April 25th, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI began his second year in the Chair of Peter yesterday, and what a difference a year makes. Part of the press tarred him as the “Hitler Youth” Pope, Cardinal “Panzer” Ratzinger, John Paul II’s “orthodox enforcer,” feared by liberals and championed by reactionaries.
Today he is today viewed by much of the world with a bemused indifference. What happened?
The discerning will soon come to understand that the bold and energetic leadership of John Paul II was an anomaly. Bishops of Rome, truthfully, are more properly understood as captains of ships whose voyage has long since been charted. They put a new and human face on an ancient institution. Their job is to subtly steer and correct, not create. This does not make it a small job.
On the contrary, the challenges are immense. Truth is not negotiable. It is not flexible. The Creed of Nicea has remained for eighteen centuries and weathered the storms of heretics, Borgias, Reformations, Gnostics, Councils, Wars, and even the frailties and sins of fallen clergy—and is still intact.
Benedict understands what his role is, and that is not to make bold changes for changes sake but rather to spread the good news. And despite the desires of many—- The Good News is not new news.
The essay above has a lot to say about the media and its expectations. I skipped most of that, even though it's well worth the read. The conclusion is the best part because of its interesting imagery. The 'ship' metaphor has been popular since Antigone's day. Luckily for us, Benedict is a better, more flexible pilot than Creon.