Pope Benedict and “the ultimate purpose of Catholicism”

Here is a very perceptive summing up of the legacy of Pope Benedict from Damian Thompson on his  Daily Telegraph blog. He says, for example, that

Benedict’s central achievement was that he began – but came nowhere near finishing – the “purification” of the Catholic Church that was his most pressing concern. This necessitated the reform both of the liturgy and of the behaviour of the clergy entrusted with its performance. It might seem strange to yoke together the two, but Ratzinger has always emphasised that liturgy – properly orientated worship of God – is the ultimate purpose of Catholicism, requiring a holy priesthood and laity.

Benedict saw himself as continuing the mission of his predecessor, John Paul II, to restore the divine dignity of the Eucharist by renewing the celebration of Mass and encouraging adoration of the Sacrament. The extraordinary scenes in Hyde Park during his visit to Britain in 2010 testified to his success – but his reluctance to bully bishops into following his suggestions meant that the mission was not fully fulfilled. (A little example that infuriates me: the Pope encouraged priests to celebrate Mass facing a standing crucifix. He himself did so at Westminster Cathedral, but the tall cross was quickly removed after he’d gone. Why?) Benedict also restored Catholics’ freedom to attend the Tridentine Mass, suppressed in the 1970s – but, again, many bishops did their “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you-Holy-Father” act and Summorum Pontificum has yet to be enforced.

Add to that this prescient interview of the the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 2003 with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN and you get a measure of the achievement of this Papacy in terms of the vision of the Church shared by two of the greatest popes in modern history.

One thought on “Pope Benedict and “the ultimate purpose of Catholicism”

  1. John McCarthy

    Hello Michael excellent article. I also think the Pope gave a good example on obedience by saying he would be obedient unconditionally to his successor. If more priests and bishops and laity had been obedient to their calling there would not be the damaging scandal of sex abuse in the world.

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