Like criminal investigators on CSI, many are trying to do a post mortem on the recent papal visit to discern what really happened, i.e., what did the Pope's visit actually accomplish in light of what was intended to happen. I know many are melancholic to an extent. Liberals wanted him to loosen up Church discipline and dilute doctrine to warm up to non-Catholic Christians in an irrational scheme to effect a form of Ecumenism based on the lowest common denominator (being NICE). Conservatives wanted him to crack the whip and chastize the dissidents and miscreants who have wreaked havoc on the Church for 40 years in the infamous "spirit" of Vatican II. B16 arrived not as a politician nor as a policeman. He came as a shepherd. The pastor of the universal church came to invigorate the faithful remnant as well as encourage the growing number of neophytes. He came to show support by his mere presence. The Pope came to America and because he loves the Church in America. He may not like everything that is said and done by particular individual Catholic Americans, but he came for Mystical Body of Christ which is partially located in the United States.
His words of healing extended to the victims of clergy sexual abuse were not political; they were paternal. He was sorry that some of his sons misbehaved and misbehaved badly. It was like a father who apologizes for the crimes and sins committed by his offspring. The priests who abused children and the bishops who covered it up were nonetheless sons of the Church. Every family has its dirty laundry and the Holy Father wanted to express shame and sorrow that these horrible things ever took place. It was not his fault they happened. But he is the father of the family of faith we call the Catholic Church and like the father of any family, he extended a hand of remorse and reconciliation to those harmed by his own family members. Imagine how Adam felt when he learned that his own son Cain committed fratricide and killed Abel.
Our spiritual father also spoke to the other shepherds, the bishops. He reminded them that they have a lot of homework to do. They must repair the loss of trust many of the faithful have in light of how things were handled during and immediately after the scandal. They must also repair the loss of trust many priests have in their bishops after being thrown to the wolves and treated like a bunch of degenerate felons just paroled. The bishop has to be a FATHER rather than a MANAGER. The paradigm must be one of FAMILY not one of BUSINESS. Many problems continue in the USA because parishes and dioceses work like corporations. Liability, cost effectiveness, productivity, downsizing, risk management, etc. Terms used in boardrooms now permeate Catholic lingo in the dioceses and parishes alike.
The Pope warned of the dictatorship of relativism. He is not stupid. He is very intelligent and very German, which means he is also very efficient. No one fooled him into thinking everything is A.O.K. over here in the States. No one deceived him into thinking we have no problems with liturgical abuses, dissident theologians and meglomaniac ecclesiastical bureaucrats in middle management. Oh, it looked good on TV. Everyone made 'bella figura' even to the sneaky clandestine giving of Holy Communion to notorious pro-abortion politicians.
I don't think the wool was pulled over the papal eyes, however. Rather than reading the riot act, this German pope will quietly, prudently but efficiently take care of the major problems we have in the USA and around the world. His Summorum Pontificum is the best example of his modus operandi. He wants the natural process of give and take (eros and agape) to occur so that what is best and beneficial in both new and old (ordinary and extraordinary) can mutually enhance one another. He knows we have lots of liturgical abuse occuring here in America and he knows we also have a problem with heterodoxy being proliferated in colleges, universities and seminaries. He knows we have a problem with devout faithful being beaten up for showing reverence for the Holy Eucharist when they kneel or genuflect for Holy Communion while priests who use illicit matter and form (if not quasi-invalid) go unscathed. But he also knows that the best way to handle things is to move prudently and methodically. Show viable alternatives to the dissent and abuse occuring in pulpits and sanctuaries around the world.
Let people see and experience the sublime beauty and majesty of the Church's patrimony, especially our liturgical heritage for two millennia. Rather than give in to the pseudo-dichotomy of the pre-Vatican II and the post-Vatican II Churches, B16 has started the process by which the Extraordinary form and the Ordinary form of the Roman Rite can be ACCESSIBLE and AVAILABLE to anyone and everyone. Latin and the vernacular, old and new, extraordinary and ordinary; they speak of the great "BOTH ... AND" (et ... et) whereas the heretics and renegades seek to divide and conquer by imposing a false "EITHER ... OR" (aut ... aut). Just as the Church has two lungs in terms of the Western and Eastern liturgical traditions, so, too, within the Latin Rite we have various legitimate expressions which when done reverently and properly and when understood in the light of orthodox theology, mutually help and enhance each other.
It will take a longer amount of time to clean up the mess left by the recalcitrants who thought their pseudo-Vatican II mandate to whitewash authentic art, dilute authentic doctrine and distort authentic authority would last a thousand years. The Fourth Reich died as quickly as the Third. The distorters and perverters of what Vatican II ACTUALLY said and intended are now cashing in on their social security checks. They are not the vibrant youth of today. They are the antiestablishment hippies of the past.
I have great hope that Pope Benedict XVI will gradually but consistently, prudently and efficiently repair what was broken while nuturing what has been good and growing within the Body of Christ. Some may have thought they fooled the 80 year old Bavarian as if dirt were swept under the carpet. He is too smart for that. He knows the machinations, the politics and the skullduggery some of our ecclesiastics are renown for as well as the cultural and social malaise infecting many of our faithful. He knows too well that we live in a culture of CONVENIENCE and have made convenience a religion if not a god itself. Catholic Americans are blessed with many economic and political privileges and opportunities other nations only dream of, yet we also succumb to the incessant hunger for CONVENIENCE. Liturgy, theology and morality --- all must be CONVENIENT, otherwise, people will drift away. This is the dictatorship of relativism, not just an absence of OBJECTIVE REALITY in terms of eternal truths, but also the addiction to comfort and convenience. Suffering, even salvific, is alien to a culture where people believe the Church, the State and even the Family owe them (the individual) something. It is no longer the 'pursuit of happiness' along with LIFE and LIBERTY that are seen as inalienable rights, but now it is the idea that the world and God Himself OWES me a comfortable and convenient life. Truth and Goodness, the objects of the intellect and will, become mere options. The end that a dictatorship of relativism seeks is MEDIOCRITY. Truth and goodness, holiness and sanctity, grace and virtue, etc., have no place in such a system.
Thanks be to God, Pope Benedict XVI is here to continue the work of Pope John Paul the Great. VERITATIS SPLENDOR says it all. True worship, true doctrine and true moral behavior are the only sources of real happiness and fulfillment for mankind. Communism, Socialism, Consumerism and Materialism tried to make lies appear appetizing to civilization. Once society abandons truth it ceases to be a civilization and deteriorates into culture of death.
PRAY for Pope Benedict that the Lord bless him with many years of good health, with good advisors and good assistants so he can continue his mission of healing and reinvigorating the Church in this new millennium.
Anthony Esolen is under attack by Providence College - I’ve mentioned Prof. Anthony Esolen quite often in these electronic pages. He is a serious scholar with a great pen. I’m usual struck with a little envy at...
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