Catholics for Renewal

Subtitle

News 2023

Previous news 2022 (July- December)   HERE

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    A broad and  diverse mix of Local, National and International faith-related News, Information and Opinions. 
     Views expressed are those of the Authors and may or may not always represent those of Catholics For Renewal.
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EVENT, 31 January 2023
Journeying together with Sr Nathalie Becquart, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 5 Januaru 2022
Join Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod,
for a conversation on ‘journeying together’ as Church, both universally and locally.  
As our local Church in Melbourne walks the path of Take the Way of the Gospel, the universal Church is on her journey of synodality (Synod 2021–2024—For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission).
These journeys are connected, and they invite us to walk together, listening to the Holy Spirit and to each other.     
Tuesday 31 January 2023, 10am–12 noon
Catholic Leadership Centre 576 Victoria Pde, East Melbourne. Full Details & Registration on EVENTS 2023 page  HERE
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EVENT 2 February 2023
AUSTRALASIAN CATHOLIC COALITION FOR CHURCH REFORM
A Convocation of Catholics (by ZOOM)
Synod on Synodality: Why we should care
7.30 – 8.45pm, Thursday 2 February 2023
Moderator: Christina Reymer, Introduction Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, Speakers:
Susan Pascoe AM, Francis Sullivan AO, Grace Wrakia PNGSI, Patricia Gemmell
Full DETAILS and REGISTRATION  HERE
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The Church’s Memory Problems
Trying to reckon with the past—and the present
Limited extract from By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal, 30 January 2023
One month into 2023, it seems there are fewer comforting pages of Church history to balance out the increasing number of shameful ones. The past five years of Francis’s decade-long pontificate have presented no shortage of difficulties tied to the abuse crisis—from his disastrous trip to Chile in January 2018 to last month’s revelations about Jesuit artist and alleged serial abuser Marko Rupnik. The recent deaths of Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell have brought to light further reminders of the unpleasant past; their records on the abuse crisis and Vatican governance are, in different ways, problematic, controversial, and unlikely to be settled anytime soon. In the United States, a paradigmatic example of the difficulty of reckoning with the past—at both the individual and collective level—was the case of disgraced archbishop and one-time icon of Vatican II Catholicism Rembert Weakland, who died in August 2022.         What seems like a never-ending state of crisis has also paralyzed the Church’s ability to reckon with the troubling parts of its past. It’s a good thing we’ve moved beyond the cavalier attitudes at Vatican II, when, for example, the council fathers approved this passage in Nostra Aetate, urging all “to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” Now, there is no way to forget the past, since it’s always right here in front of us.          Of course, the personal behavior of today’s Church leaders isn’t less holy than that of those who came before—especially those from relatively long ago. There have been worse times: the early turn of Christians from persecuted to persecutors; the age of the papal “pornocracy” at the end of the first millennium (see especially Pope John XII); the epidemic of both petty and heinous crimes committed by clergy in the early modern period; the collusion of bishops and cardinals with dictators and war criminals.         But the public perception of the Church today is that it is more corrupt than in the past. The sex-abuse scandal has much to do with that, but ironically, the scandal is also another attempt by the post–Vatican II Church to grapple with the troubling things that came before—beginning with efforts by the council and then Paul VI to re-examine the past in order to advance in ecumenical and interreligious relations. An important, if incomplete and somehow apologetical attempt, was also made during the preparation and celebration of the Great Jubilee of 2000. In his own way, John Paul II tried to shape the Jubilee as a moment of conversion and examination of conscience for the Church with the speech he gave to the cardinals gathered for the extraordinary consistory of June 13, 1994: “A metanoia, that is, a discernment about the historical shortcomings and negligence of the members of the church with regard to the demands of the Gospel.” This theme was further expanded in the apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente of November 10, 1994, and led to the penitential celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica of March 12, 2000.            What seems like a never-ending state of crisis has also paralyzed the Church’s ability to reckon with the troubling parts of its past.        In a sense, however, that attempt at metanoia has failed—and we should remember this now that the preparation of the Jubilee of 2025 is underway..........(Source) Photo: Cardinals Bernard Law and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Rome, CNS, Vincenzo Pinto, Reuters, Commomweal 20230130

‘A mounting civil war’: Pope Francis’ future under renewed speculation
Limited extract from Rob Harris, The Age, 27 January 2023
London: Pope Francis has but one request. He’d like his critics to summon the courage and tell him to his face.         The 86-year-old pontiff’s future in the role is under renewed speculation following the death of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, earlier this month, and a flood of criticism over the direction of the church under his reign. Traditionalist factions within Rome are clamouring to anoint a next-in-line.         Among those to have sunk the boot into the Argentinian, who has brought a more socially progressive agenda than his recent forebears to the role, was the late Australian cardinal George Pell.              In the days after his death following complications from hip replacement surgery on January 10, it was revealed that Pell was the author of a devastating anonymous memorandum listing what he considered problems in the Vatican under Francis, from its precarious finances to the pontiff’s preaching style, and issued bullet points for what a future pope should do to fix them.        Francis’s comments this week, criticising laws that criminalise homosexuality as “unjust”, and calling on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church, are likely to embolden some of his critics.                 Pell’s long-time friend and like-minded cleric, German cardinal Gerhard Muller, this week published a book that has added to the long laundry list of complaints that traditionalists have about Francis’ papacy. A posthumous offering from Benedict, What Christianity Is, also condemned his leadership.        John Allen, a leading Vatican analyst who writes for Catholic news outlet Crux, says the outpouring of new books has contributed to “impressions of a mounting civil war in the Church following the death of Benedict XVI”.....(Source).  Photo: Pope Francis during interview with The Associated Press at The Vatican, AP, The Age 20230127
Cardinal McElroy on ‘radical inclusion’ for L.G.B.T. people, women and others in the Catholic Church
Limited extracta from Robert W McElroy,Subscription Journal America, The Jesuit Review, 24 January 2023
What paths is the church being called to take in the coming decades? While the synodal process already underway has just begun to reveal some of these paths, the dialogues that have taken place identify a series of challenges that the people of God must face if we are to reflect the identity of a church that is rooted in the call of Christ, the apostolic tradition and the Second Vatican Council.           Many of these challenges arise from the reality that a church that is calling all women and men to find a home in the Catholic community contains structures and cultures of exclusion that alienate all too many from the church or make their journey in the Catholic faith tremendously burdensome.         It is important at this stage in the synodal process for the Catholic community in the United States to deepen our dialogue about these structures and cultures of exclusion for two reasons. The first is to continue to contribute to the universal discernment on these issues, recognizing that these same questions have surfaced in many nations of the world. The second reason is the recognition that since the call to synodality is a call to continuing conversion, reforming our own structures of exclusion will require a long pilgrimage of sustained prayer, reflection, dialogue and action—all of which should begin now.        Such a pilgrimage must be infused with an overpowering dedication to listen attentively to the Holy Spirit in a process of discernment, not political action. It must reflect the reality that we are part of a universal and hierarchical church that is bound together on a journey of faith and communion. It must always point to the missionary nature of the church, which looks outward in hope. Our efforts must find direction and consolation in the Eucharist and the Word of God. And they must reflect the understanding that in a church that seeks unity, renewal and reform are frequently gradual processes........The Italian synodal report stated “the church-home does not have doors that close, but a perimeter that continually widens.” We in the United States must seek a church whose doors do not close and a perimeter that continually widens if we are to have any hope of attracting the next generation to life in the church, or of being faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must enlarge our tent. And we must do so now......(Source).  Photo:Card Robert McElroy, The Immaculata Catholic Church Sept 8 2022, CNS David Maung, America TJR 20230124
Cardinal Pell’s complicated (and critical) relationship with Pope Francis
Limited extract from Gerard O'Connell, America, The Jesuit Review, 20 January 2022
Pope Francis prayed the final commendation and blessing over the coffin of Cardinal George Pell in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 14. The Australian cardinal, who had died on Jan. 10 at the age of 81, appears not to have expected this event to unfold. Soon after the consistory of cardinals last August, he began telling people that Pope Francis was not in good health and was suffering from a serious illness.          On the day after Cardinal Pell’s death, John Allen, the editor of Crux and a close friend of the cardinal’s since his days as archbishop of Sydney, revealed that “during one of our recent exchanges, Pell speculated that Pope Francis was suffering from an undisclosed illness related to his colon surgery in 2021 and that we’d have a conclave before Christmas.”         It was no secret in Rome that the Australian cardinal and several other cardinals were meeting regularly and, some said, discussing the next conclave. They shared a common unhappiness, even dislike, for the pontificate of Pope Francis and looked forward to the election of his successor, whom they hoped would be in the mold of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.         It is, therefore, unsurprising that after Cardinal Pell’s death, it was revealed that the now much-talked about memorandum denouncing Pope Francis’ papacy—which had been published under a pseudonym in March 2022 on the blog of Sandro Magister, an influential and respected Italian journalist and longtime friend of the Australian churchman—was in fact written by Cardinal Pell.         The cardinal’s authorship of the memo raised several questions: Why did Pell, who was unafraid to state his mind openly on any question before, opt for a pseudonym? Why did Mr. Magister decide to reveal the author’s name the day after his death?.......(Source)     Photo:Cardinal Pell World Youth Day in Sydney 2008 OSV News photo Daniel Munoz, Reuters, America TJR 20230120 
The last pope of the Second Church?
In the middle of the last century, theologians began speaking of a “Third Church.”
Limited Extract from Father William Grimm, Pearls & Irritations (First published in the Union of Catholic Asian news uca news.com January 9, 2023), 15 January 2023
The First Church grew in the Mediterranean basin from its birthplace at the eastern end of that sea to include North Africa and southern Europe. It continues a somewhat tenuous existence in the Churches of the East.       The Second Church was the fruit of Christianity’s expansion into Western Europe and the Islamisation of North Africa and the Middle East.         Its split into West (Catholic) and East (Orthodox) contributed to a focus on Western Europe that was not greatly disturbed by the further fracturing of unity from the sixteenth-century Reformation on.        Rome (Catholic), Canterbury (Anglican), and Geneva (Reformed), all of them Western European cities, are handy symbols of an internal breakup that still left the greater Second Church intact as basically a social, philosophical, and theological European entity. For some 1,500 years, it has been the face of Christianity for the world.         Now most Christians are living their faith at various points along a road to something so new it can be characterised as a Third Church. Like all major journeys into the unknown, reactions run the gamut from refusal to join the flow to excited heedless dancing down a not-always-clear road.          “It was clear that something was happening within the Church that might one day remake Christianity”.          Perhaps the first large-scale sign of change came with Vatican II when pictures of the gathered bishops showed faces from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. Similar faces were increasing at gatherings of Anglican and Protestant parts of Western Christianity.        While forms of worship, thought, and administration remained almost totally European it was clear that something was happening within the Church that might one day remake Christianity.......(More).  Photo: Pope Benedict XVI burial, Pearls & Irritations 20230115
Pope Francis' fiercest opposition: the Church's clerical workforce
Although two of their heroes have now died, the bishops, priests and seminarians who don't like Francis are still alive and determined to resist the pope's reforms
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome. Subscription journal La Croix International, 14 January 2022
"Commentators of every school, if for different reasons, with the possible exception of Father Spadaro SJ, agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe." Thus spake George Pell.     The Australian cardinal, who died of a heart attack on January 10, has been described by friends and admirers as a "great leader", a "white martyr" and "courageous". And when Pell levelled that attack against Pope Francis less than a year ago in a lengthy screed that he sent to all the Church's cardinals, he showed just how courageous he really was -- by issuing it under a pseudonym.        It was published last March by Italian journalist Sandro Magister who, after Pell's death, revealed that this "memorandum on the next conclave" was indeed the cardinal's handiwork. Among other things, it lambasts the Jesuit pope for causing confusion. "Previously it was: 'Roma locuta. Causa finita est.' Today it is: 'Roma loquitur. Confusio augetur'," Pell says.      And he criticizes the pope for remaining silent on a number of moral issues, including the Church in Germany's push to bless same-sex unions, ordain women priests and offer communion to the divorced and remarried.      The cardinal was 81 when he died and, thus, he was already disqualified from voting in a conclave to elect Francis' successor. But that did not stop him from trying to influence the election, as the purpose of the memorandum makes clear. In fact, Pell was one of the main ringleaders among those in the hierarchy who quickly soured on the Argentine pope. The big and blunt Australian led the quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to identify an electable papal successor who -- as he notes in the memorandum -- would "restore normality, restore doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, restore a proper respect for the law and ensure that the first criterion for the nomination of bishops is acceptance of the apostolic tradition".......(Source)  Photo: the-clericalist-church-that-refuses-to-die, La Croix Int 20230114
The next Church in new wine skins
Contemporary Catholicism's emerging, enculturated global character is a resumption of authentic vernacular traditions, not an innovation
Limited extract from J.P. Grayland, New Zealand, Subscription journal La Croix International, 14 January 2022
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of La Croix International)

William Grimm's recent article concerning Benedict XVI -- "The last pope of the Second Church?" -- contributes to the discussion of the Catholicism's future in places outside of St. Peter's Square.       While other commentators argue the merits of a "papal funeral" over a Christian burial Mass or a eulogy over a homily, Grimm's substantive issue is that Benedict XVI's view of the world and the Church was an entrenched Western European one. However, the neo-Benedictine view of Joseph Ratzinger did not reflect broader contemporary Western or European Catholic thinking concerning the world, the Church and the liturgy.        In his 2006 Regensburg lecture -- the speech that enraged Muslims because they felt Islam was categorized as a religion of conversion through violence -- Benedict's more significant argument concerned what he saw as the fundamental synthesis between Hellenistic philosophy and scripture that underscored theology and liturgy. He believed it was being attacked by a process of "dehellenization" that was undermining both Christianity and the Catholic Church.           Benedict argued that the "synthesis with Hellenism" during the early Church was not 'an initial inculturation' that could be done away; instead, it is the "foundational" synthesis that underpins Christian theology, western thought and Catholic liturgy. The classic synthesis with Hellenism makes sense of Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium, orders, laity and sacraments. It is a neat package deal presented in a theological language that is essential to the work of theology itself. Accordingly, Christian theology's reliance on the Greco-Romanized philosophical tradition means that theology without this philosophical underpinning is inferior.        An argument that sounds foreign to non-Europeans        Pope Benedict was correct when he observed that the weakening of this classic synthesis had reframed the modern European worldview, resulting in Europe no longer being a Christian continent of Christian nations. His appeal to Europeans to return to their natural synthesis begs the question: to whom was he speaking?         Benedict's perspective is an acutely "Western" or eurocentric one. His argument sounds foreign to non-Europeans, and thus it fails to be a universal argument for members of cultures with their own centuries-old synthesizes of thinking, doing and writing. At times his appeal to the classic synthesis looked like a desperate attempt to hold back the march of time and ignore the significant twentieth-century forces of cultural and social change to which the Church was subject.       Benedict's argument becomes problematic the more it insists that the Greek philosophical tradition is the normative pattern of authentic Christianity, theology, worship and scriptural interpretation.........(Source)   Photo: the-next-church-in-new-wine-skins La Croix Int 20230114
Cardinal George Pell
The media reaction to the death of Cardinal George Pell is extraordinary. But his contribution to Australian Catholicism is very much a mixed blessing.
Extract from Paul Collins, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website,
14 January 2023
Australian Catholicism has had its fair share of controversial figures. Melbourne Archbishop Daniel Mannix and Bob Santamaria come to mind immediately. But outstripping them all is Cardinal George Pell, a man who even in death, continues to cause contention.        At the heart of the controversy is Pell’s particular vision of Catholicism. His faith was in a church that was eternal, unchanging, standing outside the uncertainties of history. Founded by Christ, the church’s teaching and structure was of divine origin and therefore beyond human judgment. This was re-enforced by an infallible papacy.             There was a particularly revealing exchange between Pell and Gail Furness, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, in February 2016. She asked him about the church’s failure to address sexual abuse and ‘the structural problems in the way in which the church operates.’         In response Pell claimed that this failure doesn’t ‘call into question the divine structure of the church, which goes back to the New Testament [including] … the role of the pope and bishops.’ The church’s problems he told Furness ‘have overwhelmingly been more personal faults, personal failures, rather than structures.’ Clearly, for him the church is part of the divine plan and its structure has nothing to do with sin and failure.        For someone trained in history at Oxford University, the notion of an institution beyond history was peculiar. His doctorate was on Cyprian (died 258AD), bishop of Carthage, himself a tough, uncompromising man who engaged in vigorous controversy with the then pope, Stephen I (254-257). It seemingly didn’t strike Pell as ironic that if Cyprian could confront Pope Stephen, then perhaps some of us might dare to criticise and disagree with Pope John Paul II.       Even though he lived through and studied theology in Rome during Vatican Council II (1962-1965), it seemed have little impact on him. The whole challenge of Vatican II had been to open up the church and make it more humbly responsive to contemporary challenges. It could no longer exist in triumphant isolation rejecting modernity, as though the Enlightenment and French Revolution hadn’t happened and democratic pluralism didn’t exist.        What Pell did was to adopt a particularly aggressive form of this old Catholic triumphalism. He had no sympathy for backsliders like me who talked about ‘dialogue’ with the world and that didn’t reject modern errors.....(More).  Photo: Cardinall-George-Pell-Vatican, Pearls and Irritatuins, John Menadue website 20230114
Every clash I had with George Pell made me wish I had the umpire’s whistle
Limited extracts from Paul Collins, Opinion Piece, The Age, 13 January 2022
I first met George Pell on the football field in the early 1960s. There were several colleges for trainee priests in Melbourne in those days and all played Australian rules. In this particular game, it was men training to be local clergy versus those training in religious orders.       It was a social game, but it was tough. Pell was a ruckman for the Melbourne team and I was the umpire. He was a very good footballer, but very rough. I awarded quite a few free kicks against him.    That set the tone for our relationship. We didn’t really know each other personally; most of our encounters were in conflictual situations debating the direction Australian Catholicism should take.       Pell was ordained in Rome in 1966; I was ordained in Melbourne in 1967. Our clerical careers took us in different directions until the visit to Australia of Pope John Paul II in 1986, when we both became prominent in the media.    By then, Pell was convinced that if the church was to have a future, it would have to maintain a fortress Catholicism that was “the one, true church” founded by Christ. It was guided by an infallible pope; it never changed its doctrines and its structure was divinely ordained. It was triumphalist Catholicism in which there was no room for questions or compromise. The church was there to teach the secular world the truth, not to learn from it.      The clerical priesthood was very important to Pell. I still remember him on ABC TV saying that Christ established the priesthood at the Last Supper as though Jesus actually set up seminaries to train clergymen in the modern sense. When I challenged this historically, he scorned the idea. For him, priesthood was of divine origin and unchanging.       Between 1966 and 1986, Pell had become the consummate churchman. Educated in Rome, he had made excellent Vatican connections, had mastered Italian and understood the Roman way of doing things — what was called Romanita.       In contrast, I was a typical “Vatican II priest”. Having worked in parish ministry and tertiary teaching in Australia and the United States, I had become convinced that Catholicism had to continue applying the reforms begun by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Vatican II developed a dynamic understanding of Catholicism that was opening up to the contemporary world and even learning from it — “throwing open the windows” as Pope John XXIII put it..........The Pell vision of a static, unchanging, triumphant church is fast transmuting into a church of the poor in newly emerging countries. Meanwhile, committed Catholics in Australia are fast becoming a post-Christian minority, although our ministries – education, health and aged care, charity and social welfare – still serve the community......Source.        Photo:George Pell (centre) in team photo for St Patrick’s College 1956 First XVIII, The Age 20230113
The missed opportunity that will define the legacy of Cardinal George Pell
Limited, edited, extracts from Chip Le Grand, The Age, 13 January 2023
Instead of flights of angels, the death of Cardinal George Pell provoked another roiling culture war to sing the cardinal to his rest. It’s what Australia’s most prominent church figure would have wanted. The only certainty, other than death, is that arguments about Pell’s ecclesiastic and cultural legacy will rage for years after his remains are interred in the crypt beneath Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral.               The battleground preferred by Pell’s supporters, most prominently former prime minister Tony Abbott and Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton, is the ill-fated criminal prosecution of Pell for historical child sex offences which saw him jailed for 14 months before the High Court unanimously set aside his conviction and acquitted him of all charges.          From within his solitary confinement cell inside Unit 8 of Melbourne’s Remand Centre, the cardinal came to see his imprisonment as proof that anti-church sentiment had motivated the charges against him and poisoned his prospects of receiving a fair trial........On the day of Pell’s death, Abbott described Pell’s incarceration as a form of crucifixion and declared him a saint for our times. Dutton urged the Victorian government and its institutions to reflect on their role in facilitating a political prosecution. Writing in Pell’s preferred newspaper, The Australian, Australian Catholic University law professor Greg Craven described Pell as the ultimate victim of the church’s child abuse scandal.........For Chrissie Foster, the mother of two girls sexually assaulted at primary school by a predatory Catholic priest who had been long protected by church officials, every plaudit was another cut. Both her daughters, as teenagers, resorted to substance abuse to dull the pain from their childhood trauma. Emma suicided. Katie walked in front of a car and now requires life-long care. Foster says anyone seeking to canonise Pell should read the findings of the royal commission into child sex abuse into his time in the Ballarat and Melbourne dioceses........Literary critic Peter Craven, one of Australia’s leading conservative intellectuals, says Pell was blamed for the crimes of the church because of his thuggish public persona, but it was this same refusal to compromise, combined with an earthy manner and capacity for self-deprecation, which made him a cultural icon of the right.        “He was aware of the fact that he came across like a bulldog of religious conservatism, but he could also send himself up and all sorts of people felt his magnetism and his charm.” Those charms were not extended to anyone seen as a challenge or threat to the interests of the church, whether it be a rainbow-sashed parishioner requesting communion or a victim of abuse demanding that more be done.       (Francis)Sullivan says an aspect of Pell poorly understood is the extent to which his approach and attitude evolved, particularly after his elevation as cardinal. “The older Pell, the one I dealt with through the royal commission time, I think was wiser about the approaches of the church in earlier decades. I found in him a greater propensity to be open-minded and caring.”        Even the great defender of Catholic tradition understood that after the royal commission, change was unstoppable.....(MORE).  Photo: Chrissie Foster and former PM Julia Gillard after national apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse, Alex Ellinghausen, The Age 20210113
George Pell’s death symbolises the demise of a church out of touch and out of time
Extract from Francis Sullivan, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 13 January 2023
Cardinal George Pell died as he lived, a fierce defender of the Catholic church and of conservative Catholicism. He had an agenda and knew how to achieve it. Striding from the back blocks of Ballarat to the marbled floors of the Vatican, Pell demonstrated a sure-footedness many of his episcopal brothers envied. He was a political operative of the highest order. Little wonder present and past prime ministers have lauded his career. They know a political asset when they see one.        Pell’s style of leadership was “old school” – authoritarian and uncompromising. It portrayed an absolutist and unflinching approach of the church to modern life. He was an ideological and cultural warrior within the church that resisted the changes of liberal society and its tolerance for diversity and individualism. His brand of Catholicism has proved to be unpopular and alienating to most Australians. His public persona became a lightening rod for discontent on many social issues, particularly those related to child sexual abuse. By his own design he was perceived as the head of the church in Australia and he bore the brunt of any anti-Catholic sentiment, justified or not.         But try as he might, the fortunes of the church defied his best efforts.        These days most Catholics do not attend regular mass, nor do they subscribe to conventional Catholic sexual and social ethics. The public regard for and trust in the church has declined. The revelations of episcopal mismanagement of the clerical sexual abuse crisis has accelerated the church’s irrelevance in Australian society. Pell, like other bishops of his time, has had to preside over a diminished church and, in many ways, his death symbolises the demise of a church out of touch and out of time.       The future of Catholicism in Australia is and has always been bigger than Pell. Even in his latter years, Pell could not turn around the inclusive and consultative approach of Pope Francis. He tried to knock it off but to no effect. The Pope has set the church on a course of inclusive discernment and decision-making, called synodality, that would have been unheard of under a Pell administration.       Now lay women and men are at the decision-making tables alongside clergy, religious leaders and bishops. Now ordinary Catholics are being consulted about the state of and future direction for their church. Now the very principles of a liberal and democratic society are being given due regard.....(MORE).   Photo: Cardinal George Pell, Pearls and Irritations, 20230113
Pell led a church that alienated its women. I pray for reform
Limited extracts from Marilyn Hatton, Opinion Piece, The Age, 13 January 2023
Speaking as a woman and member of the Catholic faithful, I believe many will have mixed feelings about Cardinal George Pell’s death. Back in 2011, Pell presided over a model of church that was the antithesis of what many Catholics of faith, living in a modern democracy, found acceptable.         Child abuse within the church had broken trust. I was among progressive Catholics working desperately to reform a church that was clearly ignorant of the terrible harm its clerical culture had caused. Even when it amounted to criminal behaviour, the church was resistant to criticism of its lack of transparency and accountability and the failures of its leadership – all devastatingly exposed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.        Pell, as we know, was imprisoned on charges of child abuse, but this conviction was quashed by Australia’s High Court. Many will mourn his death this week. He was a significant figure in Australian and international Catholicism. He was instrumental in rectifying financial corruption within the Vatican.        But Pell also led a church in Australia that subordinated and alienated its women – and continues to do so.       Women are the solid core of the Catholic Church and the Catholic faith. Our church, like others, is shedding followers. If the equality of Catholic women is denied, the church will continue to bleed.      It will have diminishing relevance to future generations. The world is rapidly becoming aware of how a patriarchal culture works destructively. When people of goodwill are confronted with it, they find it intolerable.........The pope has called the 2023-24 Vatican Synod on Synodality, for October this year, a major event for the universal Catholic Church that will gather cardinals and bishops from around the world to focus on change. Reformers hope to influence it.       I respect what Pope Francis has achieved. Most recently, he appointed Sister Nathalie Becquart as one of the two undersecretaries of the Synod of Bishops. This makes Becquart, a significant church theologian, the most powerful woman in the Vatican. She will visit Australia and give public lectures in the Parramatta diocese on February 3.      Becquart says she has taken her inspiration from many Catholic women before her. I do, too. As a mother and grandmother, I look forward to a Catholic Church of humility, inclusion and compassion.   Pell led a church that alienated its women. I pray for reform....(Source).  Photo: George Pell, 2002, as  Archbishop of Sydney., Peter Rae, The Age, 20230113
Cardinal Pell slammed Pope Francis as ‘disaster’, ‘catastrophe’ in anonymous memo
Limited extract from Rob Harris, The Age, 20230113
Rome: The late Cardinal George Pell has been outed as the author of an explosive anonymous memo that condemned Pope Francis’ papacy as a disaster and catastrophe and accused him of silence on moral issues such as the war in Ukraine, human rights in China and a push to open the church to women priests.       The memo, which was published last year under the pseudonym “Demos”, meaning “the people” in Greek, detailed a scathing list of what the author saw the failures of current Vatican leadership.        The letter also laid out the criteria he thought the next conclave of bishops to choose a new pope should prioritise.    Italian journalist Sandro Magister, a conservative Catholic with a long record of leaking authentic Vatican documents, revealed on his religious affairs blog Settimo Cielo, that the author was saying “he wanted me to publish it”.          Pell, who had served as Francis’ first finance minister for three years before returning to Australia to face child sex abuse charges, died on Tuesday at a Rome hospital of heart complications following hip surgery. He was 81......(Source)
George Pell: A polarising Catholic figure who rose higher – and fell lower – than any Australian cleric
Limited Extracts from Barney Zwartz, The Age, 11 January 2023
George Pell was by far the best known and most polarising churchman in Australia in the past century, perhaps ever. The cardinal, who rose further on the world stage than any other Australian cleric, was loved and admired by most conservative Catholics and resented and disliked by the church’s progressive wing.        He ascended higher in the Vatican than any Australian prelate, becoming an important adviser to popes and confidant to prime ministers, before falling lower than any, being the first cardinal in the world to be jailed for child sex offences and serving a year before the charges were unanimously dismissed by the High Court. He was robustly criticised by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for his failures to hold clergy to account for their crimes or stop their offending.      Pell’s ultra-orthodox theological position may have been a minority among Australian Catholics, even Catholic bishops. It was remarkable, for example, that despite his prominence he was never voted head of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference by his peers, yet no bishop of his era exerted such a powerful influence on the Church. He was its public face in the broader community, he resolutely insisted, where possible, on his view of worship and authority, and he was enormously important in choosing bishops through his membership of the Congregation of Bishops and his Vatican networks. Three of his main proteges hold the important archiepiscopal positions in Sydney (Anthony Fisher), Melbourne (Peter Comensoli) and Hobart (Julian Porteous).............Cardinal Pell will be remembered as a formidable and articulate defender of traditional Catholicism, with an inclination towards the pre-Vatican II version, as a man who was highly intelligent, dedicated and occasionally ruthless in serving and protecting the Catholic Church. He relished his prominent role in Australia’s culture wars, but the extremes of such debates meant he was portrayed as a monster or a saint. He was neither all one, nor all the other.....(More).    
Cardinal George Pell has died in Vatican City, aged 81.
Extract from Tara Cosoleto, AAP, Canberra Times,  11 January 2023
Cardinal Pell, the former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne and Archbishop of Sydney, died on Tuesday evening.
Vatican news outlet EWTN is reporting that his death was due to complications from hip replacement surgery.
He was Australia's most senior Catholic and the Vatican's top finance minister before he left Rome in 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne for child sexual abuse offences.          In 2018, Cardinal Pell was convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.          But Cardinal Pell always maintained his innocence and in 2020 his convictions were quashed in a unanimous decision by the High Court.        Father Edward Moloney, the administrator of Ballarat's St Patrick's Cathedral where Cardinal Pell served as a priest, said the parish would commend his soul to God and his merciful judgment.         "We pray in thanksgiving for all the good that he did," Father Moloney told AAP.      "As with all our people who die, we remember the words of the scriptures - it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead."        It would be a very difficult day for Cardinal Pell's family and loved ones, Victorian government minister Steve Dimopoulos said.       "But also a very difficult day for survivors and victims of child sexual abuse and their families, and my thoughts are with them," Mr Dimopoulos told reporters on Wednesday.The news of the cardinal's death is slowly filtering through internationally, with the director of Texas San Angelo Diocese sending his prayers.      "I was graced to hear (Cardinal Pell) speak at the Sacra Liturgia Conference this summer," Father Ryan Rojo tweeted on Wednesday morning.      "A true inspiration without an ounce of bitterness, despite his having every reason to lean into anger."....(More)
Cardinal George Pell has died in Vatican City, aged 81.
Extract from Christopher Knaus and agencies, The Guardian, 11 January 2023
Wed 11 Jan 2023 12.49 AEDT
Cardinal Pell, the former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, died on Tuesday evening, reportedly following complications from hip surgery.            He was the Vatican’s top finance minister before he left in 2017 to stand trial in Australia for child abuse offences. Cardinal Pell was, in 2018, convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, but always maintained his innocence and his convictions were quashed in a unanimous decision by the High Court in 2020.           Only days before his death, Pell attended the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI.              The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, confirmed Pell’s death in a statement.         “It is with deep sadness that I can confirm His Eminence, George Cardinal Pell, passed away in Rome in the early hours of this morning,” he said. “This news comes as a great shock to all of us.”            “Please pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pell, for comfort and consolation for his family and for all of those who loved him and are grieving him at this time.”        Pell was ordained in 1966, became a bishop in 1987, and went on to become cardinal in 2003, and archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne in the late 1990s and early 2000s.       He served as the first prefect for the Economy of the Holy See for five years, between 2014 and 2019.          An Australian royal commission into child abuse found in 2020 that it was “implausible” that Pell did not know why Gerald Ridsdale, a paedophile priest, was being moved from parish to parish in Ballarat.        Pell had always insisted he had heard no rumours about Ridsdale and said he was “surprised” at the royal commission’s findings, which he said were not supported by evidence......(Source)
With Benedict XVI's death, the calculus has changed
After governing nearly ten years with his retired predecessor in the background, Pope Francis stands alone and unceremoniously turns the page
Limited extract from Robert Mickens, Letter from Rome, Subscription Joournal La Croix International, 7 January 2022
December 31st was not just the death of Benedict XVI. It was also the death of a fragile truce that has existed the past decade between two factions inside the Vatican and the worldwide Catholic hierarchy -- one yoked to the now-deceased former pope (Joseph Ratzinger) and the other tethered to Pope Francis (Jorge Bergoglio).          It's probably too early to tell whether the (mostly hidden, though sometimes open) animosity that each faction has long harbored toward the other will escalate into an unimpeded ugly conflict before the eyes of all. For one thing, it's not clear which side was the first to torpedo this uneasy inter-ecclesial détente.      After Francis surprised Roman Curia officials on December 28 by announcing that Benedict was gravely ill, a sequence of events quickly unfolded in manner that has not been fully disclosed. What we do know is that three days later, the morning of New Year's Eve, the Holy See Press Office announced that the former pope (he gave himself the title "pope emeritus") had just died. And shortly after that it was announced that he'd be given, according to his wishes, a "simple, sober and solemn" funeral on January 5. His body would lie in state for three days prior to that (Monday-Wednesday) in St. Peter's Basilica.         This suggests that people in Francis' entourage (likely from the Secretariat of State and maybe even the pope himself) met with those in Benedict's circle (certainly including the former pope's personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein) to agree on the funeral arrangements. But something seemed to have turned sour.          A fragile peace greatly disturbed Within hours of Benedict's announced death, pre-recorded interviews with Gänswein -- and excerpts of a tell-all book the 66-year-old German prelate had ready to publish the day after the funeral -- were suddenly appearing on social and mainstream media. The archbishop's comments were seen as attacks on Francis. They also did more than merely suggest that Benedict was unhappy with some of the key decisions the Jesuit pope has made during his pontificate.         Francis' reaction to his Bavarian predecessor's death seemed odd and, probably to some, cold and distant. He continued to forge ahead with all his pre-scheduled public engagements right up to the day of the funeral. And in the four discourses he delivered during those days he only briefly mentioned Benedict. Was this in retaliation to Gänswein's behavior? We don't know. It is also possible that the decisions that Francis and his aides made concerning the funeral arrangements are what provoked the archbishop to lash out.          Whatever the origins, and no matter who took the first shot across the bow, a fragile peace has been greatly disturbed. And this could spell trouble for the pontificate of Francis, who at age 86 and in declining health, is likely to face even more open opposition than before. Those who think Benedict's death gives him greater freedom to govern the Church without the former pope's shadow looming over him, should think again. Benedict was actually a neutralizing element that kept the radical fringes in both opposing camps somewhat at bay. That element is now gone.......(Source).  Photo: Pope Francis funeral Mass Benedict XVI, Michael Kappeler dpa picture-alliance  Newscom MaxPPP. La Croix, 20230107
After Benedict’s death, thoughts turn to Francis’ successor
Limited Extract from Paul Collins, The Age, 7 January 2022
The death of Benedict XVI has got Vatican-watchers thinking about who will follow 86-year-old Pope Francis. Though Francis will want to stay on to carry through his initiatives, he’s a realist who will resign if health prevents him from pursuing his ministry.         Popes are elected by cardinals under the age of 80 in a conclave - a closed, secretive process which takes place in the Vatican’s glorious Sistine Chapel. Today there are 125 electors from 69 countries.        Catholicism’s real divide is no longer between progressives and conservatives, but between the secularised North and the global South, the developed and developing worlds. Cardinals from Haiti, Guatemala, Peru or Rwanda aren’t interested in gender issues, secularism or church governance. They care about hunger, poverty and injustice, but unfortunately often ignore women’s education and equality.               The decisive shift that has occurred under Francis is the increase in these cardinals from the “periphery” – the developing world, where the majority of Catholics live. Our region exemplifies this: while Sydney has no cardinal, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and East Timor do. Francis has deliberately broken the Euro-Western dominance of Catholicism when it comes to papal elections......Source.    Photo: The Age, 20230107
Australian reflections on Synod’s working document published
Extract from ACBC, Catholic Outlook, 3 January 2023
While the hundreds of Australians who participated in the latest round of discernment for the global Synod of Bishops process identified issues and challenges facing Catholics, there was a strong sense of hope for the Church’s future.      Almost 80 groups from across Australia, comprising a total of about 750 people, took up the invitation to reflect on the Working Document for the Continental Stage, which was published in October.          Bishops conferences around the world are leading similar processes, promoting ongoing reflection in anticipation of the two Synod of Bishops assemblies, set for October 2023 and October 2024.        Trudy Dantis, director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research and national coordinator for the Synod of Bishops process, said a number of common themes emerged in this latest report.        “Throughout the Plenary Council journey and this Synod of Bishops process, there has been a constant refrain of the desire for a Church that reaches out to those on the margins,” she said.       “In fact, this most recent invitation offered people a chance to identify challenges and priorities, and inclusion and equality were cited, along with hopes for more collaborative leadership, greater formation, communities of belonging and engagement and a Church that evangelises.”       Dr Dantis said many who participated in the reflection process for the Working Document for the Continental Stage said they felt it offered an honest critique of the Church and the life of the faithful today.      “The document doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges and the difficulties, including the polarisation of some within the Church, the drift from religious practice and the disillusionment of many over issues like the abuse crisis,” she noted.      “Our Australian report similarly captures that apparent tension, outlining where people see the need for change and where they desire a holding firm to some of the Church’s practices, teachings and tradition.      “As one group shared, though, ‘we should never become depressed or given to the belief that the situation in the Church or even in human society is helpless and beyond redemption’.”      The four bishops conferences of Oceania – Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands and the Pacific – and the Eastern churches submitted reports on the Working Document for the Continental Stage this week. Find the Australian report HERE.    Those reports will inform the work of a discernment and writing group made up of representatives of the four conferences and the Eastern churches, who will meet in Melbourne in January to draft a continental report. That document will be reviewed and refined at the meeting of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania assembly in Fiji in February.         “We look forward to exploring more deeply this call to be a Church that walks together, not just in our dioceses or in our country but in this region of Oceania and beyond,” Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said of the Suva gathering.      The continental report that emerges, along with similar documents from around the world, will help to shape the working document, or instrumentum laboris, for the Synod of Bishops assemblies.
Reflecting on the Ratzinger papacy
Extract from Paul Collins, Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue website, 3 January 2022
I actually have a letter personally signed by Joseph Ratzinger. It was the last in a three year-long correspondence between the then Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) and myself focusing on ‘errors’ in my 1997 book Papal Power (London, Harper Collins). The letter was clear that the DDF was preparing to censure me, which I forestalled by resigning from active priestly ministry.          Personal interactions aside, I have real respect for Joseph Ratzinger because he saved Catholicism during the last years of John Paul II, who was seriously ill for several years before he died on 2 April 2005. Those years were difficult as the pope’s ability to govern and make decisions declined. Ratzinger, his closest collaborator, saw this close-up and intimately. Clearly, John Paul should have resigned.          After John Paul’s funeral the cardinals gathered in Rome for formal pre-conclave discussions and, more importantly, informal meetings. These interactions gave them a chance to size each other up and look for a consensus candidate.           Ratzinger was quickly elected in the April 2005 conclave. His only challenger was Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires. As pope Benedict received a mixed reception. Traditionalists were ecstatic; Vatican II Catholics respectfully welcomed him. Hans Küng said: ‘The name Benedict XVI leaves open the possibility for a more moderate papacy.’ Calling himself ‘Benedict’ signalled he wasn’t going to be ‘John Paul III’.        No one in the media had given Ratzinger a chance of being elected; he was seen as too close to John Paul. So, I was shocked when, standing in the Piazza of Saint Peter’s with ABC TV News, his election was announced.        Who was Joseph Alois Ratzinger? Born in Marktl-am-Inn in Bavaria in April 1927, he grew up under the Nazis. There was no sympathy for National Socialism in the Ratzinger household, but at 16 he was drafted unwillingly into the Hitler Youth and then into the German army. After the war he entered the Munich-Freising seminary and was ordained priest in 1951.         In 1958 he entered academic life teaching first at Bonn University, then Münster. In 1966 was appointed professor of Catholic theology at Tübingen University. He played an important role at Vatican Council II (1962-1965) and was associated with the reformist majority.         But after the council he became disillusioned with what he saw as the crassness and banality of the new vernacular liturgy, the exodus from religious life and priesthood and the student riots of 1967-1968. He resigned from Tübingen in 1969 and joined the theology faculty at Regensburg University......(More).   Photo:  Benedict XVI,s life and papacy was a mixed blessing for Catholicism, Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website 20230103
Ratzinger and the reshaping of post-Vatican II Catholicism
Limited Extracts from Massimo Faggioli, Signs of the Times, Subscription journal La Croix International, 2 January 2022
With the death of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, contemporary Catholicism has lost one of its most iconic figures.        The former pope, who died on the final day of 2022, had such influence that the terms "Ratzingerism" and "Ratzingerian" were coined to identify a version of Catholicism that embodied his peculiar conversion from being a proponent of Vatican Council II during its four sessions (1962-65) to becoming, just a few years later, a fierce critic of the conciliar progressives.         His intellectual, ecclesial, and ecclesiastical persona was strengthened by the authority of German academic theology in which he chose a path very different from his leading contemporaries in the firmament of Catholic theology, such as Hans Küng. Ratzinger chose a less glamorous path, but over the long haul it gave him much greater influence within the Church.        That influence went well beyond his widely-read books and essays, beyond the boundaries of the Catholic clergy and intelligentsia, and even beyond the doctrinal policies that he shaped and enforced for more than thirty years -- first, as a cardinal-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981-2005), and then as Bishop of Rome (2005-2013). He became the symbol of the Vatican's regaining control over the energies that the Council had unleashed. But Ratzinger was not only a controller, in ways typical of other Roman Curia cardinals and top officials. His reach extended even further than that.      Redefining Church leadership..........But for still others it will be the funeral of a hero of a certain type of Catholic culture that sees itself as swimming against the tide both in the world and in the Church.......(More).    Photo:Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Vespers 2008, ETTORE FERRARI EPA MaxPPP, La Croix 20230102
Benedict fought sex abuse more than past popes. Survivors say he was part of the problem
Limited extract from Nicole Winfield, The Age/SMH, Associated Press, 2 January 2022
Vatican City: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is rightly credited with having been one of the 20th century’s most prolific Catholic theologians, a teacher-pope who preached the faith via volumes of books, sermons and speeches.       But he rarely got credit for another important aspect of his legacy: having done more than anyone before him to turn the Vatican around on clergy sexual abuse.      As cardinal and pope, Benedict pushed through revolutionary changes to church law to make it easier to defrock predator priests, and he sacked hundreds of them.       Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims at the end of a papal Mass at the Islinger field in Regensburg, southern Germany, on September 12, 2006.         Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims at the end of a papal Mass at the Islinger field in Regensburg, southern Germany, on September 12, 2006.           He was the first pontiff to meet with abuse survivors. And he reversed his revered predecessor on the most egregious case of the 20th century Catholic Church, finally taking action against a serial paedophile who was adored by St. John Paul II’s inner circle.       But much more needed to be done, and following his death Saturday, abuse survivors and their advocates made clear they did not feel his record was anything to praise, noting that he, like the rest of the Catholic hierarchy, protected the image of the institution over the needs of victims and in many ways embodied the clerical system that fuelled the problem.        “In our view, Pope Benedict XVI is taking decades of the church’s darkest secrets to his grave with him,” said SNAP, the main US-based group of clergy abuse survivors.       Matthias Katsch of Eckiger Tisch, a group representing German survivors, said Benedict will go down in history for abuse victims as “a person who was long responsible in the system they fell victim to,” according to the dpa news agency.....(More).   Photo: Pope Benedict XVI waves pilgrims southern Germany, 2006. AP, The Age, SMH, 20230102
Pope Benedict leaves a ‘mixed’ legacy: Pell
Extract from Anna Patty, SMH, 1 January 2022
Cardinal George Pell remembers Pope Benedict as an inspiration to younger priests and one of the finest theologians, but says he leaves a mixed legacy and will be mostly remembered for his abdication.
      Speaking from Rome, Pell said Benedict, who died on Saturday, was not a natural governor or manager “and things did not turn out exactly as he hoped”.        “The latter years of his pontificate were bedevilled by financial and other scandals,” he said.       “As always therefore his legacy is mixed, but his contribution was invaluable for more than fifty years, from the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.       “But he will be mostly remembered for his abdication.”   Benedict stunned the world on February 11, 2013, when he announced that he no longer had the strength to run the Catholic Church.     Pell said Benedict, who had lived longer in retirement than as pope, inspired a decade of young vocations to the priesthood and religious life and was “one of the finest theologians of the twentieth century and indeed the best theological writer from the long list of more than nineteen hundred years of popes”.      He was the first pope to abdicate since Celestine V in 1294 and controversial because of his social and theological conservatism.     “He was regularly assailed by a wide variety of enemies, who understood his importance. He had been a brilliant junior partner to his predecessor, St John Paul the Great,” Pell said.      “A Christian gentleman and a German scholar of the old school, Pope Benedict will be long revered for his faith, learning and fidelity.......The Bishop of Broken Bay, Reverend Anthony Randazzo, said when Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19, 2005, some Catholics feared that he would be a severe, rigid, and controlling leader.              “Likewise, it is fair to say that some Catholics hoped that this indeed would be the case,” he said.      Having been called to Rome by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2003, Randazzo said he encountered “a gentle man, by nature a shy person, who went out of his way to be hospitable and welcoming”.  Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, who oversaw World Youth Day in 2008, said in a statement that Pope Benedict had been a key influence and someone with whom he became close. Benedict visited Australia in 2008 for World Youth Day, drawing huge crowds.   “I had the great privilege of spending some private moments with Pope Benedict, away from the spotlight,” Fisher said.      “They were moments I will forever cherish. He had a great intellect, which he shared through his work as a professor, a Church leader and ultimately as Pope.”..........(MORE).           Photo: Pope Benedict walks with Cardinal George Pell World Youth Day welcome Sydney 2008 AP, SMH 20230101
Pope Benedict XVI Dies, 1927–2022
Limited extracts from Massimo Faggioli, Commomnweal, 1 January 2022
Almost ten years after making history for resigning from the papacy, Joseph Ratzinger—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI—has died at the age of ninety-five, in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery, where he had been living since May 2013.           Born in Bavaria, Germany, on April 16, 1927, Ratzinger had a remarkable impact on the life and intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church, not only as pope, but also as one of the most influential theologians at Vatican II. After publishing major works commenting positively on the documents of Vatican II during the council and in the late 1960s, his insights affected the reception of the council from the 1970s onward, as his anti-progressive views—often expressed with a contrarian spirit—became inseparable from his persona, even after his election to the papacy in 2005.           As a powerful doctrinal policy-maker in the era following Vatican II, Ratzinger was in many ways the alter-ego of Pope John Paul II, whose pontificate is impossible to interpret without considering Ratzinger’s role. After a stint as archbishop of Munich (1977–1981), he was appointed by John Paul II as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an institution reformed after Vatican II. Under Ratzinger’s leadership, it gained greater prominence and generated controversy. His importance and influence was so valuable to John Paul II that the pope turned down his requests to leave his CDF post, which also helped make possible Ratzinger’s eventual election to the papacy.                  Already known for revisiting Vatican II interpretations of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI turned his attention to other post-conciliar developments, most notably liturgical reform. He helped himself by remaining something of the theologian-in-chief while occupying the chair of Peter, with no one under him serving as influential a role as he did under John Paul II. Yet he was unable to establish and maintain the distinction between his personal theological views and the theology of the Church, so for many Catholics around the world these came to be conflated. This can be traced in part to his shyness and reluctance to “perform” on the global media stage the way his predecessor did (and his successor does)—something crucial for a pope in the twenty-first century.              In December 2005, eight months after becoming pope, Benedict delivered a speech in which he laid out his interpretation of Vatican II as a “hermeneutic of continuity and reform” (as opposed to a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”). This soon proved problematic. Response to this framing came to function as a litmus test of orthodoxy for some interpreters of the council, who as supporters of Benedict focused far more on “continuity” than “reform,” rather than thinking of them together as the pope had described. Yet at the same time, it’s hard to find an example of “reform” that Benedict himself proposed that didn’t try to undo changes brought about by Vatican II and the early post-conciliar period..............Of course, it was his resignation from the papacy for which history will remember Benedict, and which will have lasting impact on the Catholic Church..............Both as cardinal and pope, Ratzinger met with some failures or came up short. He was unsuccessful in recasting the papacy in such a way that a pope could avoid being a spokesman for a post-European, global Catholic Church and for interreligious dialogue, a posture since embraced and embodied by Francis. Ratzinger also did not work to bring about the canonical and theological change that the sexual-abuse crisis made painfully and clearly necessary; instead, he continued to view the scandal through the lens of the post-1968 culture war. And, he never made a real attempt at reforming the Vatican and the central government of the Catholic Church.........He will remain one of the most widely published and widely read popes in Church history, and likely one of the most controversial. Few committed Catholics will be indifferent or dispassionate about him......(MORE).  Photo:  Pope Benedict final general audience Saint P Square 2013 CNS Paul Haring, Commonweal 20230101