Where Benedict Failed
Not everyone is born to be a leader. Some are born to be generals, some are born to be soldiers, some are born to be thinkers, some are born to be, well, idiots.
Pope Benedict never had the stuff of the doer. He had even less the stuff of the leader. A man inclined to reflection and theoretical elaboration, he never showed that kind of energy that leads men to be relentlessly driven toward a goal, and completely focused on the practical task at hand. He also never had that kind of charisma, the quiet but solid authority that leads poets to say “oh captain! my captain!” to him. Benedict never was much of a captain, and Whitman would not have been terribly impressed.
His activity as Pontiff clearly shows the poor practical record. A man of words rather than actions, Benedict never had the will or energy to give his papacy the required bite. He gave us Summorum Pontificum, and then watched as it was ignored in the Third World and actively boycotted in much of the West. His episcopal appointments show a high degree of naïveté, weakness, or simply lack of interest in the extremely delicate task of appointing the men who run the Church. But he was happy with writing books, even as he was appointing almost half the Cardinals that would give us Bergoglio as his successor.
The lack of authority reached disquieting proportions when the world discovered that even his butler thought that Benedict had to be, in some way, protected from the people around him. No, this is not the stuff of a leader, and the request that the faithful pray for him, that he may not flee before the wolves, showed in time to be a tad more concrete than the somewhat coquettish remark of an old man faced with a great responsibility. Benedict was simply not born a wolf fighter.
The apex of both this naïveté and this lack of leadership was shown in the most dramatic way – though it became apparent only later – on the 11 February 2013. A weak and undecisive man, not endowed with the stuff of leaders in his strongest days, Benedict possibly felt overwhelmed by the 300 pages report about homosexuality within the Church; a report which very obviously sent him the message that it was now time to wear the armor, and go to war. This is when Benedict’s mistakes catch up with him, and they will now plague his existence for the rest of his days.
Benedict felt – rightly, I think – that he was not up to the task. It is difficult to wage war against the homo Mafia when not even your butler has any esteem in your qualities as leader. One cannot, as the Germans say, jump over his shadow, and very few are the men who experience a dramatic change in character and attitude at 83. His decision to resign is, in my eyes, fully understandable in a man who saw a task in front of him for which he had neither the attitude nor the energy, and for which he felt – or so it seems to me – that the Church he loves needed a far more suitable man than himself.
But the bigger mistake was not that. If Benedict had done his job properly in the appointment of Cardinals and Bishops he could have resigned with the knowledge – as opposed to the naive illusion – that his successor would have had the orthodoxy for the good fight, and the cojones to fight it. Then it would all have made sense. But nothing went as he was certainly planning.
Benedict’s biggest mistake was to think that he had prepared a Conclave fit for electing someone who would continue his work; and that he could therefore retire in good conscience, after almost eight years at the helm, because now simply too weak and too old to be a good helmsman.
Benedict’s failure of judgment in his appointments unluckily combined in a huge failure of judgment concerning his Cardinals and, as a result, his successor. Never a lion, the man was evidently also rather easily duped. Not a good quality in a Pope, however many books he can write.
I do not believe for a second that he was forced to resign, as lack of leadership quality does not a coward make. I truly believe that the man believes in God, and would die rather than cave in to the Church’s enemies. I find the idea that he would simply allow to be bullied aside extremely insulting to the man.
But that this gentle soul was not fit to look at men in the proper light, and was ultimately unable to understand where he was steering the Church, this seems blatantly obvious to me.
Soon it will be two years from that fateful day, the day that plunged the Church from the frying pan of rampant neo-Modernism and sexual perversion into the fire of open, shameless heresy and celebration of the very perversion this papacy was supposed to fight against.
The gentle, undecisive, naive man is still alive. He is far too loyal to say it, but he must now feel that his survival is his punishment. I doubt he thought, when he resigned, that he had another two years to live. But the man must be stunned, and horrified, at thinking what his pontificate has resulted to in the end: an attempt at hostile takeover from Satan himself.
Pray for Benedict; a kind, gentle man of thought and prayer who did not have the stuff of which effective Popes are made.