Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pope to Priests: “Go to the outskirts!”

Source Whispers in the Loggia: FROM THE HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS HOLY THURSDAY CHRISM MASS ST PETER’S BASILICA 28 MARCH 2013: From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. The ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter. A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. We need to “go out,” then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all. A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway –misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus. Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart. Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Proposition 8 Case and the Equality Argument

Robert John Araujo, S.J., the John Courtney Murray, S.J. University Professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law has an interesting essay on the California Proposition 8 case currently before the US Supreme Court (you can read it here). Here are some excerpts:

Yesterday’s oral arguments on the California Proposition 8 case disclosed many interesting thoughts about the meaning of marriage not only in California but everywhere else. Today’s oral arguments which should be underway by now will likely do the same. The scope of my posting today is limited to the very first remarks made by Theodore Olson arguing on behalf of the Respondents (those seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in California, and elsewhere) and the Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. who argued in support of the Respondents’ position. Mr. Olson opened his argument with this:

[Proposition 8] walls-off gays and lesbians from marriage, the most important relation in life, according to this Court, thus stigmatizing a class of Californians based upon their status and labeling their most cherished relationships as second-rate, different, unequal, and not okay.

In his opening words, General Verrilli said this:

Proposition 8 denies gay and lesbian persons the equal protection of the laws.

Both of these opening remarks are important and expected claims; however, both of them are untrue. Proposition 8 does not deny equality to anyone. Rather, it levels the playing field so that any person is treated the same when it comes to marriage. No one is stigmatized. No one is second rate. No one is unequal. All persons—heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, etc.—are in the same boat under Proposition 8; therefore, all are treated equally. There is no denial of equality; there is no instantiation of inequality by Proposition 8’s operation.

Knowing that I am entering a topic that bears great sensitivity, I want to express clearly that it is not my intention to insult, demean, or marginalize anyone and the dignity that is inherent to everyone. I think that there must be equal access to the claim of dignity which does not imply or require the further conclusion that all persons are equal in all respects nor must their ideas and positions be judged equal in all respects. To disagree with someone with different views on any subject—including same-sex marriage—is precisely that, to disagree—a disagreement that is based on intelligence comprehending and intelligible world. The nature of disagreement is to enter a debate with reasoned analysis and objective commentary supported by factual analyses. To disagree is not to demean; to debate is not to insult; to contradict with objective reasoning is not to marginalize or unjustly discriminate.

By insisting through legislation or adjudication that one thing is equal to something else does not in fact make it so (our human intelligence and our understanding of the intelligible world lead us to this conclusion)—for there must be some foundation based on facts and reason that can justify the equality claim (once again, our human intelligence and our understanding of the intelligible world inexorably lead us to this second conclusion). If this factual-rational foundation is lacking, the equality claim must necessarily fail unless the legal mechanism considering the claim is a purely positivist one. This is patent when the physical differences of male and female and their biological complementarity essential to the continuation of the human race are taken into account. The promotion of “legal argument” that attempts to justify same-sex unions as being the equal of opposite-sex marriage is a contradiction of reason and fact which destabilizes the integrity of a legal system and the substantive law that undergirds it. Reliance on an “equality” argument to advance legal schemes to recognize same sex-marriage does not make relations between two men or two women the same as the complementary relation between a man and a women when reason and fact state that they are equal in certain ways but not in other ways that are crucial to the institution of marriage. While the sexual relations between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples may both generate physical pleasures through sexual intimacy, these two kinds of sexual relations are substantively different in that the latter exemplifies the procreative capacity that is the foundation of the human race based on the ontological reality of the nuclear family (the fundamental unit of society) whereas the former is sterile from its beginning and cannot achieve this objective.

But let us assume for the moment that I am in error on other pertinent issues regarding same-sex unions and that the relationship between two persons of the same sex is the equal of the marriage between a man and a woman. What conclusions do we then reach as further considerations surrounding the marital context are pursued? These considerations include: equality claims made for other relationships in which proponents argue that these relationships can also be marriages if the relationship of same-sex couples can become a marriage; moreover, by denying the marital status to the partners of these other relationships is there also a violation of equality? A list of such affiliations might include these: a collective of men or women—or a mixture of both sexes—who claim the right to be equal and therefore married in a polygamous context; a sexual affiliation of someone in age-minority and someone in age-majority who claim the right to be equal and therefore married in spite of current prohibitions on age limitations; a sexual relationship of closely related persons who, in spite of legal prohibitions due to degrees of consanguinity, claim the equal right to marriage; or any combinations of human beings who wish to associate with other biological entities who (at least the humans) insist that their relation is or should be considered the equal of a marriage between a man and a woman.

The equality argument supporting same-sex marriage runs into difficulty when one considers that the heterosexual marriage partners, because of their biological nature, are typically capable of reproducing with one another but the homosexual partners are not. It is absolutely essential to take stock of the indisputable about the physical nature of the human being and its bearing on marriage. A homosexual man and a heterosexual man are presumed equally capable of inseminating any woman, and a lesbian and a heterosexual woman are presumed equally capable of being inseminated by any man. Why? Because intelligence and the intelligible world demonstrate this conclusion to be true. But no man, heterosexual or homosexual, can inseminate any other man. Nor can any woman, heterosexual or homosexual, inseminate another woman without the assistance of artificial means. Neither judicial nor legislative fiat can alter this biological reality of human nature. Any man can deposit his semen and sperm in another man, but this does not lead to fertilization of human eggs and procreation. No woman can produce sperm-bearing semen and inject it into another woman thereby leading to the fertilization of the second woman’s egg. The procreation argument against same-sex unions works not because of legal fiction or artifice but because of biological reality that is inextricably a part of human nature that has been a part of the traditional definition of marriage that the majority in Goodridge could not dispute. Again, human intelligence and the intelligible world are working in tandem when these conclusions are reached. Put simply, the Goodridge majority and others making similar claims ignore these crucial points about reality, and ignoring reality does not make for wise and sound law except for the steadfast positivist whose will typically overcomes the intellect. The only way to overcome this obstacle to the same-sex marriage campaign is to put aside the natural and historical definition of marriage and manufacture a new one that suits the needs of same-sex marriage advocates.

The final point I’ll offer today is this: heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered, and sexually questioning persons share the same position under Proposition 8 which treats all alike. No heterosexual man can marry another man regardless of his orientation. No homosexual man can marry another man regardless of his orientation. No heterosexual woman can marry another woman regardless of her orientation. No homosexual woman can marry another woman regardless of her orientation.

This is not inequality; rather it is equality pure and simple. This is another reason why Mr. Olson’s and General Verrilli’s assertions are without merit.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crony Capitalism and the Crisis of the West

Souce: Crony Capitalism Luigi Zingales at the Wall Street Journal describes the symptoms of cronyism.

High deficits, high debt and unsustainable entitlements are symptoms of a common disease infecting Southern Europe and the U.S. That’s crony capitalism, a problem with which I, having lived in Italy, am unfortunately familiar.

Crony capitalism isn’t the free market. Worse it is an offense against justice and detrimental to all especially the poor.

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Losing our religion?

Source GazetteXtra.

Michael Gerson,a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, observes that:

According to Pew, 74 percent of the nones grew up in a religious tradition of some sort. Yet while conversion has increased the ranks of the nones, retention is not particularly good. Protestantism, for example, loses about 20 percent of those raised Protestants. Of those raised unaffiliated, 40 percent fall away from the nonfaith and rebel toward religion, making for a new generation of awkward Thanksgivings.

While I might fiddle with the numbers a bit, this certainly has been my experience in the Orthodox Church. The Church is also suffering from the “declining trust in religious institutions since the 1990s.” This isn’t limited to religion but

…has been accompanied by declining trust in most institutions (with the notable exception of the military). Confidence in government and big business has simultaneously fallen—and the public standing of both is lower than that of the church. Americans may be less affiliated with religious organizations because they have grown generally more individualistic and skeptical of authority.

If I were to hazard a guess, it’s because whatever it is they do, Christians typically don’t invite young people (or anyone else for that matter) to become friends of Jesus AND His disciples. Like the larger culture, the Orthodox Church seem to be raising the next generation of “nones” precisely because we have failed to foster friendship, much less discipleship, among in our own parishes.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

h/t: Mirror of Justice

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Table time: Pope discusses, prays, dines with Orthodox representatives

Source Catholic News Service.

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pastors and theologians involved in ecumenical dialogue emphasize the importance of “table time” — sharing meals — along with serious theological discussions, shared prayer and joint action.

Pope Francis spoke about his ecumenical vision March 20 and prayed with delegates from Orthodox and other Christian communities at his inaugural Mass March 19.

Since March 17, he’s also had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Orthodox representatives who came to Rome for his inauguration. Pope Francis is still living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where the Orthodox delegates also were staying.

They all eat together and greet each other in the common dining room.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Tarasios of Buenos Aires and South America was one of the delegates who shared meals and prayers with the new pope. In fact, he’s been doing that since then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio attended his enthronement in Buenos Aires in 2001.

When they first saw each other March 17, they embraced.

“I said to him, ‘What have you done?’ He said, ‘Not I. They did it to me,’ pointing to the cardinals,” said the Orthodox leader, who was born in the United States.

During the more formal audience Pope Francis had with the ecumenical delegates, Metropolitan Tarasios presented the pope with two elegant, but very personalized gifts: an urn filled with soil from Argentina, “so he wouldn’t feel far away, he’d always feel close to us,” and a small chalice with the biblical inscription in Spanish, “That all would be one.”

In Pope Francis’ remarks to the ecumenical delegates, he focused on the common task of preaching the Gospel, defending human dignity and defending creation. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, in his remarks to the gathering, focused on the importance of continuing the formal theological dialogue so that “our Christian witness would be credible in the eyes of those near and far.”

Metropolitan Tarasios, who was part of the ecumenical patriarchate’s delegation to Pope Francis’ inauguration, said it is not a matter of either theological dialogue or practical cooperation: Christian unity requires both.

“The theological dialogue by itself cannot bring about Christian unity,” he said. It brings the churches closer, helps them understand each other more profoundly, and provides a serious tool for understanding where the churches agree and where they differ.

But efforts also are required to bring Christians together in common prayer and joint action.

“If, in the end, the people don’t accept the theological dialogue or what comes out of the theological dialogue, there won’t be any Christian unity,” he said.

For the past five years, the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue has been focusing on one of thorniest topics dividing the two communities: the primacy of the pope and the way his ministry has been exercised since the Great Schism of 1054.

Theologians are looking first at the role of the bishop of Rome in the first millennium, hoping it will lay the foundation for a joint statement on the place and role of the pope in a reunited Christianity.

In the first week after his election, Pope Francis emphasized his position as “bishop of Rome,” his calling to preside in charity and his insistence that the power of the papacy is the “power of service” seen in Jesus’ charge to St. Peter: “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”

For the Orthodox, “that’s how we see him — as the bishop of Rome,” Metropolitan Tarasios said. That the pope repeatedly referred to himself that way “is music to our ears.”

The early years of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue focused on baptism, the Eucharist and other issues the two churches basically already agreed on. The tough topic of the primacy of the pope was saved until a time when church leaders felt the relationship was strong enough to tackle it head on.

Metropolitan Tarasios said Patriarch Bartholomew’s presence at the pope’s inauguration wasn’t just the first time a patriarch of Constantinople came for the event since 1054, it was the first time ever. Even when the churches were united, a pope or patriarch sent his newly elected brother a letter delivered, perhaps, by a special emissary.

Patriarch Bartholomew, he said, thought “if we want to help Christian unity, then we have to make our presence felt, not just known.”

The patriarch knew the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, but he did not think about coming to Rome at the time.

“It’s a question of timing, of when the moment is right,” the metropolitan said.

“It’s time for the Christian churches to put aside some of the historical impediments to unity,” he said.

Catholics and Orthodox cannot ignore or deny the things in their history that have hurt each other, Metropolitan Tarasios said, but much of those hurts are “excess baggage” that prevent the churches from credibly proclaiming Christ today.

For the Orthodox, one of the issues still causing tension or pain is the existence and growth of the Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholic Churches that entered into full communion with Rome more than 400 years ago. The largest of the churches, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, was outlawed for almost 50 years by the Soviet Union, and its emergence from an underground existence has created serious problems in relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Tarasios said the people whose families have been Eastern Catholics for generations are one thing, but he denounced what he said were attempts to use the Byzantine Catholic Churches to convince Orthodox Christians to become Catholic while keeping their Byzantine liturgies and spiritualities.

“That’s an issue we can’t ignore,” he said. “Quite frankly, we resent it.”

On the positive side, Orthodox and Catholics are working more closely on environmental issues. Patriarch Bartholomew has been called “the green patriarch” and is one of the leading Christian proponents of a theological reflection on the moral obligation to safeguard creation.

The new pope’s choice of St. Francis of Assisi for his name and his repeated calls for respect for creation in his first week of ministry are important for the Orthodox because the patriarch and pope “can double their forces and their strength if they do it together,” Metropolitan Tarasios said.

The metropolitan said he, too, had read reports that Patriarch Bartholomew invited Pope Francis to go with him to Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic first step in Catholic-Orthodox rapprochement: the 1964 meeting there between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

“I think it would be a great occasion,” he said.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Russian Church pins high hopes on Pope Francis

Pavel Korobov,

“The new pontiff is a very distinguished church leader,” said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, commenting on the pope’s election. “It’s probably no accident that he is the first pope to take the name of Francis – undoubtedly in honor of Francis of Assisi, who is revered in the Roman Catholic Church as an example of Christian poverty, humility and service to the poor.”

The metropolitan said that service to the poor and needy is a priority for churches today, and the Russian Orthodox Church has a major focus on this.

“We see a big area here where we can work together with the Roman Catholic Church,” said Hilarion. “I hope this alliance between us will develop under the new pontiff.”

“We hope that Francis will give a boost to the development of the relationship between our churches, which started under his predecessor,” said Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko, secretary for inter-Christian relations of the synodal Department for External Church Relations. “He [Bergoglio] once said that he loves Dostoyevsky, and one would like to hope that he also loves the spiritual traditions of Russian Orthodoxy.”

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Religious Freedom

… what about America? When has faith entered the public square in this country? Did you know that it was serious Christians who started the abolitionist movement in this country? Yes! Just watch Steven Spielberg’s movie Amistad. Did you know that devout Christians led the Civil Rights movement in this country? Some would have you think it was secular liberals who led it, but it was a church-based faith-based movement from beginning to end. Did you know that Rosa Parks was a devout Christian? That she was chosen to kickoff the bus boycott because of her faith? Did you know that Jackie Robinson was a serious Christian? And that Branch Rickey who picked him to be the one to break the color barrier in baseball did so because of Robinson’s faith, and that Rickey was himself a bible-thumping Christian who did what he did in part because he believe God wanted him to do it? There’s a movie coming out about Jackie Robinson this month and I’ll bet they don’t even mention that. I do mention it in my next book SEVEN MEN, because everyone should know that it was Jackie Robinson’s faith that was behind what he did. If you push the voices of faith out of the mainstream and replace them with a secular orthodoxy, you take away the most important check the Founders put in place against unbridled statism. Eric Metaxas, CPAC 2013 Speech on Religious Freedom.

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Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon

Source: OCA. Great Lent 2013 To the Very Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America: Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, In his first Epistle, the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian writes: “This, then, is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). There is no darkness at all in Christ, Who is “Light of Light, True God of True God;” and there is no darkness in His Bride, the Holy Church, for in her “the light of Christ illumines all.” We are entering the sacred season of Great Lent which, externally, might be perceived as a season of darkness and gloom, reflected in the somber color of the vestments, the physical exertion of fasting and prostrations and the labor of long services. But in reality, though externally dark, this season places us on the path that brings us to the eternal light of the Resurrection and the glory of the Kingdom. The season of repentance introduces us to the reality of that glory, through our participation in God’s divine grace, which is both freely given to us and experienced through our own efforts, small as they may be and daunting as the struggles may seem. This is why Saint Silouan can say, “Glory be to the Lord that He gave us repentance. Through repentance we shall, every one of us, be saved. Only those who refuse to repent will not find salvation, and therein I see their despair, and shed abundant tears of pity for them.” We can only find true peace and lasting joy when we are led out of the despair of our passions and into the light of Christ by His Grace and through our labors of repentance, fasting and prayer. As we enter upon the struggles of the Fast, let us be encouraged as we listen attentively to the sacred hymns of the Church: “Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence, and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. So, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day, that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life” (Sessional hymn, Matins on Monday of the First Week). I humbly ask for your forgiveness and pray that the Lord will bless each of us with a profitable and peaceful Lenten journey. Sincerely yours in Christ, +TIKHON Archbishop of Washington Metropolitan of All America and Canada

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Friday, March 15, 2013

What the Orthodox Church Owe to the Catholic Church

We Orthodox owe something to the Catholics. Catholic leaders have been the clearest and strongest voice in the defense of the dignity of the human person in our increasingly secularized culture. We benefit from their witness. They draw from the moral tradition in ways that that hold our own leaders to account — and correctly so since we hold that part of the moral tradition in common. All Christians, not just Catholics, benefit from their faith and courage.

They also give the American Orthodox Church some breathing room as it finds its way in American society and learns how to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the American ethos. Learning this takes time just as it did in the early centuries of the Church. Orthodox Christianity has much to give secularized America especially to the young who, as I said at the outset, are searching for authenticity and communion.

Fr Hans Jacobse, read the rest here

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Whispers in the Loggia: De Argentina a Roma – Bergoglio Elected Pope Francis I

Source: Whispers in the Loggia.

The College of Cardinals have elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76 year-old Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope Francis I.

By choosing the name of the founder of his community’s traditional rivals, the 266th Roman pontiff – the first from the American continent, home to more than half of the 1.2 billion-member church – has signaled two things: his desire to be a force of unity in a polarized fold, and his intent to “repair God’s house, which has fallen into ruin”… that is, to rebuild the church.

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Making a Difference?

We talk a lot about making a difference in people’s lives but do we actually do that? Do we preach to transform or do we preach to survive? Do we stay clear of controversial topics , so we do not upset the apple cart, or do we take them straight on? Are we working to break the cycle, or are we just contributing to it?

Fr. Peter Michael Preble

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Ratzinger Legacy

From Ross Douthat’s recent column at

…for all of Catholicism’s problems, the Christian denominations that did not have a Ratzinger — those churches that persisted in the spirit of the 1970s and didn’t reassert a doctrinal core — have generally fared worse. There are millions of lapsed Catholics, but the church still has a higher retention rate by far than most mainline Protestant denominations. Indeed, it is difficult to pick out a major religious body where the progressive course urged by so many of Ratzinger’s critics has increased vitality and growth.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t some further version of reform, some unexpected synthesis of tradition and innovation, that would serve Catholicism well. And if such a path exists, Pope Benedict was probably not the leader to find it.

But he helped ensure that something recognizable as Catholic Christianity would survive into the third millennium. For one man, one lifetime, that was enough.

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