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Weekend reading on our website

A lot of new material just posted on our website.In Shock Therapy, Peter Steinfels discusses what the next pope could learn from Benedict.

The church needs shock treatment, and until the mini-shock of his resignation, Benedict, to the relief of many, did not seem like the man to administer it. Ratzinger, yes; Benedict, no. What shocks have come during his papacy were usually by blunder rather than intention. Evaluations of his tenure have balanced the pros and cons of his deeds according to the lights of the balancer. What is still untallied, except for his failure to unmistakably demand accountability in regard to clerical sexual abuse, is what has remained undone. Underlying conditions like the limitations, in numbers, quality, and age, of the clergy or the massively eroding credibility of church teachings on sexuality are no better than when he took office in 2005. Much of the hierarchy deludes itself with slogans in search of substance like The New Evangelization, or rationalizes inaction with the familiar alibi, The church works in centuries. In fact, history teaches that the church often suffers for centuries from its failure to act during critical passages.

Read the whole thing here.Now featured in our Looking Back series, Cathleen Kaveny:

Thinking about Pope Benedict's papacy leaves me saddened and perplexed. His aim, he says, is to lead people to Christ, and to appreciate the intellectual and spiritual riches of the Catholic Christian tradition. My concern is not that Pope Benedict doesn't agree with progressive views on gender and sexuality. It is, rather, the attitude that he takes toward disagreement with different segments of the body of Christ. I do not understand the priorities of a papacy that ruthlessly targets prelates who are prepared to talk about women's ordination, while doggedly pursuing reconciliation with virulently anti-Semitic priests and bishops. No amount of gentle, pious exhortations about the importance of God's love, or the centrality of the Gospel, can make sense of this incredible disjunction for me.

You can read her entire reflection here, along with previous contributions from Margaret OBrien Steinfels, Robert P. Imbelli, and Richard R. Gaillardetz.And Celia Wren reviews the upcoming HBO mini-series Parades End:

The setting and themes of Parades End produced in association with the BBC (it aired in Britain last year), have inevitably invited comparisons to Downton Abbey. And indeed, many of the guilty pleasures offered by that Masterpiece Classic potboiler can also be found in this less soapy program. Parades Endprovides glimpses of spectacular mansions, beautiful English country landscapes, and delightfully fussy upper-class habits. But whereas the Crawley family saga showcases an unusually large number of likeable, good-hearted characters, Parades End teems with figures who are peevish, deluded, insincere, pompous, and self-serving, making for a vibe that is more bracing and unsettling, and less feel-good and weepy. And whereas Downton Abbey spoon-feeds us plot and characterization, this show forces us to pay close attention, less we miss a narrative twist or a telling line or image.

Read it all here.

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From Peter Steinfels' thought-provoking piece:"To begin, Pope Novus, as we might call him, should declare that his predecessor's wisdom in resigning reveals a permanent insight into the realities of a modern papacy. Henceforth, popes will either serve a term of twelve years or resign at the age of eighty-two, the choice depending on each pope's reading of the church's needs at the moment. "This may or may not sound somewhat like the irregular-election feature of British governance. I am wishy-washy about this because I confess it's never been clear to me how the British decide when it's time to have another election. But it seems to work for them.

No, it should not be the pope's choice; it should be based on the church's reading of the pope's physical and/or mental abilities at the moment.A pope a la JPII would simply decide that he had not choice but to drag on in ill health and allow deterioration a la JPII to happen. It would be God's will, of course.JP: it's most often decided by a vote of no confidence in Parliament. It would be nice to have a Parliament of Roman Catholicism that meets regularly and renders judgement on the way things are going.

That didn't mean "no confidence" in Parliament, but, rather a vote by Parliament of no confidence in the Prime Minister's government.

"Shock therapy" is what the church needs? I couldn't disagree more.We've had more shocks lately than anyone can absorb, and the church is either reeling from them or else in denial about them.Besides, the sort of "shocks" enumerated are little more than bureaucratic tweaks of a system that will not be made functional by term limits. As if the problem were old dodderers who stayed in office too long. This is not the problem. Emphatically not the problem.As so much commentary has rolled out praising or questioning the novelty that Benedict has introduced through his resignation, the more irrelevant it is all revealed to be. Benedict's resignation, though heralded as this great and ground-breaking act, will not address ANY of the central issues facing the church.

I'm with Rita on this one. The central issues remain untouched. Those of us in the trenches of ministry deal with them, or with their trickle-down effect daily. The upper hierarchy still get their four-squares and attending sycophantry.Is there a good resignation age for the pope? What about 75, what is expected and required of bishops?

Popes and SCOTUS justices should all retired after (1) 20 years or (2) age 75, whichever comes sooner.That would, of course, prevent the papacy from becoming an old boys club that drones on and one.I am 72 and would not begin to want to take on the responsibility of the papacy at my age. Anyone who does must have an ego that outdistances his common sense. Or, as my mother used to say: eyes bigger than his stomach.

My concern is not that Pope Benedict doesn't agree with progressive views on gender and sexuality. It is, rather, the attitude that he takes toward disagreement with different segments of the body of Christ.I agree. "The Church has always opposed [] errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, [] she consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. " (Pope John XXIII)

I hope the new pope, whoever he is, will have the basic good sense to let things settle down and sort out on the whole papal resignation issue for a while, rather than quickly making some grandiose declaration along the lines Nixon suggests. After watching how things are unfolding, with loose ends, questions, speculations, and some rather realistic and practical concerns, I hope he (and Pope Benedict) quietly do what is needed to dot i's, cross t's, and see how this works, how the whole family of the Church handles it. The new pope, like Benedict, will need to remember he is setting precedents, not least on how a pope treats his living predecessor. (Boniface VIII's treatment of Celestine V is nobody's idea of a good role model here.)