Browse By

Hermeneutic of whatity?

Crux having a bit of fun: “Since Francis is in continuity with tradition, his critics aren’t”

Benedict XVI, in his latest book interview with Peter Seewald, admits himself that he was on the so-called “progressive” side during Vatican II, and the accusations of modernism and heresy against their side was abundant. He personally was accused of heresy after his article “New pagans and the Church,” and his bishop, Cardinal Joseph Wendel, wanted to block his appointment as a professor in Bonn for the same reason.

In the end, the biggest blessing probably is to have Benedict still alive and able to answer us himself. In his latest book-interview, Peter Seewald asks him: “So, you don’t see a rupture with your pontificate [in the pontificate of Francis]?”

Benedict responds: “No. I think that some places can be misinterpreted and… When some places are isolated, taken out, the oppositions can be constructed, but not if we look at the whole.

“There are maybe new accents, but no ruptures.”


Here we go again. The latest fad of the neo-modernist Frankapologists trotting out Ratzinger to claim legitimacy for the regime.

But I’m going to see if we can’t make this a teaching moment about how to read critically. The first thing to do is to remember to be intelligent readers., to look at this and ask questions.

I had a discussion with a friend the other day, another journalist of similar mind. She has concluded that “Ratzinger the conservative” was false all along. I replied that there are still a few logical possibilities, not excluding that someone is lying about what he’s saying (not Peter Seewald, whose journalistic integrity no one questions). This second thing is clearly at work here. Go ahead and scan through that article. How much of the text has quote marks? Not a lot.

The whole crew is now focused on one task:  to show that Francis is fine-just-fine and to discredit opposition. And because there are still a lot of people around in the “conservative” end of the Church who idolize Ratzinger, he’s going to get used a lot for this purpose.

I also know someone else who contacted Peter Seewald and asked him if this book, with its sanguine opinion of Francis, was written before or after Amoris Laetitia, and the answer was, “Well before.” So, take that for what it’s worth.

We could ask who the author of the piece is, maybe Google his name. We could ask why so much of the article is his own writing, paraphrasing what he thinks Ratzinger meant and said, and not direct quotes from the book. We could ask ourselves why we should believe his interpretation of it.

We could also make a careful note that the inflammatory headline is not included anywhere in the text, even by implication, from Benedict.

Whoever this Hrvoje Vargić character is, the headline was clearly from his little brain, and not from anything directly in the book. As we can  see from this bit of pinch-faced school-marm scolding in the last paragraph:

“Benedict rejecting accusations of a break under Francis is probably the best sign of continuity, and recognizing this is important. If we understand that Pope Francis is in line with tradition, then we can also understand that many of the ideologues attacking him are not.”

Hrvoje Vargić… Here he is talking a bunch of Francispeak to a meeting of the neo-Catholic organization the World Youth Alliance, a group started in the US as a “conservative” liaison with the UN that has since morphed into some kind of NGO/New Movement thing.

Is this really the best Crux can do? A 30-something “yoot leader” to scold us over our concerns? Really?

Anyway… whatever.

But let’s look for a moment at the underlying assumption here: that Ratzinger is a spokesman for the “conservative” wing of the Church, and consider that we still have a big problem of idolizing him. It’s time this stopped.

Taken it on its face, however, and putting this together with what the former pope has said and written in the past, we can safely say that the more fun “conspiratorial” theory – that someone is writing his lines for him – gets rather remote on the list of possibilities. Occam, and all that. It is entirely possible that the man we used to call Pope Benedict does think this.

So what?

No, really… so what?

We have to ask seriously whether there’s a chance we simply fell for the media’s interpretation of him, that he was “Ratzinger the Vatican II liberal, peritus of Frings” all along. I don’t know. Throughout that time, we were being told what a “conservative” he was, along with the secular media who hated him, by people with the kind of theology degrees held by the author of this Crux piece. Not what theology degrees were, let’s say.

I didn’t read his scholarly theology. I read a few of his popular works after 2005. Before that, I read some of his CDF documents on new reproductive technologies. I read book-length interviews with him. He sounded pretty good to me, I guess, when I was first working things out. But I’ve also talked to people with serious, classical theological training – the kind that’s hard to get these days – and they have always been warning that “Ratzinger the Rottweiler” of the media and the Ratzinger of academia are not the same.

Or maybe the distinction between “conservative” and “liberal” is being shown to have been essentially meaningless all along. He had better manners, was more cultured, more soft-spoken, more likeable than most of the other neo-modernists. He certainly would never spend his pontificate being the bulldozing wrecking ball his successor has been. We liked him more.

What is clear is that the things we think we know about Benedict’s thoughts are entirely and exclusively being filtered through other people. If Georg Ganswein wants to tell us what he thinks the former-pope is thinking about things, fine, but let’s not imagine it means we know anything more than what Georg Ganswein thinks

But I do know two things with moral certainty: his resignation, though perfectly valid, was the opening of the gates to the orcs who are now in control of the citadel. Whatever comes of this long-term – and I maintain that it is part of a great “clarification” if not a “great purification” willed by God – I reserve judgement yet on whether it was cowardice, stupidity or laziness or lack of concern or flat-out collusion. But whatever does come to light, I also know that the next person who starts drooling on about what a “courageous” act it was, is going to get the back of my hand upside the head.

The theory that Benedict is still pope is simply not borne out by the evidence, either in Canon Law, by the theology or by any other metric the Church runs on. In answer to the many people who have asked me, yes. Ive heard it. (And heard it and heard it and heard it…) I have done some research that didn’t involve looking things up on the internet or just deciding for myself after a single glance at the ’83 Code of Canon Law. I’ve consulted with theology and Canon law people who are not neo-modernists, not ill-trained and not remotely fond of either Benedict or Francis, and the answers I’ve had have been pretty firm and unanimous.

And no, there’s no “conspiracy of silence.” The reason no one serious is addressing it is because it isn’t a serious question. I think at some point, as things get worse, and more and more ordinary people come to think this, someone responsible is going to have to address it publicly, just so we don’t have to keep hearing about it. (And hearing about it… and hearing about it…)

So, for the question about why Benedict resigned, more evidence will, I’m sure, come to light in the coming years, but right now I’m not really all that interested. I think we have more immediate things to think about. Indulging in fantasy, wish-fulfillment, lazy and half-baked “research,” or facile (“easy”) conclusions, is not helpful. I think it’s rapidly becoming irrelevant why he resigned. He resigned. It was valid. He’s not the pope.

The resignation was a terrible, terrible idea. It was damaging. It was selfish and incredibly hubristic, but it was valid. He might be deluded by his nominalism into thinking he cam make up new things with the power of his brain, and the Church of our time so confused that we haven’t figured it out yet, but let’s give him at least one benefit of the doubt: the man is smart enough to know what the words “I resign the papacy” mean. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the pope. It sucks. It seems on the face of it to be something close to catastrophic. But it’s true.

But this leads me to the other thing I know: that the time for idolizing Ratzinger is well past. It’s not nice to think about, but our love was apparently misplaced. And I’m going to be giving a sharp smack on the nose with a rolled-up copy of Amoris Laeitia to all those who are still mooning about the internet, droopily sighing over how much they “miss” him.

Double-smacks if they’re priests. We need you gentlemen to be adults. Men. And not sighing little fan-girls, crying into your shirley temples, mkay?