When Pope Benedict XVI was removed from the summit of the visible Church, what lay beneath him was revealed. I use the passive in this instance not in order to provoke controversy regarding his 'removal' in the sense of a conspiracy that achieved it, but rather to place Benedict XVI's pontificate in its proper place, within history. After all, history sees everyone removed from every position of status in the end and the same will happen, eventually, to Benedict's Successor(s). Every priest, every Pope is in the soul eternal. Every priest, every Pope, though, is in the body transient.
Since Benedict XVI's departure into a new role of prayer within the Church, while 'remaining in the enclosure of St Peter', what has created a terrifying tempest within the Church and - in as much as it cares - the World, has really been the difficult digestion of difficult truths. Whatever you think of Francis and his 'effect', the deeply insightful interview with Pope Emeritus Benedict covered here by Life Site News and here by Fr Z positively glows with a clarity of thought that so many miss in the Church today. One Peter Five also covers the news of the sweeping interview.
Since his abdication, the Pope Emeritus has been a man of few words, so those words which he does speak are - in contrast to the abundance of words produced by his Successor - all the more interesting. In this sense, less becomes more. Truth and opinion becomes concentrated, crystalized. True to his previous form in his intellectual and spiritual combat against the relativism of our times, again Benedict's battle is against ideas, not against the people who hold them. They can glean from it what they want. So it is, then, that the Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger and the Pope, Benedict XVI and the Pope Emeritus, Benedict, is able to hold court in tackling ideas to the ground, but leaving the people who hold them in place, even while figures such as Cardinal Kasper, who have long since outed themselves as theological oppponents of all that Benedict XVI stood for, declare victory with gladitorial glee over Benedict's 'outmoded' concept of Faith.
So because of the wait for his opinion on the state of the Church today, what Benedict has said is all the more pointed. It is made even more so, because Benedict is talking about things that Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper had relegated as non-issues. Baptism as necessary for Salvation? The possibility of Hell and separation from God eternally? The breakdown of Catholic culture and identity? The collapse of the Church's mission? These are different issues to climate change, poverty and structural economic injustice. We see, in just one interview, the striking contrast between the Church obsessed with the secular and the Church obsessed with Faith, with Divine truths, with the sacred, with holiness, with a relationship with Christ. For this reason, I do hope Benedict gives another interview soon. It's like hearing from your Dad after a long time of no communication at all.
Of course, Cardinal Kasper - and all those who have promoted his truncated, frankly man-made, counterfeit vision of the Gospel - are unable to declare a victory that is in any sense coherent, or intellectual, or even moral. This is victory for victory's sake. When Cardinal Kasper says that the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis will turn a page over 1,700 years of Catholic history, we can be sure that this is not evidence of the vindication of his intellectual position in his tussle with Joseph Ratzinger and Benedict XVI, but rather a groundless assertion of might over right, an indication of what can happen when the Church, imitating the levers of the State, becomes not a lover or sanctifier of mankind, but 'a band of robbers'. And it is interesting that Cardinal Kasper cannot talk so contemptuously of the Catholic past, in the Catholic present, without looking towards the Catholic future. But what is it? As Fr Ray Blake asks, what is that future? Where does the Church have a future?
Cardinal Kasper's theology which wafts that acrid 1970s scent that the presence of Benedict XVI at the helm of the Church had for so long masked so effectively (but which now no sweet fragrance can cover), disregards the future of the Church being in any sense 'Catholic' or even exclusively 'Christian'. This is not even an 'evolution of dogma', but nor really 'a new page'. This is not simply even a blank sheet. This is a new book entirely.
Divorced from Christ, separated from her roots, remarried to the World, the State and the age, the Church of the future could write a new story concerning man, God and man's place in the drama of Redemption. It can write new rules, new customs, a new theology, a new Mass even. Nothing previously received has to inform the new story. Benedict XVI must have known and still knows that such could happen and such might very well happen. All he did, all he said, all he is saying now is that the Church could indeed - and very well might - do that.
What concerns Benedict XVI, but does not concern Cardinal Kasper and almost certainly not Pope Francis is this question: Would that be a true story? Would that be a faithful story? What is the cost to this abandonment of the authentic Christian message? Did Jesus Christ really give the Church the authority to write a new story that was different to the real one? Most readers of this blog, I and the Pope Emeritus can answer to that question a definitive 'No', so those already calling Benedict XVI out as a modernist, I would say, need to take a step back and recognise - at least - the gulf in the concerns between the present Vicar of Christ and the 'ex-Vicar of Christ' who lives down the road, for it appears to be a gulf similar to that between Lazarus and Dives. Ultimately a new faith, not a 'continuation', not a development of dogma' is where the deep, two-sided crisis of faith leads. It is there hidden, in plain sight, between the lines of Cardinal Kasper's 'prep-work'.
Pray for the Pope Emeritus. He clearly isn't going to simply watch the foundations of the Church be destroyed without saying anything at all. The wolves he warned us about are sensitive creatures, not wishing even the precise nature of the errors that they promote to have light and clear thought penetrate their being. That is the nature of the dictatorship of relativism. It seeks to use authority to stamp upon Truth rather than serve it and proclaim it. Pope Francis will be held accountable to God - as all bishops shall be - for his governance of the Church entrusted to him, but the servant of the servants is also accountable to the flock of Christ. It may well be that he needs to be reminded by 'the little ones' that a lie does not become the truth by telling the lie and passing it off as truth, merely by virtue of the power and the authority wielded in the process.
Remember that Benedict XVI rarely, if ever, as Pope imposed from above, in a dictatorial manner, the truths which he guarded, defended and proclaimed, and, far from exiling figures such as Cardinal Kasper and those he knew to hold views that Catholics in previous times would regard as dangerous, held his brethren in great esteem and truly respected, if not their opinions, then their persons. Benedict's style is now and always was to convince and persuade appealing to reason and to counsel gently those who needed clear instruction. Now that the reigns of Church governance are in the hands of his opponents, much power has been entrusted into their hands. The wise will deal mercifully, kindly and even gently, even with their ideological opponents, but those who are less schooled in the love of truth, virtue and meekness, are more prone to act rashly, exercising power, but without a sense responsibility.
Pray therefore, too, for those also. Whatever Saturday - the Feast of St Joseph - and beyond brings, pray to the Patron of the Church for unity in Christ.