Pope Benedict: The Talk And The Walk

The talk *and* the walk: Pope St. Pius X

CNA has a beautiful Papal intervention, aimed at stressing the necessity of good evangelisation work.

One must say, this Pope is good at talking. Take for example these two phrases:

“It is important to make them understand that being Christian is not a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions, but something living and totalizing, capable of taking all that is good in modernity.”

“proclaiming Jesus Christ, the sole Savior of the world, is more complex today than in the past, but our task continues to be the same as at the beginning of our history. The mission hasn’t changed, just as the enthusiasm and courage that motivated the apostles and first disciples should not change.”

I see a slight problem, though. To talk the talk is all good and fine, but from a Pope able to talk the talk with such clarity, one would expect the ability to walk the walk with far more energy and determination than this is the case now. It seems to me more and more that Pope Benedict sees himself not as an enforcer of orthodoxy, but as one whose task is to prepare the way for future orthodoxy. He often gives to me the impression that he is working so that his successors may act, but without acting directly with anywhere near the energy that would be required.

Summorum Pontificum
was obviously huge, and Universae Ecclesiae provides the priests and faithful (after, if I may say so, too many years of inaction) with valid instruments to improve its implementation. What I miss, though, is the concrete action on the ground, the factual providing for robust evangelisation rather than the talking about it; in short, the walk.

We still are afflicted with bishops like Nourrichard (Benedict’s appointment to his present position) and Fonlupt (whose very recent appointment even sparked a reaction in form of a letter from French priests); we have an Archbishop of Westminster (also a Benedict’s appointment to his present position) openly boasting that he is nuanced about homosexual relationships and doesn’t know whether he will celebrate their “marriages”. If you read around this blog, you’ll find many more examples, but you get my drift: evangelisation is best made by first putting one’s house in order.

The Church is not in order. The number of bishops with either heterodox views or without the guts to defend orthodoxy is staggering. The situation is so bad, that when a bishop dares to do his job properly this makes huge waves, so unexpected it is. Many of these liberal, heterodox or cowardly bishops have been appointed, and continue to be appointed, by Pope Benedict and I am sorry to say so, but as long as this continues every beautiful talk about the need of a new evangelisation will sound little more than verbal decoration.

Make no mistake, I am a big fan of Pope Benedict’s reforms and I think that, as a Pope, he is a huge improvement on his saintly but catastrophic predecessor. Still, I think that he will be remembered rather as a Pope who prepared the ground for concrete action, than as one who acted decisively himself.

Summorum Pontificum is no concrete action if after four years we still have very few Latin Masses, and nice talks about the needs of evangelisation are no concrete action if the evangelisation is then left to the devices of the Nourrichards of this world, whom the Pontiff himself appoints. Concrete action is to take care that the sheep are provided with good shepherds, and that the shepherds take care that the priests are sound.

Evangelisation via television doesn’t work, much less evangelisation via “encouragement speech” to people whose theology and praxis is almost beyond repair. Evangelisation is done from the pulpit; with a reverent celebration at the altar; with a strong defiance of unChristian politicians; with an insisted, frontal assault on secular thinking.

Most of all, evangelisation is done by forcing the Nourrichards of the world to march allineati e coperti like as many soldiers, or by getting rid of them without delay.



Posted on June 2, 2011, in Catholicism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. The Church has got a lot better from what it was even 10 years ago but that’s more due to older priests and bishops retiring and/or dying off than Benedict’s interventions. In many ways he’s quite a weak pope, a bit like Paul VI. Thinking about John Paul II’s papacy gives me horrible flashbacks.

    Would love to just go back to the way things were in the 50s 🙂

    • Shane,

      I’d say Benedict is a bit of a half house between Paul VI and, say, Pius XI. Paul VI would never have dared Summorum Pontificus, but Pius XI would wanted to see it working…


  2. If I might respond to Shane’s assertion, that the Catholic Church “has got a lot better from what it was even ten years ago”, I would have to say, quite honestly, that I don’t know what yardstick this is being measured by. If my eyes and ears are anything to go by I would say that the Church is catastrophically worse than it was ten years ago.

    It is useless to rattle off the statistics of decline; everyone knows them well. But allow this observation: when I am in the presence of a “typical” Catholic church, or among every day Catholics, I find myself like the time traveller in H.G. Wells “The Time Machine”, in a different world altogether. Any connection with historic Christendom in today’s Church is tenuous at best. These priests and these Catholics are no longer on the same planet as I am. Religiously we have almost nothing at all in common. Here in the not-so-good-old USA there are small pockets of Catholicism, where Mass is said in quiet reverence, but our Bishops are for the most part either arrogant or stupid, far too many of our priests hangers-on and curs, the faithful little more than Mass-going protestants. I suspect Europe is the same. With all that in mind I am puzzled by Shane’s observation. I can only hope that in his part of the Catholic world things have improved to the point where he could make such an observation. But in the vast majority of America one cannot possibly see any major improvement.

    And I’m afraid the rot is even trickling down into a few “traditional” religious orders here, especially those of a compromising nature. But that is a story for another day.

    • I do agree with Shane, not in the sense that I think that the problems have not been consolidating in a sense (how many bad bishops have been appointed in the meantime?), but in the sense that the sprouts of a new-old Catholicism are there.

      if you look at this forum, ten years ago I wasn’t attending mass; lewftfooter probably wasn’t either; others that I have met in various forums can tell similar stories. Common to all of them is the desire to recover decent catholicism, and the realisation that bad catholicism had given a greta contribution in keeping them out of the Church.

      I think th ebiggest problem with JP II is that whilst he tried to recover orthodoxy in one sense, he has allowed heterodoxy to become institutionalised through th eapointment of so many inadequate bishops. But at the same time, we see a new dawn in Summorum Pontificum and the thriving of conservative religious orders.


  3. Mundabor, I fully agree with your observation on the new dawn of Summorum Pontificum. However, given that there are still quite a number of incapable, modernist Bishops (and Cardinals!?) appointed by JPII around, what kind of Holy Father will we be getting after our present one has gone home? After all, he is already 84 years of age. If I remember well, among the recently appointed Cardinals there are those considered conservative but there are also modernist ones. I cannot imagine what will happen if we do not get the right one in a next conclave. Let us hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will do an equal good job during the conclave as during the last one.

    • I am not concerned about that, wk1999.

      The conclave who gave us Benedict was certainly less conservative than the one we have now. It is, I think, fair to say that since the appointments have been largely conservative. It has been a politics since Paul VI that whilst the appointment of bishop were accommodating, those of cardinals were largely of conservative chaps. This is why all the last Popes were far more conservative than the average bishop (JP I, JP II, Benedict XVI).

      I can’t see, say, a Schoenborn as the new Pope, rather a Scola or a Burke or a Levada. Traddies are, it seems to me, all but isolated and clearly in the minority. I see it far more propable that the successor of benedict will be more conservative than he is, and that Pope Benedict is wisely steering thing in that way.

      I disagree with you on you the (well spread) misconception that the Pope is elected by the Holy Spirit. The Pope is elected by the Cardinals. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t have wanted Benedict IX or Alexander VI as Popes. The Cardinals have the duty to pray the Holy Spirit that he may guide them, but they might not pray, or not listen, or be outright wicked in the first place, as it has often happened in the past.

      Many conclaves have been decided purely by bribery; one can’t put that on the Holy Spirit’s tab.

      Paul VI, in his instructions about the elections of his successor, went on this problem explicitly and explicitly debunked the myth of the Holy Spirit irresistibly infusing the Truth on the Cardinals. Again, this is a well-spread misconception whose only beneficiaries are wicked cardinals.

      Besides, this is the same misconception around V II: as it was an ecumenical council, many people believe that it was dictated by the Holy Spirit.
      Cretins were at work, not the Holy Spirit.


  4. Well, I did not quite mean it in the sense that the Holy Spirit elected the Pope, more like as you put it, that the Holy Spirit has guided them in the proper way. But I certainly agree to the points you have made.
    Coming back to the last conclave, what surprised me at that time very much was the speed and the apparently overwhelming majority with which Benedicr XVI was elected as Pope. That obviously strongly confirms your point that the Cardinals are a more conservative group of people than the average Bishop. Thinking of it, the prospects are not that bad then for the next conclave.

    • I’m glad to hear that, wk.

      Unfortunately, particularly in Italy I have heard such things rather often (in the UK too, actually).

      As to the speed of the election and the attitude of the Popes, yes this is also something I have read rather often in the “civilian” press whenever there were new appointments of Cardinals. I must say that up to now the facts have confirmed the theory.

      In the end, I woul dsay that Pope Benedict is prudent in his “reform of the reform” exactly because he knows that the process will be continued after him. He is fairly in control of the process as he is the one who appoints the Cardinals. He will allow some tomfoolery in the dioceses but not in the matter of his succession, I think…


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