In his book Called to Communion, published a decade before the beginning of his papacy, Joseph Ratzinger had some strong words to say about the bureaucratic machinery of the Church. "The more administrative machinery we construct, be it the most modern, the less place there is for the Spirit, the less place there is for the Lord, and the less freedom there is," writes Tracey Rowland on the ABC website.
He added that in his opinion, "we ought to begin an unsparing examination of conscience on this point at all levels of the Church." In a later collection of essays, titled Images of Hope, he observed that "the saints were all people of imagination, not functionaries of apparatuses."
In recent days one senses that this unsparing examination of conscience might finally have begun. One also senses that in the papacy of Benedict XVI the Church had one of the greatest theologians occupying the Chair of Peter in centuries. And yet, that for all his high intelligence, he never quite managed to contend with the bureaucratic machinery that so often let him down.
The decision to abdicate would not have been a decision made lightly given Benedict's respect for historical precedent and the sacramental nature of his office. He is the last person on the planet to think of the papacy as a job.
He never thought of himself as the CEO of a multinational corporation and he sharply rebuked those whose ecclesiology was borrowed from the Harvard School of Business or, worse, some Green-Left women's collective. Christ was and is a Priest, a Prophet and a King, not a business manager.
Benedict believes that the Church is nothing less than the Universal Sacrament of Salvation and the Bride of Christ. For him the keys of Peter are no mere mythic symbol. So a decision to abdicate could only have been made on the basis that he thought worse things might happen to embarrass and confuse the Church's 1.2 billion faithful if he lacked the strength to govern.
Benedict XVI and the next generation of hero-Cardinals
The challenge in choosing Benedict's successor will be to find someone who has the strength and ability to deal with the administrative side of the office of the papacy while retaining at least some of the intellectual flair and imagination of Benedict and his predecessor.
There are many who think that either Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan or Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec could carry these responsibilities well. Certainly both are exceptionally intellectually gifted and are men of imagination - not mere functionaries. They are also in a similar intellectual mould to Benedict. They share the same interpretations of the Second Vatican Council and have drawn deeply from the theological anthropology and moral theology of the Blessed John Paul II.
Both Scola's book The Nuptial Mystery and Ouellet's Divine Likeness: Towards a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family build on the foundations of John Paul II's Catechesis on Human Love, his trilogy of encyclicals devoted to each Person of the Trinity (Redemptor Hominis, Dives et Misericordia and Dominum et Vivificantem), the moral theology of Veritatis Splendor and the vision of a culture of life and love set forth in Evangelium Vitae. They and quite a few other members of the College of Cardinals are completely on side with this theological project.
FULL STORY Benedict's war (ABC)