The end of a Papacy is, under normal circumstance, something like the death of a family patriarch for Catholics, for the Pope is a spiritual father to us. Yes, once the Pope is gone we can say "the Pope is gone, long live the Pope," but we still ought to keep the old Pontiff's legacy in perspective and be sensitive to the feelings and faith of Catholics, something John Moody at Fox News is not doing.
While going through the stories on the odd end of the pontificate of Benedict XVI I came across this ridiculous editorial written by John Moody and which is posted on foxnews.com. Not only is this article irreverent, it is callously ignorant is outright wrong!
He never had a chance. [Really? That's your intro?]
From the moment he appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s on April 19, 2005, to greet the faithful, Benedict XVI faced an insurmountable problem: [The Roman Curia?] He was not John Paul II. [Now get this....]
Benedict’s decision to resign the papacy is being blamed on his age – nearly 86 – and his health – never robust. He might just as well have been diagnosed with a broken papal heart. [He is not resigning because he can barely walk, nor because he can barely speak, nor because his mental powers might be diminishing. He is resigning because he spent eight years in a personal crisis over not being his Polish predecessor.]
Because his nearly eight years on the Throne of the Fisherman never really produced the results he hoped for. [Has any Pope in his lifetime seen the results he wanted?] He did not unite the conservative and progressive wings of the Catholic Church. [He did not see the Church in such American political terms] He did not re-establish its place in Europe, [thats a long-term project, you can't undo WW2 and socialism overnight] the work of a previous Pope Benedict and the reason he took that name. Nor did he expand its foothold in Asia, [that's more debatable, the Chinese usurpation of Church power is not the Pope's fault] cement its dominance in Latin America, or make serious inroads in Africa. And he did not bring to fruition the ecumenical understanding with other major faiths that he hoped would bloom during his reign. [Did he hope for ecumenical flowers?]
Benedict faced nearly impossible odds, even before he was elected. Joseph Ratzinger -- his given name -- was already white-haired [He was white-haired when he attend Vatican II half a century ago!] and stooped when he became pope. He was a German of the World War II generation, and as a boy had served, involuntarily, as a member of the Hitler Youth. [He went to jail for not attending meetings] His last job in Rome as Cardinal Ratzinger was to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the branch of the Vatican charged with enforcing dogma and rooting out dissent. For that, he was dubbed The Chief Inquisitor and The Rottweiler. His idea of a wild night was a single glass of Riesling and an hour of playing his piano – he was an accomplished interpreter of Beethoven and Mozart. [That's more wild that most of my nights. Perhaps he thinks John Paul II was closer to Rodrigo Borgia than Joseph Ratzinger?]
That’s who he is. But what stymied him was who he isn’t. [He's serious!]
His Polish predecessor as Pope, Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, exploded into worldwide prominence and popularity in 1978 as a strong, smiling face for a church that had not elected a non-Italian for nearly 500 years. In combining as his papal name both John and Paul, Wojtyla suggested to the Church that he would follow the prudent style of rule set forth by John XXIII and Paul VI – neither of them firebrands. [The Church's state did not improve very much under JP2's reign. Most vital statistics declined, but no one said JP2 wasn't Paul VI]
Then, John Paul revealed his true nature: a brilliant, conservative theologian, [he was not an accomplished theologian, he was more of a wise pastor if anything] a master politician and historian, a nonpareil philosopher, [The beatification sermon did not even go this far] a polished performer thanks to his youthful acting career, an unapologetic anti-communist, and an inveterate traveler. He also didn’t mind showing off. He skied. He hiked. He canoed. He sported sneakers. He watched bare-breasted African women do traditional dances. [Someone tell Cardinal Arinze! Liturgical dance!] And he never stopped talking, in any of the seven or eight languages he spoke fluently, about how God loves us.
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. [I have been to a Papal audience and never felt his carnivorous threat] 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. [Hardly] The non-Catholic world howled; the Vatican cringed and apologized. [Not exactly]
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. [How much can he do to apologize and make amends with those whom he did not harm and still assumes guilt for letting down? Do you think the previous Pope really would have done a bit better?] 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. [Adrian Fortescue was right. The mania with encyclicals needs to desist]
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. [What a lovely ending, after railing against the man for being a dotty German carnivore rather than a Polish ski master!]