I had thought before reading it that this essay would not pose any problem for me, but it turns out that many parts of it - Mosebach's lamentable view of Benedict's renunciation and his outrageous dismissal of his 'hermeneutic of continuity' - came as a great shock, as Mosebach seems to be damning of Benedict XVI on the whole while offering only faint praise insofar as Summorum Pontificum alone... The entire anti-Benedict 'traddie' bloggers brigade must be raising incense to Mosebach for this.
One shouldn’t speak of a “cult of personality” when describing the papal devotional items that are offered to the hordes of pilgrims and tourists round about Saint Peter’s in Rome: postcards and calendars, coffee cups and silk cloths, plates and plastic gadgets of every kind, always with the picture of the current happily reigning Holy Father—and next to them also those of Popes John Paul II, John XXIII, and even Paul VI.
There is only one pope you will not find in any of the souvenir shops—and I mean none, as if there were a conspiracy here. To dig up a postcard with the picture of Benedict XVI requires the tenacity of a private detective. Imperial Rome knew the institution of damnatio memoriae: the extinction of the memory of condemned enemies of the state. Thus, Emperor Caracalla had the name of his brother Geta — after he had killed him — chiseled out of the inscription on the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus.
It seems as if the dealers in devotional goods and probably also their customers (for the trade in rosaries also obeys the market laws of supply and demand) had jointly imposed such an ancient Roman damnatio memoriae
on the predecessor of the current pope. [This is, of course, most disturbing news, and I am surprised no one seems to have reported this at all. Is it possible none of the Vaticanistas have ever bothered to check what the souvenir stores and kiosks around St. Peter's Square are selling? Or if they had been aware of this apparent blackout of Benedict XVI from the memorabilia market, why has no one tried to find out why from the store owners. If they can still sell memorabilia about John XXIII and Paul VI, they surely cannot claim they are not stocking any Benedict XVI items because no one would buy them! Or maybe it's worse – and they will claim no one is making any Benedict XVI items any more!]
It is as if, on this trivial level, should be accomplished that which Benedict himself could not resolve to do after his resignation (disturbing to so many people, profoundly inexplicable and still unexplained
) [Et tu, Mosebach??? ... And oh yes, as it turns out, maxime te, Mosebach, especially you!]
— namely, to become invisible, to enter into an unbroken silence.
Those especially who accompanied the pontificate of Benedict XVI with love and hope could not get over the fact that it was this very pope who, with this dramatic step, called into question his great work of reform for the Church. [This is preposterous, coming from someone like Mosebach! How can Benedict's retirement 'call into question' any of his achievements in any way? It is almost like saying that the death of a great man 'calls into question' his achievements, even granted that retirement is voluntary and not inevitable like death.]
Future generations may be able without anger and enthusiasm to speak about this presumably last chapter in the life of Benedict XVI. [I take it Mosebach places himself among those who consider Benedict's renunciation with anger!]
The distance in time will place these events in a greater, not yet foreseeable order. For the participating contemporary, however, this distance is not available because he remains defenseless in the face of the immediate consequences of this decision.
[If Mosebach means that Benedict's renunciation made it possible for someone like Bergoglio to become pope, surely no Catholic, even the most pessimistic in February 2013 – least of all Benedict XVI himself - ever imagined that his successor would be the anti-Catholic apostate that he is! The fact is none of us ever thought – other than perhaps the Sankt-Gallen mafia and their candidate - that a veritable sea change would be imposed on the Church by whoever was to succeed Benedict XVI.
If Benedict XVI had decided he would carry on as pope until he died, his increasing infirmities – which have been evident to everyone in the past four years – would have become a major weapon for his opponents to bludgeon him with, and through him, the church, using those increasing infirmities as a symbol for the Church he leads.
Let's forget about the symbolism and consider just one scenario, the most immediate imaginable: Think how much Schadenfreude there would be among the enemies of the Church to see a man who can no longer walk without a cane or a walker struggle to preside at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica – before the eyes of the world – when at any moment he could stumble at the altar or fumble with the sacred vessels and the delicate rubrics that come with celebrating the Eucharist.
Would even Mr. Mosebach be comfortable attending a Mass at which at any moment, some misstep or downright 'inelegance' – all involuntary – could detract from its solemnity? I personally have always thought that Benedict XVI who, all his life, was inherently elegant and disciplined, had such practical considerations in mind when he made his decision to renounce his office because of his increasing infirmity.][/dim
To speak about Benedict XVI today means first of all trying to overcome these feelings of pain and disappointment. [GET. OVER. IT.]
All the more so, because during his reign this pope undertook to heal the great wounds that had been inflicted on the visible body of the Church in the time after the Council. [But farther down, Mosebach then pooh-poohs whatever it was Benedict tried to do in this respect!]
The party that had assembled against tradition at the Council viewed the compromise formulas that had settled the conflict in many conciliar documents only as stages in the grand war for the future shape of the Church. The “spirit of the Council” began to be played off against the literal text of the conciliar decisions. Disastrously, the implementation of the conciliar decrees was caught up in the cultural revolution of 1968, which had broken out all over the world. That was certainly the work of a spirit— if only of a very impure one.
The political subversion of every kind of authority, the aesthetic vulgarity, the philosophical demolition of tradition not only laid waste universities and schools and poisoned the public atmosphere, but at the same time took possession of broad circles within the Church. Distrust of tradition, elimination of tradition began to spread in, of all places, an entity whose essence consists totally of tradition—so much so that one has to say the Church is nothing without tradition.
So the postconciliar battle that had broken out in so many places against tradition was nothing else but the attempted suicide of the Church — a literally absurd, nihilistic process. [With all due respect for Mr. Mosebach who has won the most prestigious literary prizes in Germany, I find a most inappropriate metaphor here. How could it have been a 'suicide' by the Church if the process was not at all participated in by the entire Body????]
We all can recall how bishops and theology professors, pastors and the functionaries of Catholic organizations proclaimed with a confident, victorious tone that with the Second Vatican Council a new Pentecost had come upon the Church—which none of those famous Councils of history which had so decisively shaped the development of the Faith had ever claimed.
A “new Pentecost” means nothing less than a new illumination, possibly one that would surpass that received two thousand years ago; why not advance immediately to the “Third Testament” from the Education of the Human Race of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing? In the view of these people, Vatican II meant a break with the Tradition as it existed up till then, and this breach was salutary. Whoever listened to this could have believed that the Catholic religion had found itself really only after Vatican II. All previous generations — to which we who sit here owe our faith — are supposed to have remained in an outer courtyard of immaturity.
To be fair, we should remember that the popes attempted to counter this — with a weak voice and above all without the will to intervene in these aberrations with an organizing hand as the ruler of the Church.
[That is a sweeping generalization that tars the popes Mosebach refers to with the same broad brush:
– Paul VI who lived to immediately regret that he had allowed the smoke of Satan to seep into the Church but who could not then put that infernal genie back into the bottle;
- John Paul II who, for all his larger-than-life personality and 27 years as pope, who had great conviction in the good work of Vatican II, pushed global evangelization through his personal proclamation of the Gospel to 109 countries, but succeeded best (and only) where the spirit of Vatican-II had taken least hold (Africa) and not at all in Latin America where not just that pernicious spirit but liberation theology took root; and whose best pushback against the defective liturgical reform represented by the Novus Ordo was to have priests wishing to say the traditional Mass ask permission of their bishop to do so; and
- Benedict XVI, becoming pope 40 years after the 'spirit of Vatican II' had been left o propagate more or less unfettered throughout the Catholic world except in Africa; who tried his best to reverse that process by insisting on the hermeneutic of continuity, by appointing bishops and cardinals who were in the large majority as orthodox as he is, and by his courageous correction of the great anomaly against the traditional Mass that had been perpetrated for almost forty years until Summorum Pontificum – he at least began a process of turning back to what is right and what has always been right for the Church, but what more could he have done in eight years to overcome the pernicious cumulative effects of the preceding 40 years?
Leo the Great or Gregory the Great might perhaps have done it way back in the days when the world of the Church was mostly southwestern Europe and the Mediterranean, whose Catholics were not instantly and constantly propagandized by 'the world' and wayward Catholic leaders as they are today!
If John Paul II, who will one day probably be formally called 'the Great' as well, failed to contain the smoke of Satan within the Church and dispel it – and he failed not because 'he had a weak voice or lacked the will to intervene in aberrations' as Mosebach accuses these popes, but because historical circumstances no longer allow any kind of immediate course correction with the necessary wide-ranging and lasting effect – Benedict XVI, even if he had been given another 20 years as pope at the peak of his capacities (always an impossibility since he was 78 when he was elected), would never have completed the correction either.
And then God willed that someone like Bergoglio became pope, who in four years has managed to stop that work of correction, and is now institutionalizing all the diabolical designs of the 'spirit of Vatican-II', welcoming 'the world' into the Church that is still called the Roman Catholic Church even if daily it becomes more and more subsumed under the church of Bergoglio!
Tell me, Mr. Mosebach – and all you 'traditionalists' who think the last Catholic pope was Pius XII - if you had been pope in place of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, could you have done better than they? Could anyone possibly have done better than they?]
Only a very few individual heresiarchs were disciplined — those who with their arrogant insolence practically forced their own reprimand. But the great mass of the “new-Pentecostals,” unrestrained and protected by widespread networks, could continue to exercise a tremendous influence on the day-to-day life of the Church.
So, for outside observers, the claim that with Vatican II the Church had broken with her past became ever more probable. Anyone accustomed to trusting his eyes and ears could no longer convince himself that this was still the Church that had remained faithful for thousands of years, through all the changes of the ages.
One is reminded of Carl Schmitt's scornful rhyme: Alles fließt, lehrt Heraklit. / Der Felsen Petri, derfliesst mit (“Heraclitus taught that all things flow; the rock of Peter —it is flowing too”).
An iconoclastic attack like the worst years of the Reformation swept through the churches; in the seminaries the “demythologizing of Christianity” à la Bultmann was propagated; the end of priestly celibacy was celebrated as something imminent; religious instruction was largely abandoned, even in Germany, which had been highly favored in this regard; priests gave up clerical attire; the sacred language —which the liturgical constitution of the Council had just solemnly confirmed — was abandoned. All this happened, so it was said [by the local churches who were the agents of the diabolical VII spirit,] to prepare for the future, otherwise the faithful couldn’t be kept in the Church.
The hierarchy argued like the proprietors of a department store, who didn’t want to sit on their wares and so tossed them out to the people at throwaway prices. Regrettably the comparison isn’t exact, for the people had no interest in the discounted products. [One must note that Mosebach is speaking here concretely of what has happened in Germany but seems to be projecting it to the whole Church, where even in the worst cases outside Germany, the apostasy has not been as drastic. This applies to the following paragraphs especially... Certainly, the 'Church' in Germany appears to have pre-figured the church of Bergoglio, but it was certainly not representative of the universal Church then nor of the un-Bergoglianized Church today. ]
After the “new Pentecost” there began an exodus out of the Church, the monasteries, and the seminaries. The Church, unrestrainedly pushing ahead with her revolution, continued to lose any ability to attract or retain. She resembled that baffled tailor who, looking at a badly cut pair of trousers while shaking his head, muttered: “I’ve cut you off three times and you’re still too short!” It is claimed that this exodus from the Church would also have happened without the revolution.
Let’s accept for the moment this claim. If that had really been the case, however, the great revolution would not have been necessary at all. On the contrary, the flock remaining in the Church would have been able to persevere in faith under the “sign that will be contradicted”. There’s not one argument in favor of the post-conciliar revolution; I certainly haven’t encountered one yet. [If you absolutely reject the notion that Vatican II gave birth to a new church, then arguing for or against a 'post-conciliar revolution' is not necessary!
Pope Benedict could not and would never allow himself to think in that way, even if in lonely hours it may have been difficult for him to defend himself against an assault of such thoughts. In no way did he want to abandon the image of the Church as a harmoniously growing organism under the protection of the Holy Spirit.
With his historical consciousness it was also clear to him that history can never be turned back, that it is impossible as well as reckless to try to make what has happened “unhappen.” Even the God who forgives sins does not make them “undone,” but in the best case lets them become a felix culpa.
From this perspective, Benedict could not accept what the progressives and traditionalists expressed equally and with the best reasons: that in the post-conciliar era a decisive break with Tradition had indeed occurred; that the Church before and after the Council was not the same institution. That would have meant that the Church was no longer under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; consequently, she had ceased to be the Church. One cannot imagine the theologian Joseph Ratzinger as laboring under a naive, formalistic faith. The twists and turns of ecclesiastical history were very familiar to him. That in the past, too, there had been in the Church bad popes, misguided theologians, and questionable circumstances was never hidden from him.
But, while contemplating ecclesiastical history, he felt borne up by the indisputable impression that the Church, in constant development, had again and again overcome her crises not simply by cutting off mistaken developments but by making them, if possible, even fruitful in the succeeding generations.
It thus appeared to him imperative to combat the idea that this rupture had really occurred — even if all the appearances seemed to argue for it. [ Mosebach once again means the state of the Church in Germany that he is projecting onto the universal Church. Benedict, on the other hand, never considered the entire universal Church lost for good just because the Church in Germany appeared to be! What pope could think like that?]
His efforts aimed at attempting to remove from men’s minds the assertion of such a rupture. This attempt has an air of legal positivism about it, a disregarding of the facts. [And what a putdown that is of Benedict XVI! NO, he was not disregarding the facts - it must be the first time anyone has seriously accused Benedict XVI of doing that - but YES, it was a resolve to lay down the premise for a course correction. Because, after all, one has to begin somewhere! What was he to do? Say, "Let's just give up! They claim Vatican II was a rupture and gave birth to a new church? So be it!"]
Please do not understand it as irony when I quote in this context the famous lines of the great absurdist poet Christian Morgenstern: “What may not be, cannot be!” [Does Mosebach really think that was Benedict's frame of mind for insisting on the hermeneutic of continuity? Is it not the same hermeneutic that runs through all of Church history, that is invoked now by all who protest against the heterodoxies and near-heresies of Amoris laetitia? Why is it right for the DUBIA advocates to invoke the Church's bimillennial hermeneuutic of continuity (that literally began with the apostolic succession) but wrong for Benedict XVI???]
[I will stop here for now, because the rest of the essay is a disquisition on liturgy, which has been Mosebach's battlehorse, and I need more time to frame my comments. Mosebach circles back to defending why Benedict XVI was right in promulgating Summorum Pontificum, not seeing that his, Mosebach's, own persistent argument for respecting Tradition is his way of insisting on the hermeneutic of continuity that has ruled the life of the Church and that no one should give up on!
The entire essay can be read on
I will post the second half with my remarks ASAP.]
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/13/2017 3:12 AM]