Benedict XVI’s papacy has been one of imagination and urbanity hampered by bureaucracy
In Called to Communion, published in 1996, a decade before the beginning of his papacy, Joseph Ratzinger had some strong words to say about the bureaucratic machinery of the Church. He wrote:
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.
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, but that for all his high intelligence, he never quite managed to contend with the bureaucratic machinery and it 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.
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