Friday, June 17, 2005

Can Papa Ratzi fix what John Paul couldn't?

New Oxford Review editor Dale Vree relates (NOR, June 2005, p. 5) that geopolitical expert Jack Wheeler, wrote an article on his intelligence website, (April 26, 2005), saying:
A Vatican source has disclosed ... a psychological trauma of John Paul II. Whenever Vatican investigators brought the results of their vetting process regarding an individual's candidacy for bishop, cardinal, or other office, and they revealed he was a homosexual, John Paul would refuse to believe it. He did so because accusing someone of homosexuality was a standard practice of the Communist government in his native Poland regarding anyone it regarded as an enemy of the state ... [John Paul] summarily dismissed such accusations ... and would approve the elevation of anyone accused.
In the same issue of NOR, in an article entitled "Reflections on Pope John Paul II's Legacy," Tom Bethell lays the difficulty at the feet of the Pope's understanding of "collegiality":
A striking feature of his papacy was that he evidently thought it inappropriate to discipline brother bishops. Doctrine, emanating from Rome, remained unchanged; but practice, within the far-flung dioceses, was the responsibility of the bishop. Errant shepherds went uncorrected. Jim Hichcock told me: "The only working absolute in his pontificate, as far as I can see, was that bishops could do no wrong. His support of bishops seemed to be virtually absolute, unless there was a public scandal, and sometimes not even then."
Often the flip-side of a man's virtues sometimes reveals his weaknesses. One of our former priests was immensely popular, with great presence as a speaker, warm pastoral sensibilities, and great compassion. His gifts of personalism and congeniality also made him effective as a fund raiser, and he was in demand to head up a number of major building projects in the diocese. On the other hand, however, he could not bear personal confrontation. He could not bear being disliked. Consequently, he passed over with a blind eye numerous abuses in his parish that never met with proper resolution. These are common human failings, as understandable as they are deplorable. And it should come as no surprise that the same kinds of human limitations may circumscribe a pontificate.

As far as the Vatican is concerned, it will be interesting to see how the current pontificate plays out. Many Catholics, of course, are hopeful, given the caliber of theological acumen and orthodoxy they see in the present Pontiff. Dale Vree, for example, writes in an editorial entitled "Three Cheers for the Panzerkardinal":
For years, as Pope John Paul II grew weaker and weaker, your Editor has been saying intercessory prayers on a daily basis to St. Vincent Pallotti, under whose patronage the NOR is published, that our next pope would be more traditional, a much better administrator, more insistent on orthodoxy in the Church, less ecumenical, more anti-feminist, an upholder of Just War doctrine, but no less saintly than John Paul. Your Editor believes his prayers have been answered, in each and every particular. (Read more here.)
Recalling how St. Francis of Assisi heard Christ tell him, "Rebuild my church," we can't avoid the thought that we could use a little remedial maintenance around the Church these days too. There is far greater need for the nuts-and-bolts work of plugging holes in the leaky Barque of Peter than for geopolitical summitry and statesmanship. The challenges facing Pope Benedict are legion, but the opportunities are also great. The same could be said, too, of the Bush administration, whose long-term aversion for doing anything significant about the abortion issue may nevertheless prove to be one of the great disappointments of his presidency for those who voted him into office (see my earlier post: Pro-lifers: sold out by Bush?"). And, thus, we move foreward -- to work and to pray. There is a lot of difficult pruning and cultivating that awaits us in the Lord's vineyards -- work for everyone.

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