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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 todays domestic electoral process, in part because the church is not immune from politics or polarization.Disappointment was inevitable because the hopes of Benedicts 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 didnt 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. Its 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 Germans intellectual bearing but little of his countrymens 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.

Self-fulfilling prophecy?

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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It is the old story. One may criticize and pontificate about what others should do. But in the position brings a stinging sense of reality. Look at what a disaster the neocons when in power with W Bush. They hid when the avalanche of criticism (justified) came. Now they are back at it since it is that luxury of the sidelines. So Benedict tasted more reality and ended up pleasing no one. Many conservative groups backed up by money are spouting all over. They will look good as long as they are in the minority. The reality is that people are ignoring the dictators who brought oligarchy into the gospel. As Bruni says of America (which can be said of many Catholic countries) the people know now to ignore Empire leaders: "Everywhere he (the pope) goes, traffic parts and cameras follow him. But here in America, the Catholics watching closely are fewer and fewer. Theyre Christian. Theyre caring. Theyre moral. But they have minds and wills of their own, and no conclave will change that."

I say a Pope should be like a great University president. We don't listen to the president's ideas about culture or science... we just just good administation. Keep the buildings in repair pay the bills no corruption, and attract good students and faculty... and get rid of hacks of both kinds.. . If you see the best of both kinds leaving ...get a new president.

Hi, David:I'm surprised that you think Ratzinger was a "surprising choice" in 2005. As I recall, he was a shoo-in, thanks to his backing by Opus Dei.(Did his OD spiritual director suggest the resignation, by any chance?) Surely the next pope will be just as devoted to St. Escriva and as deeply committed to his work as John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

-- I am not an administrator, he warned his fellow cardinals during the 2005 conclave as he saw the momentum swinging in his direction. --What more could a Curia in disarray during the final years of JPII's papacy have asked for? They were free-wheeling and apparently still have not geen reined in. If they play their cards right ... with the Holy Spirit's accommodation, of course ... they could end up with a trifecta.I recently saw (maybe on dotC?) where some one described the Escriva influence as ODur. It'll take more that Febreeze to get rid of said ODur. We need yet another John XXIII to open the windows and let in some fresh air. (

"He had a German intellectual's bearing..."Oh yes. Plowing thru authors like Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Heidegger (in the original German, no less) will shake anyone's belief system, even a good Catholic boy from Bavaria. Perhaps that's why the hard Catholic Right never trusted him.

The problem is at least as much with B16's hardcore followers. When your whole life and worldview is geared to the elimination of opposition, and to antagonism, then there is no chance for happiness until the last person is left standing, and that person is you.Note how the Right divided itself and went into cannibal mode on any number of their other heroes who were found to be imperfect: Fr Corapi, Michael Voris, Fr Maciel, Bishop Finn. They are looking for a savior who will lead them in battle. I thought Jesus settled that issue almost twenty centuries ago. Clearly, some Christians have yet to get the message.

"So how is it that Catholic conservatives could go so quickly from ecstasy to agony?"This line reminded me of the old ABC Wide World of Sports opening sequence: one permitted the mental picture of the Holy Father, spinning out of control on the ski jump? :-)

Todd: this IS their message: couldn't resist linking to this particular website)

The Rev. Oswalt's original endorsement of Ratzinger on the basis of his potential to bring in a German style of leadership, coupled with a metaphor involving making people get onto trains, really made my day.

Great analysis, David. So much better than the tiresome rantings of Frank Bruni on the church. He should go back to writing about crepes and bearnaise sauce

And here is Sandro Magister's blog, drawing attention to criticisms of the papal resignation by two Italian conservatives:

Anthony Andreass 02/20/2013 - 7:36 am "He should go back to writing about crepes and bearnaise sauce."Cheap shot. Contributes little to a civil, thoughtful conversation on Gibson's post.

none the less, conservative VS. liberal, it will be a good time to remain Catholic. I am hoping the conclave elects a third world pope and someone of color. Enough of the tail wagging the dog.

Radaelli: "Why pope Ratzinger-Benedict XVI should withdraw his resignation. It is not yet the time for a new pope, because it would be that of an antipope.He will not recognize the legitimacy of the next pope!

Helen,Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

I think that we can all agree that an antipope would be pretty gnarly.

Anthony Andreass:Vade, et amplius peccare non.

Person of color? Si. But not just any person of color. Turkson would be a horrible choice. He has given tacit if not actual approval of Uganda's ideas of imprisoning and, in some cases, killing gays.

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