Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Damien Thompson has a good assessment of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, both in its strengths and its weaknesses.  First, a snippet of what both Thompson and I think Benedict’s main achievement:

Benedict’s central achievement was that he began – but came nowhere near finishing – the “purification” of the Catholic Church that was his most pressing concern. This necessitated the reform both of the liturgy and of the behaviour of the clergy entrusted with its performance. It might seem strange to yoke together the two, but Ratzinger has always emphasised that liturgy – properly orientated worship of God – is the ultimate purpose of Catholicism, requiring a holy priesthood and laity.

This liturgical reform is aimed toward a philosophy sometimes summarized as Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, or “The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief ” and it is central to my own Faith.  (The Catechism speaks of this relationship here, although it runs thematically throughout, as well.)  Indeed, I have often toyed with the idea of nipping over to Father Z’s store and purchasing one of his bumper stickers to this effect.  (Actually, I recently passed on that idea and instead installed a Vatican flag sticker next to my American flag sticker.  Sorry, Padre.)

As for the clerical reforms, Thompson recognizes – rightly, I think – that although Benedict certainly began HMC’s purification, the fact is that he was willing but was in over his head:

The outside world, understandably, is more concerned with the revolting lack of purity shown by countless Catholic priests towards young people. Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was a hardliner in his wish to see these cases dealt with severely. That does not mean – as he has been constantly reminded over the past eight years – that he acted effectively. He made mistakes himself; he was sneakily opposed by wretched cardinals who wanted to protect their friends; and having a near-senile Pope in office as the storm broke did not help. Once he became Pope, Benedict was quick to punish one of the most rancid sex abusers in Catholic history, Fr Marciel Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, now dead; one can’t help wondering whether Pope John Paul, had he been still alive, would have ignored evidence and beatified the old monster. But Benedict could not cope with the deluge of abuse claims since 2005; he was old, the rotten structures of the curia remained largely untouched, and the world’s bishops seemed to have learned little from previous scandals.

Nevertheless, a message was conveyed, however falteringly. The Vatican realised it had been sinfully negligent in its duties to protect innocent children. Benedict’s own apologies were sincere; he did not shrink from shouldering the burden of the Church’s shame.

And I absolutely believe his sincerity.

I have refrained from the temptation to hope that this or that current Cardinal is chosen over another to succeed Benedict, because such hope borders too closely on mere secular politickal preferences and seems to undercut one’s faith that it is the Holy Ghost who ultimately makes the choice.  I will go so far, however, as to say this:  It is my own personal wish that the next Pontiff installed is neither a celebrity nor a withdrawn scholar, but a Hammer.  JPII and BXVI between them stopped the rot and relaid the foundations.  To me, at any rate, it seems time now for some truly good, old-fashioned Muscular Christianity to see to the rebuilding.

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