No Honeymoon for Benedict XVI

It seems a shame, really. The man hadn’t been pope for two hours when the lefty blogs went (literally) profane and disgraceful (and – of course – adolescent) and the press was hardlining their memes and caricatures of him.

Benedict XVI, it seems, is a relentless and remorseless hard-ass who takes-no-prisoners and wields a clumsy and undiplomatic sword, cutting a path of hard-hearted destruction no matter where he goes, and he will be a disaster for the church, and oppressor of women, gays, people of girth, people of mirth, people with brains, and people without, little puppies, small furry rodents and children he doesn’t like.

Or, something like that.

I have one thing to say to all of this – to all of the breathless ranting from the left and the grim, woe-is-us prognostications of SOME members of the press. It is this:

Fer cryin’ out loud, CHILL OUT.


Take a pill, take a breather, take a belt of tequila and consider that maybe, just maybe, the same people who thought they knew everything about John XXIII and were wrong, will think they know everything about Benedict XVI, and they will be wrong, again.

Because for all that we humans dig our little heels in and believe our puny intellects and opinions and stereotypes and memes matter, the truth is this: the Holy Spirit has a way of confounding everyone. All the time. And most people – unless they have personality disorders – do not remain stagnant. They have a way of growing into their jobs, their new life-situations, as circumstances arise.

Remember what my son Buster said: There is nothing you can learn that a smack in the face won’t teach you faster.

I have said several times, and do believe it in my heart, that Ratzinger had such a moment during John Paul the Great’s funeral, when the crowd’s passion and energy spoke to the College of Cardinals. I think it was a smack for the whole College, but Ratzinger’s face was especially poignant and it has remained in my head.

And now, the liberals who are beside themselves have had their own sort of smack in the face. They have been told in no uncertain terms that – for now, and the foreseeable future – their desire to bring the theory of de-construction further into the church, has been stymied.

I don’t know what they actually expected. It has always seemed very odd to me that people would think the Catholic church will suddenly put a finger to the chin and say, “you know, we’ve been all wrong about this stuff, all this time! Abortion is okay! Jesus didn’t really mean it about divorce! That whole thing about marriage being between a man and a woman, why that was just written in by some homophobe or other!”

The Catholic church has a job to do. As the taproot of Christianity, it must be the centering pole of the Big-Tent-Circus-of-Faith that comprises all of the churches. No matter what the mainline Protestant churches do, no matter how they decide to bend with the times and trends, the job of the Catholic church is to keep that centering pole in place. What is true is true, and no amount of spin and euphemism can change very simple facts: Babies are HUMAN LIFE from the moment of conception. A sacramental marriage is one made by mature, sensible people who make VOWS before God, meaning you have to take marriage seriously – as seriously as you can. In order to be a theologian representing the church, you DO have to believe in things like the Resurrection!

To suddenly swerve away from those truths would be like snatching the centering pole from the tent. The whole thing collapses.

The other part of the Church’s job, and the means by which it can help that centering pole stay erect, is to issue an invitation to all people to “open wide the doors to Christ,” to “cast your nets into the deep,” and to “be not afraid.”

Yes, I know, those are three things JPtG is famous for saying, as he fished and attempted to reel in those who were simply following slipstreams and currents. He was a wonderful fisherman.

But John Paul understood, as does this new pope, that it’s not enough to simply invite. Once you invite in, you have to explain what the club is about, and what the rules are. The Church has a duty to make the invitation to people, “come, and meet Christ…” but it also has a duty to preach the Gospel in full, which means that you can’t simply tell the part about Jesus loving you and forgiving you, without also telling the part where he says, “go and sin no more,” or when he says, “go and show yourself to the priest and cleanse yourself as Moses prescribed.”

Jesus was pretty clear: it’s in the rubrics and liturgy, and yes, authority does matter – go do it. And sin no more.

To invite people into a Church, to meet Christ, without telling them what is expected of them is incredibly unfair – sinfully unfair and wrong and irresponsible. To tell that Christ is Merciful without mentioning that He is also Just – that’s half the story, and it’s like selling someone a new car without an engine. The pope MUST, in fairness, tell people the whole story, or he is not doing his job.

And so it is the job of the Church to invite, to instruct, to create boundaries and guidelines, to admonish and to enforce and to discipline and to love. It is the job of the pope to see to all of this.

Rather like trying to parent a billion or so kids in various stages of development.

It is an enormous job, one that (as with all parenting) cannot be done well without supernatural help. The help will come, and if the pope is faithful, the job will get done.

John Paul II was a remarkable man, but the John Paul that ended his pontificate was not the John Paul who began it. And that will be true of Benedict XVI, as well.

This is an interesting article by the tireless John Allen. An excerpt:

Ratzinger has also said on many occasions that the church of the future may have to be smaller to remain faithful, referring to Christianity’s short-term destiny as constituting a “creative minority.” He has also used the image of the “mustard seed,” suggesting a smaller presence that nevertheless carries the capacity for future growth as long as it remains true to itself.

In a world full of capitalists who think only bigger is better, and other people who think that the most important thing in the world is “to be liked,” that is an incomprehensible idea. A smaller church? Isn’t that going backward? You mean, like, a schism?

Well, yes. Possibly. A larger church that has its heat diluted until it is lukewarm is not pleasing to God. Christ says in Revelation “because you are lukewarm, I vomit you from my mouth…”

It is entirely possible that Benedict’s papacy will be one of surprising and unexpected healing – as I said, the Holy Spirit is not done working on the new pope, and he is a man of considerable gifts, which means he has considerable potential. And by all accounts he is a man who listens and prays.

Laurie Goodstein, a very good writer with the NY Times, gives us this:

In recent years, as John Paul grew more and more debilitated by Parkinson’s disease and old age, Cardinal Ratzinger increasingly became the power behind the throne. Bishops from every country who visit the Vatican on their regular visits spent more time with him than they did with the pope, according to cardinals and Vatican staff.

It may have been this familiarity that led the cardinals to turn to Cardinal Ratzinger as their anchor in this time of transition. The Rev. Joseph Augustine Di Noia, an American priest who serves as under secretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters last week that he often observed the cardinal listening intently to bishops on their visits presenting him with all kinds of conundrums on how to apply the faith in their countries. Cardinal Ratzinger would respond with “remarkable profundity” and “distinctions that are immediately illuminating,” Father Di Noia said.

Hmmmm…doesn’t sound too rabid, irrational, unreasonable and destructive to me.

Joseph Ratzinger has taken the name of Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism, Abbot and a Patron Saint of Europe, and a powerful intercessor against evil and malice. Benedict as Abbot, was a “father,” a writer and a teacher. It is possible, that Benedict XVI will bring many people back into the church, just as Benedict brought so many to prayer and service.

But that first Benedict was not one to put up with unreasonable or unmoveable dissent, either. Such monks would not stay forever in his community.

It may be the same with this Benedict. Perhaps he will preside over the church in a time of schism, where the progressive factions, fed up with waiting for Rome to do what it demands, finally break away, taking all of its boomer-aged dissenters and a good number of poorly-catechised and/or disgruntled Catholics with them. Those folks, seeing no difference in sacramentals and ignorant of other distinctions, will shrug their shoulders and say, “this church is EASIER,” or “more tolerant,” or “less narrow.”

Jesus did say the path was a narrow one, but we’ll put that aside for now.

In this schism scenario, you might even see a few bishops – men who are flattered by the praise of the press and happy to be thought of as mavericks or visionaries, or who sincerely believe in the progressive ideas, or who simply want to be on the cover of TIME, leave and take their properties with them.

And then you’d see the Roman church smaller, but more fervent, more on fire, less diluted, no longer lukewarm.

My point is: no one KNOWS what the Holy Spirit is up to. All of this breathless carrying on by the press is unseemly.

The Holy Spirit is working. Let it work. Relax. Say a few prayers and have a glass of wine. Go take a walk. Go pet the dog.

And maybe consider giving Benedict XVI at LEAST the same benefit of a doubt you would want for yourself, were you put into a job for which others thought you unsuited.

In other words: take Jesus’ advice and apply a little Golden Rule to the bruised ideologies and egos, folks.

Or, if you’d rather, take Atticus Finch’s advice and try walking a mile in his papal slippers.

James Lileks is also wondering what people actually expected:

Choose a cardinal who issues a homily titled “On the Need to Gas Grandpa When He Starts Crapping Himself” – I’m sure it would sound better in Latin – and this might have an impact on the society where I hope to find myself in 30 years. The selection of Ratzinger was initially heartening, simply because he made the right people apoplectic. I’m still astonished that some can see a conservative elevated to the papacy and think: a man of tradition? As Pope? How could this be? As if there this was some golden moment that would usher in the age of married priests who shuttle between blessing third-trimester abortions and giving last rites to someone who’s about to have the chemical pillow put over his face. At the risk of sounding sacreligious: it’s the Catholic Church, for Christ’s sake! You’re not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter’s and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?

UPDATE: Captain Ed is taking particular issue with the Washington Posts disingenuous editorial this morning.

WELCOME Instapundit, CQ and other new readers! I thank you for stopping by and invite you to nose around my categories and see what else we talk about here besides the new pope or the old! :-)

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  • Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

    Excellent, excellent post. Your reference to the Pope as an ‘unfinished work’ is poignant and truthful.

    That said, this Pope seems uniquely able to carry on JPII’s legacy- that of a leader and that of a listener. Like JPII, his having experienced and survived a war that threatened his very physical existance, prepared him to fight a spiritual war- in a time that many would argue, such a battle need be waged. Like his predecessor, he has seen evil and the profane, up close and personal. From the depths of that evil, he chose to serve God. He knows the opposite, what is goodness and what is sacred.

    Whether one is a Catholic or not, his life has uniquely prepared him to serve God and serve his fellow man at this time.

  • Bob Hughes


    Thank you. Thank you with all my heart. Brilliantly and gently put. I believe the new Pope is a sign just as our last Holy Father was. I’ve marked your blog in my favorites. I’m glad I found you.


  • The Jane Bear

    I’m thinking Anglican is a better way to go. It’s basically the same, w/o the Pope. This new Pope scares me.

  • Victoria

    Fantastically irreverent and yet reverent post, Anchoress.

    Wow, you and I are in total synch, and I see by some of the comments you have received, that it’s not just a Conclave of 2.

    Here is my similar take on the topic of MSM reaction called, Underwhelming.

    (Thanks to my friend JSU for giving me this link to your blog)


  • Jimmie

    I don’t see them giving the Pope even the slightest of breaks.

    Them man came right out of the blocks denouncing the modern though that says that the Church must bend to popular moral whims which flies in the face of everything those other people believe.

    In essence, these folks have said “The Church must dilute the Word of God to suit us” and Pope Benedict XVI said “Not on my watch”.

  • The Jane Bear

    Anchoress, Benedict Arnorld is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most Amrericans. This guy is so hard-line that maybe only the Bostonian Irish can accept him, and they were the ones who tossed Cardinal Law outta there in into the vatican. Nice move.

  • The Jane Bear

    Let’s just say that an awful of a American Cathoics are ready to bolt the church, and become Anglicans.

  • Nahanni

    The Jane Bear,

    Be my guest and “bolt” to any “Seinfeld” churches of your choice. The ones about nothing, the ones who think G_d really cares about opinion polls. The happyfunhuglovedove “churches” who will tell you that G_d really didn’t mean the ten commandments to BE commandments, they are really just suggestions. You know, like the pictures on cereal boxes that say “serving suggestion” but no one eats cereal with 3 slices of Strawberries laid out just so on top. The ones that will tell you that G_d admitted that Idiotarians like the Andrew Sullivan know so much more then the creator of the universe does.

  • Nahanni

    Forgot to add this…

    The thing that you will discover is that when you go to “meet your maker” you will find out that He was not joking. That He doesn’t care what they told you was “OK” in your Seinfeld church on Earth. He will tell you that He made sure that there were plenty of “instruction manuals” for life on Earth and you chose to cherry pick things out of it in order to justify your behaviour. He will then tell you that isn’t how it works and you KNEW that. The last thing He will tell you is “go to Hell.”. BTW, there is no ice water in Hell.

  • The Jane Bear

    Okay, peace be with you. I don’t get the strawberry thing, but hey!

  • TheAnchoress


    Just a small policy announcement, that I repeat from time to time, here.

    The Anchoress is generally pretty laid back about comments but would prefer not to see folks hint, imply, suggest or declare outright that other folks are going to hell.

    It’s always struck me as the sort of thing one sinner doesn’t say to another, you know? :-)

  • Jimmie

    “Let’s just say that an awful of a American Cathoics are ready to bolt the church, and become Anglicans.”

    Why do you stay?

    I’m not trying to be disrespectful to you, but I just don’t understand it. The Church has made a decision, has given you detailed theological reasons for doing so and still you stay, although you plainly disagree. What’s the point of staying in a Church that clearly makes you unhappy and with which you fundamentally disagree?

    I’m not a particuarly complicated man, nor am I a Catholic, but even I understand that if you ever want to change the way the Church believes certain doctrines, you’re going to have to do better than “because it doesn’t fit today’s lifestyle” or “because if you don’t I’ll leave”. You have to bring Scripture and Catholic teaching to the table or you’ll never be taken as anything more than a group of pampered malcontents. So what’s to stop you from doing that?

  • Stevely

    The Jane Bear,

    “Let’s just say that an awful of a American Cathoics are ready to bolt the church, and become Anglicans.”

    Who, you and your three friends? I’m an American Catholic and I don’t see this in my parish. Perhaps you should get out more, or perhaps you should try a little less hysteria and self-centeredness, and a little more faith instead.

  • Pat

    “You have to bring Scripture and Catholic teaching to the table or you’ll never be taken as anything more than a group of pampered malcontents. So what’s to stop you from doing that?”

    Because beyond their own egos and oversized mouths, they’ve got nothing. The Church will survive very nicely, thank you, without them. THAT, I think, is what really galls people like Jane Bear.

    One can’t help but notice that Jesus and the Apostles didn’t fit the Roman lifestyle prevalent in their day either. I believe B-16 has taken note of that last fact as well.

  • Miguel

    Pat: Ditto, I adhere to that.

  • Kathie

    How about if someone arranges a trade: unhappy Catholics for unhappy Anglicans? Everybody wins. :)

  • Dan M

    The Church has been declared dead and buried often in history. Yet nonetheless, there it still is. I think the PERMANENCY of the Church is really beginning to disconcert the Left. Voltaire assurred them that the “infamy” would be erased, and the Left did their level best to uproot and destroy every vestige of Christian belief. But there it still is, and now it has elevated to the Papacy a man they have loathed for decades.

    Perhaps the Left is finally, FINALLY beginning to suspect that maybe, just maybe there is SOMETHING else going on with the Church, that maybe other forces are present. Forces they were convinced were just make believe.

    The Pope who was supposedly a nothing, representative of a protracted fiction brought down the Iron Curtain. Brought down a totalitarian system of their devising, the Left’s best and brightest.
    I have been thinking of a line from the bible ever since the announcement: “There are shouts of joy and victory, in the tents of the just.”

  • Ellen

    Years ago I decided that if push came to shove I would follow the Church that Jesus entrusted to Peter. So if grumblers like JaneBear, Frances Kissling et al, do bolt, I won’t join them. I trust that Jesus meant what He said about the Keys and I am willing to be countercultural.

  • Knemon

    WARNING: Post May Contain Anecdotal Evidence.

    I live in Berkeley. Yes, that Berkeley.

    I’m not Catholic, but my wife is, and from time to time I go to mass (Mass?) with her.

    The pews are rarely 100% full – but they’re never less than 2/3 full.

    If it’s doing okay in Berkeley, I think the Church will continue to prosper in the rest of America.

  • TC@LeatherPenguin

    Bravo! Just about the best blog post I’ve read in a too long time. Clear and cogent.

    Again, bravo!

  • Gerard M. Delaney

    A Catholic church is never supposed to be full – there’s always room for one more!

  • Pious Agnostic

    “Perhaps the Left is finally, FINALLY beginning to suspect that maybe, just maybe there is SOMETHING else going on with the Church, that maybe other forces are present. Forces they were convinced were just make believe. ”

    Dan M, I fear you are deluding yourself if you think the Left will ever accept that God is not on their side about everything, assuming for a moment that they believe in God.

    But with God, everything is possible, I suppose! ;-D

  • AJF

    I suppose I’m one of the “lefties” you all seem so eager to have leave the church.

    I’d like to see some things change in the church. Not every thing the church does is based on the word of God. It is also an institution of man, and as a result, is imperfect. I’d like to have seen a Pope who was more open to discussion of possible imperfections in the church. I’d have liked to have seen a Pope who would be willing to listen to his people where the institutions are based on man’s tradition, not God’s word. I’d have liked to have seen a Pope who understood that discussion can be a better way to bring people to the truth, rather than oppression.

    Is that the Pope we have? Only time will tell, but I fear not.

  • Cheryl M

    AJF -

    I don’t think anyone is trying to clear the Church of “lefties”. I can only speak to my own frustration of sometimes feeling like all I hear from some areas of the faithful is complaints. After a while it leads to the “If you don’t like it, please go away and leave us alone” mentality. That being said, there are certain core teachings of the Church that aren’t going to change (abortion, divorce, homosexuality, etc). People who just CAN’T reconcile themselves to those core teachings probably should find a religion that is closer to their morals, rather than bringing down the “center tent pole” on everyone else.

    Great post Anchoress!!

  • Mark

    Anchoress, Thank you. Andrew Sullivan, and many more don’t seem to understand. It’s not about you. Believe, or not. You don’t get a vote.

  • Paul Stukel

    AJF – I’m sorry, but that’s just unfair. To suggest we’re all anxious for “lefties” to leave the Church has it absolutely backwards. It is (theological) “lefties” like Sullivan and Jane The Bear who seemingly react every serious doctrinal disagreement with a threat to leave the Church, and bring as many folks with them as possible. In this very post, Jane did it several times before, finally, people threw up their hands and said “okay, leave already!” It’s really twisting things to suggest that people who cry wolf about leaving the Church so frequently are really the victims of some mass excommunication.

    Great post, Anchoress.

  • AJF

    Paul- The Anchoress certainly doesn’t seem to think a schism would be a bad thing.

  • Oengus Moonbones

    Dear Anchoress, as the saying goes, “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”

    The vast MSM smear machine is just getting warmed up. If you think it’s bad now, just wait.

    Remember these are the same folks who help to twist the knife on that poor disabled woman in Florida. They’ll have less compunctions about trying to destroy PP Benedict.

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  • karen

    Thanks again, Anchoress!! I just don’t understand how a man so close to and trusted by our Great JPII could be so distrusted by Catholics? Come on!! And, also… why are there always a few who want to rock the boat? Before 2004 elections, our Bishop wrote a letter called “The Way, The Truth and The Life” on forming a Catholic conscience for voting. The Church’s teachings on the given platforms. It didn’t tell one who to vote for, but it surely let you know who not to vote for, as an informed Catholic. Three people walked out of Mass. So put out and P.O’d that they never celebrated the Euchrist. It didn’t surprise me, considering they are chi-chi intellectuals from somewhere other than the backward NEK of VT, but what a slap in the Lord’s face. Dean bumper stickers on Catholics’ cars are a contradiction, if you ask me. Well, even if you didn’t ask me. I’m with Kathie, some people should swap sides and no one gets hurt. If there were a schism, the new church couldn’t still be Catholic, could it? Isn’t that what they would be running from?

  • Paul Rankin


    (This is a different Paul, BTW)

    Schism is a bad thing, but it’s not as bad as the alternative, which is calling sin the Truth, and watering down the Church’s beliefs based on a show of hands or what way the wind is blowing.

    All of us have a choice. Take up the cross, and follow, or not. Simple. We don’t get to tell Christ where we’re going, however.

  • AJF


    Is a Dean sticker on a catholic car more of a contadiction than a W sticker? The church teaches that capital punishment and unjust wars are a sin too.

    Paul- But the church DOES change. Eating meat on Friday is no longer a sin.

  • John Mendenhall

    Is the lady who will, with her friends, move to the Anglican communion, aware that she and her friends will then be the Anglican communion? There is nothing but money, and empty buildings, in the whole denomination.

    The Catholic Church will steadfastly continue its role as man’s compass. The rest of us will make up religions we like.

  • TheAnchoress
  • AJF

    Fine. Bad example. Was it not a sin for a priest to say the Mass in another language than Latin prior to Vatican 2?

    BTW, in response to something else you said in the linked post. I have known women who truly felt they were called to the priesthood. They weren’t angry, they were just sad. Do not presume to know God’s message to other individuals.

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  • TheAnchoress

    AJ – I never presumed to know what was in their hearts – I only spoke of those women I KNOW personally, and what they have said. :-)

  • TheAnchoress

    Or, excuse me – to know God’s message. Sorry.

  • http:/// Tom

    I have to admit I disagree with you. Pope Benny X to the V to the I is on his honeymoon.

    When one is truly married to the Church, this is the rice the world throws.

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  • Darrell

    Folks, the schism occurred long ago. The teachings of the Church are not open for discussion. Welcome, Brothers and Sisters, to all Anglicans that are returning home! And anyone else contemplating the journey. There is always room at His table!

  • Nicq MacDonald

    “The thing that you will discover is that when you go to ‘meet your maker’ you will find out that He was not joking. That He doesn’t care what they told you was ‘OK’ in your Seinfeld church on Earth. He will tell you that He made sure that there were plenty of ‘instruction manuals’ for life on Earth and you chose to cherry pick things out of it in order to justify your behaviour. He will then tell you that isn’t how it works and you KNEW that. The last thing He will tell you is ‘go to Hell.’. BTW, there is no ice water in Hell. ”

    Huh, gee, we have a prophet with a direct line to the will of God in our midst!

    If God operates like this, I want no part in religion. This sounds like 2nd-grade Sunday school theology to me…

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  • Darrell

    Oh, and it’s a full fixed-course meal. No substitutions, please. Enjoy!

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  • Sarah

    Jane Bear, as an Anglican I have got to tell you that we aren’t the healthiest church right now. We’ve basically taken ourselves right out of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church USA is starting to crumble, as well. It’s hard for me to think of leaving (I’m a cradle Episcopalian) but I don’t see us as much more than a shadow of our former vibrant self any more. Maybe you and I should swap, per Kathie’s suggestion!

  • http://OutlookExpress marlowe anderson

    Right on. We must pray the Holy Spirit continue to be with this good man and with us as we continue to proclaim: Jesus is Risen, Jesus Loves us, Jesus will come again, this time as Judge. Our job and our prayer is to be ready.

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  • Cali white bear

    for plain naked wisdom as to a possible reason why the left/msm have their secular vestements in a bunch,
    re-examine this graph and replace
    Papa Ratzi with President W:

    Benedict XVI,(Bush) it seems, is a relentless and remorseless hard-ass who takes-no-prisoners and wields a clumsy and undiplomatic sword, cutting a path of hard-hearted destruction no matter where he goes, and he will be a disaster for the church, and oppressor of women, gays, people of girth, people of mirth, people with brains, and people without, little puppies, small furry rodents and children he doesn’t like.

    Hmmm, sounds like the entire Demo/MoveOn campaign against the president last year…for that matter every year since he became 43.