Balance on Benedict

I was struck by the gracious summary on NCRep by Thomas Reese, SJ on Pope Benedict. This piece of analysis rang true to me:

As a German professor, he was used to lecturing students who took down his words, memorized them and gave them back in exams. As a professor, he used technical language that might mean one thing in the classroom but something completely different on the street. Thus, he could say most Protestant churches were not true churches because he had defined “church” as a Christian community with a legitimate episcopacy. He could also use a word like “disordered,” which for him had philosophical meaning while on the street it would be interpreted as a psychological term.

As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he saw his role as being like that of a German professor. Those who questioned or did not provide the right answers were flunked and dismissed from school. He saw to it that theologians raising questions or having contrary views were removed from seminary faculties. Priests with these views could never become bishops. In this, he and John Paul were on the same page.

The Catholic world is not a university, however. In the world communion of faith such practices of removal, dismissal, and throwing obstacles accomplished the opposite of the intention of smoothing the internal unity of the Body. The persecuted drew followers, often not of their own intent. Book sales rose. The CDF was whispered about as an unjust and antiquated body. Often the commentary was louder than whispers. Its head was vilified as vicious, uncaring, and cruel. Ascending to the Chair of Peter, he had more baggage than a jet airliner.

Pope Benedict “haters” were never on the warpath against a pope. They were skeptical and sometimes bitter about the head of the theology department-turned-university president.

The NCRep comboxes are quite illustrative as they developed this morning. Fr Reese is attacked for being soft on Benedict. Fr Reese is attacked for “hate.” Who can deny that Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict was and is a polarizing figure? That should be the consensus of everybody.

I think the time for commentary on the man is drawing to a close. Soon enough the 1982-2013 era will be well-ensconced in the realm of memory. Those of us who disliked the actions of the man in question can strive for a greater graciousness when we speak of him. Speaking for myself, my plate is pretty full of the things I’m tasked to accomplish for the sake of the Gospel today. I’d rather consider the future than nurse grudges about the past, be it 2007, 1998, 1985, 1982, 1968, or whenever.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to Balance on Benedict

  1. Copernicus says:

    (What era began in 1982, Todd – JPII was elected in 1978, no?)

  2. Liam says:

    Ratzinger’s first full year as prefect of the CDF.

  3. Kenneth Cover says:

    “Soon enough the 1982-2013 era will be well-ensconced in the realm of memory. Those of us who disliked the actions of the man in question can strive for a greater graciousness when we speak of him.”

    Are you aware of how uncharitable and mean-spirited this statement comes across? You render life in the Church a zero-sum game with a winner takes all mentality. Because of this your “striving for greater graciousness” rings particularly hollow and insincere.

    This slicing and dicing, compartmentalization, and pitting of one against the other in the life of the Church isn’t charitable. It isn’t even Catholic.

    In the words of St Paul to the Corinthians, “But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

    We all have to pull together.

    • Todd says:

      I appreciate your comment here, Kenneth. I agree that we all have to pull together, and that’s what I thought the point of my post was.

      However, you’ve taken a rather selective quote from me out of the context that it’s time to stop complaining about the pope emeritus and we might do better to focus on the present. Personally, I disliked many of the man’s policies and actions while head of CDF. I certainly don’t dislike him personally, but I’m aware my views are moderate compared to some. I’m just acknowledging something most everybody knows.

  4. Todd says:

    Another point on the way Cardinal Ratzinger handled the CDF is made here: http://ncronline.org/news/people/look-back-dupuis-skirmish-vatican.

    Even if one might agree that Jacques Dupuis forwarded some suspect theology in his 1997 book, what do defenders of the CDF head have to say about investigators not reading replies, or even reading the original book? What about changing a document after a person has signed it? A theologian might say this is as corrupt as the Vatican Bank, and how might a defense of that charge be handled? I wouldn’t want to be on the team for that one.

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