Sunday, January 20, 2008
Is Benedict divisive?
"Unlike his predecessor", according to an Italian commentator, "Pope Benedict is divisive". He was talking about outrages at Sapienza Universtiy.
As I much as love Pope Benedict, I am afraid I have to agree, he is divisive.
Is he less divisive than his predecessor? I don't think this quite true, but I think that is what easily perceived. This partly because Pope John Paul II tended to speak on so many issues, the family, the death penalty, capitalism, communism, sexuality, contraception, sexual orientation etc. etc. He tended to speak as a Polish philosopher, and I suspect that much of what he had to say was lost on his listeners in his philosophic language. The very length of Pope John Paul's discourses tended to obscure his meaning. Also there was the, "well, he would say that, wouldn't he" factor too.
Benedict the theologian on the other hand says similar things, but he tends to be more focused, whilst as equally nuanced it tends to be clearer, more Christocentric, and whilst he never uses the "sound bite" it is shorter and more immediately comprehensible. Invariably rather than introducing some "new" teaching he merely tends to deepen the existing knowledge of his hearers or readers. Benedict is uncompromising, unlike his predecessor he is unlikely to kiss a Koran or allow himself to be exorcised by pagan priestess, he demands clarity and intellectual -therefore liturgical and theological- honesty.
What is the difference then? I think it is the environment in which Benedict and John Paul are heard. John Paul was in his prime as the Communist world fell about his feet. Communism was his main enemy, it was easier for him to oppose, half the world was already united with him in his struggle. For Benedict the enemy is secularism and relativism, an enemy much more part western society, he has no allies, it is him and the Church against the world. In fact the situation is a little dire than this, because a large part of the Church is unwilling to join in the fight.
So is Benedict divisive? Yes.
Was Christ divisive? Yes. "A household shall be divided..." "I come not to bring peace but a sword..." "If a man prefers father or mother to me he is not worthy of me..." "in the world but not of it".
Should Benedict is divisive? Yes.
Is it a good thing that Benedict is divisive? Yes, because it is the nature of Christ and his Church to be divisive, the consequences of course are persecution.
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