Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] Analysis: Was Benedict’s letter an endorsement, a critique – or neither?
Posted on 03/16/2018 2:32:39 PM PDT by ebb tide
Benedict's past statements mean his letter was inevitably of interest
This weeks furore over Benedict XVIs letter could seem a little overblown. First the Pope Emeritus was reported to have written a note paying a compliment to Pope Francis. Then it emerged that the official Vatican photo had blurred and concealed another part of the letter in which Benedict declined to write a short passage on a new collection of booklets about Franciss theology. (The refusal was mentioned at the press conference, but not on the Vatican website or in the original reports.) It was odd that so many headlines should be written about a fairly tame exchange.
But then Benedicts views are inevitably of great interest. The focus of the Churchs current crisis the doctrine prohibiting Communion for the remarried means Benedict is often invoked. As CDF prefect he worked with John Paul II to reaffirm the Churchs traditional teaching; as Pope, he continued in the same line.
Moreover, Benedict often commented on the prohibition. In a 1989 address, he grouped it with three other doctrines: those on birth control, homosexuality, and a male priesthood. All four, he wryly remarked, were part of a litany of objections to Catholic teaching, whose regular recitation has become like the performance of a duty for progressive-thinking Catholics. All four were integral to the Christian worldview which needed an imaginative defence against a revolutionary post-Christian paradigm.
Such words were especially noteworthy because as an up-and-coming theologian in the 1970s, Ratzinger had toyed with the idea of Communion for the remarried. When the relevant volume of his collected writings came out in 2014, just as the Communion debate began, that essay was revised: Benedict confirmed that his earlier musings had been a misstep.
Now, of course the doctrine does not depend on what goes on between the ears of Joseph Ratzinger. The teaching is the Churchs teaching, not his. But for those who dislike that teaching, Benedicts silent presence is an awkward fact. That helps to explain why some people at the Vatican wanted his approval; why they made such a big deal of it when he said some courteous things about Francis; and why, when Vatican officials turned out to have engaged in distortion literally it was so embarrassing.
The letter itself is a mysterious document. You cant quite read it as a vote of confidence in Franciss pontificate. Yes, it says it is foolish to caricature Francis as a mere hands-on pastor and Benedict as a mere ivory-tower theorist, and it refers to inner continuity between the pontificates. But this is rather limited praise, especially given the increasingly wild language paradigm shifts, revolutionary change, etc used by theological liberals claiming to be spokesmen for Pope Francis.
On the other hand, you cant quite read it as a critique of Francis either. Admittedly, the letters language in which he says the volumes on Franciss theology look very interesting, but he has other commitments could be read as displaying Benedicts refined streak of irony. So Sandro Magister suggested, while Fr John Hunwicke delighted in the evidence that Ratzingers old, deft, feline wit has not deserted the dear old man. Maybe. But if Benedict is often ironic, he is never rude or sardonic.
The safest assumption, I think, is that Benedict is trying to say as little as possible not taking a stand, not hitting out at anyone, as some headlines tried to claim.
Benedict is likely to disappoint anyone who wants them on their side. Perhaps he has the same concerns about the Church as, say, the dubia cardinal Joachim Meisner, for whose funeral Benedict sent such a generous tribute. But the Pope Emeritus is not going to publicly endorse the dubia: to do so would make him a protagonist in this already-chaotic drama.
It is also, for all we know, possible that Benedict might revert to the theological liberalism of his youth. (Though it would be deeply uncharitable to predict it.) But since retiring, his interventions have mostly been to praise the kind of figures whom theological liberals resent Cardinal Sarah, for instance. If it is true that sponsors of the new paradigm were trying to get Benedict to help their agenda, they were foolish.
The kindest course of action, surely, is to leave the Pope Emeritus in peace, and not to seek dramatic interventions or blurbs for controversial books. It is tricky enough to be in his position at a time when the Church is so divided. The Ratzingers, Cardinal Meisner once supposedly remarked, are loyal people. It is a habit which does not make their life easier.
Ora pro Benedictus.
Ive read his three books on Jesus of Nazareth. His knowledge of theolgy is profound. He has high praise for several theologians. Interesting is the best he. Can do for Francis.
Pope Benedict is a superbly-knowledgeable theologian. And, a fine writer, too.
He has precious little he can learn from Francis, who can’t even write cogent explanations of his own encyclicals
And for the Church. Francis seems intent upon setting her out to sea without her rudder.
When he’s not drilling holes in the hull.
Fascinating article by NY Times’ Douthat on the destructive nature of this papacy.
I saw this elsewhere and moused around for awhile until I managed to get past the paywall.
It’s a quite good introduction for somebody who has no idea what’s been going on. I’m sending it to my RCIA team.
It was just a polite brush off that he had no idea would be used for propaganda purposes (in the Marxist Leninist sense, not Propaganda Fidei sense).
Holy Spirit, deliver us.
Oh, exactly. “Thank you, this is so interesting, blah-blah, however. sorry but I have not read it and do not intend to read it. God bless you, Benedictus.”
He is surrounded by jackals.
He has done well and has earned his retirement.
We will get through it.
This too shall pass.
Yes, we will. Christ has promised us that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.
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