Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Holy Father

An assessment from a traditionalist priest in Ireland:

"Pope Benedict is misunderstood by both sides of the great debate. The progressives see hope for themselves in his gentle manner and slowness to act. The traditionalists see the same things, and despair. Neither reaction is sensible. This man is a thinker and something of a contemplative. Nothing is stranger to him than the methods of his predecessor, and he will reveal neither himself nor his intentions by big gestures or flamboyant pronouncements. He has had a year to watch and to pray.

That year, just passed, was quiet: decisions, although few, were all in one direction. Let us revisit them briefly: the cashiering of Archbishop Sorrentino and his replacement by a known friend of the liturgical tradition; the appointment of bishops sympathetic to the old rite in country after country; the hugely increased place of Latin, Gregorian chant, polyphony and even Mozart (as heard at the recent Mass in honour of the Swiss guards) at papal liturgies.

And outside the liturgical realm: the removal of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald (a believer in “dialogue” with Islam) from the Curia, in place of the cardinal's hat widely predicted for him by his friends on the Left; the precise and deeply traditional tightening of the rules, become scandalously lax under John Paul, for beatifications and canonizations; the abolition of two dicasteries in what is widely understood to be but the first step in a root-and-branch reform of the bloated curial bureaucracy; finally, an insistence on every possible occasion that his role as pontiff is to pass on intact the deposit of the Faith and to draw the attention of the world not to himself, nor to a Christ one-sidedly human, but to Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

But Benedict is not the restorationist we might wish him to be: he is indeed a reformer, but to that perverse understanding of reform which has dominated in the Church for forty years he now counters with his own. He has made his understanding of an authentic reform clear on a number of occasions, but never more incisively than in his address to the assembled Curia on 22 December of last year (our photo was taken on that occasion: note the tiaras on Pope Benedict's throne). In asking, “Why has the reception given to the Council so far been so difficult?” he blamed a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” which he said had “caused confusion” and was “frequently able to find favour among mass media, and also certain sectors of modern theology”.

Alas, those sectors are broad and deep, and continue to dominate in many a seminary and even episcopal conference. Nevertheless they have taken notice, and fear that their time is short. Reform though can be radical even when authentic. We must all brace ourselves for immense changes in our relationship with the Orthodox for example. As undiplomatic a figure as Patriarch Alexis of Moscow has recently stated that Benedict will be the Pope whose “actions will become famous and will be remembered” for their positive effect upon relations between the two Churches. Too many traditionalists, precisely because they are not authentically so, see nothing but scandal here.

On the contrary, the reunion of East and West is the most radically traditional program imaginable. Successfully accomplished, it would revolutionize the position of Christianity in the world and give pause to the secularists. These last are in triumphant mood, but they have met their match in Benedict."

[via Katolik Shinja]


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