Pope Benedict XVI Resigns-Who’s next?

The last time a Pope resigned (in 1415), the world was a very different place. If you haven't yet read The Swerve, a fascinating account of how that world became this one, I highly recommend it. - promoted by david

From todays Times

Citing advanced years and infirmity, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic world on Monday by saying that he would resign on Feb. 28 after less than eight years in office, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

We will have to have sabutai check to see if anyone predicted this, though I do remember rumblings on BMG back when the Belgian abuse scandal really hit the fan that he may resign. His has been a mixed tenure, marked by a dramatic (and in my view welcome) return to more traditional liturgical language and devotions and a small but noted revival of the Church in Western Europe. It has also been marked, as many critics I am sure will mention, by an inept and at times simply tone deaf response to the growing abuse crisis, fractured relations with the Anglican church and Jewish groups due to priest poaching on the one hand and the controversial reinstatement of a banned anti-semetic religious order on the other. At the end of the day Joseph Ratzinger, the man, was a brilliant intellectual and passionate theologian. He has written countless books, two stand out to me. The first Jesus of Nazareth was a concise and simple biblical and theological study of the role of Christ as logos within Chrisian theology and is a great read for any practicing Christian and for non-Christians intrigued by the intersections of neo-platanism and Christianity. Another and far denser read was a series of discourses between him and noted secular philosopher Jurgen Habermas on the role of religion in the public sphere. These works show that Ratzinger, the man, was a brilliant and collegial professor, always civil and polite with his opponents including progressive Catholic like Hans Kung and “Nuns on the Bus’ social activist Simone Campbell. But unfortunately Benedict XVI, as Pope, did not have the leadership skills needed to take the Church into the 21st Century and react to the abuse crisis, and today’s decision may be a recognition that its time to return to the Academy, where he was always far happier, and place the burden on a younger man’s shoulders.

The discussion of who is and isn’t papabile (aka electable) will surely dominate the news in the next couple of weeks before the expected March conclave.

This site has a good breakdown of potential candidates.

This site tells us why Boston’s own Cardinal Sean’s chances are significantly diminished due to his beard.

My hope is that Cardinal Scola or Scherer, have the greatest potential to be another progressive reformer like Paul VI. Scola is the Archbishop of Milan, a diocese that has had a vernacular Milanese Rite distinct from the rest of the Latin Rite for several centuries and has always been a bit more reform oriented. Both John XXIII and Paul VI were archbishops of that diocese before being elevated to the Papacy and both were instrumental in liberalizing the church through the Second Vatican Council. Scola’s age and known association with liberation theology in the past may make him less of a favorite with the conservative majority in the Curia but if he gets the backing of the Italians as their candidate he could be a player. Scherer would be the first Pope from the Global South, an area that is expanding rapidly for the Church, and would be a moderate conservative charismatic in the mold of John Paul II with a greater capacity for reform. He has certainly been promoting economic justice during his tenure while also remaining a hardliner on social issues.

I am less enthusiastic about Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Montreal for his outspoken opposition to homosexuality and abortion, but he seems a more papabile candidate as of late. Schonborn endorsed birth control and questioned clerical celibacy while also saying inflamming remarks about Muslims, he would also be the second German speaking Pope in a row and is seen as a ‘little Benedict’ so its unlikely he will have many allies. One Cardinal not mentioned is Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria who supposedly got a significant number of votes at the last Conclave, he would be a dramatic step backward for the Church, as would his Filipino colleague Cardinal Tagle due to their pre-Vatican II beliefs.

We will have to see and it will be an interesting time for the Church. And in case anyone is wondering I’ve started happily attending an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian church this year, and intend to keep going there. Its liturgically traditional and theologically liberal which is how I like it. I suspect the next Pope will have the opposite combination.

Recommended by somervilletom, mark-bail.


58 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. This is the moment -- can the Vatican seize it?

    I have felt, from the very beginning, the Mr. Ratzinger was a “transition figure” needed to insulate his much-beloved predecessor from any radical changes that could be interpreted as criticism or rejection of his stances. Mr. Ratzinger has played the role admirably, putting his mark on the Vatican and the national church without drawing too much attention to himself. I doubt that many will advocate a fast-track for canonization for Mr. Ratzinger.

    The resignation of Mr. Ratzinger therefore creates the moment when the Roman Catholic church can resume the changes so abruptly halted after Vatican II, and so badly desired (especially by the American church).

    Here, in my view, are the crucial areas where the Pope must bring the Vatican and the Roman Catholic church into the modern era (I note that the Episcopal Church demonstrates how to integrate each of these very nicely into the traditional fabric of the Church):

    - Artificial contraception
    - Women’s ordination (both of clergy and to higher office)
    - Gay and lesbian sexuality
    - Clergy celibacy

    I note that all four pertain to gender and sexuality. It is no accident that an institution so strongly patriarchal and authoritarian has such issues with gender and sexuality.

    If the new Pope can seize the moment and courageously lead the church towards health in these four areas, the institution can survive, prosper, and perhaps even resume its classical role as model of human dignity. If not, the institution will continue its downward spiral into ignominious irrelevance.

    • Unlikely but we can hope and pray

      This American Catholic is more than happy attending to attend his distinctly Anglo-Catholic Episcopal parish in Chicago, which shows how to modernize without sacrificing the faith that so many other mainline parishes (including some Episcopal ones) have done.

      My parish is Eucharistic centered, the Mass is done with a grace, dignity, and seriousness that is too often lacking at the ‘guitar masses’ I grew up with. The preaching is apolitical and strongly focused on Scripture and The most important point is that the Eucharist, which this parish strongly agrees with Rome is the Body and Blood of Christ is open to EVERYONE with no exception. Thus anyone baptized or just wanting to take part and discover Christ can do so, gays are clearly welcome but not in the over the top ham handed way so many other mainline churches do so. And the primary concern is following Christ, loving one another, following the Bible, and giving time and energy to help the poor. Strongly Trinitarian, Marian, and Eucharistic while also strongly catholic in its univeral outreach to the world. It really blends what I loved most about attending Protestant churches with the reverence and mysticism of the Catholic mass and patristic theology I grew to appreciate in college. I do not see why it can’t be replicated in the Roman church, my parish is constantly full and thriving both financially and spiritually.

      I honestly welcome Ratzingers contributions to the liturgy and think a focus on renewing the liturgy, helping the poor, and inspiring the faithful can renew the Catholic church.

      I think lifting the ban on birth control amongst married couples, modifying clerical celibacy along the Orthodox lines (must be married before ordination, can only be a parish priest) is also doable and frankly its hypocritical to allow married Anglican priests and other Protestants to become Catholic priests, and allow married Eastern rite priests while forcing the vast majority of Catholic men to consider only celibacy when discerning their vocations.

      I think women priests and the homosexuality issue will unfortunately not be considered by the next Pope, partly for pragmatic considerations since ecclesiastical unity is so important to the Catholic faith and the breakup of the Anglican Communion on these issues might scare even a reform oriented Pope from considering this. You may see a female deaconate, the historic and biblical evidence is overwhelming that it once occurred in the Church so its not as ‘radical’ a notion as female priesthood. Allowing nuns to say Mass also has some historic roots and would have the benefit of opening up the Church to women already in vocations without dramatically challenging the ‘seperate natures’ argument against female priesthood (which I’ve grown to view as bullshit but it has a hold on many thinkers inside and outside the clergy). The recent crackdown on nuns gives me pause that this could happen.

      But we honestly have no idea and anything is possible. As one liberal Catholic commentator put it, Benedicts resignation may be the most modernizing thing he did in his Papacy.

    • I don't think that will happen

      I think that Benedict was a transition pope, but his papacy was one which continued John Paul’s long stacking of the College of Cardinals with like minded, conservative Cardinals who would obediently continue efforts to push the Church back before the time of Vatican II of John XXIII. I think Benedict’s resignation was planned to make certain that he would have a strong hand in selecting the next Pope, another reactionary, conservative, who would further drive the Church back into the last century, and Benedict’s papacy gave that man time to grow into the job and gather the support to win the title.

      • Not the way I see it.

        I think that Benedict was a transition pope, but his papacy was one which continued John Paul’s long stacking of the College of Cardinals with like minded, conservative Cardinals who would obediently continue efforts to push the Church back before the time of Vatican II of John XXIII.

        John Paul II actually took a lot of heat early in his papacy for A) Taking the name “John Paul” (one of which commemorates John XXIII, who conceived Vatican II and the other which commerates Paul, who birthed it) and 2) digging in his heels on rolling back Vatican II. He was also famous (and infamous amongst some traditionalists I know) for righting history with respect to Gallileo and science in general, repeatedly apologizing to large swaths of people for wrongs committed by the church and asserting the essential dignity and rights of homosexuals (while, yes, still asserting that homosexual acts were sinful…). He also sought, fostered and established much good will between the church and other religions… which goodwill Ratzinger has seen fit to actively disparage where he has not allowed it to wither from neglect.

        In fact, I think that Ratzinger is a gatekeeper pope and was always and only the one trying to roll back Vatican II and that John Paul II stopped him cold. And I think Benedicts resignation is the final defeat. It was, of course, not without problems: John Paul II’s actions in Poland against communism was likely a moral impetus to the ‘liberation theology movement’… certainly it mirrored many pages in their playbook… but when that threatened to overwhelm the church Ratzinger shot it down with John Pauls’ support. It was Ratzinger, too, who stood between John Paul II and the emerging sex abuse scandal: my feeling is that Ratzinger kept much of it hidden from JP II either out of denial of it as a problem or because he later realized how big it would be and how damaging it would be to his own prospects. Given what I know about John Paul II and his compassion for victims of suffering, I don’t think he’d have just sat by watching the problem get larger and larger and more and more victims emerged: yes he knew about it and did offer an apology, but my point is he almost certainly did not recognize it’s scope. His health declined more or less in parrallel with the emerging scandal and he was less and less able. I put the scandal and coverup of sex abuse almost wholly at the feet of Ratzinger: there is absolutely no way for him to say he did not grasp the scope and the scale of it. He may have told all to JP II, but I really really doubt it. There is still doubt in my mind this very day as to whether Benedict takes it all that seriously.

        Not that John Paul II is perfect and I certainly don’t buy the infallibility argument anymore. His record with respect women is much too much about reverence for Mary and negligence for all other females as his views on celibacy and married priests. But in the matter of compassion, humility and understanding John Paul II is light years away from Benedict XVI and to tie the two together like you have tried to do elides Benedicts vices and blankets John Pauls virtues.

        • err...

          and the other which commerates Paul, who birthed it

          …That should read “Paul VI, who birth it” Paul VI being John XVIII’s successor when John died midway through the council.

    • sadly, it's not going to happen

      I won’t be surprised if a ‘reformist” is appointed, but I doubt the ‘reform’ will be dedicated toward ending its patriarchal overtones and persecution of LGBT people.

      I could see some room to budge on artificial conception, particularly since that was only banned a few years ago, but that’s about it. The leaders of the church have for too long been a part of a very exclusive and cloistered boy’s club and are far too out of touch with their membership.

      The only thing that can save the church is by the membership rising up and going after the money. That’s the only thing that can win in these cases; the Catholic Church (like the Boy Scouts and so many other organizations) will only change when they realize their bigotry is an existential threat to the organization, and that it’s change or die as an institution.

      RyansTake   @   Tue 12 Feb 3:53 AM
  2. I'd love a return to Vatican II commitments.

    It may be too much to for any quick and radical change on some of the social issues Tom cites. I’d be happy if the Church started by welcoming as opposed to shutting down dialogue and downplaying those positions in favor of emphasizing social and economic justice that they are already good at.

    • Agreed

      The SSPX appointments and Anglican Ordinate were a setback for ecumenical dialogue, and I would hope his successor recognizes that and quickly makes amends. Paul VI and John XXIII also did little on women priests, gay rights, or birth control but are more favorably viewed since they were incredibly open and pastoral. They encouraged debate around those issues even if they did not advance a distinct progressive agenda, they did not shut debate down. In some ways John XXIII disliked some of the changes ‘his’ council wrought, particularly the litugrical ones, but he also knew that it was the proper role for a modern Pope to step back and let the laity, clergy, and other faiths inform a modern faith.

      We will see. ‘Church shopping’ was an incredibly difficult and sometimes painful experience for me and my fiancee, and I felt the pain of her exclusion from communion at Mass and the pain I caused her when I was more judgmental and steadfast in my traditionalism. Christ is not supposed to cause pain, and church shouldn’t either. And our personal pain is miniscule compared to my mothers who felt chastised by the Church due to her justified divorce from an abusive first husband, compared to the countless women who had abortions and cannot come back to the Church, gays in the church, or victims of abuse. The next Pope does not have to be a progressive but he has to be willing to understand and feel his peoples pain and proactively respond to it to bring more faithful back.

      I suspect our unique Episcopal parish in Chicago will be hard to find elsewhere, too many Episcopal parishes have either become reactionary conservative and left to Rome or seperatist dioceses, or are so wishy washy that they aren’t even distinctly Christian anymore (the Muslim priest in Seattle or the Bhuddist bishop in Michigan, the ‘post-theist’ bishop in Newark). Finding a community that was strongly liturgical (important to me and increasingly to her), strongly scriptual (important to her) and tolerant without being wishy washy was incredibly difficult, and now that we found one I believe its quite hard to replicate without the right kind of leadership our vicar provides. But if the next Vicar of Christ is as good as my local vicar than maybe this Catholic will come home.

      • Episcopal dioceses of MA and NH

        I encourage each of you to learn more about the Episcopal dioceses of both MA and NH — in particular, the legacies of Bishop Tom Shaw (in MA) and Gene Robinson (in NH).

        In my view, the full inclusion of women is the crucial and fundamental step. When all the theological hand-waving is done, the exclusion of half the human species is a medieval anachronism that will destroy the Roman tradition if it is retained. Virtually everything else that makes the Roman institution so, um, “challenging” is rooted in this theological error.

        It has taken the Episcopal tradition more than thirty years to (largely) accomplish this change — Massachusetts started it with the ordination of women in the 1980s and of Bishop Barbara Harris in 1989. The kerfuffle about ordaining gay and lesbian priests has been, from the beginning, a stalking-horse for reactionary elements of the Episcopal tradition who have never accepted the ordination of women.

        It is because of this long and torturous history that I suggest that the Roman Catholic church must start now — not decades from now (when the next Pope steps down or dies).

        The aspects that jconway has found so attractive (and they are) are the center of the Episcopal tradition as it is practiced in MA and NH and, for that matter, throughout the US — Tom Shaw, Gene Robinson, Barbara Harris, and many like them have led the way.

        I encourage each of you to read, if you haven’t already done so, “Here I stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality, by Bishop John Spong.

        • Seconding Tom on MA Episcopal Diocese

          I won’t get into the details of this Irish-Catholic’s rather angsty divorce from the church to which his own family has supplied so many priests, nuns, and monsignors, except to say that I still find it odd that after many years in the wilderness, I’m now Senior Warden at my (Anglo-Catholic) Episcopal parish. That had everything to do with what I saw coming from the EC generally and, especially, from Tom Shaw and the leadership here in the Diocese of MA. I’m getting the best of both worlds–a liturgy that takes me right back to my youth, and at the same time a very American, very democratic, very 21st church (“all power to the vestries”).

          To my mind, the recent announcement of Bishop Shaw’s resignation is of far greater moment than that of Benedict. This clip I shot of Tom homilizing at a recent “Move Your Money Event” might help explain it:

          (Other parts of the events captured here; photostream here).

          Bishop Shaw also showed up at one of the most moving religious rites I attended–a service at Dewey Square October 2011.

          Oh, and here’s a shot of my suffragen Bishop, Gayle Harris, at a recent visit to my parish. Why the Catholic Church would deny a woman of this caliber this opportunity I do not understand.

  3. Can anyone bridge the gap

    As the Anglican Church has discovered, it’s difficult to run an organization where the members are from the South, and the money is from the North — and the two areas don’t see eye to eye on much. I always had the idea that Schonborn was a reformer…surprised to see that.

    I would be shocked and astounded beyond belief if the next pope wasn’t European. This is a reactionary, insular group picking the next pope, pretty much designed to block against anything but the most conservative choice on the menu. Not picking an Italian is what counts for a bold move with these people.

    sabutai   @   Mon 11 Feb 1:09 PM
    • A few replies

      To sabutai:

      He is sort of eccentric and has a tendency towards being honest, that sort of like a SCOTUS nominee, can come back to haunt you. He was very honest about celibacy causing an insular culture and contributing to abuse and having married clergy remove some of that insularity, honest about condoms being the best way to stop HIV, and honest that civil and ecclesial marriages are totally different things. He also shared Western Europes bigotry towards Muslims though so in many ways he has alienated himself from the reformer and traditionalists alike, while also being seen as too close to the current Pope for those that are favoring a break.

      As for the North South divide and European pope points, it is likely the next Pope will be European, particularly if the Italians back a single candidate. It is next more likely than not that if it is a non-European it will be the archbishops of Beunos Aires or Sao Paolo who were European born and educated or the Francophone Oullet. It seems unlikely we will get an African or Asian pope. I think its critical the next Pope be able to articulate a Pauline rather than Petrine vision and really be pastoral and reach out to the masses, refocusing on economic justice issues which bring the church together and orient it towards changing society rather than insulating it from society, and open to debating the more contentious issues openly. If we can get those three things it will go a long way. And any future Pope must be a hardliner on preventing and punishing child abuse. No exceptions on that one.

      I’d agree with STom on Harris and to a lesser extent on Shaw (I’ve heard he is difficult to work with). In my view Spong is a step in the wrong direction, we can still be modern Christians without abandoning Christ’s divinity as he does. Whats left of the TEC should strive to be more than ‘Catholic lite’ or ‘social justice with incense’ and really embrace its history as a distinctly ‘reformed’ yet ‘catholic’ tradition. Both churches can learn from one another and improve, and I hope the days of a robust Canterbury-Rome relationship can be renewed with the next Pope as they were under Paul VI and his counterpart Archbishop Ramsey.

      • So in other words

        Schoenborn has an unfortunate habit of honestly speaking his mind. Sadly, as with a SCOTUS nominee, that disqualifies you. The anti-Muslim bigotry is disturbing, but considering that Ratzinger and most of his ilk believe they’re all destined for eternal suffering, I find it a difference of style and not substance.

        I think Paul is the worst thing that happened to the Catholic church. He basically left the Roman army, then tried to recreate it but in a different modality. I expect we’ll see more muddling through.

        sabutai   @   Mon 11 Feb 3:30 PM
      • Mistaken about Tom Shaw

        I’m not sure what “difficult to work with” means in the sense that you use it. Tom Shaw is among the most gentle, humble, and generous souls I’ve had the pleasure to meet, in or out of the church.

        I suppose that whoever said that might mean that he doesn’t roll over and quit in the face of opposition — I see that as a strength and an asset. He is, in my opinion, the epitome of some who lets the strength of his humility work its own way in its own time, as evidenced in his pastoral and effective response to the bigots who tried to divide and bring down the Episcopal Church.

        • Fair enough

          And as I recall the person complaining came from the evangelical low-church side of the TEC and likely disliked him for theological reasons. For the record I have never interacted with him or anyone in the MA diocese so I had no right to comment really. I have heard Harris preach and I heard good things about her time as bishop and I trust what you say about Shaw. I haven’t heard any stories about church closings so membership must be fairly stable, and i knew it grew under Gene Robinson and they are building new churches to meet demands up there so clearly the righties don’t know what they are talking about.

          I am hopeful we can have a return to a truly broad church both in Rome and Canterbury where people can feel free to disagree under he same roof, I think thats easier under the Canterbury model, which is ironic since many of the conservatives clearly long for a Pope in spite of their Protestantism.

  4. Terminology fun fact

    I was starting to develop a pet peeve around the idea that media were reporting that the Pope would resign rather than abdicate, the latter being what I thought was the proper term. Turns out that while abdication is the term generally used for monarchs (and make no mistake, the Pope IS a monarch, the last traditional one in Europe), Canon Law does in fact use the term resignation.

    • More fun facts

      The Post has a neat article explaining the other four Papal resignations, all were rather bizarre and shady. Like I linked to earlier, this is arguably the most modernizing thing Benedict has done as Pope and he is emulating the Northern monarchs (Benelux and Scandanavia) who abdicate when they are old to give a younger person a shot. As a British commenter joked you know Queen Elizabeth got an uncomforable call from Charles “mommy did you watch the telly today?”

      • Last fact

        We could once make fun of the filibuster by reminding Senators even Conclaves required a simple majority, but this is no more. Benedict reversed that rule change and it will now require a 2/3rds majority before we will see the white smoke.

    • Not the last Monarch in Europe

      Prince Albert wields immense political power in Monaco, both constitutionally defined hard power — he appoints the Minister of State to oversee their government and has veto power, etc. — and a lot of soft power beyond that.

      The House of Grimaldi, of which he comes from, has used their hard power to secure their fortunes to the point where Prince Albert is not only the wealthiest monarch alive, but owns Monaco’s ‘bread winner,’ the company that operates the city’s casinos and a lot beyond that. I imagine that adds a lot to his real influence in the state, even if it’s really more of a ‘soft’ power.

      He very much has the same kinds of power today that monarchs of old had, but the tiny city state is so wealthy, attracting people by being a tax haven, that apparently no one there cares.

      RyansTake   @   Mon 11 Feb 3:43 PM
      • Leichenstein

        The Prince periodically threatens to abdicate and take all his priceless art with him, which their economy depends on, and this way he forces them to vote the way he wants to. It go a C rating according to Freedom House due to his actually exercising his theoretical powers. And yeah the Grimaldi’s run a glorified gambling resort, and they are descended from pirates that Napoleon appointed. Another fun fact, if Albert didn’t produce an heir Monaco would permanently revert to being a French province. Lot of pressure there.

        • Weird place

          The citizens of the principality actually made their regime less democratic in a referendum a few years ago. It’s an interesting story.

          As for Monaco….cleanest parking garage I’ve ever seen.

          sabutai   @   Mon 11 Feb 11:30 PM
  5. Not to stray too far from topic...

    …but I’m pretty sure only the Dutch monarchs have made a habit of abdicating. I tend to be a traditionalist about this. Monarchs should stay on until they die, but regencies should be created when necessary.

    • why would you be a traditionalist about monarchies?

      You’re an American, they’re anathema to everything that we stand for. I can see tolerating the fact that others exist, in other parts of the world, but to espouse the fact that you’re a ‘traditionalist’ about them seems a little…. well, weird.

      RyansTake   @   Mon 11 Feb 3:22 PM
  6. One of the more interesting "abdications"...

    …was pulled off by the Belgian King in 1990 to get out of signing a bill liberalizing abortion laws.

    You all may have heard that the abdication of Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands is effective April 30th.

    As for the Pope I thought he might have tried to stay through Easter, but word from Rome is they hope to have a new Pope enthroned by then.

  7. I can remember the last time we had a changing of the guards,

    which was right around when I was deciding whether to stay in the church or leave, thinking that the church would see it was way behind the times and get with the program. That it would see things like trying to prevent the use of condoms or interfere with political contests or further encroach upon civil matters was going to make it irrelevant. I dearly hoped someone would be made Pope who stood against the old guard that protected the priests who molested children, and not the children.

    Instead, the appointed a retread who, himself, was likely deeply involved in the church policy that saw priests shuttled around to avoid detection, and himself was very much against a newer, more liberal church that was far more tolerant of others, particularly when it came to civil matters.

    It opened my eyes up to the real Catholic Church, showing me that the very few people at the top have only appointed their friends and fellow ideologues, ensuring the church is hopeless to enact the kinds of changes that would make the church relevant today, or would have kept me on board.

    It’s really very sad, because it could be an institution that could do so much good across the world, instead of destructive (to open and free societies) and dangerous (at the very least to little boys). Yet, this is the actual church that exists today, and the people who are in power do not give a damn what their ‘flock’ thinks. Apparently, they take the sheep analogy a little too far, thinking that’s exactly what the faithful are. Well, they aren’t, and if the Catholic Church doesn’t change — and soon — there won’t be very many people for the ‘shepherds’ to attend to, at all.

    RyansTake   @   Mon 11 Feb 3:20 PM
  8. I won't try to convince you Ryan...

    …but since you asked about my traditionalism I will try my best to answer. I certainly do not believe in any divine right to make your word law just because you were born into the right family. Modern European monarchies of course do not function on that basis, though I do think we’ve gone too far the other direction when it’s considered scandalous that a royal so much as expresses an opinion. I am both a history buff and a lover of pageantry and monarchy stands at the intersection of those two things. If I were European I would be a monarchist, but that is not the tradition here. In America I only hope that the Presidency and the President are held to an appropriate level of esteem and would not mind if the US were a member of the Commonwealth of Nations (just about the only British colony not to be I think), of which the British Sovereign is head (though as a republic like India not a monarchy like Canada). There is something to be said for a head of state who is not also a political figure which the country can rally around, though I can certainly see different preferences on that one. I have read much on the various monarchs and have spent the last several years compiling European royal genealogies. So long as actual governing is done by popular representatives (though monarchs have their share of behind-the-scenes influence) there is a place for modern monarchy. So that’s just my preference, for what it’s worth, but you may recall I’m also the one who defends the continued existence of the Governor’s Council, based in part on the historical tradition that body represents.

    • A health dose of Anglophilia

      Is never a bad thing, I am a monarchist in so far as Elliot or Tolkein were. I like that we refer to our Governor as ‘His Excellency’ and have a lot of pomp with the office. Probably why I am such a traditionalist when it comes to liturgy too (surprised you’re in a free church Christopher we’d both make good high church Anglicans!)

      As to Ryan its important to find the right parish. I am more disheartened by Catholics that leave the Christian faith altogether than those that flock to other denominations. If my wife to be were Catholic I’d have never discovered by wonderful Anglo-Catholic episcopal parish, which to be honest is the best church I’ve gone to and I’ve been to many. But there may be some Catholic churches that come close, I know St. Clements in Boston has progressive minded preaching mixed with a very reverential Mass and Eucharistic adoration. But that mix is very hard to find in Boston which has been far more hostile to the Latin mass and ‘high church’ liturgy than Chicago. Fortunately it has a decent number of Anglo Catholic parishes so when I move back I’m sure to find a home.

      But I do hope the tribulations have not made you lose faith. Too often overzealous Christians are to blame for making people feel uncomfortable with the church. I know I was a lot more zealous two years ago, but in the past year and a half I’ve come around on most of the hot button issues. More Catholics should read the bible and realize that Christ is a god of love first and foremost, and more Protestants should read the church Fathers and realize that neoplatanism helps rather than diminishes Christianity.

      • Indeed, Jconway

        My church is the one I was raised in and I like it, mostly because it emphasizes free conscience over dogma. However if Ryan finds an American monarchist to be weird, what does that make a High Church Congregationalist?

        • Good area to live in

          Boston area congregationalists are as high church as they get I guess. I am a big fan of Neibhur, Barack Obama, and Lillian Daniel who are all UCC. Too low church for my taste, but they paid to send my fiancee to America, and if it wasn’t for the UCC her family would’ve stayed put in the Phillipines. Of course her parents rewarded he UCC by switching to Methodism :P

          • Niebuhr fan? Me too.

            Have you seen his takedown of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (from a 1944 book review in The Nation):

            No social philosophy dealing with only one of two contrasting perils which modern society faces is adequate to our situation. Dr. Hayek sees the perils of political power clearly enough, but there is nothing in his book to indicate the slightest awareness of the perils of inordinate economic power. He writes as if the automatic balances of a free competitive system were still intact, or would be, if the world had not been beguiled by collectivist thought. There is no understanding of the fact that a technical civilization has accentuated the centralization of power in economic society and that the tendency to monopoly has thrown the nice balance of economic forces — if it ever existed — into disbalance.

            More appreciation here: http://hesterprynne.net/2013/01/15/honoring-mlk-by-honoring-his-teacher/

            • Thanks for the link

              An even better take down of libertarianism than Whittaker Chambers polemic against Ayn Rand, clearly because Neibuhr was a far greater writer and thinker. I am also very happy to have a President that is able to quote him on the fly. My future father in law wrote his dissertation on the intesection of Bonhoffer, King, and Neibuhr and Christian resistance to evil within the secular state. I should probably read it one of these days.

              Tolstoy is also a heavily influential and rather underrated Christian thinker and ethicist who was a sublte influence on all three.

              And to keep it ecumenical big Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day fan.

      • I don't have a need for a parish...

        Tens of thousands of young boys — and girls — molested, while priests were protected and none of the leadership that did the protecting were brought to justice.

        The idea that, because my parents are divorced and my father remarried, his children from his second wife are “bastards” in the eyes of the church.

        The church not only fails to open itself up to gay people in any substantive way, but dives into civil issues by donating millions to posting very hurtful and highly negative ads, ones that clearly suggest gay people are not safe around children — which is not only deeply hurtful, but after study after study, is factually incorrect. It also urges hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of its churchgoers to vote against marriage equality, often saying horrible things, and being the boots on the ground in those fights.

        It has shut down or scaled back huge aspects of its social justice programs, often under the guise of the fact that it would be ‘forced’ to help gay people, or women, or >>>insert minority they don’t like here<<< even while they collect literally billions from the government in various forms of aid and funding.

        It's gone a full on blitzkrieg against nuns and sisters across the world, because they actually still believe in social justice causes, and some of them happen to think they deserve… you know… equal rights in the church as priests, because there's literally nothing in the bible that says they shouldn't have it.

        They've fought against condoms and even the pill like they fought against the world spinning around the sun, and it's had about the same effect.

        All of that made it very easy for me to decide that I wasn't a Catholic anymore, but it wasn't until I made that decision that I was able to question my faith and ask myself if there was ever any real evidence of a god or gods or any kind of divine entity. The answer is clearly no.

        Even the evidence of Jesus as a historical person can be called into doubt. There is literally no record of him having existed from historical accounts at the time, or a long time after, which is highly odd given his place in the bible and the rapidity with which the church formed. I wouldn't say he didn't exist, even as a person, for sure, but honestly it's a more logical conclusion, given what facts exist, than the alternative.

        Yet, I respect all faiths which do not attempt to infringe against my rights as a citizen and human being, who do not lead petitions to put those rights of mine on a ballot to be voted on by everyone else. I consider myself a humanist first and foremost, and suppose I'll find what else truly exists after my final breath. I do not need 70% of the ten commandments to tell me to be a good person; being a person, complete and full with empathy and understanding, should be enough.

        I only say any of this because of your suggestion that I simply haven't found the right church. With all due respect, um… no. That's not it at all.

        RyansTake   @   Tue 12 Feb 3:08 AM
    • I have to admit...

      I could never understand your perspective on any of that, but I’ll respect your point of view and just be glad it’s in the extreme minority in this country :p

      Were I ever to, say, move to a place that had a monarch, I guess I’d respect the tradition enough to mostly keep my mouth shut and be respectful of the institution, were I ever to meet someone who was a part of it… but in reality, I could never fully support anyone who takes the title of “King” or “Queen” because their zygote hit a grand slam in luck.

      I believe leaders should do a little something to actually deserve what they get, beyond being born into the same family. That’s another reason why I support very high estate taxes and strong social programs that give everyone a fair shot, too.

      RyansTake   @   Tue 12 Feb 2:47 AM
  9. Back to Benedict

    A one sentence summation of his papacy could be that he was better suited to teach than to lead, and he and the world would’ve been happier had he stayed a professor and not a pontiff.

  10. Who's next? Easy:


  11. Has anyone expressed interest . . .

    in being interim pope?

  12. I have enjoyed reading

    the thoughtful posts on this subject.

    However, I cannot as a former Catholic even conceive (not pun intended) of supporting a paternalistic hierarchy that failed to protect children from abuse. That along with the unconscionable prohibition of birth control when death, disease and horrid conditions exist that are preventable, seem very, very, perverse to me.

    High Church, Low Church…..who cares when people are dying and being abused while the rites and incense mask the power to make substantive changes in the human condition?

    I am one of those Christians who is a believer in the divinity of Christ consciousness, but skeptical about organized religion with the wealth and power of “the Church.” And, I don’t need a guy with white hair and a big red hat to hook me up with God.

    I stood on the Boston Common in the rain during the papal visit in ’79 and marveled at the power of so many people gathering together. The leadership of the man and his beliefs however …..were well, wrong!

    • Still a place for you

      Either in the Catholic church or out of it in one of many Christian denominations that firmly believe that Christ did not die exclusively to defend the male priesthood, Humane Vitae, etc.

      I can think of few western Catholics who don’t use birth control. The lack of access to it in my fiancee’s hyper-Catholic home country (the Philippines)contributes to a continous and vicious cycle of poverty. And we can go on and on about the abuse, AIDS, and other areas where the Church has fallen short.

      Its in the nuns and priests and laypeople who take that faith and apply it tirelessly to help their fellow man that make up the Church, and they are the ones who are carrying out Christ’s vision. I do hope and pray we get a Pope who recognizes that and, while I doubt we will get a reformer, is at least open to greater lay participation and leadership and is humble enough to recognize that infallibility is a theory and not a fact and he has a mission to serve others before endorsing this doctrine or that doctrine.

      Again my Episcopalian parish and its rather ‘high’ rituals don’t leave me feeling empty they leave me feeling spiritually nourished. But they are not right for everyone. Find a church that suits your needs or your families needs, but its always better to worship with friends and fellow Christians than it is alone, I’ve tried that path too and its not as satisfying. Churches are human institutions and there are subject to the same imperfections the rest of us all have. But they cling to a belief in a perfect being that helps them improve themselves, and that is a truth all Christians can agree on.

      • I know I wrote my feelings above,

        but have you ever considered the “there’s still a place for you!” type posts on this matter could be deeply insulting?

        People often come to their judgments after great thought. It can, in fact, be a long and painful process for some.

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but it certainly was for me and people should respect that.

        A lot of people were flabbergasted when I left the church, urging me to stop or suggesting that I just haven’t “found” the right mass. I’m sorry, but a basement mass led by a borderline renegade priest who thinks gay people, among others the church doesn’t like, should be treated like a human being is a farce in light of where the church actually stands on those issues, and it should be noted that even those kinds of masses and priests were being cracked down on by the time the marriage equality debate heated up.

        RyansTake   @   Tue 12 Feb 3:25 AM
  13. The next Pope

    I am not a Catholic, and I don’t know anything about Popes, except that there was a Pope named John Paul. So, I am hoping that the next Pope will be named George Ringo.

  14. It's a strange kind of monarchy( and that matters)

    The Pope is something of an absolute monarch, to be sure; in fact, he’s sorta the king of the world, as was made plain in the Bull Unum Samctam (Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff” (Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus, dicimus, definimus, et pronuntiamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis).

    However, he’s an elected monarch. And what gives me a lot of trouble is all the solemnity and gravitas with which all the major news media outlets will treat the conclave rather than expressing non-stop horror at the scandalous nature of the whole farce. Imagine that the Catholic Church were 50% people of color–nominally; in practice, let’s up the number to 65%. And yet it had, on the books, a canon declaring that no people of color were to be permitted to vote for the next Pope; that, in fact, a recent and much celebrated Pope had declared that the subject was not even open for discussion.
    CNN would be aghast, and the State Department would probably deliver a mild rebuke.
    And yet, that women are excluded from the process elicits a shrug.

    I don’t take monarchs seriously, and I don’t take undemocratically elected heads-state as credible either.

    I have two daughters. I find the whole thing insulting.

    Hey, maybe it’s time to re-open the investiagtion into JP1′s demise

  15. Let's face it

    this unprecedented-in-modern-times move is being done before the Cardinal Mahoney scandal makes its way inexorably back to the Vatican. Ratzinger is high tailing it out of Dodge.

    • Cardinal Mahoney?

      Did you want to link to a story about this?

      RyansTake   @   Tue 12 Feb 9:54 AM
      • Mahony links

        Here are a couple of good ones.

        • Well...

          It would be nice to think Ratzinger would want to run from that mess, but the fact that this dude is going to be voting on the next Pope suggests, to me, the church is insane — errrrrr… I mean, hasn’t learned anything.

          RyansTake   @   Tue 12 Feb 4:35 PM
          • Ratzinger can't vote

            He is 85 and lost his voting privileges, also he will be nowhere near conclave. That said he appointed 60% of the voting cardinals and they will likely pick a conservative.

            • He appointed 60% in eight years?

              Are you sure you don’t mean JPII?

              • Maybe I reversed them

                I do know 100% were JPII or BenedictXVI. No one from the Councilor Popes is left or of voting age. The irony is the College of Cardinals is one of the few institutions that has gotten more conservative as its gotten younger. Same with the priesthood. The choice is clear, a broad church where we can have faithful disagreement and slow movements on reform or a narrow church where everyone thinks the same. I have some hope that the Latin American pababilli see the writing on the wall (they are losing exponentially to secular indifference on the left and pentecostalism on the right). Scola might be surprising since he has done a lot towards good ecumenical relaions and Christian-Muslim relations.

                We will see very little movement on the role of women or gays in the Church. But one of the Latin cardinals or Scola could pursue a married priesthood and ease on birth control usage. Peter Turckson, the only real African candidate, is a lot better than Arinze was on the condom issue. We will have to see.

                The biggest change the American church needs to see is a true zero tolerance automatic defrocking of abusive priests. Traditionalists and reformers should be able to rally around that, get the rapists out of the priesthood and their enablers and protectors out of the Curia. That should be priority number one for the next Pope. The treatment of Mahoney and Law leave me with grave doubts about that.

            • 'this dude' wasn't Ratzinger

              I should have been more specific, but I was referring to the Cardinal as “this dude,” as in I didn’t think Ratzinger was necessarily running from the Cardinal, because the Cardinal would be voting for the next Pope. That would seem to create more bad press and resentment in LA, not less.

              RyansTake   @   Wed 13 Feb 7:10 PM
      • Sorry about the hit and run

        … not that he’ll face any consequences. Mahony and Ratzinger like Cardinal Law will continue to enjoy the privileges associated with their holy station. All will likely take part in the next conclave receiving divine guidance as they cast their ballots.

  16. Another question

    Will Bernard Law get a vote again? Not, will Law get to vote again? He will. Will he get a vote again? He actually got a vote to be Pope last time they did this back in 2005.

    • Law

      I can think of fewer poorly named individuals. I have always been a political progressive and have moved in the last two years from moderate theological conservatism to theological liberalism. I’ve been in and out of the Catholic church in the past ten years and have had my beliefs challenged and changed during that entire time. I have never wavered from my belief that the only place Cardinal Law ever belonged was a prison cell. I hope my parents burn our picture together from my first communion. Scum pure and simple, so is Mahoney. And luckily Bishop Finn might actually go to prison. It’d be nice if the next Pope came up with a fast track defrocking process for curia and priests who abuse or enabled abuse, nice but unlikely.

« Blue Mass Group Front Page

Add Your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Wed 29 Mar 3:05 PM