February 13, 2009


Pope provocateur (Father Raymond J. de Souza, 2/12/09, National Post)

Since he arrived in Rome more than 25 years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has repeatedly and deliberately been provocative, kicking up enormous media storms on sensitive subjects. His calculated risk is that his interventions will not move the debate one way or the other within the given parameters, but change the parameters of debate altogether. [...]

In 2005, just weeks before John Paul's death, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the meditations for the papal Via Crucis at the Colosseum. Writing of the Church, he wrote of the "filth" in the priesthood, and that the ship of faith was "taking on water from all sides." It too made international headlines and remains today the most memorable and dramatic condemnation of priestly sexual abuse. Last year on his American visit, Benedict spoke repeatedly about sex abuse and met personally with victims, again changing the tone and substance of that crisis.

At the funeral Mass of John Paul, it was Ratzinger who moved the world to tears with the evocative image of the Holy Father standing at the window of the house of the Father. A few days later, on the threshold of the conclave, Ratzinger used the phrase "dictatorship of relativism," which instantly made the front pages of every newspaper in the world, and framed the challenge facing the Church in electing a new pope.

Then there was Regensburg, where, in 2006, the Holy Father raised in an indirect but unmistakable fashion the question of the status of violence within Islam. The rioting and anti-Christian violence which followed sent Benedict and the Vatican into the fence-mending operations we have seen again these last weeks. Yet Regensburg was a historic turning point -- for the first time Catholics and Muslims met last year at the Vatican for theological dialogue. A frank challenge was met with a breakthrough response. Another debate he entered in order to change it.

Benedict is a quiet, even shy man. But he is not timid or naive. He is not afraid to bring the fire, even if, as was the case this month, it means that those gentle, classical pianist's fingers might get burnt.

...between a static defense and defending after you score a big gain.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 13, 2009 7:43 AM
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