Readers may be aware of James Alison’s interesting, to say the least, interpretation of Benedict XVI’s views on homosexuality. I recently noted, in response to my co-blogger David’s post, Loving Latin for all the Wrong Reasons, that Benedict XVI is the Pope of liturgical pluralism. And we all know the fuss he caused with Caritas in Veritate. Canada’s news weekly even asked, rhetorically, “Is the Pope Catholic?” considering his views on evolution and condoms, among other things. (Shows what they know about Catholicism, but that’s another post.)
To this somewhat surprising list, I want to add one more example of Benedict, the supposed arch-conservative, quietly advancing a less-than-reactionary agenda: the lifting of the excommunications of the SSPX bishops.This move, seen as perhaps Benedict’s most reactionary move, actually strikes me as a brilliant strategy for promoting the teachings of Vatican II. Bishop Williamson aside – and everyone, including the Pope, admits this was a gaffe – it’s hard to imagine a better way to handle this situation. Though it was presented in the media as an attempt to pitch starboard, what happened was exactly the opposite, and I think Benedict intended this.
When Benedict inherited the situation, the SSPX could hide their real agenda behind the excommunications. They could pretend that the schism was canonical rather than theological. The lifting of the excommunications brought the real issue, the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on issues like religious freedom and ecumenism, out into the light. It didn’t take long for it to become clear where the SSPX stood. Benedict hasn’t incorporated the hard-right. He has marginalized them. Crafty liberal!
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.