Rising above factionalism and power games

Andrea Gaggliarducci’s Monday Vatican is a weekly read.  Today’s offering is especially good. In it, he touches on the controversy engendered by La Civilta Cattolica’s article on the “ecumenism of hate” and Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, one of the four “Dubia” cardinals.

Here are some highlights, but do go over and read the whole thing:


In [Pope Benedict XVI’s]way of thinking, there is no “political way,” but merely the search for the will of God. His speech on the hermeneutic of continuity, delivered to the Roman Curia at Christmas 2005, went in this direction. In the end he invited everyone to leave aside political categories, and to enter the heart of the mystery of the Church. To sum it up, Pope Benedict asked his audience always to use the renewed glasses of faith to look at reality.

This approach was rejected by those who made ideological counter positions the main theme of their work. For this reason, they were marginalized during Benedict’s pontificate. Under Pope Francis, they grabbed the occasion to retake the reins of the cultural debate.

Under Pope Francis, and probably despite him, the debate is really similar to that of the 70s: nuances are marginalized, issues at stake are framed in political language, the theme of faith is kept in the background.

For this reason, anytime the impression is given that Benedict still has something to say, his thinking is violently marginalized.

Early in Pope Benedict’s pontificate, I went to Montreal to hear a talk by John L. Allen Jr.  In it, he said many on the progressive side were expecting a “giant flushing sound” of dissidents being swept out of the Church with the advent of the Church’s doctrinal enforcer to the papacy.  Then, it didn’t happen.  Allen pointed out Benedict saw the Catholic Church as a family, not in ideological terms.   I wish I could find my original article for his exact words.  But that thought stayed with me.  Many people wished Pope Benedict had cleaned out dissidents from the Church and fault him for not having done so. But in light of yesterday’s Gospel reading on the wheat and the tares, it’s worth revisiting that thought.

I’m also reminded of a time I went to see my spiritual director bristling with the latest thing that had scandalized me coming out of the Vatican.

“How’s your prayer life?” Fr. Francis kept asking, to every “Yes, but ….blah blah blah” complaint I had.

So, how’s my prayer life? How’s your prayer life?  Are you relying on, totally dependent upon God in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit to bring renewal to your life and consequently to the Church of which you and I are living stones?

Here’s another extensive quote from Monday Vatican.  I don’t usually do this for copyright reasons, but it’s mostly a quote of a quote of Pope Benedict’s about the dictatorship of relativism.

The theme of the dictatorship of relativism has thus returned to the center of the debate. This dictatorship asks the Church not to surrender its principles, but to give up talking about them in the public sphere; it asks not that the Church should quit evangelizing, but that it should avoid speaking explicitly of Christ; it asks not that the Church remain silent, but that its speech should be drawn from a secular vocabulary.

In the end, it is useful to look back to another moment in which Benedict used the metaphor of the barque of Peter. It was April 18, 2005, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, was celebrating the Missa Pro Eligendo Romani Pontifice prior to the conclave which elected him pope.

Speaking about St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, Cardinal Ratzinger reminded his hearers that Paul asks us to be really adult in the faith, since being children in faith leads to being “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4: 14). This description is very timely! How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat bearing the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves — flung from one extreme to another: “from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth.”

Cardinal Ratzinger went on: “Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true. Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires”.

But – the Cardinal concluded – “We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An “adult” faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love”.

Oh, for a true, adult faith!  For a faith deeply-rooted in friendship with Christ.

3 thoughts on “Rising above factionalism and power games

  1. I second this as you say, “Oh, for a true, adult faith! For a faith deeply-rooted in friendship with Christ”. And for food for thought —- as one of our retired priests (now 93 and a Calvinistic convert) said to us recently in Boston, “it is among the German theologians that real scholarship is now occurring !”


  2. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so. — Hebrews 6:1-3



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