Benedict XVI, not conservative enough…
Conservative disappointment with Pope Benedict’s record has been an undercurrent in commentary in the last few years, and it has broken into the open since his resignation (or abdication, for the neo-Victorians). My latest at RNS rounds up some of the disappointment and posits some reasons:
So how is it that Catholic conservatives could go so quickly from ecstasy to agony? To a great degree, it is the way of the world, even in the church.
Partisans tend to graft their own agendas and aspirations onto their favored candidates, whether presidents or popes. Sacred conclaves are hotbeds of messianism every bit as much as today’s domestic electoral process, in part because the church is not immune from politics or polarization.
Disappointment was inevitable because the hopes of Benedict’s fans had blinded them to the parts of his writings (on charity and justice, for example) or his personality traits (such as his loyalty to friends, no matter how incompetent) that didn’t fit with their plans.
That leads to a second factor, which is that popes may enjoy great authority but they cannot act like autocrats. Benedict, more than his supporters, knew he had to be the pastor of a huge global flock, not just a “bad cop” who tells people to follow the rules and drums them out when they disobey. As he told dinner companions early in his pontificate, “It was easy to know the doctrine. It’s much harder to help a billion people live it.”
Finally, Ratzinger was always at heart — and in his head — a scholar and theologian. He had a German’s intellectual bearing but little of his countrymen’s renowned knack for organization. “I am not an administrator,” he warned his fellow cardinals during the 2005 conclave as he saw the momentum swinging in his direction.