14 January 2020

A rival Pope?

Last year I discussed (OK, gloated over) the possibility of a schism in the Catholic Church as traditionalist believers foamed at the mouth over the possibility that the Amazon synod could lead to the Church accepting homosexuality and married priests (which, along with abortion, apparently form the evil trinity which constitutes Satan).  Already they are emerging as a rebellious faction within the Church, and some of them are starting to sound violently unhinged.  God's Church, they insist, just can't stop treating homos like shit, or allow Father Moe and Father Lester to get laid consensually so that they (one hopes) quit fiddling with the altar boys.  The traditionalists have faced a dilemma, though -- most of the hierarchy, including Pope Francis, is firmly in the reformist camp.  How can one uphold Catholic tradition by challenging the Pope and the rest of the clerical grandees to whom that same Catholic tradition requires deference?

This week a possible solution began to take shape.  Joseph Ratzinger, the former Pope Benedict XVI, broke the silence he has mostly imposed on himself since retiring from the Papacy in 2013.  He has, it emerged, co-authored a book defending the no-shagging-for-priests rule -- a frontal attack on one of the top items on the reformists' agenda.  It's also an implicit challenge to the authority of the current Pope Francis, in whose hands the decision about married priests rests.  Reformist leaders flew into an infuriated snit, while traditionalists rejoiced.

This roiling potpourri of Popery is unprecedented in the Church's modern history -- the last time a Pope resigned rather than dying in office, and thus hung around to shadow his successor's reign, was more than six hundred years ago.  Ratzinger commands enormous respect throughout the Church, and many traditionalists argue that he remains the true Pope, either because his resignation was invalid in some way or because Francis is a heretic and therefore illegitimate.

Ratzinger is not going to openly call for an uprising against Francis in the name of the Old Ways.  That's not how Popes do things.  As monarchs of a massively conservative institution, they are not revolutionaries.  But he's made himself a potential figurehead and rallying-point for the traditionalists, and that's all they need.  In fact, he'd probably be more effective as a reserved elder statesman issuing occasional encouraging hints (like his new book) than by wading into the fray.  It's more in line with how a Pope is supposed to behave.

I suspect the traditionalists will seize upon Ratzinger's book as a signal to launch their crusade against the reformists and against the very legitimacy of Francis.  Time, after all, is not on their side.  Ratzinger is 92, and more than half of the cardinals now entitled to vote for the next Pope were appointed by Francis, so that next Pope is likely to be another reformist.  If they don't act soon, they won't get a more promising opportunity in the foreseeable future.

And it's likely that Ratzinger really does support the traditionalist cause.  Why else would he write such a book -- with Robert Sarah, one of the few cardinals to have spoken out repeatedly and vociferously against the reformist agenda?  Again, he's not going to openly lead a revolution.  Popes don't do that.  But he's likely to encourage the traditionalists in whatever ways he considers appropriate to his position.  It's what he probably believes is the right thing to do -- and at 92, what does he have to lose?

The Methodists are already splitting into two denominations over the issue of homosexuality.  The Catholic Church can't do that since its members believe it to be the only "real" church, outside which there is no salvation.  Neither side can simply leave.  If there is a schism, the reformists and traditionalists will be two scorpions in a bottle.  And the whole institution's gravitas and power will suffer accordingly.


Blogger bluzdude said...

"This roiling potpourri of Popery." That's wordsmithing gold right there, my friend.

14 January, 2020 04:20  
Blogger nothoughtsnoprayersnonothing said...

I used to defend the Methodist. I was mildly a member growing up and thought of them as liberal after I left.
Not anymore.

14 January, 2020 04:26  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Doesn't bother me in the slightest if the Catholic Church rips itself apart internally.

14 January, 2020 05:47  
Blogger Lady M said...

The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging members. It would be nice to watch them go through the death throes.

14 January, 2020 09:08  
Blogger jono said...

What bluzdude said.

14 January, 2020 11:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the shismatic militant US catholic bishops/ cardinals could help ratzinger escape, ala gnost from japan, and establish the new rome at D.C. or better yet Salt lake City.
Hey it worked for the french and avignon.

14 January, 2020 11:52  
Blogger Victor said...

If there's s fight between 2 Pope's, will it be shown on Papal-view?

14 January, 2020 17:46  
Blogger Mike said...

Look for the Episcopals to split next. Years back they allowed any church that wanted too to become an oasis congregation. I.E. anyone is accepted. That happened right after my wife switched from Methodist to Episcopal. She saw people pack up and leave her new congregation. Not the denomination, just the particular congregation. So now there are oasis and non-oasis congregations of Episcopals. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

14 January, 2020 17:47  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh. Palpatine.

Of course he’s totally orthodox.

The Catholic Church is a shadow of what it used to be. And I’m here holding the tiniest violin.


14 January, 2020 19:17  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Bluzdude: I try.....

No Thoughts: Evidently not. After all, the majority voted against the gay-tolerant policy change.

Debra & Lady M: Indeed, I just hope there's time to get my popcorn ready.

Jono: Thanks!

Anon: That might work. Or maybe He Who Zings Rats should set up his new Avignon in Poland, since it's so devout. There'd be some irony in a former member of the Hitler Youth ending up there, but most other devoutly-Catholic countries are in the tropics and have too many large bugs and too much hot weather.

Victor: Only if you pay for it with Pa(y)pal.

Mike: Gay liberation is sure paying a lot of dividends for everyone, if it's causing all these religious cults to break up.

Sixpence: I understand they're trying to pressure him to take his name off the book now. In this case, it's a battle between the Dark Side of the Force and the Even Darker Side.

15 January, 2020 17:49  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

I think it should be made clear that there has never been a Papal resignation in the sense that Ratzinger resigned. Most people are aware that there was a time when there were two Popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon, France. When the two factions reunited, of course the Avignon Pope lost his position. In agreeing to that, the Avignon faction insisted that the Roman Pope, who had been very antagonistic, resign too, and the Church continue with a new Pope. So, this resignation was the result of the reunification of the Church, and was not in any way a product of misbehavior on the part of the Roman Pope. Ratzinger is therefore the first Pope in two millennia to resign, which we know he did because his role in the Church sex scandal was becoming more obvious by the day. I suspect Francis has quite a story he could tell if Ratzinger gets up to anything.

15 January, 2020 18:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

And that's a story we'd all love to hear. I'd love to see Ratzinger taken down that way -- and see the traditionalists tying themselves in knots trying to justify their continued veneration of him.

15 January, 2020 19:22  
Anonymous NickM said...

One of the truly odd things about gay marriage in the UK was it was almost universally portrayed in the media as "anti-religious". The media likes their black and white. Except... Actively in favour were a number of religious groups - quite a few Jews and Methodists, the Quakers, Buddhists... Hardly fringe elements of society. On the QT I suspect this also applied to a lot of the CorE.

You might find this interesting:


17 January, 2020 06:49  

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