Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Papal Canonizations: A Brief Insight

This week at the Holy See in Vatican City at Rome Italy the current Pope Francis I and the Pope emeritus Benedict XVI will preside over the “raising to the glory of the altars” the names and reputations of Pope John XXIII who called the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II who traveled more than any other Pope, reigned longer than almost any other and whose life before he was Pope John Paul II made this first Polish pope very unique.

Canonization is of course always about the person. It is less about the work and career than most honors. Those things are considered but personal holiness is more considered. The life of Pope John Paul II has been masterfully written and redacted by an American scholar. You can link to the sale of George Weigel’s book here. In the case of John XXIII there is a book which is about his life and in which most of the text is written by the sainted pope himself but which probably does not meet quite the definition of autobiography under which it has been marketed all or most of my life. You can link to a copy of that book here. But it is perhaps required that i state here in this brief post that I have no doubt that both men have a great deal to say to our age by life, example and writing. Neither one is devoid of all controversy.

Pope John XXIII was a pastor in Fascist Italy and Pope John Paul II was pastor of the universal church when much of the pedophilia scandal was continuing as a crisis of discipline and truthfulness among other things. There is no doubt that both men studied morality seriously, that both men risked much for what they believed, that both men attacked antisemitism,  varied religious hatreds and many forms of intellectual blindness. There is no doubt that both men fostered cooperation to improve the lot of ordinary and not so ordinary people in suffering and crisis around the world. There is no doubt that both men sought to speak the Gospel of Christ Jesus to the modern world. So should they be canonized?

Technically, the requirement for a second verified miracle after the saint has died and is in the Beatific Vision has been wived for John XXIII and the requirement of a waiting period at the start was waived under the Santo Subito pressures around the death of Pope John Paul II.  Both men have therefore gotten a bit of a pass on the full rigors of the process.

While I will not get a chance to watch much of the process I will try to post more about it after the event. I think it will be a worthy and noble celebration. The television and radio network based in Birmingham , Alabama in the United States has extensive coverage of the event and the lives of the two men. You can link to that information here. I hope people will look at it with an appreciation of its sincerity and its greatness as an expression of a faith community. But there is also a risk in the decision to canonize a Pope which does not exist in other saints. The Pope holds authority in a real situation  where human feelings are hurt, human mistakes made and human lives upset. It seems perhaps to be too much to ask those who lost out to a Pope in Life to have him included in their liturgies after his death as a specially recognized companion of Christ. But on the other hand that is what sanctity is all about — holiness in the real world. Further as different as these popes were it is true that both sought to expose this meaning of daily sanctity to the Church and the World.

Both of these men in my opinion have been more likely to be confirmed to the glory of the altars than are either of the two living Popes who will be there. John Paul II may be faulted for not having done more to stop the murder of Jewish children in Poland by the truck loads but he did oppose the Nazis at the risk of his life, he did witness to and oppose the Communists effectively at the risk of his life and run the most honest philosophy lecture for a thousand miles in any direction. He did get shot by an Muslim on a Communist payroll. He did struggle mightily on the grandest scale as Pope for the things he believed.  Pope John XXIII made the Second Vatican Council happen and it is difficult for a  non-Catholic to imagine what was required to make that happen. I do not think this very popular Pope nor the elderly Apostle of the Longsuffering Germans  is likely to leave a record so clearly one of heroic virtue. The risk of scandal which may offset the real merits of Benedict or Francis looms larger because of what is not there in the positive column.

The two living popes are very different as are the two men raised to the honor of being recognized by the Universal Church as saints.  I have written a good bit about Pope Francis in the posts linked at the lower potion of this post. I feel I have largely covered this great American-Italian-Argentine-Jesuit breakthrough in those linked posts  although not in this post itself. So I feel I can leave aside a brief biography of Francis but can be  less sparing about Pope Benedict.

Josef Ratzinger, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was the second consecutive Patriarch of Rome, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff and Successor to the Throne of St. Peter who has not been an Italian and he has now been suceeded by the first in a while who is both Italian and not Italian as well as an American and an Argentine. His role in making Popes from outside Italy alone is very important to the health of the Church that (without saying the Italians are not a great people and without saying that Bishops ought mostly to come from their own lands or related lands) and is a very good thing. It would probably be good if about half of all Popes were Italian over time but I would not want to see dozens of Popes in a row who were not Italian so everyone must do the best they can and perhaps the current Pope is an elegant solution.

Benedict is saddled with some responsibility for being part of the German theological establishment some of that is good and some is not. I have views differing from those held in the Church’s halls of power about some of the merits of these Germans. Josef Ratzinger is also a German who fought in the regular nonpolitical part of the German forces doing his duty in World War II and is a very accomplished scholar. However, the service to any state headed by Adolf Hitler and his lunatics is a blemish on the Papacy. But the Papacy has had many blemishes — nonetheless I do not lay all the blame on him personally but I do hold it against him. He seems to indicate in his public life that he remembers the insanity of Nazi political religion and although his experience was more ambiguous than he admits he will work to see that the liturgy and practice of the Church draws forth a milieu such as produced Mozart, the Bach family and the Gothic Cathedrals. The Pope he is will be remembered in the context of the German he is and it will be hard to find a route to canonization in all probability.

Like  John Paul II he did try to reach out to the Jews. There are problems in doing so that are real and he never looked to skilled at it. But in addition he has more to explain and  offset. If he could  have said anything kind and honest to the Jews in the way of professional advice that acknowledged some continuity of Hebrew liturgy  and have had  it well received he would advise them to invest in their worship and liturgy to reach and surpass the heights of the Temple’s musical past. That was a route, perhaps a concert shared together in the gardens, Perhaps more Hebrew in the newer forms of the Latin Mass. For those who judge such matter not so officially there is a great deal to offset in service to the Third Reich. But there is a vast set of problems regarding discussions of the period. Certainly the NAZI regime had more justification for panic and insecurity and rage than we in the USA are usually willing to teach our children, Nor is it unreasonable that we have a cast to our view of things. But Dolan, Law and Hannan  were never serious contenders for the Papacy and this man was  and is Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI had at once upon election to contend with a very broad spectrum of issues and demands and  brought to bear his talents as a writer, thinker and organizer as well as his prodigious mental capacities. He has written about Jesus Christ in a very compelling way and has sought to bring the Christ of Faith, the Jesus of History and the Jesus Christ of Cultural developments into a proper and good focus centered around the Jesus revealed in the Gospels. This is certainly a worthy goal and it fits in the larger context of a body of work. He specifically struggles with that German Teutonic impulse towards the struggle of the spiritual and the State which has always been pronounced but which which has been agonizingly dysfunctional since the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But in all the heroism of his struggle he does not lay out the offsetting values that erase the sins and scandals of his time from memory.

Pope Francis is on a honeymoon with the whole world right now and is a formidable pastor. I love that he brings Jesuit skills to bear. But there will be scandals form his past in Argentina. When they emerge I doubt I will be as critical as many. I know how hard it is to look good in horrific situations. But he was a fixer, mover and shaker struggling day in and out in a country in a long and bloody turmoil. Eventually someone will present evidence that something he did or did not do contributed to the death or ruin of an innocent person.  I am drowning in self respect and the same could be said of my life. It is just impossible in my view to come out of some situations unblemished. But all the adulation now will make it harder to take whether it comes before or after his death.  I hope and tend to think he has risked himself to help those in trouble.

I am going to try to write a little something about the canonization of two recent popes and the ceremony at which two popes will be present. Here is  a post discussing some of the early reactions to the papal reign of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio — Pope Francis.  Here and here are posts I put up about the transition when Pope Benedict resigned and before Pope Francis was elected.  So far as it goes there is no doubt that the papacy has been a serious and sustained interest in this blog. There is also no doubt that if a major scandal breaks regarding Pope Benedict or Pope Francis that there will be people remembering having read things here that they never read extolling these men. I have done little extolling.

However, this is a great day for the Papacy. It is a glorious celebration and I am proud to see the Church reaching out to past and future. But it is a risky time for the church and a good time to be a bit self-critical. My own views are written and published in this blog at length.  I respectfully look to Rome form where I stand as myself.

Peacework and Wargames: The Visions We Share

It may be a sign of megalomania or of a lack of focus. But I do write notes and posts that sort of treat the whole world at a given moment. I am writing this note in that extremely ambitious scope of trying to see roughly where the world is right now. That is of course far too much to do in so few words. In addition to constraints of length it imposes too many demands of other kinds on me and on my readers. Yet I feel drawn and compelled to this attempt to glimpse the current state of the world. Once again I sort of want to set down where the world is just at this moment before Spring in 2013.
This is one of the more shapeless and rambling notes and blog posts which I occasionally write. The unifying theme among the motifs and issues discussed in this Facebook Note and Blog Post is simply that in late February of 2013 there is a relevance to me in each of the things I discuss here. In other words these are the things on my mind which I do not deem too personal, secret or trivial to include in something like this.

I am going to discuss four subjects and also try to interrelate them a little bit. These subjects are:

1. The legacy of Pope Benedict XVI and his role as a retired Pope.
2. The economic future of this country, my state and region and the world as these things relate to a few specific political and social issues.
3. The changing face of military power.
4. The 2013 Academy Awards Presentations and the State of the film industry.

It is perhaps possible to suggest a theme beyond time alone. These questions mostly arise at the same time but I am also looking at all of them from the point of view of awareness of fundamental things. It is not a trivial challenge for any group or institution to keep a correct and vital connection with the real dynamic roots and essential vital energies that keep it alive. I will be looking at how the Catholic Church, Hollywood, the US military and the economy are challenged to remain properly connected to their real energies…

There will be many developments over time which will reveal the real legacy of Pope Benedict XVI more completely than it can be revealed now. However, I think some things can be well understood already. He accomplished something very significant simply by being the second consecutive non-Italian Pope. Alone Pope John Paul II could have been an anomaly but two makes a pattern. There is also the fact that he was able to bring a great deal of experience from a broad sampling of pastoral and doctrinal problems to bear as he sought out the new evangelization and the new ecumenism. However, I think the greatest legacy of the recent pontificate in recent terms will be in the field of liturgy which in turn relates to Christian unity and other matters in a fairly direct way. I think including the Anglican use and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the Mass have made the Church more Catholic and complete in ways that are really significant…
A relevant link to understand the role and significance of the extraordinary form can be found just below.


Benedict XVI has reminded the world’s Catholics of the richness of community which exists in the worship of the church. This are the liturgical Rites of the Catholic Church?

It has been no mystery to the Church leadership that three major groupings of Rites exist in the Catholic Church with one of them divided into what constitutes almost two major groupings. All the Cardinals in the Conclave are likely aware that from these four parent rites over twenty liturgical Rites (Western and Eastern) have developed which are in union with the Holy See. But for a large percentage of the majority of Roman Catholics these realites are remote enough. Many have little or no knowledge of worship beyond the Roman Rite. Practical fellowship in the many rites which in turn constitute the Antiochian Rite (Syria) and the Alexandrian Rite (Egypt) rarely occurs for most of them. The Byzantine Rite is only slightly better known and few know it derived derived as a major Rite from the Antiochian, under the influence of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. More freedom and harmony with these rites and with the Orthodox Christians to which they often relate in many ways was one of the goals of the Second Vatican Council. Things have improved in that regard over the last fifty years and Benedict XVI has made a contribution in that regard but his main effect on these matters has been indirect.

In much of the world the use of particular words in the Catholic mass may not seem very important and even the gathering of 115 men in red hats to elect a Pope may not seem significant. But the ritual is important, the voice is often heard and people know that the Pope is a leader of opinion and ideals for many with whom they currently share the planet. In a bit I will turn to the Academy Awards which also are a compelling ritual and also symbolize a powerful voice in the world and also are very much of interest to many people who would not have to be interested in them. It is easy for certain people to believe that political and economic news is more compelling than it is. Modern people tend to think that all the pageants of royalty and tribal politics were superfluous extras and that the modern era has got it right. But there is quite a bit of evidence that such rituals were vital to maintaining even a minimum of the healthier kind of interest in government. That same general area of evidence leads us to believe huge numbers of the wrong people are alienated and disconnected as regards much of the political and macroeconomic world. There are many among America’s strongest allies and worst enemies who see in the current and concurrently running second terms for Obama in the White House and for Ban Ki-Moon at the UN a season for steady progress for world peace and prosperity as well as opportunity for their own country’s progress. Russia is able to undertake key social and economic reforms as it grows into a new position, China builds up its military, North Korea is perfecting the atomic warhead and the ICBM and Brazil is flexing its regional economic muscle. In the United Kingdom there has emerged strong support from all major political parties for increased funding towards and the official establishment of the External Advisory Service in the EU as well as other initiatives by Europe to act as a single power able to make real progress on promoting peace and development in conflict-affected zones and fragile states.
The efforts of various powers around the world comes out in a context of enthusiasm by Europeans and Asia’s little dragons (the relatively small trading powers for foundations of a better world order. There is a context for such efforts which all nations have agreed to and in which famous Americans of means have played a major role. Ted Turner, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet among others have really made an impact in the efforts to give effect to the agreements which were reached under the term Millennium Development Goals. The millennium is well under way now and 2015 was a benchmark year in this plan so little discussed and reported in this country. About a billion of Earth’s people live in countries where the social, political and economic order is largely defined by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence. The Millennium Development Goals such as halving extreme poverty, providing universal primary (or elementary) school education and stopping the spread of AIDS have proven very difficult to achieve where multiple low grade civil wars are shaping the live of the poor and those seeking to interact with them. Largely because of violence which often has global dimensions the many millions in conflict are making little progress and no fragile state or conflict-affected region is likely to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal. The United Nations, the European Union and many other institutions clearly indicate that for these millions to progress their states must undergo structural change. Many countries with little chance of positive reform must develop more capable civic and state institutions, transform their security and justice sectors and be in a position to deal with various parties and factions long at war of one kind or another to bring about demobilization and reconciliation. These reforms would be necessary before the current world order would breathe life into weak economies and foster new relationships between the citizen and the state in each of these countries and nations. One cannot help but wonder if all the distance between these Goals and reality is just an accident or whether perhaps the order we currently live in does not support these goals at all.

However, the same powers that have sought these reforms sense that they are not succeeding as well as could be hoped. Britain’s Conservative political leaders and Prime Minister can smell and taste the geopolitical winds enough to feel the need for security and will consider spending considerable monies made available by this move for a stabilizing internationalism and an expansion of the UK’s aid budget to be used on more old fashioned kinds of military peacekeeping and even more purely conventional defense-related projects.
The UK which has quite a bit of experience building Empires is both really interested in a better world and really aware it must remain engaged in a world where China, Russia, new organizations and international Islamism or very much engaged. For each of these powers armed humanitarianism is part of the total world strategy Britain will not be left out and is allocating 30% of the UK aid budget to fragile and conflict-affected states. This development will involve some defense profile as well. The Brits have declared that their world strategies and interest are enhanced and their engagement effectiveness is improved when the Ministry of Defense, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development work together, “sharing expertise while co-ordinating policy and strategy.”
In this complex world America has a government that does not draw up budgets, does not understand how to compare debt. Our public indebtedness is about one hundred trillion and not sixteen trillion dollars. It does not understand the international networks that can fuse and separate and has not really allocated sufficient resources to countering the kind of weapons postulated in the film Red Dawn which would take the whole internet off line, fry CPUs and jam communications simultaneously. We see the world adjusting to new patterns of reliance, we know carrier killer missiles with small warheads on mobile launchers can be rained down from space with amazing speed and we see that a new generation of projectiles hunt conventional rocketry more effectively than ever before but largely we do not adjust to these challenges but instead focus only on the lessons of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We see that our own social cohesion is under strain but really keep increasing the strain and not really securing the future and not thinking of what an American solution ought to be in deep terms.

I believe our models for economics and military projections are flawed badly. If we do not do a lot better soon there will be consequences. The solution does involve being alarmed but does not involve seeing the whole world as made up of full-fledged enemies. That approach would be one of many that would produce the same bad result. The result would be what?

The United States of America is moving towards a series of catastrophic military disasters. The country will awaken sooner or later to a future of having been entirely overrun by its enemies. The time for reform and appropriate action is quickly coming to an end.

Things are going to get a lot rougher than most people are prepared to deal with I fear. There is little else to say about the situation’s overall status and stature. There is a lot to say about what exactly I mean by that. However, for this note the short paragraphs above will have to do…

I now want to discuss the Oscars which I watched with interest on Sunday, February 24, 2013. The struggle for any kind of recognition this year was very intense. The year saw a lot of films that were at least of decent quality and many that had some ideas to work with as well.

I have not posted or written as much about the movies this year as I sometimes do. I did post a status after Dad and I went to see The Impossible in Abbeville one night. I also posted a review of Blood on the Bayou. I indicated similar things about both very different movies. I thought they were (on somewhat different scales) very good, solid picture and sound and well acted throughout. I also thought this was a great year for movies. The films seemed varied & excellent and on a year when I was able to go to more movies than I have in most recent years. It was also a year when I saw more movies than most but not all years of my life.

I have seen quite a few memorable movies in the last twelve months. The biggest one I missed was Amour. Other movies I have enjoyed were: Lincoln, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild (on DVD), Anna Karenina, Parental Guidance, The Cirque de Soleil Movie, Jack Reacher, The Hobbit, Blood on the Bayou, Django Unchained, Dark Knight Rises, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Atlas Shrugged Part Two, Skyfall, Hunger Games and Red Dawn. Then on DVD for previous years I saw for the first time Hugo and My Week with Marilyn. Movies besides Amour which I missed were Flight, The Master, Brave, Wreck-it Ralph and Moonrise Kingdom. However, I did see Moonrise Kingdom on DVD. I also thought the Twilight : Breaking Dawn Part Two did not deserve the Razzies but it was not the best even of that franchise. I was happy to see that Kristen Stewart held her head up at the Oscars and made a stunning presentation of herself after her Razzy as worst actress. The truth is I like The Avengers and the Hobbit and I did really like the Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron work as well as most of the film titles Snow White and the Huntsman. The Twilight film joined with these films in selling a great deal of the popcorn and soda which along with the kids movies sales provide a place for all of us to watch the big screen filled with light.

Hollywood is a huge industry in America and it is our best claim to the kind of influence other people have a hard time stealing in a very competitive world. I support the movies by subscribing to Netflix, going to films and discussing them partly out of patriotic concern for a great American institution. But we all have our limits, I still chose not to see most of the movies that came out and I go to discount day matinees whenever possible. We live in a dangerous and intense world but sometimes the way we spend our leisure matters more than we might think. I thought this was a good year for a film with themes like those of Argo to be featured. I am glad it won best picture and hope we will use it and the other three political nominees Les Miserables, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty to remember that we cannot pretend governance doesn’t matter – it always does in the end.