Benedict XVI

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The College of Cardinals has selected Joseph Cardinal Ratinger to be pope. As the title indicates, he's taken the name Benedict XVI. I have to have mixed feelings about him. After all, he's the one who insisted to John Paul II that he not sign the Joint Agreement with the Lutherans (which I've posted about here and here) that I think was generally indicative of a good movement within the Roman Catholic Church, and he also changed none of the catechism as a result of the Joint Agreement with Lutherans. I think that's the most critical issue for the future direction of the RCC. [Update: I've been corrected on this. See this post for more information.]

On the other hand, on issues I think they need to hold ground on, he's been a stalwart. I don't agree with the RCC position on artificial contraception, and I think the whole category of priests is unbiblical (or at least restricting it to some but not all believers is unbiblical), so the issue of women as priests is irrelevant. There are issues lurking behind the scenes there that I do care about, and I suspect he's more likely to agree with me on those. As much as I disagree with the Catholic statement of the gospel, it's much more accurate than those who reduce it to social and political themes, and Ratzinger has resisted that pressure.

But it's likely that he was selected for the same reasons Republicans nominated George H.W. Bush for president in 1988. When you have a president you like that much, you have to continue the tradition with the next president, even if it's someone who won't be the sort of person who really fits with that tradition, even if it's not someone you expect to hold the office. In both cases, Bush didn't live up to the tradition. He wasn't Reagan in most of the ways I liked Reagan, and he sure enough lasted one term. Then people were ready to move on to something else for a while. They gave Reagan the tip of the hat wit Bush, though. You can't move on after someone like that so easily.

That may well be what happened here. Ratzinger was widely seen as someone simply associated with John Paul II. He's 78, only 6 years younger than John Paul II was. It's not likely that he'll have a long papacy. He was the cardinals' way of honoring John Paul II by voting for someone who could serve as our transition to someone new. He's not John Paul II. Some of what he's most known for is in the opposite direction. Yet he's associated with him, and that's what counts when you're just picking an interim personage.

I would love to see Benedict XVI have time to make his mark. Anyone in a position of leadership should ideally get the chance to make an impression and have the influence that goes along with the office. I think this perspective helps Protestants to remember that the direction we saw with Paul John II toward views that fit more closely with scripture is not over simply because the most powerful man who resisted them is now pope. In God's providence, it may well be that Benedict XVI will help facilitate that in some way, either by an unlikely change in his stance or because of the contrast between him and his predecessor on such issues, which may well provoke an itch among the cardinals for change the next time around. My prayer is that it will be a change to someone who won't sacrifice on the still-important things that some elements within the RCC would more likely want to change if they're itching to change on this. Is it possible for them to find a pope with a liberal attitude on some issues and a conservative attitude on others? Well, they did it the previous time.

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TrackBack URL for this entry: http://movabletype.ektopos.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/413

Regarding Ratzinger, Jeremy at Parableman states, "he's the one who insisted to John Paul II that he not sign the Joint Agreement with the Lutherans..." Not a good sign... Read More

Today, the hot topic in the Christian blogosphere is Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church's 256th Pope. I'm sure some bloggers are repeating what they wrote when Pope John Paul II died ("Oh yeah, he's going to hell."). Others are... Read More

5 Comments

Actually, you're wrong about Ratzinger and the Joint Declaration on Justification. Far from blocking it, he more or less saved it. A committee of poorly informed cardinals in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came up with a rather negative report on it after the drafters had met all the concerns the Congregation's theologians had expressed about earlier drafts. Ratzinger was not in control of that, but he then worked behind the scenes to find the way forward that ultimately led to the signing.

He is a tough, realistic, blunt but devoted ecumenist. Note that in his speech today he spoke of Christian unity as his "first responsibility."

This is the first I've heard of that. Do you know of any online information on this? The one person I know who has studied this at length said that Ratzinger told John Paul II not to sign it. Maybe his work to promote it later was at John Paul's insistence.

This doesn't change the fact that he has consistently not modified the catechism in light of it, even though the conclusions of the Joint Declaration contradict the catechism as it stands. I'm not going to argue for that here, since I've already done it in the posts I've linked to.

The source of my information sent me to the official response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. It seems from that that Ratzinger really did show a good deal of hesitation toward what John Paul II deeply desired. It sounds as if they're saying the Joint Declaration denies Trent.

Before all else, this pope is an ecumenist. He demonstrated this dramatically by inviting the Chief Rabbi of Rome to his installation, an act prohibited by Apostolic Canon LXX and by the historic practice of the Church. By Orthodox Christian tradition, only Orthodox baptised Christians, or at the least catechumens, may enter the temple for worship services. The function of the doorkeepers in the early Church was to see to it that Jews and heretics not enter the temple and that catechumens leave before the consecration of the Holy Mysteries.
Orthodox tradition has it that the Apostolic Canons, which are 85 in number, were enacted at the Council of Jerusalem(as reported in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles) by the Holy Apostles themselves. Even if some doubt this tradition, none doubt their great antiquity. When we read these canons, we see into the life of the earliest years of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI seems less concerned as to observing those canons, however, than has been reported in the MSM.

Maybe all the invitation of the rabbi shows is that he's less willing to let tradition trump scripture than Catholics and Orthodox have been in the past. It's pretty clear that Paul expected nonbelievers to enter Christian assemblies, or he wouldn't wonder what they must think if they're there while people are engaging in glossolalia:

If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (I Corinthians 14:23-25, ESV)

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