Helpless in the Vatican The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI

AFP

Part 2: Calls for Benedict's Resignation


Of course, the office of pope does not exist so that its holder can be loved by the whole world. After Pius IX died in 1881, a number of Rome residents tried to seize the coffin so that they could throw it into the Tiber River. Today, a few days after Easter, only the most devoted pilgrims are rallying around their spiritual leader. The rest of the world, shocked by the sheer scope of the abuse cases, looks to Rome with skepticism, and some are already calling upon Benedict to take responsibility for his sinning priests and resign.

In the Italian magazine MicroMega, Don Paolo Farinella, a Catholic priest, has already written an example of the kind of statement he believes the pope should make to Irish Catholics: "I come to you with empty hands to beg your forgiveness" -- for the strictness of the celibacy, for the conditions in seminaries and for the thousands of cases of child abuse. "I will withdraw to a monastery and will spend the rest of my days doing penance for my failure as a priest and pope."

It hasn't come to that yet, not by a long shot. Some 80 percent of Germans still cannot imagine Benedict following the example of an almost forgotten pope, Celestine V, who resigned in the 13th century because he no longer felt able to perform his office.

Nevertheless, the question remains as to why nothing seems to go right anymore for this once-celebrated pontiff.

'A Humble Worker in the Vineyard of the Lord'

It is the tragedy of a man who had set out to write books and, only near the end of his life, was summoned to assume the herculean office at the Vatican. At the beginning of his papacy, Benedict XVI described himself, in all modesty, as "a simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

To date, however, Joseph Ratzinger has been more of a hobby gardener in the vineyard, rather than a landscape architect or someone who cuts off fruitless vines.

He has incurred the suspicions of the secular world and the skepticism of other religions, but he has not found a way to address this opposition. Again and again, after each new scandal, each misunderstanding and each new blunder, his actions seem forced. He lacks his predecessor's ability to always find the right symbolic gestures. The charismatic John Paul II led the church at the height of the American abuse crisis, but it did not diminish his popularity. Even before his death, as he allowed the world to participate in his process of dying, crowds flooded into St. Peter's Square in Vatican City to be close to him.

Of course, what English author G.K. Chesterton wrote in the early 20th century still holds true today. "At least five times," Chesterton wrote, "the Faith has, to all appearance, gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases, it was the dog that died."

Some may find comfort in Chesterton's remark.

Derision for Religion

Nevertheless, many Catholics find their pope's actions painful to watch, not because they consider him incapable or even unlikeable, but because they cannot look on as this extraordinary man gets in his own way. The members of the "We Are Church" movement, in particular, have turned away from Benedict.

According to a poll conducted for SPIEGEL by pollster TNS Forschung, 73 percent of Germans believe that the pope's handling of abuse cases in the Catholic Church is "not adequate."

Following the revelations about clerical misconduct, the disenchantment has, in many places, turned into aggression, malice and, in some cases, cheap derision against all things religious. In the last few weeks, a tone of contempt for the Catholic Church has emerged in online forums throughout Germany.

In one forum, a contributor wrote: "The fact that the Church only admits what it can no longer deny shows that the Vatican only regrets one thing, if anything: the fact that the priests were caught."

Another contributor wrote: "The institution of the Church is a morally depraved club of old men. One needs to distance oneself from this organization as clearly as possible."

What's Wrong with the Church

There is also no lack of recommendations relating to the future of the Church, both from believers and non-believers. Suddenly everyone knows what the Church has done wrong in decades gone by: the celibacy and the exclusion of women from the priesthood; the hierarchy of old men and the persecution of any efforts to liberalize the theology; the blind condemnation of contraception and birth control in the poor regions of the world; the eternal lack of understanding of homosexuality; the mistrust of technology and modern culture; and the constant needling and provocation aimed at the Protestant churches, Judaism and Islam.

Ratzinger the theologian has defended the doctrines and precepts of his church again and again, often cleverly and with exquisite scholarliness. In doing so, he has cited the teachings of the Church fathers, the councils and the entire Holy Scripture.

For a time, he enjoyed the undivided goodwill of the German press. Even Hamburg's arch-Protestant weekly newspaper Die Zeit softened its otherwise skeptical view of Rome.

Nevertheless, Benedict's message did not reach its intended audience. The pope lost his close connection to his wards. The master of the word failed to convince the public of the legitimacy of even one of his positions.

This may have something to do with the public -- or the positions.

In any event, the Germans' goodwill toward "their pope" was short-lived. In fact, most of his fellow Germans have long immersed themselves in their own personal belief system. Although they clearly retain the desire for a metaphysical source of comfort when life becomes difficult, they prefer to dispense with the institution and its requirements.

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Norberto_Tyr 04/07/2010
1. We do not have to pick on the Pope just because he is German
Unfortunately all this corruption and corrosion affected the church as it affects everything. Polansky is in gaol in his Swiss chalet, and there are numerous cases of pedophilia outside the church. The issue is more general. For example there is the industry of sex tourism; today a conservative paper will show photographs in the main page that would be considered pornographic 20 years ago. The truth, is that the West (whatever this means today, not Christianity any more) have lost its moral compass, it has been utterly subverted, and the Church is not an exception. I am not a moralist, I believe that an adult have their own right on his / her sexuality; the issue here is about minors, education, mass media, the right of the parents to educate their own children in the way they want to be educated. It is clear that this is impossible today due to peer pressure, the sate educational system, and fundamentally, mass media permeating all. We all have a right to live with the people we want surrounding us. Why ? Because this is the only way we can educate our kids in the way we want to be educated. But, this is impossible now, the state chooses the people we MUST live with based on the obscure and fallacious argument of 'multiculturalism'. In the past, believing that Jesus Christ was God was the main tenet of the Western society, today this is irrelevant, the principal mantra is multiculturalism. This is wrong. If I want to educate my children as Christians, it is very difficult if my neighbors are atheists mocking about the Virgin Mary's virginity, Christmas (Santa Claus, a Coca Cola advertising), and the Holy Spirit. It is very difficult to ask our teenagers to be chaste if their neighbors and 'friends' run sexy parties every week, and the TV, movies ('I like to movit movit…'), and the whole mass media entertainment actively encourages them in the opposite direction with the complicity of the secular environment imposing the use of prophylactics and sexual education in the manner and WHEN they decide. There are serious studies proving that early 'sexual education' greatly reduces the age of the first sexual experience in kids (average). The real issue here is the obvious and colossal fact that we cannot place the fox with the chickens in the same cage. It does not matter how much education in tolerance we give to the incumbents, it is nature, it is as simple and natural as it is sex. The problem, as things are now, is that the fox, if he is expelled, will cry foul and appeal to the sacrosanct MULTICULTURALISM to avoid having to go and hunt (and be hunted) by himself.
sribeiro 04/07/2010
2. Should I continue to think of you as credible?
I signed Der Spiegel newsletter under advice of a Professor, who told me this was a credible and important newspaper because of its good journalism. Sadly, I find it very difficult to see this in previous week's news on the Catholic Church and the Pope and the sexual abuses question. In fact, each day you have a new text on the subject that gives the impression that Catholic Church is the meanest institution on earth and that the Pope is the devil in person. If this was the only information source I had, it would seem like the whole world is against the Church and the Pope is some kind of a mafia chief felt in disgrace within its organization and that he will be replaced anytime… In fact, haven't been able to find in this newspaper one text – only one – presenting the Catholic Church's and the Pope's defence, point of view or even an independent study on the issue as to let your readers know the other side of the story or just plain facts on child abuse worldwide and over the years; percentage of catholic priest involved in these cases; what this Pope has in fact done and is doing in order to address the problem, etc.. I find it difficult to believe you do think these problems are only felt within the Church, or mainly in the Church – DS journalists do know better. Then why, if I may ask, this one-sided, inequitable, way of presenting the news on this subject? I'll have to go back to my Professor and discuss this with him – is DS really reliable? Should I take it for granted that the news you publish are in fact news… or just opinion articles, and not what democratic free societies consider news (even if formally they look like news, and are put in the news, not opinion, section)?
plotinus 04/07/2010
3. ...unless they make him an offer he can't refuse
Zitat von sribeiroI signed Der Spiegel newsletter under advice of a Professor, who told me this was a credible and important newspaper because of its good journalism. Sadly, I find it very difficult to see this in previous week's news on the Catholic Church and the Pope and the sexual abuses question. In fact, each day you have a new text on the subject that gives the impression that Catholic Church is the meanest institution on earth and that the Pope is the devil in person. If this was the only information source I had, it would seem like the whole world is against the Church and the Pope is some kind of a mafia chief felt in disgrace within its organization and that he will be replaced anytime… In fact, haven't been able to find in this newspaper one text – only one – presenting the Catholic Church's and the Pope's defence, point of view or even an independent study on the issue as to let your readers know the other side of the story or just plain facts on child abuse worldwide and over the years; percentage of catholic priest involved in these cases; what this Pope has in fact done and is doing in order to address the problem, etc.. I find it difficult to believe you do think these problems are only felt within the Church, or mainly in the Church – DS journalists do know better. Then why, if I may ask, this one-sided, inequitable, way of presenting the news on this subject? I'll have to go back to my Professor and discuss this with him – is DS really reliable? Should I take it for granted that the news you publish are in fact news… or just opinion articles, and not what democratic free societies consider news (even if formally they look like news, and are put in the news, not opinion, section)?
The pope *is* a mafia chief, but he won't be replaced anytime soon. .
endovelico 04/07/2010
4. Why?
Catholic priests come often from very strict families, where sex is, at best, an undesirable subject. Future priests often repress their sexuality beyond what would be advisable. Once they grow up and become priests this excessive sexual repression means that they have never dealt properly with their sexuality. In many cases, sooner or later, this will lead to adults trying to "fix" their unsolved sexuality by focusing on the age group which should have had their attention when they were children or teenagers. Child molesting is not a consequence of priest celibacy, but of excessive sexual repression as youngsters. It's a cultural problem which has no quick solution. And the question is: would normal children, with a normal sexuality, ever become interested in becoming priests in a Church which sees sexuality as disgusting? If not, then I'm afraid child molesting is going to remain a problem for the Catholic Church.
goliah 04/07/2010
5. This church has no future...
"The waves of accumulating scandal engulfing the roman catholic church will look a mere trifle compared to the 'perfect storm' that is shortly coming. For these growing, worldwide sexual scandals and endemic institutional corruption, having destroyed virtually any remaining 'moral' authority or presumption to understand human nature, are just setting the stage for the 'churches' worst nightmare: the questioning of it's very origins! And that has already begun on the web. Not by any atheist ravings, but with first wholly new interpretation for 2000 years of the Gospel and moral teachings of Christ. Redefining everything from the nature of faith to the Resurrection, for the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must now measure for itself, the reality of a new claim to revealed truth, a moral tenet not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief!* This is not reformation but revolution. We may very well come to 'remember' the church as two thousands years of hubris, theological self deception, retailing a counterfeit copy of revealed truth. Check it at: http://www.energon.org.uk "*
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