Is Benedict the liberal conciliar adviser to Cologne’s Cardinal Joseph Frings? Or the disciple of St. Augustine who was horrified at the Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World, because he believed modern secularism constituted the greatest threat to the church? Is he the frightened scholar who fled Tübingen and its unruly students in 1968, convinced of the need for order in the church? Or the zealous hammer of heretics who presided over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), née the Inquisition? Or the theologian who argued that the council did not really represent drastic change in the church? Does the new pope really want a “smaller and purer church”? Or is he the author of the first half of the extraordinary encyclical Deus caritas est? Will the real Benedetto please raise his hand? When is the other Prada slipper going to drop?I think I might try the book out (at some indeterminate point in the future!) ... Fr. Greeley is astonished by the Pope's encyclical (leading, no doubt to the question, "Just who is the real Benedict?") but eventually, he returns to his own leitmotifs:
While there have been some losses to the church in the last several decades, it seems impossible to drive out most of the laity, no matter how much the leadership tries. At every level-pope, curia, diocese, parish-the leadership does not understand the faith and the spiritual depth of its people. Hence the laity become an inkblot onto which those in power can project their personal opinions and biases. Social research might be a help, but who needs social research?The only one who understands "the laity" is, of course, Fr. Greeley, eh? :-)
In a similar vein of empiricism, I would hope (perhaps foolishly) that as the pope and his colleagues ponder a long-term strategy for winning Europe back to the faith-a contest for which the church has enormous resources, if it would only recognize them-they might postpone faulting the laity for the decline of faith and reifying abstractions such as secularism, materialism, relativism, Marxism. Instead, they might begin, in prayerful and humble examinations of conscience, to wonder how they themselves or their predecessors might have contributed to the loss of Europe (should it really be lost). They might even ask quietly, “What have we done wrong?”Indeed. I would hope (and I suspect) that the Pope does ask this. I don't hear in him a call to a return to that kind of a triumphant Christendom that may have had something to do with the Englightenment and the rebellion against the faith. But then, if Europe is not lost (as Fr. Greeley asks parenthetically) ... I guess, we're all ok, and it's simply up to the Pope, the Curia and the Bishops to catch up with the brave new world ... of, oh, we'll let Fr. Greeley tell us.