16 May 2020

Ratzinger's knife? (1)

Joseph Ratzinger has written a piece for the Polish bishops about Pope S John Paul II. It is wise to take seriously what such an eminent scholar says. Although he does not enjoy the Petrine Magisterium (there can only be one Pope, FULL STOP), his auctoritas is immense. And, of course, he is still qua bishop a Successor of the Apostles, and, should we wish to express ourselves in Irenaean terms, it must be added that he is a powerful witness to the authentic Tradition of the Roman Church.

I particularly draw your attention to this passage:
" After consultation, the Pope [S John Paul II] chose the Second Sunday of Easter [for the feast of the Divine Mercy]. However, before the final decision was made, he asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to express its view on the appropriateness of this date. We responded negatively because such an ancient, traditional and meaningful date like the Sunday 'in Albis' concluding the Octave of Easter should not be burdened with modern ideas. It was certainly not easy for the Holy Father to accept our reply. Yet he did so with great humility and accepted our negative response a second time. Finally, he formulated a proposal that left the Second Sunday of Easter [i.e. Low Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter] in its historical form but included Divine Mercy in its original message. There have often been similar cases in which I was impressed by the humility of this great Pope, who abandoned ideas he cherished because he could not find the approval of the official organs that must be asked according to established norms.".

I am not going to have or host a discussion about whether Novus Ordo Low Sunday is quite in its 'historical form', because there are so many important points to liberate from this passage.

(1) Observe the contrast between the 'humility' of S John Paul II and the behaviour of PF, seen particularly the way way PF kept bullying Cardinal Sara over the question of the admission of women to the Maundy Thursday foot-washing ... "an idea he cherished". And, even after he had eventually forced the poor man to change the rubrics, he then went boldly on to disobey in his own praxis the new rubrics (by including non-Christians among those whose feet he washed)!! His behaviour, as so often, speaks for itself. And it is neither attractive nor principled.

When a man is so arrogantly self-confident that he advocates changing the words of the Prayer attributed to the Lord Himself, whatever would he not consider himself competent to do?

(2) The call for a Feast of the Divine Mercy resulted from the visions of S Faustina.  Observe how Ratzinger describes this devotion as "modern ideas" which would be a "burden" to Low Sunday. He makes clear that "ancient Tradition" trumps new devotions, even when they do have heavenly sponsorship!! This is precisely the correct and necessary starting point for a proper oversight of the Liturgy.

(3) It is significant that Ratzinger has been prepared to write to Poles in a way that sets a very popular modern devotion of Polish origin in a theologically and liturgically limited context.

(4) His boldness in emphasising the greatness of S John Paul alongside a reiteration of his enormous  humility compels sober reflection upon any combination one might notice of ungreatness with unhumility.

(5) The Ratzinger who wrote this is clearly the same Ratzinger, who, as Cardinal, wrote so scathingly about the post-Conciliar error that "the pope really could do anything in the liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council".

(6) And this Ratzinger is no fool. I have little doubt that he has devised an oblique way of drawing PF's attention to the inherent limitations of the papal office.

In other words, an oblique knife!

Ad multos annos Domne!!


GOR said...

While there was much to commend John Paul II, there was, likewise, much to criticize: his defense of, and opposition to any criticism, of Maciel, his predilection for declaring new saints, his interference with the Rosary with the Luminous Mysteries and his promotion of Divine Mercy Sunday and the associated cultus.

To someone who grew up with stories of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, devotion to the Sacred Heart, familiarity with names such as de la Columbiere and Paray-le-Monial, the new Divine Mercy devotion seemed superfluous and duplicative.

Just as “Santo subito!” was premature and over the top, similarly new and personal papal devotions should not displace devotions with centuries of use and tradition – ‘tried and true’, as it were. But this is an age that downplays history, if it ever even knew it. There is merit in caution - letting time and experience be the yardsticks for truth and practice.

MaryP said...

Yes, there is only one pope.

John Vasc said...

One wonders what got into JPII to make him even consider replacing Sunday in Albis with the feast of a devotion - and then, after he had 'accepted [the CDF's] negative response' went ahead anyway and decreed that the historic Sunday of the Octave of the Church's most important Feast would henceforth be called 'Divine Mercy Sunday' to commemorate a still quite recently recognized Polish visionary devotion - however firmly the saintly nun who had the visions insisted that the date of the new Feast had been Our Blessed Saviour's express wish.
In consequence, JPII had the Sunday officially renamed in the General Roman Calendar 'Dominica II Paschae seu de divina misericordia' - instead of the ancient and universal title 'de albis'.
Not a vast amount of humble papal acceptance there, or so it seems to me. JPII simply followed an established managerial strategy: he 1) demanded the impossible, 2) conceded the minimum, 3) convinced the (then Cardinal) Ratzinger that he had seen reason, then 4) had his own way after all.
I don't myself see that this reflects well on Pope Benedict's judgement.

John the Mad said...

"In other words, an oblique knife!"

It was the Prussian King Frederick the Great who perfected the oblique attack. March the infantry forward towards the centre of mass and then at the last moment pivot 45% and hit the flank. I recall a lecture by my old history professor (Colonel) D.J. Goodspeed CD, in which he said that the Prussian army, being the best drilled army of the day, was the only army capable of effectively executing the devastating manoeuvre in battle.

It seems Saint John Paul the Great, a Pole, was not averse to deploying Prussian tactics to achieve favourable results.

Terry said...

I think you are quite right, 'GOR', to criticise John Paul II for his attitude to Marcial Maciel. I think his support for Maciel casts a long shadow over John Paul II's reputation – it is difficult to forget his description of Maciel as "an efficacious guide to youth".

But Benedict too cannot escape criticism in relation to Maciel. Benedict did far too little, far too late in dealing with Maciel. I say 'far too little' because Benedict didn't even defrock the man. Maciel was merely told "to conduct a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing every public ministry". (He actually lived this "reserved life" in a luxury apartment in Jacksonville in the company of senior Legion figures AND his lover and daughter!) I say "far too little" because Maciel's wicked behaviour was known about in the Vatican as early as 1943, but nothing was done for well over 60 years. For 24 of these years Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the allegations about Maciel had been drawn to his attention. So why did Cardinal Ratzinger do nothing at this time? Perhaps we should ask Angelo Sodano.

Terry Loane

Banshee said...

Terry -- It is a key premise of command that one should never issue an order which will be disobeyed.

Without a Papal States prison and extraction squad (or an elite squad of Swiss Guard ninja assassins and vampire slayers committing acts of war on foreign soil), how was any Pope going to be able prosecute or punish Maciel, a Mexican citizen?

If he had committed crimes in Vatican City itself, or in Italy, there might have been a chance to try him in an Italian court and stick him in an Italian prison. But that's about it.

What else? Call him for an ad limina visit and challenge him to a duel in the Audience Hall? Trial by combat? A firing squad in the Vatican Gardens?

One could urge Mexico and other countries to extradite and prosecute, one could remove privileges peculiar to the Church, and one could freeze Vatican accounts. But popes don't have much law enforcement power, these days.

Terry said...

Thank you, ‘Banshee’, for your reply. Of course you are quite correct to state that the Pope has no real power of judicial enforcement outside the miniscule border of the Vatican City. Actually the Pope/Vatican can’t even police the pickpockets in St Peter’s Square! They outsource this job to the Italian authorities.

But I am puzzled that you should have focused on this rather obvious point rather than on the main issue in my post. The Church is indeed in no position to have its priests extradited from anywhere, but this does not mean that it cannot exert appropriate disciplinary action against priests and bishops who 'bring the profession into disrepute', to use a secular term. So the important question, ‘Banshee’, is this. Do you think that Popes and the CDF exerted appropriate leadership, discipline and sanctions in the case of Marcial Maciel (and indeed others who perpetrated and/or turned a blind eye to abuse)? Or would you agree with Police Superintendent Shirley Chu when she complained, back in 2002, that "It seems that the Church has been protecting its reputation and priests rather than the victims"?

I suggest that answers to these questions would be more helpful in relation to such a serious issue than remarks about "an elite squad of Swiss Guard ninja assassins and vampire slayers".

Terry Loane