Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Reigning but not ruling
Pope Benedict seems to consider life too short to become overly involved with reforming the Curia, it is a labour of Hercules for a younger more beaurocratic Pope. Any real reform is about changing attitudes. Promotion in the Curia depends on seniority, and for the most part Curial recruitment is a self selecting Magic Circle, changing its direction would involve either brutal sackings or detailed micromanagement, neither are Benedict's style. It is probably accurate to portray John Paul I's death as being caused, in part, by a slew of paperwork from the Curia. Benedict avoids it, leaving it to be dealt with by rather kindly, if not too effective Cardinal Prefects, who some suggest are chosen more for their past connection to the Pope than their effectiveness.
Occasionally, often perhaps, the Pope does intervene, nuncios complain their ternae are rejected, being returned from the Papal Apartment marked "none of the above", although they are left to make their suggestions the Pope appoints those he has learnt to trust or to veto others. The Secretariate of State for the most part seems to do its own thing working diplomatically with other states but hardly putting forward a coherent ecclessiology.
Amongst the Cardinals there is criticism, Cardinal Zen attacked vehemently the Ostpolitik of Cardinal Casaroli in the person of Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, which was pretty obviously a criticism Secretariate of State. It is perhaps more significant than the spat between Cardinals Schönborn and Sodano, the retired Secretary of State.
Edward Pentin interviews Massimo Franco about his new book "Once the there was a Vatican", which goes further into these divisions.
Benedict XVI will always be a Pope of divisions, for many he is still an object of hate, "dragging the Church backwards" away from the rupture of the "Spirit of Vatican II" or the "betrayer", the one who refuses to refute the legacy of the Vatican II etc.
In order to understand Benedict XVI, I think it is important to understand that he is a man of thought and ideas, who understands the power of history. The Curia will continue doing its day to day work today and tomorrow but the future belongs to the intellectual concepts he scatters on the changing tide of history.
Remember his real ambition was to retire and write, not to become Pope.
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