I was speaking with my mother about the most recent Church problems, when she referred to Benedict XVI as “your pope,” i.e. my pope, a pope of the more conservative Catholics, and the younger Catholics. And there is no doubt that I was happy on the day Benedict was elected. I watched the news of his election in a school library in Manhattan, and I was aghast at the indignation at his election coming from other people in the room. I myself felt that his election might mean that there was a place for people like myself in the Church – intelligent people who valued the place of the brain in man’s relationship with God, and who respected the traditions of the past as a way which had in the past led people to God, and probably would do the same today.
I had read Benedict’s book The Spirit of the Liturgy, a really lovely book which I recommend to all. I thought to myself, “A pope has the power to make the changes in the liturgy this book proposes. And if Benedict does nothing other than make these liturgical changes, he will be one of the great popes of all time.” These changes involved little more than reorienting the priests ad orientem, permitting kneeling, and the like. Nothing major.
Of course he has done nothing on these questions, while showing an unusual incompetence with public relations. Of course it is good to reconcile with the Lefebvrites. Reconciliation is good. But this Williamson character has all the smarmy makings of a real villain, and Benedict must know that Hitler youth alums need to tread carefully around the Holocaust.
In the meantime, the real problem of the conservatives simply will not go away: the emphasis on Law as the mode of reaching God only creates split people with split lives. Maciel is only the latest example. In fact, the emphasis on keeping an unkeepable Law – this is something Paul knew long ago – creates a secret breeding ground for much worse conduct. And it is all overlaid with a corrosive hypocrisy.
Rod Dreher has an excellent piece on all this here. The lesson he takes from it all: we conservatives lamented the liberals in the church destroying the intellectual tradition and undermining the integrity of the Gospel. And now we have to lament what the conservatives are doing.