Why Benedict XVI tried, and failed, to evangelize Europe
Benedict XVI's central ambition was to evangelize his homeland. Why did he fail so badly?
When Pope Benedict XVI travelled to Cuba two weeks ago, he was acting within a long tradition. Popes, after all, are not only spiritual leaders, they are representatives of the oldest continuous absolute monarchy in the world, which traces back to the Apostle Peter two millennia ago: The Holy See has been engaging in diplomacy far longer than any modern state has been in existence.
Actually, I didn’t read this anywhere—no, not anywhere—but in an A.P.
Against the meaning of his entire history as a prince of the church and also against various dicta issued by him later as the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict has proclaimed that he will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the conclave convened by Pope John Paul II in the Umbrian town of Assisi. That gathering assembled eminences from the "world religions" to pray together for peace.
This early in the twenty-first century, the rulers of the Catholic Church have suffered an earthquake of crumbling credibility. Nearly ten years ago, with the initial revelations about sexual abuse of the young by priests, some argued that the problem was limited in time and place, since most of the abuse cases had occurred 30 or 40 years before, and they took place in the United States. There was hope that an investigative and reformist effort would restore the U.S. Church’s authority.
These are obviously dark days for the Roman Catholic Church. For over a decade, the U.S. church has been assailed by abuse charges and devastated by the resulting litigation. The Vatican used to console itself with the belief that this was a peculiarly American crisis, but, this year, similar abuse cases have arisen all over Europe—most agonizingly in Ireland, one of the world's most faithfully Catholic countries. Across the continent, bishops are facing demands to resign, while critics are urging Pope Benedict himself to consider standing down.
WASHINGTON -- How in the name of God can the Roman Catholic Church put the pedophilia scandal behind it? I do not invoke God's name lightly. The church's problem is, above all, theological and religious. Its core difficulty is that rather than drawing on its Christian resources, the church has acted almost entirely on the basis of this world's imperatives and standards. It has worried about lawsuits. It has worried about its image. It has worried about itself as an institution and about protecting its leaders from public scandal.
Left and right found plenty to disagree about in Pope Benedict XVI's September address at the University of Regensburg in Germany, but,on one point, there was virtual unanimity: that the Pope was out to defend the West against the Muslim world.
SHORTLY BEFORE NOON on the day that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, I was standing in St. Peter's Square with a smart young Carmelite priest from Ireland. We were watching black smoke pour out of what, for a few days at least, was the most famous chimney in the world. That meant no Pope, yet. By chance, or perhaps thanks to the Holy Spirit's intervention, Father Simon Nolan was just the kind of Catholic who could give me faith in the Church's future. He is a philosopher who studies medieval topics, and he was orthodox, warm, and open.