Reading Benedict Through Francis?
As two of my favourite blogs (this one and this one) have mentioned the story about Benedict allegedly saying to the old lady she can be “more useful” if she remains a Proddie, I would like to offer my two very devalued liras. Bearing in mind, of course, that I wasn’t there. I would like to examine firstly whether Benedict would say that, and secondly why we now get to read such things from the Vatican press.
1. Did Benedict really say it?
I doubt it. I doubt it because it does not seem to me in line with the man; who, by all his deficits in issues of sound Catholicism, certainly knows the fundamental difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. It’s just not very credible to my ears that Benedict would have said to her “don’t get on board the Barque of Peter. You are better off swimming alone in the cold waters of rebellion”.
Rather, I think it far more probable he would have said something on the line that it is better to wait until she is sure of what she is doing, and it would not be good to convert out of a passing emotion and go back to being a Protestant afterwards. I wasn’t there, but it seems to me this is the kind of answer everyone would give to someone wanting to convert “in a time of crisis”. He must have sensed when the crisis is away, so is the conversion. Wonderfully emotional, the gentler sex.
I would also like to know the exact source of the statement. Did the lady truly use those very words? Did she quote Benedict? In which context? How long afterwards? By whom have these alleged words of her been reported to the Vatican Press?
How many people do you know who, after the fact, would initially imply or suggest, and at some point state it as fact, that something was said to them which in fact wasn’t? I know a couple of those. Nay, more. Women, actually, all of them; all of them looking for validation either for a controversial choice, or one about which they have lingering doubts.
Furthermore: how often in your daily life are you ready to attribute some very bad words to someone, just because it is reported that someone else, now dead, would have said that he has said it? Really? If your standards are so low I prefer not to talk to you or to anyone you know, and thank you very much.
The Pontiff Emeritus is still alive. I am sure this story is bound to make many suffer. Perhaps Benedict could be persuaded to say a word?
2. Why does the Vatican publish the story as it did?
Ah, that is easy. Because they want you to read Benedict through Francis, that’s why. They want you to think Benedict isn’t really different from Francis in his theology, merely more conservative in his sartorial choices. This is very much in tune with this Papacy; which, when it doesn’t allow Benedict to be insulted, allows him to be misrepresented. Yes, Benedict has never been a model of orthodoxy like the Pre-Conciliar Popes. But it certainly cannot be denied that this papacy is a brutal rupture even compared to the former one… Heck, it is a brutal rupture even compared to Paul VI’s…
Mind, I do agree that Francis is V II on steroids, and Benedict was still V II; with a foot on the brakes perhaps, but still V II. But to put the two in the same pan is the same as stating that Elvis Presley is in the end the same as Lady Gaga, because Elvis Presley was already different from Pat Boone. Feel free to pick different singers if you like, I think you know what I mean.
If Benedict had Catholic influenza, Francis has Catholic syphilis.
Benedict is being here, if you ask me, deliberately Francis-ised in order to let the latter appear less scandalous. The only result of this is, though, that such an exercise only makes the former appear more scandalous. If you are a sound Catholic, there is. If you aren’t, and most aren’t, this will probably work as another dose of tranquilliser, and the suitably and comfortably numbed nuCatholic will go to sleep with another dose of Catholic Valium, telling himself that all is well and the world is, actually, rather peaceful.
By all Benedict’s shortcomings, and the questionable and at times horrible things he has said and done before and after becoming Pope, I allow myself not to buy this one.
Let me end with a short, sad reflection:
Pius XII managed to covert the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
Benedict obviously didn’t manage to convert a Protestant quisque de populo.
Francis justifies fears he might be about to be converted to Judaism.