Posts Tagged “pope benedict xvi”

Pope Benedict XVI BlessingWith today being his last day in office as Pope, I thought I’d recap some of Benedict’s “greatest hits” since I’ve been blogging here. These are categorized and listed in blog order:

That about covers it, I think.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI blessing members of the Order of the Knights of Malta at the Vatican on Saturday. Samantha Zucchi Insidefoto/European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times.The big religious news this morning is that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign at the end of this month. The New York Times reports on this news which has taken a lot of people by surprise (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took office in 2005 following the death of his predecessor, said on Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

Regarded as a doctrinal conservative, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

The announcement is certain to plunge the Roman Catholic world into frenzied speculation about his likely successor and to evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious.

In a statement in several languages, the pope said his “strength of mind and body” had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Elected on April 19, 2005, Pope Benedict said his papacy would end on Feb. 28.

The reason this is a surprise, is that previously, spokesmen for the Church — and “experts” on the Vatican and Catholicism — had claimed it was impossible for popes to resign. That had been their response a few years ago when the Pope’s involvement in the case of a pedophilic priest in the 1980s had been revealed, as the Times explains:

Vatican officials and experts who follow the papacy closely dismissed the idea of stepping down at the time. “There is no objective motive to think in terms of resignation, absolutely no motive,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. “It’s a completely unfounded idea.”

I said, back then, that this was not true; the Pope can, indeed, resign. There are precedents for it (Pope Celestine V had established the ability of popes to resign, then did so himself a few months later in 1294; and Gregory XII also resigned, in 1415, in order to end the decades-long Great Western Schism). Thanks to Celestine V, in fact, a provision for papal abdication is provided explicitly in canon law:

Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone. (Canon 332 §2)

So all those presumed “experts” who had insisted differently, are clearly wrong. I find it difficult to believe that most of them — if not all — didn’t know better.

Photo credit: Samantha Zucchi Insidefoto/European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times.

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Vatican CityIt seems Agnosticism has hit the big time. How do I know that? The Pope launched an attack on it, that’s how I know! As Reuters reports, he declared war on agnosticism, of all things, during his Epiphany address (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict said on Sunday that Roman Catholic leaders must have the courage to stand up to attacks by “intolerant agnosticism” prevalent in many countries.

The pope and the Church have come under increased attack because of their opposition to homosexual marriage and women priests. The pope has repeatedly denounced what he says are attempts to push religion out of public debate.

As usual, he misinterprets what’s really going on. He confuses an effort to make sure religion is not forced on anyone, with an effort to destroy religion entirely. The two are not the same thing, no matter how fervently he thinks otherwise.

“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” the pope said.

“Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a bishop today. He must be courageous,” he said.

Benedict calls agnosticism “regnant,” meaning “ruling,” “governing,” “controlling,” or “dominating.” In fact, it doesn’t govern anything. The majority of people in the world are assuredly religious. In most countries, agnostics and other non-believers are vastly outnumbered, and have virtually no say. This is true even in the 21st century US, where politicians are almost uniformly religious, and there are no non-believers in national office or in any position with national influence. There are absolutely no rational grounds for the Pope to assert that agnosticism is “regnant.” Because — unfortunately — it’s not.

But even if it were, I must ask the obvious question: So the hell what? Once upon a time, religion ruled humanity with an iron fist. Benedict’s own Catholic Church once towered over Europe, politically and socially. What did that get us? Not a lot, unless you think things like the Inquisitions, the Crusades, wars fought against pagans, heretics, and other kinds of ecclesiastical controversies were good for humanity. If agnosticism dominated, could things be any worse?

The age in which a Pope could summon an army and send it off to smite the Forces of Darkness are long gone … thankfully … but it appears Benedict wants that same power back. The fact that occidental society won’t let him have it, appears to gnaw at him. So he ends up making ridiculous accusations, such as that agnosticism is “regnant” and that efforts to keep religion and state separate are the same as efforts to destroy religion entirely. His claim that agnostics are “intolerant” is stupid and childish. Failing to believe what someone else tells one to believe is not “intolerance.” Not wanting to be forced to live according to someone else’s metaphysics, is also not “intolerance.” Both of those are “choices,”, and they’re choices that people in free countries are entitled to make — whether the Pope likes it or not.

Lastly, I’ve said it before and will say it again: Pope Benedict has no viable grounds for propounding morals at anyone. The Church he governs is guilty of having orchestrated institutional abuse of children in its care; of having conspired to cover up that abuse; of having bullied states and societies into letting it get away with it; and of thwarting justice once those states and societies decided they weren’t going to knuckle under to the Church’s bullying any more. Benedict could regain the “moral high ground” he thinks he stands on, by accepting responsibility for all of this, ordering all abusive and obstructionist clergy to immediately turn themselves in for prosecution and accept whatever punishment they merit, and fundamentally altering the Church’s structure and operations so that it can never again do any such thing.

But we all know, he won’t do any of that. No way. Until he does … he can just go fuck himself.

Does my saying that make me “intolerant”? I guess so. I don’t “tolerate” evil, and neither should you.

Photo credit: John G. Walter, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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Second Vatican Council by Lothar Wolleh 001Last Thursday was the 50th anniversary of II Vatican, the council that changed how the Catholic Church related both to its own laity and the rest of the world. This Council opened with a lot of pomp and circumstance; its deliberations were thorough, taking a few years to complete; and in the end a lot of things about Catholicism changed utterly. But what, really, has been changed within the Church? The Religion News Service (via HartfordFAVS) reports on the Council’s anniversary and its results (WebCite cached article):

Fifty years ago on Thursday (Oct. 11), hundreds of elaborately robed leaders strode into St. Peter’s Basilica in a massive display of solemn ecclesiastical pomp. It signaled the start of a historic three-year assembly that would change the way members of the world’s largest Christian denomination viewed themselves, their church and the rest of the world.

It was the first day of the Second Vatican Council, more popularly known as Vatican II, which was designed to assess the church’s role in a rapidly changing world. …

As a result of Vatican II, priests started celebrating Mass in the language of the countries in which they lived, and they faced the congregation, not only to be heard and seen but also to signal to worshippers that they were being included because they were a vital component of the service.

The Second Vatican Council made some other visible changes, including how Catholics related to other Christian denominations and with Judaism. It meant that, for example, Catholics now could attend weddings and funerals of friends and family which happened to be held in other churches. And it led to some other changes, such as many orders of nuns allowing their members to go without their traditional habits. Ultimately, II Vatican meant that the R.C. Church became more generally “open” to the rest of the world, even if no doctrinal changes were made.

But really, how far did that effort go? How truly “open” did the Church become, now that 47 years have passed since the Council completed its work? Unfortunately the answer to that question is a resounding “Not nearly enough.” Multiple investigations — in multiple locations — into the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal over the last decade or so revealed the Church’s princes worked diligently to maintain the secrecy of their operations, going so far as to willingly allow children to be preyed upon in order not to let outsiders know what was going on. Dioceses and the Vatican itself have actively resisted every effort to hold them accountable for their behavior. And when they’re faced with incontrovertible evidence of both the abusers’ crimes and their own complicity in them, the Church repeatedly and reflexively blames everyone but itself and its own personnel for the abuse (the abusers themselves were innocent victims of the Forces of Darkness or of the children themselves, you see).

One consequence of II Vatican is that it caused something of a schism within Catholicism. A number of Catholics — including some of the bishops — viewed the Council’s work horrific and detrimental. They consider Pius XII — predecessor of John XXIII who convened II Vatican — to have been the last legitimate Pope. They count every Pope after Pius … and by extension everything the Vatican has done since his time … to be invalid. Granted these sedevacantist groups are in the minority and they don’t all agree with each other aside from their dissatisfaction with the Second Vatican reforms. But they persist nevertheless, in spite of excommunications and other sanctions the Church has brought to bear against them.

What’s ironic, though, is that over his reign, the current Pope has been working to gather these sedevacantist groups back into the Catholic fold. One of the ways he’s done that is to steer Catholicism back toward the way it had operated prior to II Vatican. For instance, he’s made the (Latin) Tridentine Mass a valid option for celebrants once again (cached).* This effort has worked; for instance, as I’ve blogged already, the Society of St Pius X has agreed to rejoin its mother Church. This is in spite of the fact that this order remains backward and decidedly medieval in its dogma, and one of its prelates is an unrepentant Holocaust-denier.

Yes, folks, these are the sorts of people the Vatican is catering to. Somehow I don’t see that as the sort of behavior that John XXIII had been thinking about when he convened II Vatican … but then again, what can I possibly know about such sacred considerations?

In the end, not only has II Vatican failed to make the Church fundamentally different — except in some noticeable yet cosmetic ways — it’s currently trying to roll back even those minuscule reforms and is according itself with people who once had vehemently opposed those changes. If things continue this way, in a couple decades one will see nuns back in their habits and Mass being said in Latin once again with the priests’ backs to the congregation. And II Vatican would effectively never have been held at all.

Photo credit: Lothar Wolleh, via Wikimedia Commons.

* Note within this letter Benedict’s customary plaintive whine about media coverage:

News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion.

Everything bad that’s ever said about the R.C. Church, you see, is all the media’s fault. They make up stuff in order to attack the poor, innocent Church. What a fucking crybaby.

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St. Peter's Square, 1992Readers of my blog shouldn’t be strangers to the odd semi-schismatic Catholic organization known as the Society of St Pius X (or SSPX). It was founded at the turn of the 1970s as a reaction against the reforms of II Vatican. Relations between the organization and the Vatican were never cordial, and SSPX was excommunicated in the late 80s after its founder and leader consecrated some bishops against papal orders.

Most of the time since, SSPX has continued its (ostensibly) renegade ways, railing against the modernization of the Church, even as the Vatican has tried to keep in touch with them and has worked to bring them back into the Catholic fold. The two lurched closer together in January 2009 when the Vatican lifted the excommunication on the remaining illicitly-elevated SSPX bishops.

Their reconciliation has continued over the last 3 years. Der Spiegel reports that a full reconciliation between the Vatican and SSPX is on its way (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI may reach a decision by the end of May to allow the ultraconservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) to rejoin the Catholic church, SPIEGEL has learned.

At a meeting this coming Wednesday, the four cardinals of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Catholic Church doctrine, plan to agree a proposal for reuniting the society with the Catholic Church, and will submit it to the pope.

Despite the appearance of amiability and conciliation here, the SSPX is hardly uniform in wanting to go back into the Church proper, as Der Spiegel explains:

… [A] fierce row has broken out among the four bishops of the SSPX over the planned agreement. British bishop Richard Williamson, who caused outrage in 2009 by denying the scale of the Holocaust, has taken an uncompromising stance toward the Vatican and wants to prevent SSPX from returning to its fold.

But the majority of SSPX supports the policy of its head, or superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who has just written a letter urging Williamson and all SSPX bishops to end their isolation, accept the pope’s offer, and abandon a stance that is dividing the Church.

I’ve blogged a few times about the malcontent Williamson, who has yet to obey the Pope’s instructions and alter his beliefs about the Holocaust — which, as I’ve blogged, he believes was a vicious lie cooked up in order to make every Jew on earth into an “ersatz savior.”

But Williamson and his Holocaust-denying is hardly the only weird belief running around in the SSPX camp. I blogged a while ago about the SSPX protesting the heliocentric model of the solar system, claiming that by confirming Copernicus’ model, Galileo had destroyed the Church’s supremacy over humanity.

The SSPX’s militant opposition to the Second Vatican reforms — and its other assorted crankish notions — leads me to wonder how the group and the Vatican could ever reach any kind of rational accord. I expect what will happen is they’ll both sign off on some kind of carefully-worded, loose compromise of some sort, which allows both parties to move along but not really concede anything of substance to the other.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI, holding a tall, lit, white candle, enters a hushed and darkened St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican Saturday, April 7, 2012, to begin the Vatican's Easter vigil service. Except for the twinkle of camera flashes, the basilica was almost pitch-black as the thousands of faithful in pews awaited Benedict's arrival through the rear entrance Saturday night. Christians on Easter joyously mark their belief that Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion. Praying at the start of the service, Benedict said Easter brings hope to the faithful. On Sunday morning, he will lead Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)I continue to be amazed at the audacity of the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI who rules it. I suppose by now that nothing that comes out of that vipers’ den should surprise me any more, but it does nonetheless. This past Easter, the Pope used his Easter vigil service — unintentionally, I assume — to issue a moral indictment of his own Roman Catholic Church. The AP reports via Yahoo News (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI, carrying a tall, lit candle, ushered in Christianity’s most joyous celebration with an Easter vigil service Saturday night, but voiced fears that mankind is groping in darkness, unable to distinguish good from evil. …

Benedict worried in his homily: “The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil.”

“The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general,” the pope said.

“If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other ‘lights,’ that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk,” Benedict added.

Over the past several years I have blogged about the staggering amorality of the R.C. Church; its unwillingness to permit itself to be held accountable for its actions; its long history of keeping abusive clergy on, despite knowing they have abused children; its frequent attempts to shelter abusive priests from prosecution, and to silence those who would report them; its consistent claims to have done nothing wrong, that it’s more a victim than the abuse victims are; spewing nothing but excuses — some ridiculous or even insulting — over its worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal; and its staunch refusal to do any more about it than issue vapid non-apology apologies (along the lines of, “Bad things happened, we’re sorry they did, now stop complaining about it!”).

As for not knowing the difference between right and wrong, let’s talk about the R.C. hierarchy’s record in the matter of moral discernment. Former archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland admitted he’d been unaware that child abuse was wrong. While he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, retired Cardinal Edward Egan was indifferent to abuse allegations, to the point where he asserted no such cases had been reported in his time there, which is demonstrably untrue, and further claimed he had no legal mandate to report it, when in fact he did.

So we have child abuse worldwide, going on under the noses of the Catholic hierarchy. The Church was negligently indifferent to it, sometimes covered it up, to the point of thwarting attempts to investigate it. We have hierarchs who openly admit they did not give a fuck about children being abused. We have a steady stream of excuses being made — both for the abuse itself, and the concerted efforts to cover it up — along with a persistent, continuous refusal to accept responsibility for any of this behavior. We have, furthermore, the claim that the scandal itself is a complete fiction, cooked up as an attack on a totally-innocent Church.

All of this — and more — clearly demonstrate that the R.C. Church, as an institution, is every bit as morally blind as the Pope claims “the World” is becoming. Benedict sure has a helluva lot of nerve, whining and bellyaching about moral blindness in others, while he himself is as morally blind as anyone ever was.

Yes, folks, this is the very same kind of hypocrisy that Jesus himself clearly and unambiguously forbid his own followers ever to engage in. Maybe someday the Pope will actually try to live up to the standards of the religion he claims to follow and to speak for … but that day, apparently, is not today.

Photo credit: AP Photo / Pier Paolo Chito, via Yahoo News (cached).

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Benedict XVI in FatimaThe wizened, robed denizens of the Vatican continue to evade responsibility for how their own institution handled clergy who abused children in their care for decades in various countries. They continue to act as though they’ve done nothing wrong and are being unfairly maligned by insidious, vile forces who are out to destroy them. CNN reports on the latest example of this head-in-the-sand thinking, mouthed this time by the Catholic Church’s doctrinal enforcer (WebCite cached article):

A top Roman Catholic official opened a conference on protecting children from sexual abuse Monday by defending Pope Benedict XVI, arguing that he deserved thanks for his efforts.

Cardinal William Levada said Benedict, before becoming pope, enacted many of the reforms that followed the eruption of the church’s sex-abuse scandal a decade ago.

“But the pope has had to suffer attacks by the media over these past years in various parts of the world, when he should receive the gratitude of us all, in the church and outside it,” Levada said in his opening address to the conference.

All I can say to this is, boo fucking hoo, Cardinal. I call bullshit on this claim. Prior to becoming Pope, Benedict had been the doctrinal enforcer, and in that capacity had, in fact, ordered bishops not to cooperate with local authorities’ investigations of child abuse, and to continue the longstanding policy of silence and cover-up. He personally intervened to keep a known predator priest in active service. When Irish authorities discovered that this hideous policy of obfuscation and interference was still being followed as recently as 2009 — even after Irish bishops had promised to stop — the Pope was offended, and recalled the Vatican’s nuncio to that country.

No, Cardinal Levada. Pope Benedict is by no means innocent in this scandal, and is not being “unfairly” maligned by a vicious and evil “media.” Moreover, the Pope has most certainly not been “attacked” by anyone in the media. A punch in the face is an “attack.” Being called to account for conduct he engaged in and which was documented, is no “attack.”

Cardinal Levada’s lie about the Pope’s innocence places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Clearly the Cardinal is adhering to the notion — prevailing within the halls of the Vatican and in diocesan chanceries around the world — that the Roman Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal is a spiritual attack by the Forces of Darkness upon a totally-innocent and forever-saintly Church that has done nothing wrong. They’re convinced that it’s not the abusive clergy who are guilty of anything, but instead, the Devil within the child-victims who — somehow — forced those poor, virtuous souls into abusing them. Alternatively, it’s all society’s fault; the “sexual revolution” forced clergy to abuse kids in their care. The Church hierarchs continue to point the finger of blame everywhere but toward themselves.

Enough is enough. When does the Pope — or Cardinal Levada — or any other hierarch plan to finally “man up” and take responsibility for this horrific worldwide scandal? They won’t. They’re all a bunch of sniveling crybaby cowards.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales).

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