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Just posted: 'After Benedict'

Now on our homepage, the editors on the ramifications of the resignation:

Even Benedicts most ardent supporters concede that his papacy has been marred by too many scandals and too many gaffes. The few glimpses the public has gotten into the opaque operations of the Holy Seefrom the Vatican bank controversy to the inept machinations of the popes own butlerreveal an institution in crisis. These intrigues are especially disconcerting as the church still struggles to come to terms with the legacy of the sexual-abuse crisis. Unfortunately, the courtly secrecy surrounding the deliberations to elect the next pope provides an all-too-obvious reminder of the lack of transparency and accountability in the operations of the entire hierarchy.In the modern era, but especially over the past half-century, there has been an unprecedented concentration of authority in the papacy and the Roman curia. Under the tireless and charismatic John Paul II, this focus on the pope seemed providential to many. Yet John Pauls commanding personality left little room for younger episcopal talent to flourish or alternative institutional structures of leadership and authority to develop. Only the most obdurate ultramontanists think the governance of a global church of more than 1 billion should rest principally on the shoulders of one man. In resigning for reasons of ill health and physical frailty, Benedict himself strongly suggested that the demands of the papacy have become a crippling burden, especially for a man of his age. Many think that the papacy is now a crippling burden for a man of any ageand that this is one of the many signs that ecclesial authority has become too centralized.

Read the entire editorial here.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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Lost promise of Joseph Ratzinger indeed. Pope Benedict has probably forgotten more than some his critics ever learned in the first place. Save the crocodile tears; Benedict is/will be fine.

The Vatican Council revealed two things. First, a lack of leadership on the highest level, especially as far as Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict are concerned. Rather than face the challenge offered by the Council and help the Church understand it, they chose to follow their fears and limit the Council. Second, the Council opened the door to a new vision of the Church, with a new understanding of the role of the baptized and the role of the Holy Spirit in helping establish an inner authority. . It seems clear to me that the institutional church, represented by the hierarchy, is simply incapable of walking through that door. And maybe that is as it should be. The majority of Catholics do not get past the fear of hell and the need for the external authority supplied by the institution. So maybae the Pope is forever the pope of those people. But he should not try to block the door to those who want to find out what is on the other side.

JPII and B16's church appeals to the indifferent, the fearful, and the ignorant. Collectively they are known as "sheople". I'm halfway hoping we get a pope so reactionary that he'll make B16 look like a moderate in his approach to gay civil marriage, women's ordination, collegiality, etc. Perhaps we need to see things getting so bad --- so very, very bad --- in the old institution before we have any possible hope of ecclesial renewal, the primary theme of Vatican II. Catholics really do need to take the Vatican, turn the da*n place upside down, and shake the literal hell out of it.Maybe we need an implosion or explosion, metaphorically speaking.

It would seem that circumstances call for a hermeneutic of rupture.

Take the neocons off the payroll and the renewal can begin.

Prior to VII there were only two kinds of Catholics from the perspective of rank and file members: good ones and bad ones. Good Catholics were those who went to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, abstained from meat on Fridays, went to confession and communion (after following the rigorous fast) maybe as often as monthly, followed the precepts of the church, and were pretty much ready to follow whatever the Pope, bishops, priests, and nuns said that Catholics believe. Bad Catholics were those who screwed up most of the above or weren't very good at it and included those who failed to follow the marriage laws of the church. They were the infamous "fallen aways" who were destined for hell or the lowest rungs of purgatory. The media coverage--including that of the Catholic press--of VII made it clear that the bishops and the pope had had serious discussions about very important matters like the Mass and that there was more than one point of view expressed. It came as a surprise, even a shock, to many Catholics that any thinking at all might be involved in being a good Catholic. First they learned that not abstaining from meat on Fridays was really an option and that they could choose another kind of penance or charitable sacrifice. Huh! I could have sworn the Sisters said we were hell bound for eating meat. Then the communion fast was changed from twelve hours to three to just one. Then we could satisfy our Sunday obligation on Saturday evening. Then we were told that we only had to go to confession if we had mortal sins to confess, and that we should strive to receive Communion worthily every Sunday. For the first five years or more following the council there was a perception that "everything was up for grabs". This brought about a reaction from the Vatican especially from those who had warned against the danger of making so many "changes". In my diocese, a progressive and permissive bishop was followed by a lay down the law guy. Paul VI and John Paul I were followed by a lay down the law Pope who was enormously popular because of his peripatetic travel schedule. Then he got a hold of a lay down the law Prefect for the CDF who, in turn, became a lay down the law Pope. A whole new breed of "Super" or "Orthodox" Catholics emerged during those years to counteract the perceived distortions and heresies of the "Call to Action" liberals whom they saw as destroying the church. The question for me is: Have we had enough yet of the reaction to the reforms ushered in by VII? More importantly, have the Cardinals had enough? Are there among them those who can articulate an alternative path in which a new Pope can continue to affirm the eternal truths of the Gospel while at the same time reforming the central administration of the Church so as to give the bishops and bishops conferences a larger role in leading the church in its various dioceses, nations, and regions? Can this new Pope open up discussion by bishops, priests, and laity of vexing questions like is it time to welcome mature married men to the priesthood? Liberals can take it to the bank that a new pope is not going to raise the issue of ordaining women nor announce that the church is no longer opposed to gay marriage. I personally think a man like Cardinal Tagle of Manilla may be the kind of younger man (born in 1958) who as an Asian might be able to bring a new perspective. He was educated at Catholic University and speaks impeccable English. I think he also speaks Italian, but is probably not a Latin scholar. He would be a very "pastoral" Pope who could inspire people to give serious thought to considering listening and responding to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

John Feehily - Cardinal Tagle is among those who are fighting tooth and nail against legislation that would give women in the Phillippines access to modern birth control methods, calling its most recent step towards passage a "tragic event". He vows to continue to fight the legislation. This alone makes him an undesirable candidate for pope.

Anne: how is he fighting "tooth and nails"? For example, is he threatening to withhold communion from those who use birth control, or from those politicians who vote to give access to birth control, or from those who vote for those politicians who vote to give access to birth control?

... or from the pharmacists who sell birth control methods, or from the people who work for pharmaceutics companies that makes birth control pills, or from people who invest money in such companies?

or from doctors who write prescriptions for birth control, or from bakers who sell bread to doctors who write prescriptions for birth control?

Claire, I don't know if he personally is threatening to excommunicate or withhold sacraments from all politicians who support this legislation (or anyone in the pipeline). However, the Catholics Bishops Conference of the Philippines has threatened politicians who support the legislation with excommunication. I do know that he, along with his brothers in the hierarchy, do not want poor women to have access to anything but "natural" family planning and has not publicly opposed the Bishops Conference in its threats that I am aware of. It doesn't matter what he threatens or doesn't threaten personally, the mindset revealed by his rhetoric should rule him out from consideration. But then, there may not be anyone out there in potential-popeland who understands that the 1960s birth control commission had it right and would be brave enough to say so out loud. Given that the vast majority of the hierarchy and all of the voting aged cardinals were appointed by Benedict and his predecessor, it is not likely that there are many independent thinkers among the papabile.

Flock of sheep is what they are. Baa! Baa! Baa!

This small cadre of 16th century Catholics can't handle what B16 has done .. and quote their guru Joseph Bottum to add fuel to their easily-ignited fire: note that he didn't resign, he abdicated.

According to The MoynihanReport of Robert Moynihan, an Italian newspaper La Repubblica, has reported that the report of the three old cardinals to Benedict about Vatileaks contains scandalous claims. Specifically, the cardinals are said to have reported to Benedict that there is a gay lobby in the Vatican (they name three names), pursuing what aims Moynihan doesn't say. Further:"The Report is explicit. A number of high-ranking prelates are being subjected to 'external influence' -- we would say blackmail -- from laypeople to whom they are linked by ties of a 'worldly nature.'"The matter of who should be candidates in this election no doubt is becoming even more fraught with uncertainty. Can't be good for the conclave.Sorry, I can't give you an internet address. I got the report as an email (it's a newsletter that comes out weekly or so), but it does not include an internet address. I assume the address will appear after the next report comes out.God help the electors.

Ann: the story has been picked up by "Le Figaro", the main French newspaper.Making homosexuality strictly taboo, like making marijuana illegal, has all sorts of deleterious side effects.

Claire --The BBC and others have now picked up the story.

"I was privileged to kiss Benedict's ring twice" (from California Catholic Daily's thread).The "river rat" in me is tempted to offer a word choice here :-)Sycophants all.

Look what story the Guardian is now running with: has to be a growing, gnawing consciousness that B16's resignation maybe little more than Ratzinger trying to exit without the door hitting him on the way out.(Sorry, you'll have to copy and paste the web address yourself. I couldn't figure out how to activate the direct link.)

Commentator Andrew Sullivan's piece on "The Lost Promise of Joseph Ratzinger" is very compelling even though Sullivan does stop just short of stating the obvious: Ratzinger diverted from his early promise as a reformist theologian at Vatican2 when he embarked upon his quest up the clerical power ladder. Sadly, it seems that Ratzinger, for all his gifts, failed to accept Jesus' challenge: "Jesus said to [the young man], If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (Mk 19)

This pontificate will drown in words and sink through lack of managerial acumen. If the Curia is not a nest of vipers, I don't know what is. That's the fault of 2 pontificates of lousy leadership ... and lots of words.

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