Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Two clocks ticking: Rome and Washington

Benedict XVI steps down as Pope at the end of the month.
Plainfielders, along with the rest of the nation, are facing two clocks that are ticking down: those in Washington and Rome.

While we may be tired of the manufactured crisis of the impending sequestration, my suspicion is that most folks are wagering that the pols are just running a game and will work out some creaky compromise at the very last moment. This seems to be the only way business gets done any more in the nation's capital and helps to account for members of Congress being held in lower esteem that used car salesmen.

The other clock that is ticking down is probably more momentous, in my humble opinion, than the sequestration sideshow. Despite the huffing and puffing by the secular media to make the handing over of the reins of the Catholic Church to a new Pope a frightening and anxiety-producing occasion, it is an event which the Church has handled before, having centuries of experience in doing so.

I want to share two articles with readers that will help supply some context as a new Pope is elected.

Today, an overview of the reign of Benedict XVI by Dr. Michael Riccards, who is head of the Hall Institute of Public Policy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research organization in New Jersey. Yesterday, he published the following on the Institute's website (see here) --
When I finished my most recent study of the papacy and management, I was asked to do a postscript on Benedict XVI.   I don’t generally like to pass off journalism as history, but there were certain obvious problems with the pope’s management style and his control of the Holy See.  Now that he is resigning, his critics and his fair- weather friends are saying that he wasn’t up to par, that he was a poor manager, a charge made against his predecessor John Paul  II.  The basic indictment is that they were intellectuals, men of ideas who can’t run the railroad.  Actually, when John Paul was in his twilight, he named three men to preside over the Church; Joseph Ratzinger was one of them.

First, one should ask what a good manager is.  He or she should be able to conceptualize a vision or a product, then implement his proposals, know how to delegate, and undertake feedback and review.  Still, there is missing the most important aspect of leadership—wisdom.  Our two greatest presidents, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, were both very poor managers. Our pope should not be in Germany quoting an emperor who was an enemy of Islam.

Staff - Benedict XVI (Ratzinger) needed to put in a good staff surrounding himself (especially at his advanced age), instead he was heavily dependent on Tarciso Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State, who was a detested by a good segment of the Curia, the bureaucracy.  But when several of the Cardinals asked the pope to fire him, Benedict said, “No, Basta—enough”   Paul VI named a chief of staff, Archbishop Giovanni Benelli,  to run the Vatican; he too was a detested.  Paul had himself been one of the two chiefs of staff (under-Secretary )under Pius XII, the imperial and regal pope who said he did not want collaborators, but simply people to do his bidding.  Things were a lot clearer in those days even during the war years.  But even this pope’s butler betrayed him, for the good of the Church he said.  The American papal nuncio was shipped to Washington DC because he wanted to root out corruption and incompetence.  Benedict sided with Bertone.

Vision - Clarity of vision is important, but it is not enough.  As Benedict said very astutely when he first was elected, the Church is seen as saying “no, no, no.”  There is no Christian joy there anymore.  The pope declared this year the year of the new evangelicalism, and no institution has been better at conversion, except for the Muslims.  But what is the new evangelism, what is its message, who are the evangelists?  The message is supposed to be the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, the evangelists are though who? The old orders like the Jesuits and the Dominicans, once the great missionaries, are full of old men, and they can’t do what they did in the 16th and 17th centuries.  When was the last time you saw a priest at home under 40?  The vision needs new creative ways to go into the marketplace and preach.  In the 1940s the Vatican ended the priest –worker movement in France because the hierarchy could not control the men, not that they were preaching heresy. Recently, the pope allowed an attack on the sisters and nuns.  They revolted, and the laity supported them, rather than the bishops.  The Vatican has backed off, a real embarrassment.  Are nuns really the enemies of the Church?

The Bureaucracy - The pope must be able to manage an Italian style bureaucracy, which means a lot of paper and great deal of personal connections that lead to unwholesome discretion.  When Benedict tried to clear up the Vatican Bank and make it more transparent to meet European standards, his own bureaucracy ignored him.

Loyalty - is important for a leader, and the pope suffered traitors and fools too gladly.  A bureaucratic leader cannot show too much mercy.

Ideas - These last two popes of strong  intellectual have been responsible for silencing over 80 theologians in the banner of protecting the orthodoxy, and advancing the restoration.  But because of this attitude the Church has been deprived of the thought to face major challenges.  In the Middle Ages, Aquinas integrated Aristotle into the Church thinking.  The bishop of Paris excommunicated, soon he was made a Doctor of the Church, and the new orthodoxy.  In the 20th century, Sister Faustina’s diary was put on the forbidden list, now she is a saint and her Divine Mercy cult is the fastest growing  devotion in the West.  The Church had a Jesuit theologian and scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who integrated Darwin into Catholicity; he was banned from publishing.  The Church is left with a terrible legacy of teachings on birth control, women’s ministry, divorced Catholics and the sacraments which need to be altered.  But the theologians who can do that are being held down.  Orthodox Catholics say that doctrine never changes, truth is the same forever.  Whatever happened to the Vatican’s approval of slavery, which now a capital sin; what about the death penalty which the Holy See used through civil authorities, John Paul II came out against it.  A change in dogma?

If in fact, Benedict knows well the bureaucratic pitfalls he was stepping in, what happened.  First, he was too infirm to do battle; age is cruel.  Second, he and John Paul II have pushed the anti- Vatican II agenda as far as they can go without being a source of scandal.  It has not had the effects they expected.  Sometimes lean and mean is not a good way to preach the gospel. So the Church is smaller, more orthodox, and weaker than a century ago.
Tomorrow, a story about what really goes on in electing a new Pope.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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