Ethics & Public Policy Center

The Pope Versus the Vatican

Published in Standpoint on March 27, 2009



As the events of recent months have made painfully clear, Curial incapacity can impede and even damage the evangelical mission of the most intelligent pope. It was nothing short of a tragedy that a world-class Catholic theologian like Ratzinger, who had spent 50 years explaining Christianity’s debt to Judaism to his Christian co-believers, should find himself saddled with the charge that he had reconciled a Holocaust denier to the Church. Yet that is what happened, because no one in whom Benedict XVI reposed trust had the sense to find out about Richard Williamson, and because the Curial culture of the day did not encourage those who did know the facts to warn the superiors. The entire Lefebvrist mess was preventable: if the pope had insisted throughout his pontificate on competence and had taken forceful measures to rectify incompetence; if those whose sole purpose is to give effect to the pope’s will had done their jobs better; or if Benedict had reached outside the apostolic palace to take private soundings as to the likely effects of his gesture of reconciliation.

The world, not simply the Church, needs a Benedict XVI working at the top of his form and being enabled to do so by his closest associates. Whether the question is challenging Europe to pull out of the demographic death-spiral caused by its debonair nihilism, or inviting Muslim leaders to seek an Islamically – faithful rapprochement with political modernity, or defending the dignity of human life against the dangers of a brave new world of bio-technically manufactured humanity, there is no substitute for the combination of insight and institutional authority that Pope Benedict brings to the world table. Yet he now faces a crisis in his papacy, for the wisdom of his voice is being muted by the decline in his authority attendant on the managerial incompetence of the Curia.

Click here to read the full article from the British magazine Standpoint.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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