Good analysis from John Allen about Pope Benedict’s plan

My friend John L Allen, Jr., the nearly ubiquitous fair-minded columnist for the ulta-dissenting National Catholic Reporter has a piece in Forward, a Jewish daily.

Take a look at the full piece, but here is something of interest to WDTPRS readers.  Some of this will sound familiar.

Allen is talking about the seeming contradictions in Pope Benedict’s XVI concern for dialogue with Jews.

However understandable that reaction may be, there is actually a hermeneutic key to Benedict’s papacy, one that lends logic to what can otherwise seem like maddening inconsistencies.

Here it is in a nutshell: Benedict’s top priority is internal, directed at the inner life of the Catholic Church. His aim is to restore a strong sense of traditional Catholic identity, in order to inoculate the church against infection by radical secularism. [Exactly right.] That’s not just a personal hobbyhorse of this pope, but rather the culmination of 50 years of mounting concern inside Catholicism that the church has gone too far in accommodating the ways and means of the secular world. Today, this wave of “evangelical Catholic” energy is the most important policy-setting force in the church.

As a result, when Benedict XVI says or does things that affect Judaism, the key is often to understand that he’s not really talking to Jews but to other Catholics. [Good.]

Thus, Benedict’s decision to revive the old Latin Mass, including that infamous prayer for the conversion of Jews, was certainly not crafted as a statement about Judaism. Instead, [Watch this...] Benedict sees the old Mass as a classic carrier of Catholic identity, an antidote to any tendency to secularize the church’s worship. Likewise, Benedict did not lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including one who believes the Nazis didn’t use gas chambers, to endorse their troubled history with antisemitism. Rather, he did so because the traditionalists act as a leaven in the church, fostering appreciation for the Catholic past — even if their ideas on some matters lie far from the pope’s own thinking.

John Allen is a good analyst.  He got this exactly right.

Pope Benedict has a plan, what I call his "Marshall Plan" to rebuild our Catholic identity.  If we don’t know who we are as Catholics, we can have little influence in the world around us.  

Liturgy is the tip of the spear.

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15 Responses to Good analysis from John Allen about Pope Benedict’s plan

  1. Just wait for the screaming from “the dissenters”…they HATE any kind of hermeneutic of continuity. They want rupture; and lots of it.
    According to this “interp.”: VII liberated the Church from the past. We can now enjoy all kinds of whatever; liturgical practice has to do with “expressing yourself”.
    Let’s see how long that lasts.
    The Tradition of the Church is going to outlast all these aging dissenters. They’re dying off.
    We just have to hold fast. Pray, do penance, and hold on.

  2. Tominellay says:

    John Allen really has a handle on it, communicated it well, simply.

  3. Penta says:

    Father, it may have been helpful to include a link to the article, available online:

    http://www.forward.com/articles/123888/

  4. Jord says:

    The “Jesus of Nazareth” Plan.

  5. sea the stars says:

    Jord’s comment reminds me, the Holy Father mentioned to one of his Jewish friends at the Roman synagogue the other day that he has completed the second volume of “Jesus of Nazareth”. Can’t wait!

  6. Thomas Pink says:

    “Thus, Benedict’s decision to revive the old Latin Mass, including that infamous prayer for the conversion of Jews, was certainly not crafted as a statement about Judaism.”

    This exhibits the essential weakness in John Allen as a commentator both on the Catholic Church and on the present Pope. Allen has no feel for the complex theological issues surrounding Judaism’s relation to Christianity. Like many liberal commentators – indeed it is a typical characteristic of the ‘thinking’ post-Vatican II liberal Catholic – Allen politicises theology in a way that elevates cultural diplomacy over intellectual principle. So prayers that make ‘interfaith partners’ unhappy are ‘infamous’. And if there is a rationale for preserving them that weighs with the Pope, then (in Allen’s view) it can have nothing to do with any theological principle that might be the true source of the ‘interfaith partner’s’ discomfort.

    But the Pope is a theologian to his bones. A prayer ‘pro conversione Iudaeorum’ that clearly deserves its title has been retained in the extraordinary form, despite some changes in terminology to reduce offence but without changing the crucial conversion-oriented content. And that is precisely to prevent any surrender to the dual covenant heresy that the Jews have their own separate route to salvation, so that (as the heresy absurdly alleges) Christ did not seek the conversion of his own people, or expect the Church to pray for such conversion,and so that the Jews are not called to conversion to Christ. And that decision of Pope Benedict is very obviously, among other things, a statement about Judaism.

    So in this case Allen has got it exactly wrong. And in a manner that, coming from him, has become pretty predictable. How better to defuse the gradual theological victory of orthodoxy over liberalism in the Church than for a liberal to seek to evacuate the orthodox position of all theological content, and present it as no more than a tactical move in culture politics?

  7. jlmorrell says:

    While I’m sure that Mr. Allen is a nice enough person and the article Fr. Z quotes is largely accurate, I think Thomas Pink has made an insightful comment about the hermeneutic through which many liberals see the Church’s teachings/theology.

  8. Patrick J. says:

    Thomas Pink,

    I was going to jump in with a similar thought, but you not only “beat me to the punch,” but also have expressed far more profoundly than could this layman with less firm and nuanced grasp of the subject areas. I love the succinctly put “Allen politicizes theology in a way that elevates cultural diplomacy over intellectual principal.” Zippo! Yes. And, yes, he does this again and again in his various analyses, of course, we may have to take into account his bosses and readership – they might be beyond wanting or being able to, through blindness or ignorance, of understand anything church related in pure theological terms.

    I am pretty sure Father Z. is happy that the understanding of the Pope’s long range vision – and what for Allen is a “method to the madness” (who’s fault is that?)- is coming through even this heavily biased overlay that he seems to bring to most of these type discussions. Another example of celebrating incrementalism as long as it is moving in the right direction, I’ll guess. Correct me if I am wrong here.

  9. muckemdanno says:

    According to Allen:
    “Benedict sees the old Mass as a classic carrier of Catholic identity, an antidote to any tendency to secularize the church’s worship.”

    This statement, if true, implies that the new Mass is NOT “an antidote to any tendency to secularize the church’s worship.” And, therefore, the old missal is superior to the new?

    Is it possible to assume that this is the pope’s thought, when the pope himself, at all of his public masses, (as far as I know) or, at least most of them, uses the new Missal.

  10. catholicmidwest says:

    Not news.

    muckemdanno,
    Read carefully. Logic, my friend, classical logic, not the McDonald’s kind.

  11. TNCath says:

    As Mr. Allen says, “he’s really talking to Jews but to other Catholics.”Mr. Allen has done a fine job analyzing the issues here, but I daresay that no matter what the Pope or John Allen, for that matter, says, there will always be a group of Jews out there who will never be satisfied with anything the Pope or the Church does or says. No doubt the Pope realizes this and is doing what he believes is best for the Church.

  12. Thomas G. says:

    Thomas Pink – true comment, but remember where Mr. Allen is writing and who his reading audience is likely to be. With that in mind, his reductionism may simply be seen as an attempt to translate the Pope’s actions into terms his audience can understand, i.e., from theologically-based moves into cultural tactics.

    Even if Mr. Allen actually believes in this reductionism, he shows a superior understanding of the Pope’s actions than NCR readers as a whole probably have.

  13. “When your Messiah comes for the first time, He will be our Messiah coming for the second time”. Cdl Ratzinger said this to a select group in a Jewish milieu. I have torn my library apart looking for the source. I will get it. Here is the problem: How to deal with an anachronism? How long can you keep a conversation going with a group which shares nothing with you? There has been no Temple nor a Prophet for two thousand years. Most Jewish people are secular. Their locus is the Holocaust. They share a pride in having survived that horrible ordeal. We accepted what they rejected-the Messiah. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”(The beginning of the Gospel of St. John)The fact that there has been no official contact between the Church and the Jewish community for two thousand years cannot be entirely motivated by hatred or ill will. “Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” Christ to His disciples Mark 16: 15,16. It is really that simple and that final.

  14. MrsHall says:

    “Benedict’s top priority is internal, directed at the inner life of the Catholic Church. His aim is to restore a strong sense of traditional Catholic identity, in order to inoculate the church against infection by radical secularism.”

    Our Archdiocese recently offered a seminar with a name something like, “What Does a Catholic Adult Look Like?” The teaser went on to explain how, back in the day, everyone knew what a real Catholic looked like and could spot one at forty paces, but nowadays, Catholics look just like everyone else. Sad, but true.

  15. TJerome says:

    When does the NCR hand Mr. Allen his walking papers? He’s not living up to their corporate standards of looniness and disloyalty to the Magesterium. The nerve of that guy! Tom