NEWS:  April 3, 2013
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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães
BY-PRODUCTS OF A RESIGNATION -    The news is returning to its normal revolutionary path after one of the most turbulent Lents in centuries, wherein two old men - one pretending he is too frail and the other that he is too humble - dominated the headlines of the media around the world for some 45 days and kept everyone discussing them. I am speaking, of course, about the resignation of Pope Benedict and the consequent election of Pope Francis. It seems to me that before the seismic waves of this earthquake in the Church pass from its first cycle of effects to its second and third ones, it is indispensable to spotlight some of its consequences.

1. The insurmountable influence of the Catholic Church

No matter how important he may be, the resignation of any other spiritual leader on earth - protestant pastor, Greek-schismatic head, rabbi, Hindu guru, etc - could not raise even a fragment of the public interest produced by the resignation of Benedict XVI. It shocked everyone, especially considering that it was followed some hours later by a lightning bolt atop the Vatican cupola. Catholic or not, believer or not, Freemason or not, every single person who heard this news stopped, raised his eyebrows and with wide eyes asked: “Wait a minute, something very important is going on here. What is it?”

In the temporal sphere, I believe the only two leaders whose resignation could raise similar public interest would be the Queen of England and the President of the United States. I make my point with two examples:
  • In January Queen Beatrix of Holland announced her abdication to be effective this coming April 30 in favor of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander, who will become King. So far, most people are unaware of this change. When Prince Willem-Alexander ascends the throne, probably there will be a few news reports and videos that will circulate for some days; then the normal news brouhaha will continue and Beatrix’ abdication and new King will only be a matter of concern inside the Netherlands.

UN secretaries general

The UN secretaries general change and few people notice - top left, Ban Ki-moon, right, Kofi Annan; botton left, Boutros Ghadi, right, Perez Cuellar

  • According to revolutionary mythology, the Assembly of the United Nations is the most important temporal cenacle in the world. Most people, however, are unconcerned about who is the Secretary General of the organization. The media dutifully reports the name after a new Secretary is elected, but not many people actually know his name. The resignation of the UN Secretary General would be practically ignored.
None of these leaders has a prestige equivalent to that of the Pope. So, I sustain that even in this revolutionary world the Papacy has an importance for public opinion that is not comparable to any other spiritual leader and is equal only to two temporal leaders.

Why did the resignation of Benedict shake the entire world for more than a month - from February 11 to March 13? The only explanation is the prestige of the Catholic Church. I emphasize this fact: The effect is due to the prestige of the Church as a bi-millennial monarchic institution in which the Pope is elected by an aristocratic body, the College of the Cardinals.

The news of Benedict’s resignation was shocking, mainly because everyone implicitly perceived that the act was self-destructive of the monarchic form of government that placed him at the apex of the world. To have a Pope who transforms the monarchy into a regular job, somehow repeats the tragedy of King Oedipus who voluntarily plunges two daggers into his own eyes to blind himself, and then exits the palace to wander among the people begging for alms.

Divine anger against this blow of Benedict, which attempts to reduce the Catholic Church to a structure like those of the schismatic and heretic sects existing today, was symbolized, in my opinion, by that lightening bolt over the Vatican. The future will tell us whether this is correct.

2. Joseph Ratzinger never changed

Another significant by-product of Benedict’s resignation is the clear affirmation by many of his admirers of his consistent progressivist stance. He has been always the same person who worked for the ideals of Progressivism at Vatican II.

I believe it is important to register these affirmations to help many conservative and traditionalist Catholics who believe that Benedict is/was one of their own. Since Pope Francis is moving up the pace to destroy everything he can in the Church, to many Pope Ratzinger appears to be much more moderate than the new “Ché Bergoglio,” as destructive for the Church as Ché Guevara was for the State. It is opportune, then, to show that Joseph Ratzinger is and always was a complete and dedicated progressivist.

Ratzinger never really changed

Ratzinger never changed: above, with Karl Rahner, below, holding the contorted crucifix of Paul VI

Prof. Tracey Rowland, dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne, made this commentary about the retired Pope:

“While some journalists run the psychological line that the young Ratzinger was a radical who turned into a reactionary in 1968 … there is broad general agreement among theologians that he never changed his theological spots. The ecclesial milieu changed and the culture of the West world changed, leaving him looking more conservative than radical, but the theological framework itself remained consistent.

“Joseph A. Komonchak, for example, has written that ‘from Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity (1968) down to the homily he delivered at his installation as Pope Benedict XVI, a distinctive and consistent approach has been visible.’

“Similarly, Lieven Boeve and Gerard Mannion have concluded that ‘Ratzinger’s theological insights have not fundamentally changed, but have demonstrated a firm internal consistency throughout more than 50 years.’

“Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, a former student of Ratzinger, remarked at the time of his election to the papacy: ‘The negative slogans are wrong … They overlook that Ratzinger has had from his early days a consistent theological vision.” (The Tablet, February 16, 2013, pp. 10-11)

It is not difficult to find many other commentaries that illustrate the same fact that Ratzinger never changed or became a conservative as many in the false-right pretend.

3. Ratzinger destroyed the mystique of the Papacy

Other progressivists cheer his decision as a decisive step to end the mystique of the Papacy and democratize the Church - to make her “more collegial,” according to the conciliar jargon.

An editorial in The Tablet reads: Benedict has “at a stroke, reduced the burden of the popular mythology surrounding the office that he has held with such grace and distinction … It will make a substantial difference to the way the office is perceived in the future, and even opens up the possibility of a fixed retirement age, perhaps 80, the retirement age for cardinals, or even 75, that for bishops. That would be a great help in choosing his successor. Some of the mystique surrounding the papacy having been diluted in this way, space may have been cleared for the next pope to revive the concept of collegiality that was never fully realized after Second Vatican II.” (Ibid., p. 2)

Benedict destroying the sacrality of the Papacy


Benedict XVI struck many blows against the sacrality of the Papacy & ended by trying to raze it

Robert Mickens, the Tablet’s Rome correspondent, concurs: “Perhaps Pope Benedict … is attempting to usher in a real and practical ‘reform’ of the papacy by personal example. His resignation has the possibility of demythologizing an institution that has too often been conflated with quasi-divine attributes. If it were to set a precedent, it could have all sorts of consequences that would unfold only over time. …

“Whatever the reasons, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has launched the Barque of Peter into uncharted waters. How clement or treacherous they are remains to be seen.” (Ibid., pp. 4-5)

Prof. Eamon Duffy of the University of Cambridge writes: His act shows “that Benedict’s understanding of the papacy is radically different not only from that of Pope Wojtyla, but of most of his 20th century predecessors.”

By his stepping down, Duffy continues, Benedict has insisted “that for the adequate discharge of the Petrine ministry both ‘strength of mind and body are necessary.’ That simple, rational and at one level unchallengeable statement is a momentous game-charger. In articulating it, Benedict has parted, tacitly but decisively, with two centuries of ultramontane spiritualization of the papal office and its responsibilities.

“From this apparently most conservative of popes comes a radical insistence that the pope is a functionary, and when he ceases to be able to discharge his functions, then, he must consider his position. … The unthinkable has now been taught, a taboo broken. In doing so, Pope Benedict has opened up liberating possibilities for his successors, who need not now fear the papacy as a sentence for life.” (Ibid., p. 7)

I offer these comments so that my conservative and traditionalist readers do not enter into a naïve nostalgia, imagining that a return to Pope Ratzinger would make things better or at least more tolerable than they are with the present “Ché Bergoglio.” Make no mistake; Pope Francis is following the precise lines sketched out by Pope Benedict…