February 15, 2009

Since W left, there is only one world leader...

...Only one giant among the pygmies...

From a good article about B-16, Pope provocateur:

...No doubt Pope Benedict XVI has had some harsh words for his advisers, who let him down badly in the handling of this episode. Yet three weeks out, the Holy Father can take satisfaction in how this will be resolved. Today in Rome he will grant a special audience to American Jewish leaders, and address them about the Shoah. Meetings hastily cancelled by the chief rabbinate of Israel are back on, plans are proceeding for a papal visit to Israel in May, the German Chancellor who publicly rebuked Benedict has now acknowledged what everyone knows, that the Pope is a friend of the Jewish people and does not endorse Holocaust denial.

Even more extraordinary, the breakaway group to which Bishop Williamson belongs, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), has moved publicly and decisively to distance itself from anti-Semitism (a long-standing problem in far-right French culture). More remarkable still, the SSPX first silenced Williamson, and then relieved him of his duties as rector of their Argentine seminary.

The breach in Catholic-Jewish relations is quickly mending and more change has been wrought in the SSPX on matters related to Jews in the last three weeks than in the last three decades. The cunning plan of a master strategist? Not likely this time; mistakes are mistakes. But the Williamson imbroglio does point to a distinctive feature in the style of Benedict XVI.

Since he arrived in Rome more than 25 years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has repeatedly and deliberately been provocative, kicking up enormous media storms on sensitive subjects. His calculated risk is that his interventions will not move the debate one way or the other within the given parameters, but change the parameters of debate altogether.

He is willing to play with fire in order to bring both heat and light; the obvious danger is that on occasion the fire scorches the Vatican itself.

We first saw this clearly in his 1985 interview book The Ratzinger Report. Commenting 20 years after Vatican II, Cardinal Ratzinger deliberately used the word "restoration" to speak about what was necessary to correct post-conciliar abuses. It sparked a fevered debate in the Church and earned criticism from other bishops, but his remarks framed the debate for the synod of bishops that year -- the synod which called forth Ratzinger's single most important work, the Catechism of the Catholic Church... [Thanks to Orrin Judd]

Real leaders shake things up. Push through big changes without worrying too much about breaking things. Then the pygmies wring their hands and deplore the messiness and violence that change requires. And the bean-counters scurry to clean up the loose ends and tidy away the smoking rubble. And soon the the revisionist historians claim it was all just the inevitable trend of history, and there's no such thing as a great man.

Posted by John Weidner at February 15, 2009 5:56 AM
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