Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pope Benedict, the Opus Dei Factor, and the primacy of Europe

Yesterday, I speculated about Opus Dei's fingerprints all over this election. It was just a hunch. So it was with no small amount of satisfaction that I saw this in the Washington Post:

According to aides to two non-American cardinals, Ratzinger entered the conclave with firm backing from three influential cardinals with ties to the conservative renewal movement Opus Dei: Julian Herranz of Spain, head of the Vatican's department for interpreting legislative texts; Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, head of the department in charge of the clergy; and Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Colombia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Also, it seems that Ratzinger did campaign for this office:

The buzz around Ratzinger began long before the conclave, said Cardinal Rosalio Jose Castillo Lara, a nonvoting prelate from Venezuela. "I begged him, 'If they elect you, don't refuse,' " Castillo Lara said. He added that Ratzinger had an advantage in presiding over the funeral rites. "He did them well, and very serenely and with much humility," Castillo Lara said. "He showed himself to be very prepared."


On the morning of the second day of the conclave, Ratzinger had breakfast with cardinals from Asia and Africa, according to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles. Egan, the archbishop of New York, recalled another occasion when Ratzinger spoke in four languages to keep everyone around the table in the conversation.

Again, I am completely floored by this focus on Europe thing. To tell me that of all the problems facing the Church in all the different regions, Europe was numero uno, is nothing short of mystifying:

In the run-up to the conclave, the cardinals met daily in a modern hall inside the Vatican's medieval walls to discuss issues facing the church, including the spread of Islam, economic globalization and the ethical dilemmas raised by biotechnology.

These sessions were also covered by an oath of secrecy. But several cardinals made clear on Wednesday that the march of secularization across Western Europe was the number one problem on their minds, and that Ratzinger seemed to be part of the solution.

The new pope, said George, the Chicago archbishop, "understands Western society" and "is very well prepared" for the task of revitalizing Christianity in affluent, secular cultures.

Like, wow!


Blogger Ambrose said...

I really can't wait for John Allen's Opus Dei Book to come out....I wonder if he will have to update it....

2:47 PM  
Blogger Talmida said...

I don't know, Ono. I find this intriguing.

Think about it - the other regions, Africa, the Americas, Asia may have problems with the CHurch, we may love it or hate it. But if Europe simply ignores it, if Europe feels the Church is simply irrelevant, that might very well be a bigger problem.

If you hate the church or are angry with it, you are at least in dialogue. If you ignore it, you can lose people in a single generation.

Does that make sense?

2:56 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

Guaging what is the "bigger" problem is subjective and is a reflection of the priorities of the participants involved.

If there were 40 women participating in the conclave, I daresay we would have different results. If there weren't almost 60 European cardinals vs 11 Africans and similar number of Latin American Cardinals, and there was more parity, we would have had a different result.

The case for the priority of Europe is tough one and I think it goes solely to the issue of self-preservation and power. If Europe ignores Catholicism, it may have repercussion on the political status of the Vatican or, at least, in some way affect the political reach and influence of the Church, but does that in anyway affect the Church's true mission? I don't think so.

I'm thinking of the Papal States in the 19th century. The idea behind the Papal states was to give the Papacy a political fiefdom so that it was not subject to the whims of political rulers. When the Papal states were taken away, all hell broke loose and the Pope in protest became a prisoner of the Vatican. But the fact was that it was a blessing in disguise because it now freed the Papacy up to focus on its core mission.

Pope Benedict's European mission is about two things primarily, in my limited understanding, one is to get the European Union's constitution to acknowledge God and its Christian heritage, secondly to keep Turkey and muslim nations out of the European Union.

It's hard to see how that is as important as the catechitcal and social needs in the rest of the world.

In the past ten or so years, the Vatican has been obsessed with Europe and everything has done with that lens. In fact Fides et Ratio, JPII's encyclical had a European audience in mind, which I think hurt the integrity of the encyclical.

I should say, I've had this problem with Europe for a while and it actually manifests itself in the novel I wrote. I envision that the Papacy will leave Europe at some point. It only makes sense to have the political and administrative Catholic center of gravity where the demographic center of gravity is.

Blah, blah, blah, I'll shut up now.

I should say that I've known Opus Dei people all my life and have liked many of them. I've even eaten at their houses, so I have nothing personal against them. I am agnostic towards them. Their conservatism freaks me out as does their power within the Church.

This election has their fingerprints everywhere and in thinking about it, I think JPII may have wanted it that way.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

John Allen had written an article for msnnbc that outlined many "misconceptions" surrounding Opus Dei. Interesting reading.

But re: revitalizing Christianity in western Europe; I wonder what that looks like.

Is it the establishment of official religion that Benedict is looking for or a gospel centred transformation where love and compassion flourish in Jesus' name? Does he want to place safeguards around peoples' behaviour and thought or does he want to set people free from the bondage of consumerism, rootless ethics, and self-indulgent behaviour.

As a Lutheran, I always get a little nervous around "revitalization" movements because they are often deeply conservative ideological and confuse law with gospel. Instead of liberating people with good news, then tend to condemn perceived sins.
They often forget Paul's wonderful proclamation: "For freedom Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery."


11:52 AM  

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