Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cardinal Mahony on Pope Benedict XVI

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger earned a repuation as being the strict enforcer of Church teachings, the Vatican's watchdog of orthodoxy. Some have been quick to characterize this man as ultraconservative and feel that, as Pope Benedict XVI, his hard-line stance will divide the Church. Many American Catholics, especially, fear that Pope Benedict XVI will ignore the problems of the Church in the U.S. But these thoughts are terribly premature. We have not even celebrated the Inauguration Mass, and some who may have formed a bias against Cardinal Ratzinger are already rushing to judgement of the new Papacy.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles (which happens to be my hometown), was one of a few cardinals who sat at the same breakfast table as Cardinal Ratzinger on Tuesday morning, just hours before he was elected Pope. An article in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times offers Mahony's insights on the new Pontiff, specifically how his reputation of being a stubborn hard-liner may give way to a gentler man once he is able to more fully step into his role as Pope. Here are some of his remarks:

On his transition from enforcer of doctrine to Pope: "I think what you're going to see and hear is a very pastoral, spiritual dimension. Remember, he's no longer the chief theologian of the church in that same sense.... He is the chief theologian as being pope."

On why he selected the name Benedict, there are two reasons: "He said, 'I'm going to take Benedict XVI,' but then he went on to explain why, which is very interesting." 1) His namesake, Pope Benedict XV, reigned during World War I. And at the time, "It was the worst scourge of war ever known on the face of the Earth. So he said we still need to be working at peacemaking, reconciliation and harmony around the world." 2) St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine Order, said, "Jesus Christ is first and foremost. Everything else is secondary."

On Ratzinger's theological writings: "He's obviously an extremely intelligent man, renowned theologian, an author who has written books and articles. His spiritual writings you never hear about, but I think you're going to see a lot of that now with him as pope."

On the problems facing the Church in the U.S.: "We, as American Catholics, have to be a little bit more patient, and we have to know the rest of the church better. We really are isolated."

On Pope Benedict XVI's openness to dialog: "[He likes] to listen to other points of view. That's the role of a theologian — to hear other points of view. Those don't frighten him or turn him off.... As a good theologian, if he disagrees with you, he does so in a very pleasant way."

More from the Los Angeles Times:
Mahony acknowledged that Ratzinger had a reputation as uncompromising when it came to adherence to church doctrine. "Everyone who's a public figure in some way always carries a reputation or baggage," Mahony said.

The Los Angeles cardinal said the "spiritual, pastoral side" of the new pope could be revealed to the world as soon as Sunday, when he is to give his first homily as the supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

Read more (subscription required): Mahony Says the World Soon Will See Pontiff's Pastoral Side


bombsoverbaghdad said...

I agree that the 24-hour media has already programmed Americans to dislike Ratzinger. I've read a lot of Ratzinger's writings, and they are clear and interesting--his words jump off the page like magic. Make no mistake about it, though, the burden is on Benedict XVI to open up to the world. That's the burden of leadership.

Lori said...

Mahoney used to be our bishop, here in the Stockton (Ca) diocese--neat to read him here in this blog. Ratzinger really is a "hardliner," but he only speaks the truth, which can't ever change. His being our new Pope won't divide our Church-- we do that ourselves, our choice! Benedict XVI will only continue to speak the truth.

Anonymous said...

Frankly I cannot see what all the fuss is about regarding the election of Benedict XVI. He will bring great clarity to the church and the practice of our faith. After years of empowering and legitimizing "Christian" Evangelicals, who hide under the frocks of our Catholic clergy, especially the more conservative elements, Benedict's articulation of the purity of Catholic doctrine, with an emphasis on spirituality and faith will be most welcome. Left or right leaning Catholics, but especially right, are muddying the waters with "Christian" Evangelical relations, it is time to have an internal family dialogue among Catholics alone. This means not allowing Catholicism to be used by Evangelicals to legitimize political agendas and support one party over the other. This division of left and right is destroying the church and empowering "Christian" Evangelicals to spread their brand of faith on the back of St. Peter and thousands of years of Catholic legitimacy. While we furiously argue and destroy each other Evangelicals are stealing away the flock. We must return to achieving a profound understanding of faith and a greater spirituality, from there all things will flow.

vbspurs said...

I may be a future physician, but my first love, which my undergrad degree is based on, is history.

And the historian in me loves hearing these first-hand testimonials from witnesses to an event.

On Wednesday, I blogged a similar piece regarding the first-hand impressions of THREE French Cardinals, who were very chatty about the Conclave, to my amused surprised.

And like Cardinal Mahony, the Cardinal of Lyon confirmed that Benedict XVI made mention he was honouring Benedict XV and St. Benedict by choosing his Papal Regnal Name thusly.

Word of mouth is always given more weight, when you have more than one supporting witness.

And if anyone is interested, my two most recent blog posts are entitled:

Timing Is Everything, where I conjecture the timing of the Papal Announcement was cunningly diffused (which is great!).

And Two Ingredients to be a Successful Pope.


Anonymous said...

Benedict XVI is Pope by the grace of God and the choice of the Holy Spirit. His election was not a popularity contest to please dissenters from Catholic doctrine. He will continue to articulate the doctrinal truths of the Church. We must unite with him in choosing to do Christ's will.

Anonymous said...

Learn to choose your friends

Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, one of the Pope's most important advisers, is a staunch supporter of Gen Pinochet. Cardinal Medina Estevez told a Chilean newspaper he was praying for Pinochet every day.