I have always shuddered when a Pope dies because I am filled with dread of what comes next: Endless reams of bad commentary by people who pretend to know something about the Vatican but who usually succeed only in revealing their bone ignorance of the subject. The resignation of Pope Benedict I expect to inspire more of the same.
First up is John Moody, Executive Vice President, Fox News, and a former Vatican correspondent, who takes Pope Benedict to task for what he perceives to be a failed papacy. Pope Benedict’s main crime appears to be that he was not Pope John Paul II:
By contrast, Benedict’s meek initial outings were public relations meltdowns. His smile, though genuine, looked somehow sinister, as if he were about to bite his audience. Determined to restore the Church’s luster in Europe, where it is often treated like a dotty old aunt, Benedict gave a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006 that appeared to denigrate Islam. The non-Catholic world howled; the Vatican cringed and apologized.
On his first visit to the U.S. as pope, Benedict offered contrite apologies for the Church’s ham-handed treatment of the U.S. church’s sex scandal involving its priests. Even the pope’s humble mien did not satisfy some, who pronounced him cold and unfeeling toward the plight of victims of clergy abuse. He joined the Twitterati, but his first attempt was a sterile: “I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. I bless all of you from my heart.” At least he stayed under 140 characters.
In nearly eight years, Benedict issued three encyclicals – direct messages to the faithful that often reveal a pope’s enthusiasms and interests. Benedict’s first – entitled “God is Love” — is a caressing, simply worded, logic-based reassurance that our Lord loves us. Yet even his writing about love suffers in comparison with John Paul’s towering, intellectual yet intimate canon of work.
None of which lessens Benedict’s place in the line of Vicars of Christ. His decision to resign was a brave one, based on personal humility, in keeping with his message to the faithful that the things of Earth are transient, but the promise of heaven lasting and infinite. For that he should be remembered.
Go here, if you really must, to read the ignorant rest. Not a word about the Pope’s Anglican Ordinariate, perhaps the most daring move made by a Pope in regard to Protestants since the Reformation. Missing in action was the steady increase since 2005 in ordinations worldwide to the priesthood. Forgotten was Pope Benedict’s emphasis upon the growth of the Church in Africa and Asia. No discussion of course of the reform of the reform that has been a hallmark of Pope Benedict’s papacy.
There is a wonderful scene in the movie the Agony and the Ecstacy where Pope Julius brings two Cardinals to critique the work that Michelangelo is doing in the Sistine Chapel. One criticizes him because he does not paint in the manner of the Greeks and the other attacks him for depicting Moses and other figures naked. Michelangelo defends himself skillfully, but with growing exasperation and finally yells at the Pope, “Why do you bring fools to judge my work?” Alas when it comes to judgments being made about the papacy of Pope Benedict, we will have many fools speaking in the weeks to come.