Joseph Ratzinger's Temple of Truth
Biblical-Theological Reflections at the End of the Ratzingerian Tenureby Dr Julius-Kei Kato
Julius-Kei Kato submitted this to Catholica 23 Feb 2013
Julius-Kei Kato is associate professor of Religious Studies at King's University College at Western University, London, Ontario, Canada. He holds an SSL (Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a PhD in Systematic and Philosophical Theology from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, USA.
Joseph Ratzinger's Temple of Truth Part 1
In late 2010, there were stories coming out of Germany putting the blame directly on Benedict XVI for allowing (as then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger) a priest from another diocese to work in his archdiocese of Munich despite clear evidence that the priest in question had abused minors previously. To me at the time, this appeared as something of a death blow for the pope because it happened at the height of an explosion of international cases coming to light of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The vast extent and outrageously high figures of sex-abuse cases showed that the issue of pedophilia—once touted as an "American problem" by the Vatican—was and is in reality a deep and systemic problem rooted in the whole dysfunctional Roman Catholic clerical culture. I remember thinking then that the most helpful gesture that could restore some shred of integrity and respect to the hierarchy would be for the pope to resign, thus paving the way for a new, "untainted" leader who could start to clean up this big clerical mess. Of course, I quickly reminded myself that all that was mere wishful thinking because this pope, sometimes called God's Rottweiler, would just nonchalantly go on until death with his agenda. After all, as cardinal-head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, he himself once said that he "doesn't listen to the critics."
And then the unexpected happened. I woke up in the morning of Feb. 11 to a notification from CNN on my phone that the pope was going to resign on February 28th. I was flabbergasted! After all the initial flurry of news, speculations and even gossip about this papal resignation (a truly historical moment since it is the first since the 15th century!), I've decided to write down my thoughts on the event in a more organized manner. Since I identify as teacher-student of the Bible as one of my main occupations, I would like to approach this topic from a biblical-theological lens.
In a recent book entitled The Pope's War, the theologian, Matthew Fox, in his usual provocative way, develops the idea that Pope Benedict XVI and the present leadership of the Roman Catholic Church are actually the ones "in schism" from the rest of the Catholic world because they essentially do not respect the so-called sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful), which is the sure test of truth in Catholic teaching, in several key areas of Catholic life and thought, particularly as evidenced in the direction that Vatican II gave the whole church. Incidentally, this was suggested personally to him by no less than one of the greatest conciliar theologians – Edward Schillebeeckx himself! That should give pause to those predisposed to dismiss Matthew Fox without a fair hearing.
This serious accusation by Fox is supported by the fact that as "inquisitor" (Fox's word), Benedict XVI attacked and practically brought down many figures and movements in recent Catholic history that symbolized the rich promise that Vatican II held. Among them, Fox lists Bernard Häring and his style of moral theology characterized by sensitiveness and openness; Leonardo Boff and liberation theology; and Matthew Fox himself with the creation spirituality movement he started.
What Fox does not sufficiently develop in the book for me is the reason why Joseph Ratzinger expended such energy in opposing these thinkers and movements. Not dealing with this more fundamental dimension of Ratzinger's figure makes him appear as a mere ruthless inquisitor and nothing more. That, I think, is a one-sided portrayal of a person who, I still think, is truly sincere in his convictions and is undoubtedly a person of deep personal faith.
Cooperator Veritatis (Cooperator of Truth)...
When one speaks of Ratzinger's more—shall we say—pugnacious actions in trying to curtail theologians and their theologies or movements, there should always be a search for motive. Why would an otherwise self-effacing person act thus? The fundamental reason for me lies in the motto he chose when elevated to the episcopacy by Paul VI in Munich back in 1977. His chosen motto was cooperatores veritatis (literally, 'co-workers of the truth'). This is a phrase taken originally from 3 John 8 and it captures the vision that Ratzinger as bishop and, by extension, also as pope, sought to realize. (There is no motto on his papal coat of arms so one can assume that his motto even as pope is the same.) In short, Ratzinger sees himself as a co-worker for the truth, as someone who, with his teaching, actions, life and very person, seeks to further the truth.
The next logical question to this would be the one posed by Pilate to Jesus in John 18:38: What is truth? In this case, what is the truth for Joseph Ratzinger? For our purposes, let me first rather simplistically say that, negatively put, "the truth" for Joseph Ratzinger is obviously not reflected in the thinkers, theologies and movements he tried to suppress. Positively put, the truth for him is seen more clearly in the matters—be they ways of thinking, persons, movements, styles of liturgy, etc.—which he, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and as pope, tried to foster. The same Matthew Fox* in the above-mentioned book provides us with a useful if at times provocative list of what Ratzinger fostered and suppressed. In retrospect, his track record as head of the CDF and as pope, with its clear support of some matters and strong opposition to others, does seem to show that he is fairly confident of what he thinks the truth is, where he thinks the truth lies. So again, what is the truth for Joseph Ratzinger? This is certainly not the place to elaborate on the whole structure of Joseph Ratzinger's theological thinking so let me limit myself to the following observations (although again I am fully aware that they border on the simplistic without the support of a better and more complete work).
*Let me state here that I think that critical voices of provocateurs like Fox, although seemingly incendiary, are necessary checks and balances to hegemonic power in the church.
The "Dictatorship of Relativism"...
In what turned out to be a programmatic homily before being elected to the papacy in April 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger thundered against a "dictatorship of relativism", saying:
Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.
The solution he offered then, simply stated, was "having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church". In connection with that, it is widely accepted that one of Ratzinger's greatest works so far is his Introduction to Christianity originally published in 1968. This book, it should be remembered, is something like an extended commentary on the Apostles' Creed.
On subsequent occasions, Ratzinger-now-become-Pope Benedict would spell out even more clearly his proposed solution to the acute crisis of relativism. One occasion was his so-called "Regensburg Speech" in September 2006. It is unfortunate that other more weighty points Benedict made in that talk have been drowned out by the outcry that his reference to the Prophet Muhammad elicited. A more careful analysis of this talk, however, shows that he was continuing his reflection on what he thinks should be foundational to the Christian faith (ultimately, I opine, in order to combat relativism). He utilized what he perceives as a dangerous tendency in some religious adherents to prioritize "the will of God" no matter if that "will" does not conform to "reason" or, in the term he used, logos. On the contrary, quoting Byzantine emperor Manuel II, "... not acting reasonably (sun lógō) is contrary to God's nature." From this principle, the pope developed his argument that "the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith..." In short, the "encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought" (characterized as it is by the use of reason) is providential, so much so that the Greek philosophical influences that have become part and parcel of Christianity since this encounter are a sine qua non for the Christian faith.
As if to elucidate this, Benedict XVI's nemesis, Hans Küng, in the second volume of his Memoirs, evaluates Benedict's theology in this way:
For Ratzinger Christianity only begins rightly when the biblical message meets up with Greek philosophy. ... It is not the church of the New Testament that primarily interests Joseph Ratzinger but always the 'church of the fathers' ... As is abundantly clear in his Jesus of Nazareth, his theological concern is not concentrated on the Jesus of history, in the light of whom the later dogmas of the church are to be interpreted for our time, but on the Christ of the Hellenistic councils, whom he reads everywhere into the New Testament writings.
What does all this have to do with our question of 'what is truth' for Ratzinger? We can say that, for Ratzinger, Christianity—understood of course as the Catholic Church (the authentic form of Christianity in the fullest sense as implied by the document Dominus Iesus which bears Ratzinger's signature)—is the bearer of truth. Of course, "Christianity" should be understood in the Ratzingerian way: that entity that has been providentially forged through the fusion of the biblical witness and the wholesome aspects of Greek philosophy mediated by the fathers of the church, having its own distinctive "culture" (another key term for Ratzinger) and having a sound tradition authenticated by its teaching authority. It is this entity, this culture called "Catholic Christianity" that has "the fullness of truth".
When one has that base-edifice of truth according to Joseph Ratzinger, one can now complete the picture by adding the matters he either fostered, or struggled against, either as essential structural components or as ornamentation. For example, the insistence on a dominant interpretation of Vatican II as continuity with tradition while playing down its truly revolutionary, reformatory and tradition-changing character is arguably an essential structural component. On the other hand, the fostering of pre-Vatican II episcopal/pontifical fashions (cappa magna, saturno, etc.) is arguably ornamentation (I say this knowing that behind seeming 'ornamentation' lie very deep theological preferences). An interesting exercise would be classifying and arguing for the importance of various elements in Ratzinger's temple of truth. Some of the most prominent ones would be:
- Augustine's theology;
- Ratzinger's reservations against liberation theology;
- the role of the new movements such as Opus Dei, the Tridentine Mass;
- his (for me) scandalous patience in reaching out to ultra-traditionalist followers of Marcel Lefebvre and his equally scandalous lack of patience with the more progressive factions of Catholics;
- his opposition to creation spirituality;
- a seeming fetish for the normative role of the original Latin texts for the Roman-rite mass;
- his thinking on religious pluralism
- the swiftness of disciplinary action against Catholics who support the ordination of women;
- his position on homosexuality, among many others.
What place does each of the foregoing matters occupy in Joseph Ratzinger's "temple of truth"?
As mentioned, Joseph Ratzinger, during his tenure as head of the CDF and as pope, seemed to me to be very confident about what to oppose, what to nurture. This speaks eloquently about his convictions regarding the nature of truth. He spared no effort despite great opposition and countless criticisms from various sectors of the church to build the Catholic Church into a temple of truth in line with his deepest convictions. What is troubling is that Ratzinger seemed to think that this grand project was so important that it had to be done even if that meant alienating a staggering number of Catholics from the church, especially in the western world. For this, he is frequently identified with preferring a "smaller, purer church".
 All quotes from Cardinal Ratzinger's homily are taken from Joseph Ratzinger, "Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice," 18 April. 2005, The Vatican, 31 May 2010.
 From the Regensburg Speech of Benedict XVI [Link]
 Hans Küng, Disputed Truth: Memoirs II (New York: Continuum, 2007), 15.
Joseph Ratzinger's Temple of Truth Part 2
Zion Theology in the Old Testament...
When I consider all of what I wrote yesterday, it is as if I am swallowed up in a time warp and brought back to the age of Solomon's Temple in the ancient Southern Kingdom of Judah more than 500 years before the birth of Christ.
Sometime during the history of ancient Israel before the first temple's destruction by the Babyloians in 586 BCE, a clear and strong strand of thought traditionally known as Zion theology took shape. One can discern its dominant presence in various sections of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, particularly in
the historical and prophetic books and the Book of Psalms.
(Street map of Ancient Jerusalem as depicted by Josephus and y Rabbies, circa 1730ce.
Click image to enlarge. Map from Wikipedia Commons.)
Zion theology can be described as the whole compendium of beliefs that centered on God's choice of King David's monarchical line and the importance of the city located on Mt. Zion — Jerusalem in God's scheme of things. These beliefs took the form of a firm conviction and at times even a smug confidence that God would make David's dynasty last forever [2 Samuel 7:16] and that the city which David made the kingdom's capital and where his son Solomon built the temple [1 Kings 6-8] would always be under special divine protection [e.g. Isaiah 31:5]. Of course, the major significance of the temple lay in the fact that it housed the "holy of holies", the very presence of God among his people [1 Kings 8].
Since Jerusalem was considered the special dwelling place of God, many were confident that it was impregnable and would not fall to any conqueror. In fact, the assurance of God's protection over the holy city is expressed in parts of the prophetic writings (such as in Isaiah 31:5). When the prophet Micah who
lived in the latter half of the 8th century BCE, prophesied that Jerusalem would become "a heap of ruins" [Micah 3:12] on account of the glaring injustices committed by its leaders, this went completely against the prevailing firm conviction about the impregnable character of Jerusalem that it was apparently
quite shocking to its addressees. One can perceive the immense shock value of Micah's prophecy because it was still remembered verbatim a century later during the time of the prophet Jeremiah (if we take Jer. 31:18 at face value).
Of course, it is also well-known that the prophet Jeremiah countered the dominant Zion theology of his time in a deep sense when he called the people to actually bow down before the Babylonian conquerors and accept that they were going to prevail over Zion because God had given sovereignty to Babylon in order to teach Israel a lesson [Jer. 27-28]. It is probably for challenging the deeply-held convictions of the guardians of Zion theology's orthodoxy of his day that Jeremiah was made to suffer much to the extent that he is known as the "weeping" or "heartbroken" prophet.
In the end, history went on to prove that this conviction about the Davidic dynasty and Jerusalem's special divine protection was an illusion because, with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity of many prominent Judeans, David's line historically came to an end and the supposedly impregnable temple that Solomon had built lay in ruins. In effect, the whole theological thought system based on an everlasting Davidic dynasty representing God that ruled from an impregnable city in which God dwelt in a special way was, as it were, a "temple" of cards.
Theological Overconfidence – a Form of Idolatry...
How does one evaluate those who fervently believed in what came to be called Zion theology and tried to uphold it to the extent of persecuting prophetic voices that warned of Jerusalem's demise? Were they people of profound faith or were they hopelessly lost in delusion? The latter judgment can only be made in retrospect, with the clearer hindsight of history. There seems to be a very thin line indeed separating faith and delusion.
Zion theology is a biblical example of what I'd like to call theological over-confidence. I define this as an attitude of having a firm conviction that develops unhealthily into a smug confidence in a person or a group of people that "God" – or, by extension, "grace", "Jesus", or even "truth" – surely resides in a given form or a particular entity. This over-confidence becomes even worse when it is held by persons of authority to which there are no effective checks and balances.
I strongly believe that theological over-confidence should actually be linked to the most important commandment God gives the chosen people in the Hebrew Scriptures: the injunction against idolatry. The text of Deuteronomy 5:8-9 [NRSV] reads thus:
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.
Karl Rahner spoke of God as "gracious mystery".
In the Old Testament, God is very stern about the making of images or, in popular parlance, idols. Israel, the chosen people, is not to make any concrete representation of God. Why, one may ask? There are many scholarly studies about the subject that one can readily consult but let me share here my personal
theological reflections on the matter.
One of the most profound descriptions of God I've encountered in my life is still Karl Rahner's. Rahner spoke of God as a "gracious mystery". The human spirit, in its relentless pursuit of a greater something that could fulfill its most profound desires, can be compared to an ever-receding horizon that cannot
be fully reached because its object is actually the gracious mystery that is God: mysterious because God is ultimately unfathomable, yet gracious because it is full of love.
Now idolatry is the complete opposite of this. Idolatry attempts to take away God's mysterious character and turn it into a form that humans can manipulate. At its core, the severe condemnation of idolatry in the Bible means that God cannot and will not be "boxed in" or limited. That is to say, one cannot make a
mould and fit God into it as if one were pouring plaster into a pre-existing mould so that the plaster is formed into the shape desired. No, God does not usually fit into human "moulds." Idolatry is the most elementary expression of the human attempt to craft God into an image of one's liking. By idolatry,
humans, as it were, cut God down to size; through idolatry, humans turn an otherwise mysterious and ultimately unfathomable divine being into an easy-to-understand, easy-to-grasp, easy-to-control form. In the end though, the sobering fact is that God is not so facilely treated thus.
If the injunction against idolatry is primarily directed at physical images in the Bible, it is because physical idols serve as a concrete warning against the more insidious thing that humans can actually do to God: Humans can actually delude themselves into believing that they, as it were, have God down pat, that they hold God captive, perhaps in a temple or, by extension, in a set of theological ideas, in a church, in a liturgical style and so on and so forth. But if the Bible teaches us anything, it is that in moments when people think they have "cornered" God, the gracious mystery breaks free of the fetters humans have put God into and shatters whatever mould has been created to confine and control this profoundest of mysteries.
A Recurring Pattern in Christian History...
Zion theology is not the only instance of God foiling theological over-confidence. The Bible is actually replete with this pattern in its major and minor stories: God confuses the language of people who think they can build a tower that reaches to the heavens [Genesis 11]. Despite having been a powerful
instrument of God to free Israel from slavery, God does not allow Moses to enter the promised land [Deuteronomy 34]; God chooses not David (despite his ardent desire) but his son Solomon to build the temple [2 Samuel 7]; after the return from the Babylonian exile, the hoped-for glorious restoration of Jerusalem is not realized [reflected for example in Malachi], among others.
Even in the New Testament, the theme is there. If the historical Jesus was something of an apocalyptic prophet-like figure (as a substantial number of biblical scholars still hold), one can make a case that Jesus initially believed that the Reign of God he proclaimed would break into history imminently and in a
more dramatic way through his ministry of healing. Only when it became clear that his main ministry consisting not only of healing, but also of meal-fellowship and preaching, would not be the catalyst for the inbreaking of God's reign into his immediate world did he become convinced that the way of the cross was what God expected of him.
After Jesus' resurrection, many of the earliest members of the Jesus movement were convinced that the parousia, the second coming of Christ, was going to take place very soon, even in their lifetimes. This is evidenced in countless passages with an apocalyptic message which pepper the whole New Testament. Again this proved to be a gross misapprehension. Its delay vexed many in the earliest communities. Christianity had to dig in for the long haul.
Finally, the whole history of Christianity can be viewed as a regular cycle of great expectations that were not realized or convictions about God, about Christ, about the Church, about truth that were ultimately proven to be incorrect. Humans are constantly trying to grasp the great and ultimate Mystery but end up reducing God simplistically into something like a—yes this is practically what it is—idol, a smaller, easier-to-handle "god".
Fortunately, as in ancient Israel, God is the iconoclast par excellence. God continually shatters our idols in order to make us grow, to make us enlarge our views concerning the vastness and uncontrollability of the divine mystery we continually try to control with our puny minds.
Let me save a more elaborate historical treatment of this theme for another occasion and simply fast-forward back to our immediate concern: the end of Benedict XVI's tenure and by this I mean all the years Joseph Ratzinger was in a position to influence the whole Catholic Church as head of the CDF and as pope.
Joseph Ratzinger's Temple of Truth Part 3Ratzinger's Temple of Truth...(Labelled) four Ratzingerian "Devils" whom society needed to be protected from...
- Hans Küng
- Charles E Curran
- Leonardo Boff
- Matthew Fox
At the end of this Ratzingerian tenure (practically a time-span of more than 30 years since Ratzinger became prefect of the CDF in November 1981), I have to say that the whole institutional Roman Catholic Church very troublingly seems to have been "crafted"—through selective suppression and nurturing—too closely according to Ratzingerian concepts of the truth. Some examples are the following:
- the interpretation of Vatican II mainly as continuity with pre-conciliar tradition while playing down its truly revolutionary character;
- the selecting of episcopal candidates almost exclusively from among clerics who are prepared above all to tow the Ratzingerian line of truth;
- major movements such as liberation theology have been effectively suppressed; alternative theological voices not in line with Ratzinger's convictions such as those of Hans Küng, Charles Curran, Leonardo Boff, Matthew Fox, etc. have been discredited at the institutional level;
- certain groups such as Opus Dei, Communione e Liberazione, etc. have been favored;
- liturgical styles preferred by Ratzinger have been fostered; some defunct ones have even been revived (i.e. the Tridentine Mass);
- documents enshrining his convictions about the truth and invested with as much binding authority as possible (short of an infallible pronouncement) have been issued (e.g., ad tuendam fidem, Dominus Iesus, etc.); and
- Last but not least, the utmost effort to court an ultra-traditionalist movement such as the Fraternity of St. Pius X (a group that explicitly rejects Vatican II) and coax them back into Catholic communion is downright scandalous!
In short, during his long tenure, Joseph Ratzinger and his like-minded cooperators, through acts of suppression and active nurturing, have succeeded in building a temple of truth according to their sincere faith and convictions.
Thinking theologically, the crucial question at this juncture is whether Joseph Ratzinger and his choir have been raised up providentially and been put in place to be the light of truth in the darkness of relativism and secularism? In this model, the Ratzingerian temple of truth is truly God's dwelling place in a church and a world beset by error.
The point of this essay, however, is to pose an interrogative. What if this is a repeat of Zion theology? What if Ratzinger's temple of truth is something that has to fall for a greater truth to emerge? Then, all the great and small efforts during this Ratzingerian tenure—done, I'm still inclined to think, with the sincerest of intentions to cooperate with the truth—to suppress some voices or movements while nurturing others become somehow related to the concept of idolatry I have described above in the sense of trying to make God into a puny thing that God is not; of confining God into a system which is way too small.
Despite what I believe to be a sincere and deep faith in Joseph Ratzinger, the believer, that is not enough as the biblical witness and the history of Christianity suggest. If God is truly God, this being should be way, way bigger than any of our puny theological categories and systems.
Let me further buttress the basic interrogative. If Ratzinger's temple of truth is indeed—to use an image from John's gospel—"from above", where does that leave the directions mandated by the Second Vatican Council (such as a fundamental openness to the contemporary world or the model of the church as "the people of God") that seem to have been significantly played down during Ratzinger's tenure?
Of course, this question hinges on how one interprets Vatican II. All the same, it is undeniable to many that Ratzinger HAS reversed a number of key elements of Vatican II, foremost among which for me is the spirit that characterizes the all-important Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World or Gaudium et Spes.
Can Ratzinger be right and key elements of the spirit of Vatican II which he tried to reverse wrong? Can a cardinal/pope trump an ecumenical council? A venerable tradition holds that a council has the supreme authority in the church.
A troubling aspect of this matter involves the question about why the Ratzingerian administration has gone out of its way to dialogue and invite a group (followers of Marcel Lefebvre) that explicitly rejects Vatican II back to the church? This surely is an anti-Vatican II move?
Then, to link our interrogatives with the gospel principle which states "by their fruits you shall know them" [Mt. 7:16]....
If Ratzinger's temple of truth is providential,
- why has it not curbed the malevolent tendencies of the dysfunctional clerical culture that has been the source of the abomination of sexual abuse of children? If anything, I think that it has actually even bolstered clerical culture in some significant ways by encouraging the return to the image of the priest as separated and sacral as seen, for example, in the effort to encourage Tridentine forms of liturgy.
The list goes on.
- Why has it alienated a staggering amount of well-educated and critically thinking Catholics around the world?
- Why does it seemingly go against indications of a sensus fidelium or even consensus of the faithful (not exactly the same) in key areas of theology and ethics?
- Does the hierarchy have a monopoly on the truth?
- Why has it applied harsh methods to quell alternative voices on significant theological issues, thus leaving the hierarchy without any effective checks and balances?
This last question is crucial. When an authority that claims divine approval for itself has stopped listening to a wide spectrum of voices on pivotal matters and has even silenced them, the authority in question becomes suspect. Lord Acton put it more succinctly, "Power tends to corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
There is a sense in which James Carroll in his book Constantine's Sword was profoundly right when he proclaimed "the holiness of democracy". If, as Vatican II strongly reiterated, the so-called sensus fidelium (the sense of the whole body of the faithful—from bishops to the laity—of matters pertaining to faith
and morals) is truly the sure test of the authenticity of any teaching, it is imperative that democracy be a living and truly practiced reality in the church. For all practical purposes, under the Ratzingerian tenure, the 'sense of the lay faithful' on different matters has all but been ignored by the teaching authority of the church, a significant number of whom act as if they had the sole possession of the truth.
The Messiness of the Search for Truth...
At first glance, the vision of Ratzinger's temple of truth appears to be very comforting. It is well-organized in its hierarchical order and tidy (What could one expect? Everyone here assents to the authorities!) and its adherents strongly believe that these traits make the temple an earthly image of the beauty and order of the heavenly realm. However, of late, the horrific and wide-spread clerical sexual abuse crisis, a deeply polarized church, the attrition of a staggering number of Catholics who have given up on the institutional church, the Vatileaks scandal have shown that not everything is peaceful on the Ratzingerian front. If anything, all these are indicative that the temple is probably imploding. Has that finally wearied the battle-scarred 'cooperator of truth' and made him face the fact that it is simply too much for him? We may never know the truth.
Personally, I am deeply suspicious of the ordered tidiness of the vision of Ratzinger's temple of truth. As Rahner suggested, if God is ultimately a vast, unfathomable, yet gracious mystery, it is but reasonable (a key word for Ratzinger) that the human effort to grasp something of this gracious mystery be marked not so much by tidiness but rather by messiness. Messiness, I suspect, is the more convincing trait that suggests an authentic effort on the part of humans to understand something that is infinitely bigger and greater than their puny minds!
The church should be in the God/Truth business, but when the search for God and truth, from a very messy post-conciliar state, has been turned during the Ratzingerian tenure into something like an orderly classroom with only the good and obedient boys and girls (the bad boys and girls have been expelled) who politely answer "Yes, Father" to every proposition from the master-teacher, then call it what you will, but it is definitely not an honest search for God or for truth in my opinion. I say, call back those "bad" boys and girls. Have they been labeled "bad" just because they have different visions of the truth? Let us discuss things openly and fearlessly.
Let us not be afraid of messiness in the search for God and truth. If we are forever afraid of messiness in the church, it will forever remain an enclave of insecure souls, little minds and childish (not child-like) faith. Only if we recover something of the spirit of a John XXIII—who opened wide the ecclesiastical windows that had been closed for so long (and seemingly have been closed again) so that fresh air and warm sunlight could enter into a dank and dark old church—will a more authentic search for the gracious mystery and the truth truly start again.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Garry Wills poignantly proclaimed, "New Pope? I've Given Up Hope." I used to feel this way too given the fact that the long Ratzingerian tenure has programmatically filled the whole Catholic world's leadership posts with like-minded individuals and so, I figured, the new pope will be nothing else but "more of the same". Ironically though, in reversing a tenure-for-life papal tradition by his resignation, Joseph Ratzinger has perhaps unintentionally set a precedent that may lead to preventing a single individual—no matter how well-intentioned—from imposing his or her vision of the truth on the whole church. This resignation might be a harbinger of better things to come, such as, shorter papal tenures, younger leaders more open to listening to a wide-array of visions of the truth, more democratic processes which more seriously try to gauge the sensus fidelium on different crucial matters, greater involvement of women in the actual leadership and governance of the church ... Am I getting too carried away? Let's stop there and see what actually happens next. Still, I think hope remains and a little glimmer of hope can take one a long, long way.