Today was celebrated the funeral Mass for Pope Benedict XVI, a loving and gentle father whose concern for the spiritual good of all the faithful was most deeply manifested through his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The Ecclesial career of Fr. and later Cardinal Ratzinger, who would succeed St. John Paul II in the Petrine office as Benedict XVI, showed a commendable willingness to adapt his views from the abstract notions of the young intellectual to the concrete realities and challenges facing the Church. What I mean is that Benedict, like his predecessor, made valiant efforts to reconcile the novel teachings of Vatican II with longstanding Church tradition. History remains to judge whether their attempts to “square the circle” known as Vatican II succeeded or failed.
At this time we can only give both Pontiffs credit for making the effort, an effort which cost Benedict a great deal of opposition, criticism, and mental anguish. Although himself a progressive young periti or theological expert at the Council, time began to reveal that much of the Second Vatican Council was in fact a substantial miscalculation. I mean that instead of healing the rift between the Church and the modern world which the young, idealistic Fr. Ratzinger undoubtedly imagined to be possible, i.e., that the Church would finally convert the world through the means of modern social communications, in fact just the opposite occurred: secular values quickly invaded the Church.
Rather than the Church acting as a leaven in the world, the leaven of the world began to act within the Church through the power of those same means of social communication which flooded both clergy and faihful with its own secular messaging. Within the Church itself “pastoral” became the new catchword for “anything goes” while moral theology became hopelessly confused with sociology. The Council inadvertently opened those floodgates by allowing an admixture of true, long held doctrine to be sprinkled with subtle errors. This occurred when the former clarity in Church pronouncements was replaced by a verbal ambiguity in which, if one carefully reads the documents produced at Vatican II, one can sense the parsing of terms and even internal contradictions throughout many of those same documents. One consequence of the new “pastoral” guidelines being that a whole generation of clerics was trained to believe that the Catholic Church is no longer essential to salvation, therefore one can use means outside the Church to be saved. From this it is but a short step to the belief that all men, at least those of reasonably good will, are to be saved. The problem is that this teaching is not a part of the Apostolic tradition.
The problem with mixing even a small bit of error into the great cauldron of truth is that the truth can never baptize the error; rather the error will poison the wellspring of truth just as it only takes a few drops of arsenic to poison an entire pot of stew. And it is this supposedly “pastoral” post Vatican II parsing of the truth, hoping to make it more palatible alongside the erroneous opinions of our time, which leads directly to what Pope Benedict identified as the “culture of relativism.” It took the young Fr. Ratzinger some time to recognize where the new pastoral trends were leading the Church and later, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he did his best to correct the course of the New Theology. Not surprisingly, for attempting such a correction of course he was heavily criticized and ostracized. In the end I personally believe that he was forcibly removed from the Papal office for his efforts, becoming a prisoner of Vatican bureaucrats in very much the same sense that Blessed Pius IX had become a prisoner of the Masonic powers that had “liberated” the Papal lands from their rightful sovereign 150 years earlier.
What we have witnessed since 1978 is the idealism of two great Popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, being shattered as they were gradually marginalized and supplanted by a cadre of vicious and ambitious office seekers whose only true doctrines are pragmatism and globalism. These men have greatly tarnished the image of Holy Church while driving away millions of former Catholics, like true wolves devouring the flock of Christ. Benedict possessed a marvelous intellect and great goodness of heart but he was no warrior. And yet, his love for his flock and the Church of Christ was intense and undeniably authentic. Sumorum Pontificum shows how greatly he cared even for that little remnant of traditional Catholics too often shut out by their own pastors. His gentle heart and fatherly wisdom will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace and very soon be admitted to that Beatific Vision which animated his whole life.
Francis J. Pierson Jan. 5, 2023 +a.m.d.g.