Tracey Rowland on Pope Benedict: A future “doctor of the church”?

As one commentator described Tracey Rowland’s “Inside the Vatican” article, “The Pope and the Philistines”: “This is the best succinct account of Ratzinger/Benedict’s life work and of why so many of us love him.”

Our Tracey is at her rhetorical best in this article. I loved her description of the current challenges:

the Church is attacked by sexual perverts from within and militant atheists from without…while…still contending with loopy interpretations of the Second Vatican Council

Her main contention, and I agree with her, is that the next pope will need

the strength and ability to deal with the administrative side of the office of the papacy while retaining at least some of the intellectual flair and imagination of Benedict and his predecessor

I also agree with her assessments about Benedict’s ecumenical achievements:

He has also had some significant achievements on the ecumenical front and in so many ways one can say that his was a papacy dedicated to Christian unity.   Since the divisions within Christianity often occur precisely because of bureaucratic heavy-handedness and intellectual narrowness it takes someone like a Ratzinger/Benedict with a deep sense of history and nose for cultural sensitivities to set about mending the bridges.  It would be an interesting exercise to collect a list of names of prominent Protestant scholars who converted during this pontificate precisely because they could relate to Benedict intellectually.  He spoke their Christocentric dialect and was equally at home with them in the field of Scripture studies.  He broke the mould of the Catholic leader who cites dogma more often than Scripture. 

She summarises the achievements of Pope Benedict in terms of his teaching, and opines:

Given the successive waves of intellectual combat he has endured in the service of the Church he loves, a future pope may well declare Benedict XVI a Doctor of the Church. If that happens, I think he should also be honored as the patron saint of people who are oppressed by bureaucracy, especially bureaucracies run by philistines.

It is hard not to agree with this opinion.

Anyway, go and read the whole thing for yourself.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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12 Responses to Tracey Rowland on Pope Benedict: A future “doctor of the church”?

  1. Stephen K says:

    It’s interesting, David, that whenever things do not quite reach people’s expectations, the bureacracy is there to take the blame. It’s always a vague and selective scapegoating of course: Ms Rowlands sidesteps the fact that a whole bunch of Cardinals, even ones she applauds, as well as Benedict himself, as Pope and as the Holy Office head, were a central and senior part of that same bureaucracy.

    No, Ms Rowlands must be wrong on that point. Philistinism and/or oppression are not the exclusive preserve of those who sit behind a desk and process applications (or write encyclicals) but can creep into us all.

    But the point I particularly wish to disagree with is that rhetoric you admired: Ms Rowlands is only half-right. It is true that the Church is under attack by “militant atheists” from without – but she is not under attack from sexual perverts from within. That is simply yet once more a mischaracterisation of the great abuse scandal: sexual perversion and abuse is indeed a blight and ugly facet within the Church that is being exposed; but sexual sin and perversion are as old as humankind itself . What did attack the Church from within, or rather what did the most damage, was the trivialisation or concealment of the crimes by leaders and superiors who represented themselves as moral authorities. And, though Ms Rowland’s analysis would have it that the challenges facing the Church are latter-day, something recent, and due almost exclusively to the liberals she derides, in fact, that such trivialisation and concealment were so widespread points strongly to it being the natural and only the most discoverable fruit of structures, and clerical theology and broad Catholic culture stretching right back to the origins of internal ecclesiastical power. It is reasonable to assert that it is not the crime but its exposure that is modern.

    Ms Rowlands synopsis is one view of course, but Benedict probably deserves a better endorsement.

    • Schütz says:

      Our Tracey is not “Ms Rowland” – she is either “Dr Rowland” or “Professor Rowland”.

      And I would be very interested in others take on the sex abuse issue, whether the greater evil was the sex abuse itself or the cover up that followed.

      • Peter says:

        This is a no brainer.The sexual abuse of children is not only a gross violation of the moral order,it is also a gross violation of the natural order.
        The abuse itself is obviously the greater evil for the simple reason that if had not occurred in the first place,there would have been nothing to cover up.

        • Stephen K says:

          With all due respect, Peter, you miss the point. The question was not whether trivialisation or concealment were greater moral evils than sexual abuse of children but whether they did more to attack the church or cause damage to it. The sexual abuse did enough, and wreaked havoc on the victims; but listen to their complaints: they feel betrayed by the “Church” because of the non-response they received, and the crushing of their illusions or faith or both. There will no doubt have always been sexual perverts and cover-ups amongst the clergy – but the modern media exposure and the realisation that there were many others appears to have amplified the disillusionment and hurt of many and led to considerable alienation. The other question is, is Dr Rowlands suggesting either is a modern phenomenon? If so, I do not agree.

          • PM says:

            No, it isn’t just a modern phenomenon and it was around before Vatican II. But all the indications are that it got much worse in the 60s and 70s when we were al encouraged to get with it, let it all hang out and do away with allegedly antiquated rubbish such as exceptionless moral norms. This was not, of course, because of anything the Council itself did or taught, but because of what was done in its name. When the Council called for a renewal of moral theology, it meant a return from casuistry to the high road of St Augustine and St Thomas with their emphasis on beatitude obtained through grace, the gifts and the virtues. What we got was pop Jungianism, second-hand Carl Rogers, and McCormick et al assuring us there could be no such thing as an intrinsically ecvil act.

      • Stephen K says:

        No worries, David. Though if we are to respect courtesies perhaps “our Tracey” is a little over-familiar. I myself decline to claim any degree of possession.

        • Schütz says:

          It was not “over familiarity” that I was complaining about – it is that her title is not “Ms”, but “Dr” or “Prof.” or perhaps (in her private life) “Mrs”.

          My “familiar” way of referring to her as “our Tracey” is because:
          1) she is “ours” in the sense of “Melbourne’s”
          2) it is one of those lovely ways Australians have of referring to beloved family members of whom they are proud

      • Schütz says:

        Actually, given time to think about this issue, I think, Stephen, we need to make some distinction between the “attacks” that Tracey is speaking of and the “response” of the Church to those attacks.

        The attacks – within and without the Church – are demonic and evil. While there are many ways to explain them psychologically and sociologically, it is only possible to understand them spiritually as motivated by the desire of the evil one to tear down the Church of God.

        But how is the Church – are we – to respond to these attacks? Here we enter into the question of faithfulness or infidelity to Christ and his people, which is, I think, a different order of things spiritually. It is possible to fail Christ and his people by acts of infidelity.

        I would see the response of certain Church leaders to the attacks of the evil one through the sexual abuse of minors as a failure of fidelity to Christ and the people in their charge. They did not trust in Christ, and therefore thought to shield the Church from harm through their own means and their own strength. They tried to hide the evil in darkness (which is just where evil loves to be) instead of following Christ’s own directive to bring evil into the Light where it could be defeated.

        Despite the fact that Benedict XVI has many critics who will say he did not do “enough” in response to the evil of sex abuse – I do believe that he at least began to set in place the expectation that such deeds of evil must be fought by bringing them to light, rather than hiding them. And the newer, younger bishops are getting it. Archbishop Gomez in Los Angeles was following this directive in his recent release of files which his predecessor had kept locked in the filing cabinet.

        How will we respond to the other two attacks of the evil one that Tracey has identified? Thankfully, I believe that Benedict has put us on the right road of “contending with loopy interpretations of the Second Vatican Council”. Also, I think he has set us on the right direction for our response to militant atheism – especially in his reproposing faith in God’s “yes” rather than God’s “no”.

  2. PM says:

    Having been drawn into the abuse question, et me return to a more psotive note inspred by the main article. I have just started on Benedict’s ‘I Believe in One God’, a collection of addresses on the articles of the Creed, and would recommend it unreservedly for Lenten reading in the Year of Faith. It displays all the intellectual and spiritual virtues which would indeed mark him out a a doctor of the church.

  3. Matthias says:

    Benedict XVI made a Doctor of the Church- i can hardly wait.The Howls from Dawkins -he must be a descendant of Topcliffe, torturer of Recusants,Geoffrey Robinson,and the media ,would show how right this title would be.

  4. Matthias says:

    Oh Schutz coming out of 9am Mass at St phillips a little boy was introduced to Fr Dillon ,and the little chap asked him “What do you do?” and Fr replied very gently ” what you saw me doing ,is what i do”.

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