Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pope Benedict's visit to Germany - Part 4: 'Censored' (?) Papal speeches and powerless or blighted Bishops?

The speeches of the Pope that were not televised live:

Perhaps the Vatican self-censored its own cameras because it was nervous about the manner in which the Pope would be received. From a Catholic point of view it is therefore extremely difficult to know whether the visit was a huge success or not. It is a ground for some concern that the reduced live programming was perhaps the result of intervention from internal German Catholic groups, but I tend to the opinion that it was probably the Vatican that curtailed the comprehensive nature of the coverage. This was strikingly obvious when compared with the very much more open presentation of all the other trips of his pontificate.
We still do not know how these groups received his speeches. German and non-German mainstream reporting has been bitty and, as we have regrettably come to expect, sometimes ignorant and inaccurate. However we can only be grateful to the Holy See that it has published the texts of all these speeches. Taken together they give a thorough overall picture of the Church's relationships with Jews, with Moslems, with the Orthodox, and with non-Catholic Christians, particularly as they have developed in Germany since the end of the second World War. And who better to give such a concise and telling history lesson than Joseph Ratzinger who lived his adolescence and then 60 years of priesthood through the entire epoch in question?

Turning now to the speeches to Catholic groups, the one to Seminarians was the most beautiful. How is it possible for a man to be so forceful in the points he makes and yet to be so gentle and loving?  I regret that we weren't able to see the reaction of these men. And even the implied criticism in the speech to the Council of the Central Committee of German Catholics did not come over harshly but as an important warning all the same. Pope Benedict acknowledged that the Church in Germany is "superbly organised", but he went on immediately to ask, "is there a corresponding spiritual strength?" And he went on, "If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective."  Basically the message was, 'You are too big and too impersonal. Get small.' This reminded me so much of Cardinal Ratzinger's reservations about Bishops Conferences, as they appeared in 1985. (The Ratzinger Report pages 58 ff.) In the last full address before the departure ceremony, to Catholics engaged in the life of the Church and Society, the Holy Father spoke of  'change'. He most definitely was not thinking of the kind of change longed for by progressives, that the Church must 'get with it', abolish celibacy, start ordaining women and allow the homosexual lobby to force a redefinition of marriage. He did not mention any of these things but powerfully quoted Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who replied when asked what should change in the Church , "You and I". As I understood it both she and he were talking about that constant inner personal  conversion that with God's grace should characterise our earthly pilgrimage. Neither was talking about the above-mentioned wished for changes in doctrine and practice.

And the entire programme of our Holy Father's speeches and homilies in Germany was shot through with the precious golden thread of his pontificate. Namely: No active apostolate will be truly and fully fruitul unless it is based on prayer and closeness to the Face of Christ, adored in the Eucharist.

The attitude and influence of the German Bishops:

I didn't know a lot about the post-conciliar Church in Germany before this morning's study exercise at the Vatican website, that is apart from the exasperating Hans Kung, and the fact that the Central Committee of German Catholics is thought by some to be the most powerful and wealthy (?) lay organisation in the world.  I am now a lot better informed, thanks to our Holy Father, about religious belief and lack of it, in his native land. I didn't expect the Berlin Mass to be wonderful, but as you know I was shocked rigid by it. Archbishop Woelki,who is very young at 55,  has only been in possession of his See since August this year. He has not yet (according to Wikipedia) received his pallium. He looked uncomfortable and miserable throughout the Mass. I felt quite sorry for him. He is a 'Benedictine' appointment and I wondered at the time whether he felt dreadful about presenting such a spectacle and such awful music to the Pope. Also at the time, the feeling began to grow that the German bishops have willingly or otherwise ceded their control to the laity. This feeling grew steadily as the Holy Father's visit unfolded. By the time I found Peter Seewald's lament that the 'organisers' of the youth vigil had entirely neglected any spiritual preparation for the event, I was more or less convinced that those organisers were not people with whom Pope Benedict (or you and I for that matter) could see eye to eye as far as prayer and the liturgy are concerned. And I wondered how many of them were lay people. The other thing that jarred constantly during the trip, Mass outside Erfurt Cathedral being the only exception, was the insistence on the part of most people of being more concerned to look for themselves on the big screens and to wave inanely at the camera when they spotted themselves. There was hardly any sense of reverence or absorption in what was going on at the Altar. The Pope and the bishops probably didn't see this pathetic display, for which thank God, but for those of us who had to watch this childish narcissism, it was  distracting and deeply disturbing. Conversely, one little girl wept, I think at the beginning of the prayer vigil, and I wept with and for her..

Of course some of the bishops may have approved of the over-loud and shallow music and I noticed two or three of them joining in with the 'lyrics'.  Men in mitres and chasubles shouldn't be allowed to embarrass themselves and us in such a way.

One can only pray that the bishops who do not like the way things have gone will be able to get this huge and ugly genie back in the bottle.

Cat feeding time here, and then cooking. Last post of this series as soon as I have time.



Genty said...

Thanks again. The truncated coverage remains a mystery.

Another thing which struck me was how many girls took an active part as servers/readers and how few boys.

I can't get over how weary (resigned?) Pope Benedict appeared to be, in huge contrast to how animated he was in the UK.

When your own kick you in the teeth, "ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms" etc.

Jane said...

Thanks Genty. Will remember your points in fifth and final part, later today.