I think Cardinal Ratzinger will have quite a challenge bringing together people who feel like he may not have listened to perspectives from across the spectrum of the church in the past. A lot of the issues left unfinished will continue to be challenges for him. Part of Cardinal Ratzinger's task will be to find a way to compassionately bring unity to a church that was left open-ended by John Paul II."

First of all, there's a word for Catholics who advocate married priests, women clergy, and acceptance of artificial birth control and gay rights--Episcopals. And while the Rocky does a good job of finding supporters of Ratzinger, I'm curious why they didn't ask people who would be inclined to know his work best--priests--or why they didn't just go ask the faithful as they were leaving the special Masses said in his honor.

Mostly, though, my thoughts have run along a couple lines. First, I'm amazed at the level of--I don't know--surprise among the commentariat that the Cardinals actually chose A CATHOLIC! Mon Dieu.

Secondly, so much of the commentary has run along the lines of "they will either choose a strong doctrinaire like Ratzinger, or they will choose someone who will focus on issues of poverty and other Third World concerns." As if the Pope can only do one of those things. It is part and parcel of the Church's works over the years that It tends to the sick, the poor, the hungry with a Grace that is unmatched in the secular world--Mother Teresa ring a bell, anyone? What that commentary really means is that they wish the Pope would focus ONLY on the Third World, and let the liberal Ameri/European Catholics do as they please. Just to make the point, has any Pope in history ever travelled to South America and Africa as much as the recently deceased John PaulII? No--tending to the "least of my brothers" is not only compatible with being in full Communion with the Church, it is required by it.

Oddly, the people who seem most receptive to this Pope are my Evangelical friends. I think they, while disagreeing with Church doctrine, recognize the value of strong, principled, God-centered leadership.

But, to bring things back to reality, my Dad put it best. That is, my former Seminarian, Rite of Christian (Catholic) Initiation for Adults-teaching Dad put it thus: it doesn't, in the end, matter who is the Pope. The Holy Spirit guides the Church, as it has for 2000 years, and the person who sits on Throne of Saint Peter is not as important as those of us in the political world tend to think he is. God is the true head of The Church, and as long as the man on the Throne recognizes that simple fact, the rest will take care of itself.

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