JUBILATE DEO

Autor: David Warren Fuente: Essays on our Times

Nuevo Papa  "O be joyful in the Lord," in the words of the Psalmist, and of the canticle at Matins, and of the anthem by Bach: "Jubilate Deo omnis terra, servite Domino in laetitia." After just two days in Conclave, the Cardinals have elected Josef Cardinal Ratzinger to be Pope Benedict XVI.

I, certainly, am very joyful, for this brave and brilliant man has been my foremost living hero in the Catholic Church: the champion of an orthodoxy that has never been shallow, a man prudent in the fullest sense. I could have admired him just as well, yet not thought him the best candidate to succeed John Paul II. But in the event I think he is exactly the right choice, in the right moment, for a Church that Karol Wojtyla restored to vibrancy.

"Christianity is not 'our' work; it is a Revelation; it is a message that has been consigned to us, and we have no right to reconstruct it as we like or choose," he said, in his sermon on the eve of the Conclave, which he gave as Dean of the College of Cardinals.

He did a bold and wonderful job, in that sermon, of defining what it was the Church would not be seeking to accommodate, speaking of "a dictatorship of relativism". Mark this phrase, and read its explanation in the rest of his sermon. That it was spoken defiantly, added incomparably to its force. The former Cardinal Ratzinger would quite certainly have been happy not to be Pope; his retirement from his position as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Church's central doctrinal body) was twice declined by John Paul II. He was hardly reaching out to the Church's so-called "moderates".

This "dictatorship of relativism" is as good a phrase as any to describe a contemporary syndrome which threatens not only the Catholic Church, but civilization in every form. I have myself suggested such words as "nihilism" and "narcissism", but these refer more to its animating force.

Benedict XVI will, with God's grace, turn his energies towards the reconstruction of the Church, the recovery from what I would call "the false heritage of Vatican II" -- by which I don't mean that the Council of 1962-65 was itself false. It has often been interpreted falsely, as if it had offered to water down the Catholic faith to suit the times. The new Pope will be, in many ways, the final interpreter of Vatican II (from which he was the most eminent surviving peritus), and will stress its continuity with Scripture and Tradition. I expect less "outreach" and much more "inreach".

Many of those who had already left the Church in spirit, may well now leave it in body; for the very election of Benedict XVI must send a thrill of horror through them. So be it: the Church needs no false friends.

And many more, especially among believing and thoughtful Protestants, will be drawn into the fold, to make the journey I have already made, back to Rome. We were, we are, tired of arguing about what Scripture and Tradition unambiguously teach: we want "a trumpet that makes no uncertain sound".

I especially pray for restorations of the spirit of Catholic liturgy, which this Pope is likely to make a special cause. As he wrote of the rites a few years ago:

"Unspontaneity is of their essence. In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation. This is why the Christian East calls the liturgy the 'Divine Liturgy', expressing thereby the liturgy's independence from human control."

Having listened to the bilge about the "Panzerkardinal" before, we shall have to listen to much more about the "Panzerpapst" (the "Panzer Pope"). It is the kind of argument we get from people who don't have an argument, and should be simply ignored. There is, on close and fair examination, nothing in Pope Benedict's past to embarrass him. He has been called "The Enforcer", and "The Fundamentalist". One nickname he may now lose is "John Paul III".

He will be a surprise to many, including, no doubt, those who think they best understand him. For a Pope acts from a station, and upon information, that cannot be shared. Most foolish of all predictions is the confident one that he will lead a Church in decline. In his own words, from his conversation with Peter Seewald (1999):

"You can never predict in advance how things will turn out. Anyone who is extrapolating the decline of the church in academic, statistical fashion from the situation in Europe is failing to recognize the unpredictable nature of human history in general -- and in particular, God's power to take the initiative by intervening, as he is always able to do."
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