Two years into his papacy, Benedict XVI may be about to reclaim his reputation as a no-holds-barred traditionalist. Thanks to Benedict's thoughtful manner, Church progressives had believed that the man who was once the hard-line Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would cut some slack on areas of doctrinal contention — using his intellectual heft and traditional credentials as necessary cover. But as Benedict turns 80 on April 16 and marks two years as Pope on April 18, the once hopeful progressives have all but given up their fantasy of Benedict the Reformer.More
In the coming weeks, the Pope is expected to release a document that would allow the more widespread practice of the traditional Latin Mass, which was all but shelved with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone recently confirmed to Le Figaro newspaper that this motu proprio, or personal initiative of the Pontiff, will allow any priest to say the mass according to the old Tridentine rite (which is delivered in Latin with the priest facing the altar, his back to the congregation), rather than have to seek approval from the local bishop as is now required.
Eighteen months ago, one Rome-based progressive cleric had said he was "surprised to see that [Benedict] seems to be open to hear new ideas." But today, the same priest is disappointed. There has been no sign of any of the hoped-for reforms: overturning the ban on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, reconsidering the celibacy requirement for priests, allowing gays in seminaries, or a softening of the condom ban to allow for distribution in AIDS-ravaged Africa. The release last month of the Pope's final document on what had seemed to be a convivial and intellectually open October 2005 bishops' meeting on the Eucharist is a good example of the Pontiff's approach. According to a senior Church official who participated: "He took all that debate of the Synod, and then gave us a document that simply defends the status quo." This same official acknowledges a bit of past excessive optimism on Benedict: "People were hoping that with his intellectual acumen and understanding of theology, he'd be in a position to make some of these changes. Unfortunately, at this point, I don't think we'll see any of them."
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Lamenting the Current Successor to Peter
~A rather ominous headline from Time Magazine: A Step Backward for Pope Benedict? (thanks, C...I read it before my first cup of coffee.)