Edward Pentin’s Vatican Notebook
Often Pope Benedict XVI delivers his most striking and profound remarks off the cuff, on occasions when he has clearly thought about what he was going to say and freely expresses it from the heart. It’s the secret to his teaching abilities.
The Synod Fathers witnessed this earlier this week when the Holy Father gave a reflection at the opening session of the twoweek Synod on the Middle East. He spoke of the scourge of terrorist ideologies, emphasising that those who cling to violence in the name of God are following false deities which must eventually fall and become subject to Christ. Terrorists’ destructive power can be carried out in the name of God, the Pope said, but “it is not God: they are false gods that must be unmasked”. Terrorism and extremist violence are key concerns of this Synod, and his words will have provided some encouragement.
But the Holy Father didn’t stop there. He also singled out other “false gods” such as drug abuse which “devours human lives like a beast”, as well as the imposition of “a widespread view of marriage that no longer values the virtue of chastity”. He also spoke of “anonymous” economic interests that, instead of belonging to man, enslave and even massacre people.
Frequently, he used the word “false” to describe these demonic powers (not evil, though of course he thinks that, too). As with everything about Benedict XVI, a Pope who took “Coworker of the Truth” as his episcopal motto, what is vital is the search for what is true and the realisation of what is false. And it is always the truth that wins. “We know that the faith is the foundation,” the Pope said. “Without a doubt, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if the faith, the true wisdom, stands firm.”
Pope Benedict’s recent major Curial appointments have all been from the orthodox wing of the Church.
First, over the summer, he appointed Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the new prefect for bishops – a well known “Ratzingerian”; now he has named Archbishop Mauro Piacenza as head of clergy and Archbishop Robert Sarah as president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pope’s charitable arm.
Both have long records of upholding traditional Church teaching.
Even Archbishop Kurt Koch, the former Bishop of Basel, Switzerland, whom the Pope recently appointed as head of Christian unity, is considered to come from the more orthodox wing of the Church (even though he was once more heterodox).
All but Archbishop Koch have also had prior experience of working in the Roman Curia. If the Vatican is to be reformed, and some have long argued that it needs to be (too much patronage, too many cliques), then these new curial heads may be the right people to make that happen. It’s sometimes said in Vatican circles that what’s needed is a good injection of Anglo-Saxon styles of management into the curia. But perhaps what is required more than anything are wise Curial heads who know how the system works.
If that is so, then the tide could finally be moving in favour of the reformers.