Monday, September 26, 2011

A Papal Appeal To Family Unity And Talk Of Retirement

Talk about 'Rock Star' status.  I just can't fathom Jesus ever allowing such a display for Himself.

I've been reading Vatican Insider coverage of Pope Benedict's trip to Germany and found the following article.  Of course this was yesterday, and today VI says No way, No how, but I wonder.  The following was edited for length.

Media say Pope may resign in April

Andrea Tornielli -  Vatican Insider - 9/25/2011
There is one front page news story that will certainly not go unnoticed: that is, that the Pope is thinking about resigning during the Spring of 2012. Journalist Antonio Socci has confirmed the same in the Italian daily, Libero.
"For now,” Socci writes, “he is saying that this may be true (Joseph Ratzinger’s personal assumption), but I hope the story does not reach the news. But this rumor is circulating high up in the Vatican and therefore deserves close attention. The Pope has not rejected the possibility of his resignation when he turns 85 in April next year.”
Socci recalls that the assumption he will resign, without any hitches, was the same thing Ratzinger talked about in an interview in the book “Luce del mondo” (Light of the World), when, in response to a question by interviewer Peter Seewald, he said: “When a Pope arrives at a clear awareness that he no longer has the physical, mental, or psychological capacity to carry out the task that has been entrusted to him, then he has the right, and in some cases, even the duty to resign.” Furthermore, in another passage, Benedict XVI wondered if he would be able to “withstand it all, just from the physical point of view.”
Socci makes the following observation in today’s edition of Libero: “Today, Pope Benedict seems to be in really good form; just the same, there’s the issue of his age and just how much energy he has left.” But the writer/journalist also recalls another passage from the same book interview, which has to do with the attacks and controversies related to the pedophile priests' scandal: “When there is a great menace, one cannot simply run away from it. That is why, right now, it is definitely not the time to resign.”
“It is actually at moments like these that one needs to resist and overcome difficult situations. One can only resign at a time when things are calm, or simply, when nothing more can be done about it. But one cannot run away right when the threat is alive and say, ‘Let somebody else take care of it.”......
  ......Anyone who knows Ratzinger would confirm that the answer he gave to Seewald, is what he feels would be best, in the event of him becoming physically, mentally, or psychologically incapacitated. However, such a possibility seems, at the moment, somewhat remote. In fact, one is immediately struck by the contrast between the front page story in Libero and the images coming from Germany, where Benedict XVI is concluding an historic trip, during which he made 18 speeches in four days. Many of these put him under considerable pressure, especially as they were entirely written by him. The German press was astonished at the old Pontiff’s endurance, which he demonstrated by the fact that he was able to manage all the exhaustion from moving around; he did not sleep more than one night in a single bed. And he was successful in carrying out a packed schedule of engagements, meetings, vigils, and celebrations. 


It is not hard to believe that an 85 year old Benedict might seriously want to retire to Bavaria and spend his last years quietly writing.  Unfortunately it is more believable that the elder circle in the Vatican absolutely do not want this to happen, and like with John Paul II there will be no retirement of Benedict XVI.  I actually find this abusive, but it's entirely consistent with the history of the Vatican of the last 150 years.  The symbol of the papacy is far more important than the practical effectiveness of it's occupant.  What would all those traditionalists do with the fact of two elected popes living at the same time? 

I am personally stuck on such burning questions as to whether Benedict would get to vote or even be in the electoral college.  His retirement and 'advice' from inside the conclave might be the most effective way to see to it that his 'reform of the reform' continues on after him.  No wonder I'm stuck. 

In Benedict's busy weekend, there were a couple of statements that I found more interesting than others Two came in his last homily.  Again from Vatican Insider.

Benedict XVI issued an unusual and sincere warning, a provocative message that should be read very carefully: it is better to be a searching agnostic than a fake believer. During the mass that was celebrated this morning at the airport in Freiburg, in the last day of his German visit, Benedict XVI praised the "agnostics who cannot find peace due to their questions about God, people who suffer because of our sins and are desirous of a pure heart."

They are "closer to the Kingdom of God than "routine" believers who only see the apparatus of the Church without their hearts being touched by faith."....

And later on Benedict says this:

"The renewal of the Church," Ratzinger warned, "can only come about through the willingness to convert and through a renewal of faith.” The German Pope, aware that the ill-feeling towards the Vatican's failure to respond to requests for renewal, is most felt in his homeland, Germany and in Austria, warned that "the Church in Germany will overcome the great challenges of the present and future and will remain yeast in society, if the priests, consecrated persons and lay believers in Christ, loyal to their own specific vocation, work together in unity." 

And then this in another homily:

"It is true that there is a growing aversion towards the Catholic Church, and that the number of people leaving the Church is constantly growing, but one of the reasons for this, is that people have “wrong ideas” about the Church and “focus on its negative aspects,” “when staying with Christ, means staying with the Church.”  (Sigh....) 

Benedict stressed conversion a lot in his many talks and homilies, just as he also stressed unification with Rome.  As the above quotes demonstrate he even makes a connection between Catholics who are now agnostics and who suffer 'because of our sins and are desirous of a pure heart".  But then to have him call for conversion to the very system that produced all those once Catholic now agnostic searchers is precisely what drives me crazy with his papacy.  It's the classic behavior of an abusive parent.  The real conversion needs to go the other way around.  The Church in Germany and Austria is well past any notion of 'coming home' to an unreformed and unconverted parent.  The 'hug/slap' thing only works so long before the recipient of such 'attention' says:  "See ya buy, call me when you've really changed.  We'll talk then."

If Benedict can't see this, than he really should retire because Papa Ratzinger is not the man who can put this German family back together.  


  1. Could THIS be the problem of the Catholic Church? What if bigness itself perverts any institution? To the point where: "instead of growth serving life, life must now serve growth, perverting the very purpose of [its] existence"

  2. Thanks for the link, it is excellent.

  3. Small faith communities also. Not these big mega-parishes. 12 apostles who were sent out to preach (in couples). A handful of women who looked after Jesus.

    The early Church was basically a series of small dioceses in which Deacons fanned out by foot, carrying the sacred species, after the Bishops's Eucharist (think bread immersed in wine) to be mingled with those of each small faith community. A real sense of "communion" throughout a small diocese.

  4. Actually, I rather agree with what Benedict said about the institution. It is what many people have been saying about the institution for some time. He just doesn't get how his comment actually validates the criticisms of the hierarchy as it now stands. The faithful get it -- it is not about the institution. The hierarchy does not get it -- because they think it is about the institution.

  5. The Roman church is exclusive, not inclusive. One needs to pass all of the purity tests. When Jesus fed the 5000, EVERYONE was fed. And the abundance was left over. We can do no less than to follow him.

  6. According to the rules, Benedict would not have a vote since he's over 80. I'm sure the bigger influence is behind the scenes. If B16 retires, he can easily line up another 20 years of what we've seen since 1978.

    Word verification: quackst


  7. Shannon, I have to admit, I laughed out loud about your word verification. How sad is that?

    Cembalo8, I agree, Benedict says all the right things but too often in the wrong direction. I swear the man gives me heartburn.

  8. I can not recall the name of the nun theologian who told benedict that the sisters and the hierarchy were like trains on the same track going different directions. This is by and large true of the laity and the hierarchy as well. The philosophy of Leopold Korr no doubt has a lot of truth in it. The post Regonites convinced many people that the US problems were caused by big government, perhaps it is time that others begin to convince people the problems that big corporations cause.

    I do not fear schematic religious groups, what I fear is authoritarian leaders‘ misuses of power.

  9. "Searcher said...
    The Roman church is exclusive, not inclusive. One needs to pass all of the purity tests. When Jesus fed the 5000, EVERYONE was fed. And the abundance was left over. We can do no less than to follow him."

    It's totally inclusive, encompassing as it does pretty much every civilisation, nation, culture, and subculture on the planet.
    What other 'church' can claim such a thing?

  10. Funny, invictus, how you exclude human beings and apparently can't even see that.

    God doesn't have personal relationships with cultures. He has personal relationships with individual human beings. Whether you like it or not, the Vatican does insist on including/excluding whichever individual human beings it wishes. For example it excludes me because my conscience tells me the the most important aspect of a person's life is NOT gender but the more inclusive humanity we all share.

    Now, perhaps you can explain why you think inclusive of cultures and sub-cultures is more important.

  11. How long has Ratzinger been Pope? Sure it is easy to count back to the day of election or consecration. Before that he was the trusted adviser, one better to determine matters of policy. For many years Ratzinger and others carried out the everyday tasks that the physically incapable JP2 was unable to perform himself.

    Benedict is 85. Actuarial tables show that a man similar in age and health can expect to live to 91. No one doubts that the responsibilities are heavy. It would be foolish not to plan for succession.

    Personally I would prefer a pope could retire but Curia culture suggests that it is impossible.

    Although the linked article makes a good case against very large organizations I am not convinced that size determines failure.

    To my way of thinking it is the isolation of the clerical hierarchy from the world and alienation of laity from meaningful participation in all aspects, but particularly decision making that will doom the present church.


  12. Shades of a rock star-the headline reads "We Are the Pope" in German. The photo reminds me of the "Touchdown Jesus" mosaic on the front of the library at the University of Notre Dame. Before ND enlarged its stadium, game watchers could see "Touchdown Jesus" over the goal posts, now it's no longer possible to see the mosaic from the stadium.

  13. But Touchdown Jesus is in the style of that 1960s, touchy-feely Catholicism that is no longer acceptable. They really couldn't tear him down, so they had to raise the stadium to hide some of the mural.


  14. I certainly have noticed that ever since ND blocked the view of Touch Down Jesus, ND can't seem to score Touch Downs period.

  15. p2p,

    I used to believe that we in the USA as a country could unite and bring everything together for the "common good." However with what culminated in the Bush 2 regime, I also see that in trying to bring a forceful power together, there is a great danger that originates in leadership. We here in the US now live in a country ruled by the banksters and other large corporate types. We are now truly ruled by a mob worse than those that existed in the US during the 1920's. Instead of hits on a few small people who stand in the way of one mobsters empire, we now have a president that can make war on nations and kill millions. We live in a country that believes in perpetual war!---the wars on terror and the war on drugs. Terror has been perpetually present since the early beginnings of history. With whom do we sign an armistice?

    The leadership of the RCC is very similar. It makes war with anyone that thinks for themselves and challenges its leadership. You are right about its leadership becoming isolated and out of touch even with its own priests. It has defined itself as the ONE Church and then preceded to act as gangsters.

    Perhaps the ideas of less centralized governance, more power to states rights or individual or smaller church governances is better. Perhaps when one state does something well, others will be allowed to follow and not be commanded to do else wise. We get a taste of this with the legalization of Marijuana. As a physician, I do not believe in everyone going out and using an automobile while smoking a reefer or drinking alcohol at the wheel, but to make a drug like MJ illegal has just led to massive waste of resources. Perhaps it is true of most of the other drugs as well. Some states should have the right to try to do it another way.

    No, I welcome catholic schismatic because there is a possibility of finding new and better ways of leadership. The whole Roman structure is past archaic and the leaderships of Papa Rasi and so many other of the Popes in the past thousand or more years is living proof of a failed structure. It is not possible to live in deep spirituality and support this small group of leaders! Is this anti-catholic, perhaps it is or perhaps it is a rational contribution to what is so wrong in world governance.

    Solutions will take a lot of time, work and even violence (mostly from a fearful leadership) and will be accomplished only from the movements of ordinary people. dennis

  16. @Dennis,

    I too regret the war on intellect and individuals. I abhor the so called wars on drugs and terror as well as the $3 trillion fraud that was the Iraq war. Our major institutions are being tried severely. Some have not been worthy. The banking system and capitalism in general have been able to privatize false profits while handing their failures to the public. Millions of people, the homeless, the jobless, those who cannot afford a decent living have been hurt and hurt badly at a time when the middle class, set back on its heels cannot help.

    Management "science" has long admired the millennial success of the RC Church for being the best example of centralized authority and policy with dispersed autonomy in the individual parish units.

    Withdrawing power from bishops, priests and parishes exposes the church to the very abuses you so well describe. There's not much to admire in the current scheme of things.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful commentary. It is always a pleasure to be involved in any discussion with you.


    PS word: antical

  17. p2p,

    I discussed with a group of academics a few weeks ago about some of our mistakes. We all were in agreement that one of the biggest occurred about 25 years ago when we agreed at a profit for the University to increase the number of MBA graduates by 500 % . So many of the other Institutions did the same thing. It was not long before there was an editorial in the LA times written by a neurologist explaining the lack of ethics in HMO denial of care. An MBA Insurance executive answered that it was about time that doctors begin to recognize that business ethics superseded medical ethics. It seems that the idea of the superiority of business ethics to all other ethics is now taught in these MBA training schools.

    The real problem has come because this group of people religiously believe their training and will do virtually anything to see that it is politically applied. This is truly at the expense of democracy and any sense of ethics. There is a sense of sticking together behind the almighty God of Dinero. The RCC believes primarily that Dinero is dispensed by God the Father to those that live in servitude to their authoritarian structure. This is not The Way of Christ. When governments mimic it, they have gone over to the Dark side. It will take lots of sweat and blood to return to an ethical governance. The US is still a very juvenile country that the solders may very well fire on a populace that demonstrates for change. Ratzinger has led the way by firing on those with new ideas, theologians, scientists philosophers and politician. No wonder he looks so much like the evil Emperor. To a thinking person he is the Emperor with no clothes. dennis

  18. @Dennis,

    I am an MBA (among other things) who graduated about 30 years ago. The only "ethics" class we had used utilitarianism as its base. What a disappointment after studying philosophy, ethics, health ethics etc. as an undergrad.

    Despite the current failings of government I have optimism that our situation will improve. Having said that, nothing causes my blood pressure to rise like the current government/police tactics that criminalize dissent and stifle human rights, especially that of free speech.

    Don't get me started on the police and government conspiring against the legitimate voices of protests at the recent G8/G20 summits in Toronto. Disgusting. Don't the police realize when they use these techniques it undermines their very legitimacy and authority?


  19. p2p,

    During the Bush administration an 1860's law in the United States was repealed. It made shooting on the civilian populace by the government soldiers a serious crime. I am concerned about what will happen as we will continue to get Marches on Wall Street, Seattle, Chicago, etc in an ever increasing pattern. We will soon have an election on Dibolt voting machines that have been proven can be hacked by eighth graders. Dibolt explains it would be impossible to print a paper ballot that could be used in recounts. This is the same Dibolt that makes most of the ATM machines in the US. One problem is that this company does have its Canadian roots.

    The MBA culture here is that one must be an associate or Vice President before one is worthy to earn a living wage. Professionals and blue collar workers mean nothing. This is part of the new MBA ethics. It is taught in nearly every class every year here. dennis

  20. "Instead of reforms of institutions and structures, which for him would be a sterile accomodation of the Church to the world, Benedict XVI preached an interior, spiritual reform, centered on that supreme "scandal" of the cross "which cannot be eliminated unless one were to eliminate Christianity itself"..."

    So then, no reform of "institutions and structures". How is reforming them, making them more worldly ? There is no contradiction between interior conversion, and reform of the institutions through which the Church expresses its life. Let's just carry on with the sclerotic institution we have now - otherwise we can't have any more of those lovely scandals we like so much,and millions will stay, in the Church, instead of leaving -which would be just terrible. What planet is this man on, for crying out loud ?

    "...Benedict XVI did not in any way give in to these demands, or even mention them, but rather obliged everyone, including those who make them, to consider the seriousness of what is at stake."

    I like the implication that suggesting bishops should be chosen by the people they are to govern and not be foisted on them by an accountable & distant Rome, is somehow frivolous. Ignoring the problems of the Church because one wants not to see them is just plain irresponsible. He's sitting on a volcano, and one day it will explode. Previous authoritarian autocracies have done that, and look where it got them.

    The Pope is asking for two contrary things - for the Church in Germany to have an extensive public presence, and for it to be poor. You need £££££££££££ to have a big public presence, and that means not being poor.


    "But Royal feared that American Catholics won’t read the Pope’s speeches in their entirety and instead will turn to the mainstream media’s often primitive translation of his remarkable insights."
    ## What "remarkable insights", though ? Any reasonably intelligent theologian can come up with the same kind of thoughts; but one doesn't hear about them, because the musings of theologians are not usually thought newsworthy. The only reason he's more important than any of hundreds of theologians whose names are known only to readers of theological literature, is that he is the one theologian who is currently Pope. That does not make him a great thinker.

    "Noting that many reform-minded critics have called for the Church to accommodate a changing cultural context, the Pope said, “Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked what, in her opinion, was the first thing that would have to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I.”"
    True enough - but that is no reason for not changing other things too. He had a lot of a criticisms to make of the Holy Office during Vatican II, when he was a theological expert for Cardinal Frings. It's funny that many of the criticisms he made are highly applicable to the SCDF, not least to the SCDF while he was Prefect of it. It's funny, that, once someone has the authority he used to criticise, his criticisms suddenly cease to apply. In lesser beings than Popes and Cardinals, this attitude is known is hypocrisy.

  22. "The banking system and capitalism in general have been able to privatize false profits while handing their failures to the public. Millions of people, the homeless, the jobless, those who cannot afford a decent living have been hurt and hurt badly at a time when the middle class, set back on its heels cannot help."

    Sensational statement.

  23. "The only reason he's more important than any of hundreds of theologians whose names are known only to readers of theological literature, is that he is the one theologian who is currently Pope. That does not make him a great thinker."

    Ratbiter, absolutely true.

    “Blessed Mother Teresa was once asked what, in her opinion, was the first thing that would have to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I.”"

    Ah yes, but this is coming from a woman who lost the mystical connection and spent fifty years in the dark night. Which leaves one what? The same thinking and personality that brought on the dark night.

    For myself, I think Benedict lost the mystical connection a very very long time ago, which is why he can write good theology on some levels, but cant' act it on any level except that of ritual piety. Not surprising then that he is taking the Church right back to his early mystical roots. Trouble is you can't go back on the mystical path, you can only go forward---or utterly stagnate.

  24. “For myself, I think Benedict lost the mystical connection a very very long time ago, which is why he can write good theology on some levels, but cant' act it on any level except that of ritual piety. Not surprising then that he is taking the Church right back to his early mystical roots. Trouble is you can't go back on the mystical path, you can only go forward---or utterly stagnate.”

    Yes I see very little spirituality in Benedict’s actions and lack of actions. All of Benedict's recent theology is jammed full of contradictions that he fails to rectify academically. This is not even a sign of a respected academic thought process. He has not written good theology for a very long time. Yes you can not live in either the past, because that has already happened, or the future, because we have no idea what will happen. Benedict's problem is that he can not address the issues of the present. He can not live in the present. This is an accurate sign of a personal Borderline thought process. This will not lead us into either spiritual action or deep contemplative prayer. Yes he, too, is caught in the deep dark night or even dark side.
    A leader who tries to lead in the past or the future can not lead in the present at all. Yes it does depend on each of us recognizing the perils of authoritarian leadership wherever we find it. It is a fearful leadership that so often leads to human violence. The more we as individuals understand this our own prayerful action can help to abort some of the harm this man and his appointees are doing spirituality of society. Time for all of us not to whimper about things but to get along and find ways to change them and it dose mean stopping this type of authoritarian leadership.

    Thank God for nuns like Sister Schneiders!! Yes there is hope, but it will require schism!!

    Speaking of schism, my word verification was calogic. dennis

  25. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Colleen, he needs to step down ... would be nice if we could get a liberal in the papacy ... or is that too wishful of thinking? Love your blog!!! :)

  26. pope's "remarkable insights"?

    Jesus: "By their fruits you shall know them."

  27. pope's "remarkable insights"?

    Jesus: "By their fruits you shall know them."

  28. Monica, as much as I would prefer to have a man such as JP 1 in the papacy, that is not the answer. The answer is to have a leadership that will serve the people instead shaming them into serving the institution. Perhaps JP 1 could have accomplished that by decreasing the focus of power from one man, but there will ever be a danger when an organization of governance tends toward authoritarian ways and that includes especially the governance of the US.

    p2p, I once was pretty far into the Jesuits and I hope that experience like your MBA experience helps me understand the pitfalls of authoritarianism. Although it was the Catholic ideas about sexuality that caused me to leave the Jesuits, in each year that I have been gone, I have more understood what it means to be a victim of wrong mindedness. I say this as a person who was never physically abused, but then I was also a powerful athlete and once broke the jaw of a an abusive Jesuit Priest and was not punished because the leadership knew I would never let it go if they attempted to punish me for standing up to this type of abuse.

    We as a people simply must stand up to authoritarianism. It is the most pressing issue of the day.

  29. pope's "remarkable insights"?

    Jesus: "By their fruits you shall know them."

  30. Thanks and welcome Monica. A liberal in the papacy? I'm thinking that's becoming an oxymoron. Besides, the last potential liberal lasted a whole month.


    "“It is sad to see the deterioration of public morals and language,” Cardinal Bagnasco said in an address to Italian bishops.

    “It is especially mortifying to witness behaviour that is not only contrary to public decorum but also intrinsically wretched and empty,” he said."

    Godless shepherds = godless flocks. Simples.

    "...Pope Benedict XVI, in a telegram to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, called for an “ever more intense ethical renewal” in Italy. "

    Excuse me while I die laughing - when Italians ever know anything about ethics ? Or Christianity, for that matter ? At least Tony Bliar wasn't a whoring, womanising orgiast with a fondness for under-age fornication. So what will the Church do about it ? Nothing. And nothing could show more clearly what an utter sham all the professions of the CC to be zealous for Christian morals amount to. The bishops - most definitely including the Pope - are very courageous while treading on those weaker than they are; but put them up agaonst an old bruiser like Berlusconi, and they are "frit".

  32. Great points here. We are in a classic capitalist downfall, predicted by many economists for decades.

    A similar reference for the type of downfall that we could be in is not dissimilar to the period of time in the German economy after WWI and the years leading up to WWII with a corporatist economy handling a tremendous debt load and national pride. They became a beaten down people, had tremendous inflation, with enormous reparations to pay. Well, they did not pay it back. They got back though. Had to have slave labor to do it!!

    The German economy resorted to the same types of economic schemes, and in addition experienced the suffering which collapsed in upon itself and changed the personality of the country into a big monster. The moneyed interest, the national psyche, even leadership from the RCC was so twisted & similarly desirous then as now about protecting their property and assets and own behinds. Germany resorted to a huge suffering to many people around the world as we know and they did it with force against their own people and anyone not on their "side" - a dark side indeed!

    Scary stuff! This is so far from Christ to allow history to repeat itself because some fat cat mafioso corporate mob bosses say it's "good" for us and to just shut up as they sic their dogs on us!

    I am very concerned about the young people who have the courage enough to stand up against these corporate thugs, and the attitude of the police who "are just doing their job." So too such an attitude in a country that lost a war and "had" to get its national "pride" back by sticking it to the rest of the world whether we wanted it or not.

    The mindset after the Vietnam War in the US from right wing quarters was that we "lost" that war because of the left. Reagan showed us we still had "might." We have been steered further right wing ever since and certainly more militaristic. Apparently the biz that wants to be bigger is for using our military to keep all the poor folks in line or keep them out of our borders!

    I experienced the corporate environment and saw how it changed drastically from the 1970's. A look at what is going on now is just pitiful. I experienced the real fascists tendencies in corporate environments. They're not nice and if you are young they can destroy you, especially if a single mother. I witnessed it firsthand. One even said that the only way out of a recession was "to have a war." I couldn't believe they said that. But, that is what they believe.

  33. @Dennis,

    I think most of the problem the laity has with the church is based upon the ill conceived teachings on sexuality. Most of the difference has nothing to do with contraception.

    An earlier thread contained the observation that to each action there is an opposite reaction.

    Thank you for sharing your experience about religious abuse. I once observed one of my football teammates hit hard, visciously actually, on the head with the edge of a clipboard by an abusive priest. To this day it bothers me that I did not say or do anything.