The Reality of Pope Benedict, 2010

The other day I was chatting with a friend about how the reality of Pope Benedict the XVI been nothing like the “petrifying” whip-cracking reactionary that so many talking heads had predicted back in 2005. Yes, E.J. Dionne had actually said he was “petrified” over what the dreaded Joseph Ratzinger–the caricature of the media’s own creation–would do to the Church.

That made me go look up and dust off a link-heavy piece where I’d looked back at some of those paranoid predictions of 2005. Since it wasn’t much seen, I’ve dusted it off, updated it a little bit and racked it up over at Patheos.com:

In 2005, while awaiting the peal of bells and the white smoke signifying the election of the successor to Pope John Paul II, chattering gasbags of the pundit class killed time by analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the “papabile frontrunners.” The news media and their analysts seemed to agree on one point: the election of Joseph Ratzinger — who as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been characterized for years in the press as the “ruthless enforcer” of Catholic orthodoxy — would be a catastrophe. Ratzinger’s “ruthlessness” consisted mostly of discouraging the “liberation theology” that too-often runs hand-in-hand with socialist enterprises, and insisting that Catholic theologians — particularly those teaching at Vatican-sponsored Catholic colleges and universities — either present the faith as something more than a relativistic intellectual playground, or (as in the case of Hans Küng) give up the title of “professor.” Or teach somewhere else.

To some it might seem reasonable that a man of the church would expect those teaching it to do so with a measure of fidelity.

For the chatty media, however, the idea of “God’s Rottweiler” as pope meant the continuation of the seemingly objectionable notion (insisted upon by his stubborn predecessor) that a pope might uphold actual Church teachings on abortion, euthanasia, divorce, etc. Presumably none of the cardinals entering the papal conclave would have — upon ascending the Chair of Peter — simply declared that “everything we taught before is canceled” and signed on with the progressives, but for sure, Ratzinger would not be the man to do it.

You can read the rest here.

You can also read thoughts on St. Paul and the strictures toward Female Silence written by Little Miss Atilla, herself!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Jeff

    Such nonsense. The New York Anti-Catholic Times actually praised Pius XII, who was far and away more “ruthless” than Ratzinger, who is a very humble, though brilliant, professor type. The Church needs to totally stop caring about what pygmies like E.J. Dionne, Maureen Dowd, and all the rest of the chattering class think. None hold a candle to Benedict’s faith or intellect.

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  • Brendan McGrath

    I think that Benedict is fundamentally a good and holy man, not to mention a brilliant scholar: but can someone explain to me why he has chosen to rebuke (or whatever) Cardinal Schonborn, while choosing to allow Cardinal Law to be at St. Mary Major, not to mention a member of the Congregations for the Oriental Churches, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Clergy, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and for Catholic Education? Can someone explain why Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, held dissenting theologians accountable, but as pope has not done the same for Cardinal Law? Why was prayer and penance not enough for Roger Haight? (I disagree with Haight, but still, what did more to harm people’s faith: heterodox ideas published in a book, or the spectable of a cardinal who covered up and enabled child rape, and then said one of the Masses televised around the world when John Paul II died?) And can someone tell me how, as we try to re-evangelize Europe and the West as a whole, we are going to explain this?

  • Irenaeus

    Great, great piece on Papa Ratzi. I enjoyed it.

    I did not enjoy the piece you linked to re: Paul and women, however. The issues are so much more complex than the piece makes them out to be, and quoting JR (Daniel) Kirk is less than helpful — he used to be a conservative Presbyterian who, after some rough handling in the ordination process in the PCA, is running headlong into liberal protestantism under the cover of the emergent movement. I don’t have the time tonight to deal with everything in the post — I’d need a book, given the issues involved — but as far as Junia is concerned, see this devastating Touchstone review of E.J. Epp’s _Junia – The First Woman Apostle_.

    Sorry to be cranky; it’s late, and I’ve suffered much at the hands of egalitarians…I’m sure Little Miss Atilla is delightful, and I’ve enjoyed the rest of her blogging…

  • JuliB

    I have nothing deep or insightful to offer, but want to add that I think our Pope is such a cutie!

  • expat

    Hans Küng is working with a group of like-minded “humble” theologians from other religions to come up with a world ethos. They must have built special ivory towers for this group because ordinary ones might have some connection to real life on planet earth.

  • Doc

    The Left can consider Pope Benedict ruthless because they can characterize a gentle verbal rebuke as a ruthless slap in the face and have that mischaracterization repeated in the corporate media around the world.

    They don’t suffer criticism very well, you see.

  • Brendan McGrath

    Does anyone have any thoughts on what I posted earlier?

    Doc, I thought you might be responding obliquely to my post with what you said about a “gentle verbal rebuke” vs. a “ruthless slap in the face,” if you were referring to the Schonborn/Sodano incident — if that is what you were referring to, though, doesn’t the question still remain as to why Benedict would issue even a gentlest of rebukes to Schonborn, rather than praising him (I mean regarding what Schonborn said about Sodano, and putting aside the doctrinal issues Schonborn also touched on)? Joseph Bottum argued in a May 12th post at First Things (link) that “Cardinal Sodano has to go” — is he wrong? At the very least, shouldn’t Benedict have put any rebuke of Schonborn within a larger praise of his concern for victims and his concerns about corruption in the Church? Instead, we’re told that only a pope can criticize a cardinal/bishop — does this mean that no other bishops, and perhaps nobody at all, Catholic or non-Catholic, should have criticized Cardinal Law back in 2002? There are many conservative Catholics who will criticize bishops over this or that — should they stop doing so, and simply be silent?

    [Once again, found in spam filter because it contained an unembedded link -admin]

  • sam

    Pope Benedict XVI is an extraordinarily holy man. That is the first thing one notices. This is far and beyond anything else. But he happens as well to be recognized by the world as a brilliant theologian. Anyone reading his works even prior to his elevation to Vicar of Christ recognizes this instantly. His humility is beyond belief considering both of these things. Surely Christ blesses not only the Church but also the world though PBXVI which will be discovered fully only in eternity. He is a profound proponent of peace and reconciliation between persons, nations, and culture. He is concise, clear and astoundingly simple in his writing and speaking. He exudes love which is visible in person, or in media. He took Cardinal Schonborn to task for public statements that are contrary to the faith and to the authority of the Magisterium/Papacy. It needed to be done. The fact that Cardinal Law
    resides in Rome as many thousands do, is irrelevant. May God bless Pope Benedict XVI and keep him as our Holy Father. He is the much needed voice of Truth in these times, and a pronounced advocate of an educated conscience which is intended by God Himself. He is a miracle of grace and blessing for our times.

  • http://littlemissattila.com Little Miss Attila / Joy McCann

    Thanks for reading, Ireanaeus. It was challenging to discuss the issue of St. Paul within the 700-word limit; I’ll be tackling more of the good Apostle’s work in the future, in other little bite-size chunks. The article was only supposed to be an introduction, though, and it was indeed meant to reach out to some protestants as well.

    What my interpretation of Paul has relied on most heavily is . . . reading Paul.

    We may have complementary biases, here, since I’ve had the stuffing knocked out of me by overly conservative approaches to St. Paul’s work.

    My email address should be linked above (and Elizabeth has it, too); please feel free to write me. I want to make sure I get multiple points of view as I go forward.

  • Brendan McGrath

    Sam — I certainly agree with you on Benedict’s overall holiness and brilliance, which I mentioned in my first post, despite my criticisms of him. Thank you also for addressing some of my comments — but I’m not sure you really addressed them fully. For example, you said, “The fact that Cardinal Law resides in Rome as many thousands do, is irrelevant.” I never said his residing in Rome was a problem — what’s a problem is, as I said, the fact that he is archpriest (I think that’s the title) at St. Mary Major, and more importantly, in various positions of power and decision-making as a member of the Congregations for the Oriental Churches, for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Clergy, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and for Catholic Education. (The information on his membership in those congregations is from the Vatican’s website.) Should he really be deciding who will be selected to be made bishops? Again, I ask, how can we not criticize Benedict for choosing to allow him to remain in these positions of power, and how can we not call for this to be changed?

    You also wrote, “He took Cardinal Schonborn to task for public statements that are contrary to the faith and to the authority of the Magisterium/Papacy.” But again, as I said before, shouldn’t Benedict have put any rebuke of Schonborn within a larger praise of his concern for victims and his concerns about corruption in the Church?

    I’m a young Catholic (28), and a Theology teacher; I have a deep love of the Church and want to help keep people from leaving it/her. I believe that the episcopacy and papacy are divinely established — and I am frustrated with Benedict and various other bishops (in spite of their many good points) precisely because their failures are causing people to reject the episcopacy and the papacy. I.e., they are needlessly making it more difficult to keep people in the Church.

    I don’t think we should stick our heads in the sand and pretend these aren’t serious issues. People are willing to criticize various bishops over other things (e.g., Roger Mahony) — why does it seem that many Catholics are refusing to see any faults on the part of Benedict?

  • Doc

    Brendan, no I was not referring to any specific rebuke delivered by Pope Benedict. I instead wanted to highlight the general hysterical reaction on the part of the corporate media, along with those in government and in academia, to papal pronouncements defending Church teaching on sexual morality and similar “culture” issues. The press scream more shrilly at the pope than they did at the militant Islamists who turned Daniel Pearl’s beheading into a popular snuff video.


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