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Benedict XVI on False Pessimism and Optimism Alike

From a friend:

One of Benedict’s final public statements prior to his resignation was to the Seminarians of Rome on February 8.  Aside from being a beautiful and insightful essay, the statement is worth reading for Benedict’s anticipation of the uncertainty that I’m sure he expected would follow the announcement that he would be stepping down.

While the Vatican hasn’t yet translated it from the Italian, you can get a rough translation from Google/Google Chrome.

A few highlights:

Benedict speaks of Saint Peter’s “first encyclical,” then reflects on the Catholic (and pastoral) privilege and humility of being “elected.”  He refers to our “inheritance” (“eredità”) of the Church, emphasizing that the Church is not a dying tree, but a tree that will always grow anew.   

The Pope then compares “false optimism” and “false pessimism,” particularly since the Second Vatican Council:

We have reason not to let ourselves be influenced — as Pope John said — by the prophets of doom. . . Naturally, there is a false optimism and a false pessimism. A false pessimism that says: Christianity’s time is over. No: it begins anew! The false optimism was that following the Council, when convents closed down, seminaries closed down, and they said: well… this is nothing, all is well… No! All is not well!

Benedict adds that the Church is “born again” (“nasce di nuovo”), that the future really is God’s future, and that this is the great “certainty” of life.  Benedict assures us that the Church is the “tree of God” that will live forever. 

  1. Colin B Lane

    Definitely going to miss his clear-eyed — but never vitriolic — thinking.

  2. David Williamson

    I am looking forward more to Mr Obama’s resignation speech.

  3. Frederick Key

    As Pius XII said, “We belong to the Church militant; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction.”

  4. KC Mulville

    I suspect that one of the reasons Benedict stepped down is not only that the day to day wear got to him, but that he anticipates the church is going to need an extended campaign of renewal – and he knew he wasn’t up for that. 

    I wonder if he’d already started the wheels in motion.

  5. Peter Robinson
    C
    KC Mulville: I suspect that one of the reasons Benedict stepped down is not only that the day to day wear got to him, but that he anticipates the church is going to need an extended campaign of renewal – and he knew he wasn’t up for that. . · 17 minutes ago

    I suspect the same, KC.  Imagine that his doctors had told Benedict that he could live another five or more years–five years, years in which critical decisions will have to be made, yet years in which he would find himself increasingly fatigued and weak.  Benedict may simply have decided that the papacy of the next few years will prove no job for a man who needs long afternoon naps, and, soon enough, perhaps, a wheelchair.

    Pontiffs in previous centuries may almost never have resigned.  But then they didn’t have to face the period of old age–the long decrepitude–that modern medicine has now created.

  6. Nanda Panjandrum

    Peter, re: #5, may I respectfully suggest that individuals age differently and – as Pope John Paul the Great showed many of us – wheelchair use does not in and of itself connote decrepitude.  I respect and admire Pope Benedict’s clarity, humility and generosity of heart in making this decision.  

  7. Pseudodionysius
    Peter Robinson

    Pontiffs in previous centuries may almost never have resigned.  But then they didn’t have to face the period of old age–the long decrepitude–that modern medicine has now created. · 4 hours ago

    As someone who has seen up close the fierce opposition to Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum by Bishops not only in North America but in Europe and who has a father only slightly younger than the Holy Father, I marvel that he made it as far as he did and accomplished as much as he did. But, his teaching pontificate can only accomplish so much. The powerful appointments under Cardinal Ouellet — which showed what the West Coast offense looks like –combined with the bizarre Vatileaks scandal were likely the sign of the times that the fierce nature of opposition both inside and outside the Church required a younger and less wearied hand at the helm, and one more temperamentally suited to the long, slow grind of administrative realpolitik.