In case you haven't been following the drive-by media's molding of the Benedict papacy, here's a recap: Pope Benedict, the Nazi-Youth, doctrinal enforcing rottweiller, liberation theology killing Cardinal, was elected to the great glee of the rabidly ultra-conservatives who thought that the end of the Spanish Inquisition was a bad thing. When the Pope didn't excommunicate the world and send the Swiss Guard to invade Los Angeles, it turned out that this Nazi-Youth might not be so bad after all. With the appointment of Cardinal Levada to the Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith and the Pope's frequent visits to his rather liberal brother and meeting with Hans Kung it turned out that the Pope just might be a reasonable guy that the press could live with. Stories started appearing about how happy the liberals were and how upset the same fickle people who had been so happy about his election were now. The Pope's Regensburgh address was considered a misstep and the press continued to talk about how moderate and interested in dialogue this pope was.
Well, the honeymoon is over for the delusional people who expected the Catholic Church to suddenly stop being the protector of the Faith. The last few months have seen several events that show this pope to be – get ready – the Vicar of Christ who sees it as his duty to defend the Faith, not change it. You would think that after 250+ popes the liberals would stop expecting the pope to suddenly declare that the Catholic Church is Episcopalian / Arian / Gnostic / etc.
Let's take a look:
Two years into his papacy, Benedict XVI may be about to reclaim his reputation as a no-holds-barred traditionalist. Thanks to Benedict's thoughtful manner, Church progressives had believed that the man who was once the hard-line Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would cut some slack on areas of doctrinal contention — using his intellectual heft and traditional credentials as necessary cover. But as Benedict turns 80 on April 16 and marks two years as Pope on April 18, the once hopeful progressives have all but given up their fantasy of Benedict the Reformer.
The only doctrinal contention is from the press that would just as soon see the Church destroyed and from out-of-touch liberals who refuse to accept that Truth is true. Notice also that they figured he could use his “intellectual heft and traditional credentials” as COVER to change Church teaching. Imagine the scene:
Pope Benedict sits in his office flipping through the Catechism. “Hmmm. You know, I'm a really smart guy and people think I'm a conservative. Wow, I think that makes a great excuse to toss this book written by a bunch of intellectual light-weights and make the Church Episcopalian, but without the good music.”
The one thing they did get right is that the notion that a pope would change doctrine is a fantasy.
In the coming weeks, the Pope is expected to release a document that would allow the more widespread practice of the traditional Latin Mass, which was all but shelved with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone recently confirmed to Le Figaro newspaper that this motu proprio, or personal initiative of the Pontiff, will allow any priest to say the mass according to the old Tridentine rite (which is delivered in Latin with the priest facing the altar, his back to the congregation), rather than have to seek approval from the local bishop as is now required.
Yep, that document that will shake the foundations of the Church and bring back the Inquisition, or Galileo trials, or something else equally as appalling is on its way. I like how they use the word “delivered” to refer to the Mass. I guess “prayed” would just be a little too respectful.
Eighteen months ago, one Rome-based progressive cleric had said he was “surprised to see that [Benedict] seems to be open to hear new ideas.” But today, the same priest is disappointed.
Ah, yes, they found one anonymous heretic in Rome who is disappointed that Church teaching isn't going to change. Well that settles it for me, Pope Benedict is a failure.
There has been no sign of any of the hoped-for reforms: overturning the ban on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, reconsidering the celibacy requirement for priests, allowing gays in seminaries, or a softening of the condom ban to allow for distribution in AIDS-ravaged Africa.
Who is hoping for these reforms? The average Catholic? The bishops? The press? This is the same laundry list of complaints (minus women “priests”) that comes up every time the press decides what the Church should teach. I also notice that the press brings up the brainless complaint about condom distribution in Africa. Again. Imagine the scene:
African man is getting ready for a night on the town: “I think tonight I will go have sex with one or more random women. It's too bad that, even though I am not Catholic, the Catholic Church has declared that using condoms is bad and therefore I will go spread AIDS while having sex with a bunch of different women because I wouldn't want to commit the sin of using a condom.” Does anyone else see this complaint as a complete sham?
The release last month of the Pope's final document on what had seemed to be a convivial and intellectually open October 2005 bishops' meeting on the Eucharist is a good example of the Pontiff's approach. According to a senior Church official who participated: “He took all that debate of the Synod, and then gave us a document that simply defends the status quo.” This same official acknowledges a bit of past excessive optimism on Benedict: “People were hoping that with his intellectual acumen and understanding of theology, he'd be in a position to make some of these changes. Unfortunately, at this point, I don't think we'll see any of them.”
It's too bad that the Pope has turned out to be the same as his moronic predecessor who didn't have an understanding of theology and therefore won't be changing Church doctrine either.
In fact, the one major disciplinary about-face expected is this coming document on the Latin Mass, a concession to the ultra-conservatives, who have been living and praying on the fringe of the Church since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council brought in mass in the vernacular.
“Ultra-conservatives.” Now THESE folks are really wacky. You thought that those who want to keep the Catholic Church Catholic were bad, just wait until these groups get to come in from the fringe of the Church. There will be calls for a new crusade! The League of Decency will be reborn! Catholic politicians will start taking orders directly from Rome! Run for the hills!
Said one Rome-based priest: “Opening up the Latin rite to anyone would amount to the Church turning back the reforms of Vatican II.” A Vatican official who has worked closely with the Pope said that loosening rules on the Latin rite has been a long-time personal goal of Ratzinger, who had led what turned out to be failed negotiations in the early 1980s to bring back into the fold the followers of the breakaway French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who have defied the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
Another anonymous priest thinks that the widened approval of the 1962 Missal will turn back the reforms of Vatica II. If that means an end to vapid homilies, cowardly bishops and heretical teaching in parishes, I'm all for “turning back the reforms”. Have you noticed that those who howl against the return of the Tridentine Mass sound a lot like those who don't want to give an inch on abortion? “Parental rights laws will turn back the clock on women's rights and lead to the end of the right to abortion.” “Requiring a doctor to show a sonogram to a pregnant woman before an abortion is turning back women's rights and may lead to fewer abortions.”
The Vatican official says that Benedict believes that the Council's legacy “has been abused,” and finding a way to widen access to the Latin rite “has always remained in his heart.” Still, even mainstream members of the Roman hierarchy are opposed, fearing that it will exacerbate divisions within the Church. French bishops have openly argued against it.
Those good old French bishops have done such a great job maintaining the Faith in their country you really do have to give their complaints serious consideration but I really don't see why they are complaining. Since their churches are packed and the Faith is thriving in France, such a move by the Pope will probably go unnoticed there.
I'm also curious why the return of a perfectly legitimate form of worship within the Church would “exacerbate divisions”. Its not like those who don't want to go to a Tridentine Mass are being forced to. It seems more likely that demarginalizing those who would prefer an alternative to what they find in the typical parish each Sunday would bring about some healing. But maybe that's not what the “mainstream members of the hierarchy” want.
The Pope's old office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last spring, privately advised against the motu proprio, the Vatican official said. Still, Benedict does not appear swayed. The professor Pope may be happy to have a conversation on doctrine, but he knows he always has the last word.
At least they ended on a correct note.