April 19, 2005


Outline of a Ratzinger papacy (John L. Allen, Jr., 4/16/05, National Catholic Reporter)

What would a Ratzinger papacy look like?

In the main, it would likely take shape along predictable lines. Ratzinger would mount a strenuous defense of Catholic identity, resisting enticements from secular culture to water down church teaching and practice; he would stress “Culture of Life” issues, doing battle against gay marriage, euthanasia and stem cell research; he would ensure that theological speculation is contained within narrow limits. He would likely travel less, and project a more ethereal style reminiscent of Pius XII. Ratzinger’s governing metaphor for the church of the future is the mustard seed – it may have to be smaller to be faithful, what he calls a “creative minority.” [...]

Under Ratzinger, the Vatican would be less likely to expend resources to preserve institutions it perceives as already lost to secularism. In his memoirs Milestones, Ratzinger reflected on the German church’s struggle to hold onto its schools under the Nazis. “It dawned on me that, with their insistence on preserving institutions, [the bishops] in part misread the reality. Merely to guarantee institutions is useless if there are no people to support those institutions from inner conviction.” [...]

Because Ratzinger is the prime theoretician of papal authority, it is often assumed that under him the Vatican would take on even more massive proportions. In fact, like most conservatives, Ratzinger feels an instinctive aversion to big government. He believes that bureaucracies become self-perpetuating and take on their own agendas, rarely reflecting the best interests of the people they are intended to serve.

“The power typical of political rule or technical management cannot be and must not be the style of the church’s power," Ratzinger wrote in 1988’s A New Song for the Lord. “In the past two decades an excessive amount of institutionalization has come about in the church, which is alarming. … Future reforms should therefore aim not at the creation of yet more institutions, but at their reduction.”

While Ratzinger would not hesitate to make decisions in Rome that others believe should be the province of the local church – revoking imprimaturs, replacing translations, dismissing theologians – he would not erect a large new Vatican apparatus for this purpose. Ratzinger would encourage bishops’ conferences and dioceses to shed layers of bureaucracy where possible. The overall thrust would be for smaller size, less paperwork, and more focus on core concerns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2005 8:12 PM

Imagine that.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 19, 2005 8:20 PM

Given that he's 78, it hardly seems worth making many predictions about Ratzinger's reign.

Chances are he'll barely have time to make a few saints and apologise for some ancient wrong against women or whatnot, before we're going through all this hullabaloo again.

Posted by: Brit at April 20, 2005 5:19 AM


Maybe. Then again, my Bavarian grandfather-in-law was vigourous into his nineties... you never know.

Posted by: Mike Earl at April 20, 2005 10:02 AM

It's been pointed out before, but I'll do it again--the last 78 year old Pope presided over a little thing called "Vatican II." Perhaps you've heard of it?

Posted by: Timothy at April 20, 2005 1:13 PM

Nah, I don't usually watch sequels.

Posted by: Brit at April 21, 2005 4:01 AM

Did you watch "Royal Wedding II: The Other Woman"?

Posted by: Dave W. at April 21, 2005 10:56 AM

Mean, brutal, nasty and short

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 21, 2005 4:54 PM

Yes, but it's been redeemed.

Posted by: oj at April 21, 2005 5:08 PM