Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s recent remarks are always interesting, his recent interview is of particular interest. Gänswein, like his master Pope Benedict, is a subtle creature and should not be underestimated. I have always admired Ratzinger, especially as over the years his thought has developed.It is unlikely that Gänswein speaks with out Ratzinger knowing what he will say.
It is fascinating what Gänswein says about the two rival groups before the last Conclave, it is also fascinating what he leaves us to speculate about the election of Pope Francis in the light of these rival factions.
People have been pondering what the Archbishop meant by an 'expanded Papacy'. I think that we need to start with Pope John Paul's Et in Unum Sint 88ff - a document which seems to be as much the work of Cardinal-Prefect Ratzinger, as Pope Wojtyła. It recognises the role of the Pope today. it goes beyond the teaching of Vatican One's Pastor Aeternus, where the Pope is seen as the locus of the authentic Church, and the ultimate judge, or rather definer. of where authentic Christianity ends and heresy begins. It is role well suited to a non-travelling Pope, with a limited staff, whose concern was essentially doctrinal, with a Secretariate of State, whose role was essentially concerned with relationships Catholic princes, and few other Cardinal's with a tiny staff who held particular offices.
Mass communications above all have changed the role of the Papacy, today he is no longer the prisoner of the Vatican. We are more likely to be familiar with the image, actions and words of the Bishop of Rome than we are with our own Bishops. The Pope is no longer 'just for Catholics', he has another role, that of pre-eminence not only among Christians but among 'faith leaders' too. As a 'world leader' he has a moral authority which goes beyond that of any other leader. He is also the head of one of the largest and most active NGO in the world.
I think Benedict has always wanted to reform the Papacy, it is not unconnected with his attempt to reform the Liturgy. His writings recognise the rootlessness both in scholarship and tradition of Paul VI's liturgical reforms, which rather than being a popular movement was something imposed from above through Papal authority. Vatican II, I am sure he welcomes but he has spoken and written about the Council of the Documents and the Council of Media. He has spoken of course of two hermeneutics, of rupture and continuity. Most especially in regard to the liturgy the Papacy itself has been the source of the hermeneutic of rupture, a rupture in the liturgy would for Benedict be a rupture in the entire fabric of the Church.
My personal feeling is the Archbishop is right that neither Vatileaks or conspiracies were responsible for Benedict's resignation, his devotion to Pope Celestine, his his symbolic leaving of his pallium on his shrine happened as early as April 2009, in retrospect it was an obvious sign of his intention to resign. I am sure his increased tiredness and difficulty in walking hastened it somewhat.
His resignation has changed the Papacy, more than any other event could have done. It has 'de-mystified' it. It has taken away the sense that the Pope is in some sense a sacred person, rather than a human being, brilliant or otherwise, fulfilling a sacred role. It strikes me as being highly unlikely that Pope Benedict was blind and deaf to "the so-called St. Gallen group” that included “Cardinals Danneels, Martini, Silvestrini or Murphy O’Connor”, what is perhaps interesting is that the Archbishop should mention them by name, and it is unlikely that he was unaware of who was their preferred candidate and where he would take the Papacy.
So what are we to make of the idea of an 'expanded' papacy? I cannot help see that it is significant that in the light of Amoris Laetitia and the confusion that it has created that Archbishop Gänswein should point out that the Pope Emeritus is still alive and able to comment, albeit by his choice through the Archbishop. The 'expanded papacy' is presumably a reference to the fact that as long as Benedict is alive Pope Francis has to take his legacy into account. In the past once a Pope was safely in his grave his successor had the freedom to make use of his predecessor's legacy as he wished, this is not an option for Francis. Benedict still has the capacity to cry out from his cloister, as we have seen recently over a misrepresentation of his words about Fatima.
Gänswein, by this speech has rather clearly shown himself to be one of the chief custodians and defenders of the Ratzingarian legacy. It is not by chance that he reminded the world that Ratzinger was elected after his sermon on the evils of Relativism. Perhaps when Pope Benedict is dead we will see what those who keep legacy which has perhaps grown rather and will grow rather than fade, will do and are capable of doing.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake