Thursday, September 27, 2018

Neither Death Nor Life Shall Be Able to Separate Us from the Love of God

Comments on the previous post suggest a tired and perhaps spiritually exhausted readership, a feeling we have all felt periodically. It is good at these times to turn off the noise, the polemics, and the mechanical prayers, instead immersing ourselves in holy things. Consider today's lesson from Mattins of Ss. Cosmas and Damian, taken from Saint Paul's epistle to the Romans:
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us. For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope:Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God. And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints. For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. And whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us? He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things? Who shall accuse against the elect of God? God that justifieth. Who is he that shall condemn? Christ Jesus that died, yea that is risen also again; who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword? (As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Prelatial Vindication: The Pian Revolutions

Msgr. Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop from Kazakhstan and traditionalist luminary, has recently aired some fresh episcopal opinions about both the 1911-3 and 1955-6 alterations to the Roman liturgy. The old Holy Week was a mere wish list item and the Divino Afflatu changes were absolutely off limits. Now a canonically regular bishop and genuine friend to tradition can look at these changes and clearly see them as a modern frame of thinking filtered into the old rite; much was lost and comparatively little was gained.

This blog has written extensively in advocacy of not only the old Holy Week but also the entire old Office, perhaps with a refreshed kalendar more balanced than those which post-date Trent, so there is little new to say here, but perhaps readers have some ideas.
Kazakhstan Bishop Athanasius Schneider has criticised two liturgical “revolutions” which preceded Paul VI's 1970 disastrous Novus Ordo reform.
Talking to (September 21), Schneider pointed to Pius X's 1911 reform of the breviary. For Schneider it is “an enigma how he could do this”.
Pius X radically changed the distribution of the psalms. The Roman Church had kept this order almost unchanged since or even before Pope Gregory I (+604).
For Schneider it is “reasonable” to return to the former breviary which he calls “the breviary of all ages”.
The second revolution Schneider localises in Pius XII's 1955 failed reform of the rite of Holy Week. According to Schneider a similar thing has "never happened in the entire history of the Church”.
Pius XII replace "the beautiful rites of Holy Week" with a “manufactured” construct, Schneider adds.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Liturgy of Saint Peter?

A reader asks:
"I apologize for this being off topic, but does anyone know about a supposed "Liturgy of St. Peter" that was supposedly celebrated in Rome once a year? Supposedly it was the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with a latin ordo. The story goes that Pius IX suppressed it after he performed it once."
The short answer is No, the Roman Pontiffs did not celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom annually, and until the 20th century perhaps not at all. The question probably derives from a cranky comment on an Orthodox forum which asserts that the "Liturgy of St. Peter" was uncovered by a ROCOR priest in Turkey; the same commentator also refers to a second "Liturgy of St. Peter" celebrated until the pontificate of Pio Nono. This is an interesting question which allows us to revisit some Latin liturgical history already explored elsewhere on this blog.

Pio says No No
The only obvious example of a Pope annually pontificating in an uncommon rite was that of the feast of Saint Peter's Chair. Prior to Saint Gregory VII the Roman Mass and Office had undergone a few major changes in the years since Saint Gregory the Great's death, namely the addition of feasts, the introduction of the Agnus Dei litany, the disappearance of popular Communion, and the spoken recitation of the Roman Canon. Those using a variation of the Roman liturgy north of the Lombard region were more open to enrichment, adding hymns to the Office, shortening some chants (antiphons) and making others more elaborate (evolving the second psalm at Mass into the Gradual), a ritual for serving Mass and the Office more inspired by the Benedictine choir tradition than the Roman secular clergy's manner described in the Ordo Romanus I, and the greater variability of lessons at Mattins. Enlisting the aid of monasteries in the Cluniac tradition, Archdeacon Hildebrand, as Gregory VII, introduced these Gallican elements into the Roman diocesan liturgy. The canons of Saint Peter's basilica and the Lateran cathedral, however, refused the Gallican elements, preferring the old chants without hymns and the more ancient, urban manner of celebrating Mass. Innocent III, once a canon-subdeacon of Saint Peter's, recounts that the popes continued to celebrate Mass in this archaic rite on the feast of Saint Peter's Chair up until his very pontificate. This ancient observance only died during the reign of Nicholas III who, as a Franciscan, carried a devotion to the curial liturgy his Minorite order observed.

As far as popes running afoul of the Divine Liturgy of the Church of Constantinople one need look no further than the Council of Florence, which temporarily returned almost all the Apostolic Churches to Communion until popular disdain for the Latins in the East and the military resolve of the Turks undid that work. After the Council—which strangely met with the Pope and his cardinals sitting at the same level on the Gospel side of the Florentine cathedral, followed by the rest of the clergy opposite the Greek Emperor sitting alone atop the Epistle side with the clergy sitting below him—there came the obvious desire to consummate the re-union by offering the Eucharistic sacrifice. It was agreed that the Greeks should celebrate, but the Latin clergy accustomed to their own ways and unaware of other customs, asked if they could observe the Divine Liturgy in private before offering it in public coram Summo Pontifice. The Greeks eventually complied and returned to Constantinople all the more disgruntled with their co-religionists.

There is a very strange text purporting to be a "Liturgy of St. Peter" floating around on another Eastern Christian forum, this time ByzCath. This "Liturgy" is a pastiche of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, the Liturgy of Saint James, a few odd Coptic prayers, and a Hellenized Roman Canon for good measure, although Western Orthodoxy didn't exist yet so there is no anachronistic epiclesis. The text comes from Mount Athos, where it may have either been used as a genuine form of Divine Liturgy or perhaps was a long dead monk's literary experiment. Aside from the Canon, the only Roman part of this text is that the shortened Great Doxology (Gloria in excelsis) takes place after the litany and before the lessons. How did this text come into being? One possibility, mentioned in the introduction, is that it came by way of Greek monks in Southern Italy and Sicily; another is that the Canon Roman found its way onto Athos by way of the Latin monastery that stood on the Holy Isle until the late Middle Ages. The writer posits evidence that this ritual was used in the Slavic tradition and survived among Old Believers, but does not point to what that evidence might be. With no other clues the word-for-word copy-and-paste nature of this text speaks to this ignorant writer as a thought experiment rather than something generally used.

The Roman rite has many Greek influences in the kalendar and some in the text, but generally has its own genius distinct from the somewhat more strongly influenced rites of Milan and Benevento. The near-full import of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom was not part of that influence.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hildegard, Doctress of the Church

(Allegory of Charity)
Happy feast day of Hildegard von Bingen, abbess, mystic, polymath, and preacher. Pope Benedict XVI named Hildegard a Doctor of the Church mere months before his abdication of the Holy See, and there has never quite been a sufficient explanation for her elevation to this honor. I have recently been reading commentary on the Deutsch Doctress but am now feeling the need to study her original writings. Her Scivias looks rather daunting in length and subject matter. She also fits in with a long term plan to read from a wide range of pre-modern women mystics.

That being said, I would be happy to look at any good commentary our readers can send my way. Any thoughts on the appropriateness of her honorary doctorate or of her audacity to become a preacher are also welcome.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Remembering the Personal Cost

Lukewarm Catholics at Mass
I rarely read news stories or blogs anymore, which perhaps contributes to the on-going diminishment of my prose, but when I do click on article I primarily read the comments. An old axiom I learned while working on political campaigns, "perception is reality," holds true precisely because perception guides how people make decisions, whereas reality can be and often is ignored. One such disconnect, which elicited the poor choices of those days, was the disparity between what people wanted and what they were given by the episcopate in the mid-20th century. A New Liturgical Movement blog post on tracking bishops' statements and policies has given way to an interesting series of exchanges between young Catholics in favor of the old liturgy, old Catholics in favor of the old liturgy, and old Catholics in favor of the Pauline liturgy. One commentator writes:
"Change needs to take place slowly. That was probably the biggest problem with the introduction of the Ordinary Form, to much to quick. A more balanced slow approach in hindsight would have been far better. Dr. Peter and other we're not around at the time of the change or very young (according to Wikipedia Dr Peter was born in '71). The fact is the vast majority of folks couldn't wait for the changes. Yes there were some who are not happy and that's understandable. But if you weren't there you can't possibly comment with any credibility. One can disagree with the Pope but the things being spewed out these days is not Catholic. I agree, the pope wants to move back to before Trent. Trent was not the end all of all that is Catholic. One of the councils goals was to return to the sources. I certainly have no issues with Dr. Peter's preferences, we all have them. But how dare he or anyone else tell me how I should pray and encounter God. There is room for all of us. Also, if he had any idea of what was really going on in the average parish he would know that slowly those of us involved in the music and liturgy have slow been trying to balance the older with the new. Done slowly it will be successful but attacks just exacerbate things."
This is one of the most audaciously ignorant comments I have read regarding amenability to liturgical reform since I last read PrayTell. This is akin to saying one could not make a judgment on the execution of Charles Stuart because one was not there when that genocidal social climber, Cromwell, sat opposite the King. Some perspective is lost in time, but some fresh perspective is gained by distance and aid of statistics. In retrospect the liturgical disaster really could not have happened at any point in history other than when it did, when old bishops recovering from the shock of war heard their baby-boomer clergy whisper in their ears that everything should change so that the Church might live. The Church was hardly dying anymore in 1950 than it was during Napoleon's age, and she even emerged from the Second World War with improved prestige and improved Mass attendance relative to the dawn of the 20th century. There was much to be desired concerning how Mass was celebrated and how priests were trained, but what transpired was the wrong answer to an entirely different set of issues the Church faced.

America especially suffered from "the changes" to the Mass, to episcopal governance, to priestly formation, and discipline. In 1960, 90% of American Catholics went to Mass; 75% believed the pope to be the last authority on matters of discipline. When "Blessed" Paul VI died Mass attendance was below 50% and a third of American priests, presumably heterosexuals, too, had left their vocations. Today Mass attendance sits below 20% and is due for another sharp drop when the last of the millennials have their Confirmations.

I may not have the "credibility" to judge how people "couldn't wait for the changes", but if my apostate father, born 1941, is any indicator, people couldn't wait to get to the door. Most people from that age are now former-Catholics still hoping for a Catholic funeral. Ask them, "When did the New Mass come out?" and they will look at you in confusion because they themselves cannot remember. It all happened in a rapid haze. Vernacular, women reading, and the priest standing opposite a newly-fashioned picnic table occurred in a mad rush; then came extra readings, more vernacular, "praise" music, and altar girls; by the time Paul VI issued his Missale Romanum half the congregation had thrown up their hands in [genuine] disbelief and found the nearest exit.

These changes happened too fast? Part of the problem is that they happened too fast, but the greater part is that they happened at all. If, after decades of fasting, regular Confessions, and devotions in preparation for Mass, a man with a microphone begins with "Good morning, all are welcomed!" a return to purer spirituality is not communicated. The one and only message, which the people of the day read clearly, is that "It wasn't really important after all."

Years ago Benedict XVI, as Joseph Ratzinger, anticipated a smaller, more devout Church. Along similar lines, Rod Dreher, who has left the Catholic Church but cannot seem to stop writing about Catholic issues for Catholic audiences, has proposed his "Benedictine option", something of a retreat from the world wherein the devout can create new communities for the future of Christendom. This is a misguided attempt to make lemonade out of lemons. For all the joking about "cafeteria Catholics" and the lukewarm, many of those who lost their faith back in the mid-20th century were lukewarm people who were clinging to the Church out of social custom, habit, convert's zeal, or a devotion borne in the mind rather than in the heart; those people may not have been "good" Catholics, but they were still Catholics, aware of their sins and availing themselves to the Sacraments. They clung to drift wood near the barque of Peter and the officers on the same barque saw fit to send them to the bottom. All that remained were the liberals who wrought the destruction and had not committed apostasy as a result and the conservatives who clung to what devotion they could in a world turned upside down.

For all the talk that transpires on this blog, NLM, PrayTell and elsewhere about whether or not something is liturgically correct it is useful to remember the actual cost in souls. For all the Protestant pastors illuminated by the concept of liturgy in the '90s hundreds of cradle and convert Catholics went into the outer darkness.

But then again, I have no credibility on this matter.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Understanding the Need for Reform

Gregory X, a forgotten but great reformer pope

Walk into your neighborhood parish for Sunday morning Mass and look at the families with children, especially those with few children. Then ask yourself "How many of these kiddies will be attending a Sunday Mass with any regularity in ten years, when they are out of college on their own?" The answer, if historical trend continue, is about one in five, which is the same reduction in fidelity Americans saw in transitioning from the so-called Greatest Generation to the detestable Baby Boom generation.

The most important element of the faith, aside from working toward one's personal salvation, is the transmission of that same faith to other people. There are national churches in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, but on the whole Apostolic Christianity, not unlike its Divine Founder, "has no where to lay its head." Like the Presence of Christ after His Ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Church is ubiquitous while belonging to no place in particular. The descent of the Holy Spirit, paralleling the giving of the Decalogue to Moses, means that unlike the Ten Commandments, written on stone for all to see, the fulfilled Law resides within the illumined heart of the believer.

More to the point, we must understand and live the Catholic faith if we are to pass it on to posterity. It is not enough to remember a few bits of the Nicene Creed recited during Sunday Mass at Saint Michael's in Manhattan or that everyone was always hopping up and down in the pews at the Jesuit church on Farm Street or that Sister Agnes told us not to use condoms during a sex ed class at Catholic high school. Even among the more devout and instructed, one must go beyond remembering swatches of the [latest] Catechism of the Catholic Church. Faith and its adherence to Our Lord's wishes must be very alive and intuitive as breathing. It must be the sort of faith that drives people to their knees when a priest walks by with the Holy Eucharist or which inspires families to create their own customs around major feast days. This sort of understood Christianity, constantly aware of the power of the Incarnation and Resurrection, has met both firmer and weaker degrees of resistance from the European and American hierarchies the last five decades and in some places has survived in spite of the bishops. While it may be surviving, even healthily so in some parishes, this faith is not flourishing and it is time to understand why.

The liturgy changed, industrialism shifted the social paradigm, political revolutions threw off traditional order, and doctrine has been undermined in favor of seminar-room affability. What do we do about it? What would reform look like? And what should "reform" be understood to mean?

Reform represents a hard point in Church history, since every change inevitably has its losses and additions to custom. The essence of reform is that it introduces nothing new, refreshes what is precious, and excises what is dead to the transmission of our religion. Anything else is either failure or novelty, or in the case of the 20th century, both. What is most in need of reform right now is not the Mass, which needs restoration; it is not doctrine, which requires polish rather than the crud of recent years; it is the papacy. The Roman bishopric itself needs dire reform.

The main problem with the modern papacy is not so much its power as much as its potency, its potential to exercise power over the Universal Church. What prior popes held to be untouchable—either by fear of retribution, respect for place, or heartfelt conviction that a matter was beyond their authority—the modern papacy can and does touch. The Roman liturgy is the most obvious example of this problem, but turmoil over Paul VI, John Paul II, and now Francis' dilution of discipline and the verbiage of doctrine demonstrates that the papacy as it exists today is incapable for its most essential function, that is, guarding Christianity in a way that the faithful can truly understand and can safely pass on. The papacy, not to be confused solely with the pope, selects cardinal-archbishops who will lead national episcopal conferences which will in turn lobby and manipulate the choice of his successor. It changes, or can change, the worship of God at whim, something that previous generations held to be the active work of the Holy Spirit. It can formulate and re-formulate doctrine to suit post-modern European political sensibilities rather than a realistic understanding of human nature. The Roman Pontificate and its entourage can de facto do anything.

History tempts one to pinpoint Vatican I as the beginnings of this turgid bureaucracy, but the trouble is really a little older and less complicated than that. The popes were once crowned as "Father of princes and kinds, ruler of the world, earthly vicar of Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ." Today they are "inaugurated" as the spiritual rulers of 1.3 billion registered voters. What once was an independent state meant to safeguard the independence of the Church and regulate disputes between the rulers of Christendom became a machine of superfluous politicians co-prisoners with Pius IX inside the Apostolic Palace after the Papal States fell apart and the various monarchies of Europe shortly there after. The energy and infrastructure found itself with little to do on a grand scale, so, like any committee, sought and found new ways to justify and perpetuate its existence. The Vatican and the papacy became more and more interested in the regulation of daily Christian life, be it fasting (reduced several times in the 20th century), the Mass and Office, Canon Law (two new codes in the same period), Catechism, episcopal selection processes, and private devotions (how many extras were approved). Aside from a few dicasteries like the Penitentiary and the Rota, one would be hard pressed to justify the existence of any office in the Vatican, staffed with friends of previous administrators and soon to be staffed with their pupils. And at the heart of it is the Pope himself, the successor of Saint Peter and an Apostle in his time as Peter was in the first century. Unfortunately, the Roman Pontiffs have seen fit to travel the world where other faithful are already in possession of their own Apostolic successors, disempowered by both Canon Law and episcopal conferences. Meanwhile, the Church of Rome, which Saint Irenaeus said demanded assent from all other churches, languishes in decline.

In this respect the papacy is not unlike the Mass itself during the Renaissance, the end of the Middle Ages. At no time in history was the Mass more loved, more desired, more imminent in the lives of the faith; at no time was it more abused, more used for bad purposes, and amenable to rebellion. Liturgy, Offices, votive rites, grand processions, and local traditions proliferated in these years. The faithful demanded Requiem Masses by the dozen for a deceased ancestor, supported priests whose only purpose was to say certain votive Masses, they heard Mass at least once daily, and made up their own parts for the cycle of Divine drama that unfolded throughout the year. Simultaneously, monks would celebrate a missa sicca, an imitation of the first half of Mass sans the chasuble, and charge the faithful stipends for their intentions. Laity would go into a cathedral on a Sunday and hop from altar to altar after Prime just to see the elevation as many times as they could, all the while missing the public Mass and procession at the altar after Terce. Reformers like Luther grew to hate the Mass for its abuses and read the disposition of people towards the Mass as evidence for its hollowness. The Tridentine Fathers, far from disposing of the Mass, recognized need to purge malevolent influences so that the command of Christ to His Apostles "Do this in anamnesis of me" might continue.

Like the late medieval Mass, the papacy is an essential element of Christianity that currently suffers from vitiations that obscure its purpose and complicate its transmission to future generations. In fact, some might be well tempted to ditch it altogether, be it through sedevacantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or outright loss of faith. And as with the Mass five centuries ago this is too far.

The essential elements of the papacy, as detailed by Adrian Fortescue in his survey of pre-Chalcedonian Church Fathers The Early Papacy, are:

  1. the pope's place as chief bishop in the Church
  2. universal episcopal jurisdiction
  3. Rome as the point of Communion for all other bishops within the Church
  4. infallibility in judgments of doctrine
At face value these are difficult elements to reform, especially the first and second points given the administrative and spiritual centralization around the papacy. The pope's duty to "confirm his brethren" mandates that he be able to correct them and their mistakes when necessary, meaning his episcopal power overrides others, even if his decisions in this regard do not enjoy the inerrancy of doctrinal teaching. 

What reform might look like in this respect is a world in which papal acts of immediate episcopal jurisdiction do confirm the Pontiff's brethren rather than do their duties in their stead. Let the bishops truly run their churches and let the pope's intervention be just that, an intervention rather than a corporate check up on how a franchisee is performing. One may ask what would have happened in Los Angeles during the '90s when Roger Mahony was Cardinal-Archbishop and the Vatican watched to make sure he could not go too far. Is not the Vatican "thing" precisely what prevents liberal bishops from going fully public with their views? On the contrary, Roger Mahony would never have been a deacon in an age in which the Pope was the guardian of the faith and the local ordinary its primary means of conveyance. A loosening of the pope's active binding and loosing might mean immediate problems, but there is no other way to give the faith sufficient room to gain roots. Otherwise we will continue to play the game pro-life Republicans have played with the Supreme Court for years: we just need to get one more person who agrees with us in place and everything will be right with the world. 

Unlike earlier generations, when papal reform meant freeing the Roman bishopric and lending authority to its Petrine prestige, a modern reform to reduce its immediate influence has very few precedents. One might be the invention of the College of Cardinals. Before the 12th century Cardinals were merely the archpriests and deacons of the major collegiate churches of Rome and the bishops of the surrounding suburbs. The pope was elected by popular acclaim in the Lateran Square and his election confirmed either by the Byzantine or Frankish Emperor. Sometimes approval was not sought; sometimes a bribe from a forgettable Italian nobleman was sought. The popes of the late first millennium were generally impotent hostages to outside forces for the very reason they had nominal power: they were the rulers of central Italy. The erection of the College of Cardinals ended this external influence on Church elections and government (while introducing other considerations, as any reform does) and freed the popes of the Middle Ages to refine the Roman rite, promote Benedictine monasticism, condemn simony, and encourage upright standards of clerical living. Something similar, if more drastic, is needed today, only today the albatross is entirely self-imposed and not from the House of Spoleto.

At a recent house party the topic of conversation turned to the current state of the papacy. A general consensus emerged that great change is needed. Some wanted Pope Francis to resign. More forthright than most, I confessed to ignoring most anything out of Rome in recent decades and suggested a serious reform of the office might be needed for it to regain its proper place. One attendee piously suggested we should still give Francis an ear before disregarding what he has to say. Another, who sees me at weekday Masses, asked if I was a Catholic. My answer now, which I did not think to say then, would be "Yes, and I would like to ensure future generations can be Catholic, too."

Monday, September 3, 2018

The One Name I Don't See Mentioned

The international media sensation around Archbishop ViganĂ²'s allegations against the Vatican and Pope Francis has managed to bring unexpected light to the dark homosexual ring around the upper clergy in the United States, especially among certain cardinals who have influenced the selection of other bishops and cardinals. Oh, if only Cardinal Bernardine could see this day! His name would be all over the papers with her spiritual children, Uncle Ted McCarrick, the Girl Donna Wuerl, some dotty Irishman named Kevin Farrell—once bishop of Dallas, and their patron, the Roman Ordinary himself, who also has his own patrons whose interests he serves.

There is one name, which I have seen a few times in passing, but which I do not see mentioned prominently in any of the articles on the Uncle Ted scandal and Bergoglio-cover up. It is a name that will not figure into prosecutions, because its bearer veiled no crime. It is a name which does not fit into the personal narrative, because that person did not commit any of the lascivious acts alleged. It is a name, however, which will become more and more dubious as the history of the late 20th and 21st century Church crystallizes, a name which will be associated with half-hearted effort, good intentions, and failure. The name is Benedict XVI.

One writer has already alluded to Lateran V in comparison to Vatican II, a council which nominally met to address the contemporary problems in the Church and which ended failed miserably because of confirmation bias on the part of its participants. The Reformation broke out and two generations later the "Petticoat Pope", Paul III, a simoniac himself, finally convened the Council of Trent and confirmed the Society of Jesus.

The name of Benedict XVI lends itself more neatly in analogy with Lateran V than any other historical parallel in this vicious saga. Lateran V met under the aegis of Julius II, the "warrior pope", when Martin Luther was still in a German monastery mismanaging his hormones. Five years before Doctor Luther's theses [dis]graced the door of a cathedral, a general council met to consider the same forces of corruption which would lend the ears of an otherwise pious populace to Luther and his successors. Rather than deal with the problems of simony, embezzlement, and the newfangled issue of book printing, Lateran V confirmed a few political treaties, advocated another crusade against the Turks, and agreed everything else was well and good. To us today, Lateran V looks like a wasted opportunity in the backward mirror that is history. Could they have known the extent of the problems at the time? Perhaps not that huge segments of Christendom would leave the Church for a novelty version of Christianity, but anyone in the know, especially after the Avignon Schism and Jan Hus, could be expected to know the bishops were trying and failing to deal with the brewing issues of the day. It was a failure. It should have been Trent two generations and a major schism earlier, but instead it was a failure.

Benedict XVI knew the Jan Hus and Avignon crises of his time, having battled John Paul II over the matter of Marcial Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ when he ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. John Paul refused to believe that a priest, much less a priest with such public fidelity to the Apostolic See, could be a pervert. Ratzinger knew and, when he replaced John Paul as Pope of Rome, made a very visible and public example of Maciel, leaving the future of the Legionaries in limbo, although they endure somehow. During his pontificate, Benedict XVI quietly removed sexually predatory priests from ministry across the world, but without the same dramatic quality as the Legionary founder. A parish priest found in scandal is a problem in a town, but perhaps not on several continents, and hence not worth the inevitable perception that the Church had an institution problem of sexual abuse. The case of Theodore McCarrick, however, much more resembles the case of Maciel than of Fr. Mustache.

Archbishop ViganĂ² alleges that Benedict XVI knew about "Uncle Ted" and his way with seminarians, and saw fit to impose a life of penance on Mr. McCarrick. On a related note, in his 2013 book length interview with Peter Seewald, the same Benedict XVI ran victory laps over having vanquished the "gay mafia" of four or five people who were influencing affairs at the Vatican. Aside from lacking what sorority girls call a "gaydar", the Bishop of Rome emeritus failed to perceive the larger gay presence in the Vatican clergy and the opportunity to make an example of Theodore McCarrick in the same way he made an example of Marcial Maciel. Instead, he read the playbook of Lateran V and executed it in his own time: quiet regret, press management, a reshuffling and a replacement, and a silent punishment.

He did not leave McCarrick on active ministry, but he did not really punish the man by not letting him go to China either. One could plead ignorance for Benedict XVI by saying this seminar room academic, out of place as Pope of Rome, neither understood the extent of the "gay mafia" nor held the power to do anything about it. One could almost believe it if not for the knowledge that, like the bishops at Lateran V, he should have known better. Benedict XVI will not be a particularly memorable pope in history, just as Lateran V was not a particularly memorable council, but like Lateran V the few people who glean his name in history primers will read the short summary and roll their eyes in regret.