Saturday, February 07, 2015

What went wrong?


Fr Hunwicke asks what went wrong with the Ratzinger Papacy?
I am sure we are too close to tell but I would suggest there are two basic reasons:
  1. That he was John Paul's 'minister', in the sense of the Pope can do no wrong therefore it must be his minister(s) who are at fault. The press had long seen Ratzinger as JPII's "rottweiler" as the "panzer-cardinal", as "the Enforcer", as the "Inquisitor". Ratzinger was happy as a loyal servant to be JPII's Aunt Sally. As internationally he was the most well known Cardinal the media were unable and unwilling to change their narrative. As the child abuse scandal was in the forefront of the media's thought about the Church, it was natural for Ratzinger to be attacked over it, especially as he was so shocked by it personally, and rather than delegating it a committee as Francis has, he himself kept apologising for it, as if he was indeed responsible.
  2. That John Paul was ill for a very long time and factions had developed, chief among them the divide between the CDF under Ratzinger and the Secretariate of State under Sodano. We saw that particularly in the tussle over resolving the child abuse crisis. Sodano refused to admit there was a problem well into Benedict's papacy, he dismissed it as a press fabrication. In a way he was right, the number of priest abusers is proportionately much lower than teachers or social workers. He was also one of the great defenders Maciel Marciel. I personally believe Benedict resigned to avoid the build up of factions in his declining years and it is perhaps significant that one of the first moves of Pope Francis was to reform, weaken and cast doubt over the future of the Secretariate of State and also to make it his personal secretariat.
There is perhaps a 3rd factor that the Vatican is actually ungovernable, which is of course Francis' mantra. For Ratzinger theft from his personal office and the betrayal by his valet meant that it became impossible for him to have any secure confidential communication. No letter, no telephone call, no email could be guaranteed not to be intercepted. It is true that he seemed to have mistrusted the Secretariate of State, the extraordinary subterfuge surrounding the announcement of the Ordinariate and Summorum Pontificum which came directly from his office certainly reflect this.

It is worth remembering it took almost a year and lots of concessions to get Bertone into and Sodano out of the Secretary of States Appartments. Here it might be worth understanding the geography of the Apostolic Palace, it is laid out as palace, it is necessary to go through the Secretary of State's Appartments to get to the Papal Appartments. He who controls the rooms controls access to the Pope. I am sure it was Ratzinger who urged Francis not to occupy the Apostolic Appartments.

Although Bertone has come in for lots of criticism, it will be interest to read his autobiography due out later this year, his ineffectuallity came about because the Sodanites, many of whom are now restored to power, simply refused to co-operate with him and briefed against him and against the Pope Benedict; remember Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui who actually twitter he was dying of cancer! What Fr Hunwicke suggests which was certainly part of the constant drip of certain European news outlets and the subject of certain Vatican Monsignori's sordid speculation was an significant part media poisoning of the media by certain influential Vatican lobbies. Perhaps by keeping one of its members close and indebted to him Francis has perhaps silenced other members of a rather complex and ruthless web.


JARay said...

I am intrigued by these speculations. Perhaps I should declare that I really liked having Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican. Rather than speculating about what went wrong with his tenure of Office, I must say that I am far less happy with the present incumbent.

Francis said...

Surely the central problem is that Benedict is a loner at heart, not a team player?

I never understood why he didn’t appoint a “Cardinal Ratzinger” of his own – someone of great stature and strength – who could act as his goalkeeper/deputy/enforcer.

Imagine how different things could have been if (for example), Cardinal Pell had been transferred to the Vatican in 2006 with a mandate to get the Curia and the Vatican Bank under control. Benedict could have aged gracefully, and died in office, leaving Pell to stick the boot in as required.

Or am I missing something?

EuropeanCatholic said...

I love Benedict. I cannot overestimate how much I owe to him as a Christian.

But, I have never understood why he renounced the Petrine ministry.

Praise God! He seems to be in good health and his intellect is as strong as ever according to people who have met him? So, why leave?

My own theory is that Benedict believed Cardinal Scola would be elected and the Church would be in very good hands.

But Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope.

I hope I am mistaken, but I believe that Francis' Pontificate has been a disaster.

There is an interview now with Cardinal Burke where he says that if the Pope admits the divorced and remarried to communion, he will have to resist the Pope.

Jacobi said...

I suspect nothing went wrong with Benedict's term of office. On the contrary everything was going quite well.

He was re-establishing Catholicism in Continuity, but a lot of people did not like that.

He was forced out, while still quite fit mentally as we now see. By exactly whom, I agree it is too early to say. But forced out he was.

Very roughly speaking, he was equivalent to Hadrian VI in the earlier Reformation, and the present Holy Father, to Clement VII. That is the Holy Father is having to deal with the Relativist revolt at its climax and as with Clement, I suspect, will not be up to the job.

We need a new Council to sort out the mess the Church is in at present, and a Pope the equivalent, very roughly speaking of course, of Julius III, with the insight and courage to implement it.

Then, the Holy Ghost will have a chance to step in and sort out the almighty mess.

Lepanto said...

We have in place a Pope who is recorded as being against the last two major projects of Pope Benedict: the Ordinariate and the wider use of the Latin Mass. It is surely reasonable to assume that, when he resigned, Pope Benedict hoped for a different outcome. My guess is that he saw the 'pot coming to the boil' and decided to resign in the (failed) hope of a majority for a Bergoglio or his ilk still being some time away. Otherwise the resignation makes no sense to me

Francis said...

One further point about Benedict is that, personality-wise, he is much more comfortable and effective as the able No.2 to a powerful boss, rather than being the boss himself. It is partly shyness, partly gentleness, partly academic detachment and partly humility.

In the legal world, Benedict would be the most brilliant assistant solicitor in the firm, or perhaps a salaried partner, but not one of the big hitting equity partners, let alone the senior partner. In business, Benedict would be the personal adviser to the Chief Executive, deeply valued for his ideas, his grasp of detail and his perspective on things, but he would never be the CEO. Too reserved, too diffident and, to be blunt, not really leadership material.

Benedict’s powerful opponents in the Curia were all alpha-male CEO types, and that was his problem. He couldn’t face them down and he didn’t have a strategy to deal with them.

abevec1 said...

Gerhard Muller was his appointment to the cdf and similar in many ways to ratzinger. He seems like a great man.

Pelerin said...

I find that picture very sad.

Vincent said...

I think Francis is right on the money here - Pope Benedict was not really the forceful character to deal with the problems of the Church, and he knew it.

The SSPX were reporting (around the time when it seemed there might be a deal) that they had letters which didn't get to the Pope because they were 'intercepted' en route, and thus had to resort to 'backchannels' (in my opinion, probably Archbishop Gänswein).

My interpretation therefore would be that it became clear that the Pope was becoming 'isolated' by the ungovernable curia, which would have meant cleaning out the Aegean Stables - something which Pope Benedict himself didn't feel up to given his age.

Further, I suspect Benedict understood the problems in the curia to have come from the 'transition' between JPII and himself and didn't wish the same to happen again - something which appears not to have escaped Pope Francis, since he has mentioned retirement (abdication) on a couple of occasions.

Finally, what happened at the election? Well, there are two scenarios:

1. It went horribly wrong: the Pope hadn't realised just how liberal the majority of cardinals are and hadn't realised that they would unite so spectacularly, expecting instead a long election process and a compromise vote.

2. Pope Benedict knew it all along, and this is part of a longer game to unite the orthodox side of the Church against the liberal side, which has been a de facto 'schism' for fifty years (and probably before), which might result in a very positive result in the next election.

It is probably too soon, but speculation is fun!

Liam Ronan said...

Interesting thoughts, Father. I suppose we'll never know from this side of eternity what Divine Providence either ordained or tolerated. Perhaps many things needed to be unmasked or be brought out into the light in order to accelerate the separation of the sheep from the goats.

God hasn't shared the script with me and I'd likely try to revise it through my ignorance and misunderstanding.

I recall that authors Antonio Socci and Christopher Ferrara in their books treating of the Third Secret of Fatima, "The Fourth Sevret of Fatima" and "The Secret Still Hidden", did a credible job of demonstrating Cardinals Bertone and Sodano effectively suppressed the full Secret of Fatima when managing the 26 June 2000 disclosure of the purported text by Cardinal Ratzinger, with Bertone subsequently playing a hide-the-pea game in the media as to an additional appended text of Sister Lucia's which contained the the Blessed Mother's 'meaning' of the vision, and only the vision, disclosed in 2000.

In short, the undisclosed words give what follows the 'etc.' in the already known words of Our Lady:

"In Portugal, the dogma of the faith will always be preserved, etc."


I recommend both books. They are straightforward.

lindi said...

I just hope that Francis reforms Vatican structures in the next 2/3 years and then a Pope will consolidate the reforms and add that which orthodox Catholics hold dear.

Raider Fan said...

I am sure it was Ratzinger who urged Francis not to occupy the Apostolic Appartments.

Very interesting, Father. Thank you

NBW said...

Very interesting article, Father.
Pope Benedict XVI has done many good things and it is very disturbing that people within the Vatican betrayed his trust and probably forced him out.
I am not sure where we are headed with this current Pontificate and it worries me.

hughosb said...

Fascinating and disturbing, thank you. It does refocus attention on Sodano, long known to be the eminence grise of the Vatican in recent years.

It seems, perhaps, that he was (is) more an eminence noire.


Francis said...

In the final analysis, I don’t think that Benedict was “forced out”. His decision to resign was a free one and he exercised it in the belief that a younger, more vigorous pontiff would be better placed to tackle the Church’s problems. What Benedict did not anticipate was the course his successor would choose to take. (Benedict must have had some idea of who was likely to succeed him based on the votes cast in the 2005 conclave, so Bergoglio’s election can’t have been a total surprise to him).

The resignation was a typical miscalculation made by a highly intelligent person, in which the decision is over-intellectualised and ultimately mistaken. It robbed the cardinals of the opportunity they normally have in the three year run-up to the death of a pope to meet informally in restaurants in Rome to deliberate on the succession and perform due diligence on the likely candidates while the coffee is being poured and the toothpicks are being applied.

I somehow doubt that Benedict would have abdicated if he had a crystal ball in early 2013 and was able to foresee the Bergoglio pontificate and the way it has completely let the liberals off the leash. We all know what is at stake at the Synod on the Family later in the year, and ultimately this is partly Benedict’s responsibility. He did not have to come down from the cross.

Unknown said...

But apparently Benedict was shocked that Francis chose to stay out of the papal apartment, and Mons. Ganswein initially saw it as "an affront" to B16 and his predecessors which would make it unlikely that the Emeritus advised him to do so.
I think it is likely that Francis chooses to do things more for the impression that it gives rather than the real effect.
He was seen to be rejecting the splendor of the apostolic palace, when in reality is is probably just more comfortable for him in the hotel.
I don't really think that Benedict's papacy went "wrong." He accomplished many important things and has admitted in interviews since his abdication that he had always intended to resign. I doubt that circumstances other than those he stated at the time caused him to do so, even if the incompetent people around him took away his strength.
I think that in the conclave, tragically, too much emphasis was placed on superficial "Curial reform" over true evangelization, which is why Bergoglio was chosen.

nickbris said...

Trouble with Catholics Father is they all dislike each other said...

I don't think Bergoglio was elected with a wide reform mandate. The man was 76 years old when he was elected, only one lung, hardly a pope for a long and tiresome reform marathon. My humble guess is that what explains his election by progressives and conservatives alike is that he was thought as a John XXIII, a very ''unexpected and full of surprises'' kind of transition pope until the mighty forces struggling within the Curia figure out who would be his successor, either an another reformer à la Paul VI or a more conservative candidate. For those conservatives who voted for him in the last conclave, their votes literally blew up in their faces.

Gillineau said...

I think it does look like B16 was forced out, but I think more likely is that he simply chose to modernise the papacy. It has now become a role from which one might resign, because of him. i think he intended this, and probably saw the heroic example of JP2 as only this, heroic, but certainly not sensible or pragmatic for a modern pope. The latter year's of JP2's life were probably characterised by manipulation and subterfuge,(Maciel, kissing the Koran? Girl alter servers?), which B16 wasn't going to let happen to him. It's a sensible, pragmatic move, given that we live so horribly long now.

And Germans tend towards pragmatism, which for most other people of Europe, makes them really rather difficult. B16 was loathed I think, because he was a German, and they are a pretty difficult people, nationally and individually. And fairly unapologetic in behaviour for their recent attempts to kill everything. The Germans aren't yet forgiven for the horrors of the C20, and rightly so - the consequences of their wickedness are still emerging.

I suspect that once B16 felt any pressure at all, he simply threw in the towel. He's a moderniser, perhaps the biggest one since Pius X. As Fr Hunwicke says, his decisions on the motu and the Ordinariate were very radical.

Thomas said...

@Gillineau "B16 was loathed I think, because he was a German, and they are a pretty difficult people, nationally and individually. And fairly unapologetic in behaviour for their recent attempts to kill everything. The Germans aren't yet forgiven for the horrors of the C20, and rightly so - the consequences of their wickedness are still emerging."

The anti-Catholic press tried to harp on about Ratzinger's teenage (and unwilling) enrollment with the Hitler Youth, but I doubt that was anything to do with what happened inside the Church. Anyway, in my experience Germans never stop apologizing for the horrors of the twentieth century. Also, Nazism as a philosophy is alive and well in the secular West with its eugenic promotion of contraception, abortion and euthanasia. It is far more subtle and less crude in its arguments and applications now than in the propaganda and military adventuring of fanatical little the Austrian corporal, but it is still with us, undefeated, because it was not a peculiarly German problem. It is materialist humanism coming to its mature and most poisonous form. In its full deployment it will combine features of Communism, Fascism and so called Liberalism, because they are all God denying and soul denying, so will assert social control through Big Brother rather than by accepting the rule of our Heavenly Father. We can already see it taking shape as China accepts capitalist money making, but retains rigid control through the One Party system - and Western governments happily do business with them as they begin to exercise similar sorts of control over minds and hearts and seek to marginalize and even criminalize Christian truth claims.

I don't pretend to know or understand Vatican politics, but I think BXVI was hated because he warned about the impending totalitarianism of "relativism". Why he resigned, I really don't know. He clearly felt unable to deal with the situation and left to others. I wish he hadn't, but he did. God help us all. I don't know how, but He will.

Gillineau said...

@Thomas. Agreed, Germans apologise a lot, but I'm not sure they often mean it. My boss is an apologetic secular German but he, like quite a few I've known, are quite comfortable attributing blame to others for their awful work. He, for example, will gently suggest, with great humility, that Auchwitz was really a Polish thing. I don't think they get how quite bad what they did was and, as you say, how the fire they maybe didn't start, but certainly modernised and rationalised, has spread and spread and spread.

Facist pragmatism is indeed the modus operandi of the modern world, not least the caceral quality of the de facto police states we now reside in.

William said...

The resignation had been planned for years, possibly from the beginning of his papacy. Remember him leaving his pallium on the tomb of Celestine V?

Joe Potillor said...

I will say this much:

It did not surprise me that he resigned, rather when he did so.

Unfortunately, in this ecclesial game of chess, Pope Benedict XVI made the wrong move.

Anne said...

I don't think Pope Benedict XVI, (who in my opinion is one/was one of the greatest Popes) made the wrong move. I believe he was inspired by the Lord to resign. He was treated abominably by many in the Church and I think the Lord said 'enough'. We did not deserve such a Pope. The Lord gave him to us and then took him away, because so many disobeyed and did not listen to him. Unfortunately for so many faithful, they suffer the loss of this great Pope, due to the obstinancy and continuous pride of others. I don't honestly think that lightning hit the Vatican three times on the night of his resignation for no reason.

Supertradmum said...

People who have not read or studied Church history are shocked by daily events as seen from the Vatican.

If the media had existed from the 5th century on, we would have seen sensationalism in the press concerning Vatican political machinations.

There are very few canonized cardinals, by the way. I think looking for conspiracy theories is not good and too may lay people are ignoring the work they have to do in their own parishes and in their families, instead going on about what we most likely will never be able to figure out.

Benedict said that in prayer he was told to step down. That is good enough for me. The man is holy and listened to God. We cannot know all the reasons.

I personally believe and have said this on my blog that the salvation of Francis' own soul may very well be his papacy.

God is in charge, not men. Or women.

Liam Ronan said...


You said, “People who have not read or studied Church history are shocked by daily events as seen from the Vatican.”

I agree with your narrow point; however, there are many in this present moment in time who are indeed well-read both in theology and in Church history, eminent scholars and the like, who are aghast at the ‘daily’ events emanating from, if not choreographed by ‘the Vatican’.

Your further said: “If the media had existed from the 5th century on, we would have seen sensationalism in the press concerning Vatican political machinations.”

Perhaps, but I cannot engage in such speculation which is not to the instant point and, in my opinion, therefore irrelevant.

The reality is that this specific ‘Vatican’ now has universal and instantaneous access to the world’s billions via the universal presence of the media through which error, Jesuitical dissimulation, and a host of other nightmares are presented front, centre, universally, and immediately in every household to the ends of the earth, corrosively gnawing away at traditional Catholic doctrine, morals, and practice.

You also said: “…too may lay people are ignoring the work they have to do in their own parishes and in their families...”.

I suggest that ‘the Vatican’, if not the Bishop of Rome himself effectively hamstrings many lay people, in ‘work’ they have to do for their parishes and families. This paralysis flows from the peculiar doctrinal and pastoral advices of late from the ‘Vatican’ and the savaging of those of us who would presume to ‘evangelise’ based on the heretofore 2000 year Deposit of Catholic Faith.

Indeed, as you correctly say: “God is in charge, not men. Or women.” I should add, however, that we are directed to be ‘wise as serpents’. I take that to mean vigilant, discerning, and spiritually awake to the human events of our day.

Pray earnestly for the gift of discernment would be my counsel.

Dymphna said...

Gillineau, if I were German I'd be pretty sick of people expecting me to apologize for something that happened when my mother was still in her infancy. Nobody asks the Japanese (well the Koreans and Filipinos do but nobody cares what they think) to constantly apologize for their actions during WWII.