Warning: I'm riled up and this won't be one of my usual pious reflections.
There was a rather obviously propagandistic article in The Australian to-day, describing His Holiness Pope Benedict as cut off from the world, making unpopular decisions, and acting as if he were a monarch... to which last I say, well, he is! (Indeed, in the Vatican City he is indeed a monarch, just as he was King of the Papal States until they were stolen from him in 1870.) Viva il Papa Re!
Strange to say - how offensive and risible in the eyes of the scoffing world - the Catholic Church is not (thank Christ) a democracy: if it were, it would be like the Anglicans who, in the latest chapter of the history of Protestant variations (as Bossuet put it long ago), now decide questions of faith and morality by majority vote. No; under Christ, as the Church confesses (to those who do not so confess, anathema sit, as Vatican I declared), the Successor of St Peter is Supreme Pontiff, judging all, and to be judged by none: for he (all unworthy) is the Lord's Vicar until He come again. In other words - how offensive to "progressive" types - the Pope is in fact still what he has always been: a monarch, the single leader (monon archon) of the Church.
This to many modern Catholics would seem a monstrously outdated thing to say, but in point of fact a cursory look at what a monarchy is shews it to be true. Now, the Pope is obviously not an absolute ruler like Louis XIV or some modern dictator (whatever the fantasies of supposed liberals, who in my experience tyrannize over anyone they can while loudly proclaiming their victimhood, like some latterday Uriah Heep), but he is like an early mediæval "unconstitutional" monarch, such as a French King or Holy Roman Emperor, certainly the Sovereign but by no means in control of his "loyal" feudatories, having only very limited and partial governance of his state in any modern sense: any modern Government levies far more taxes, makes far more and far more rigidly applied laws, and has far more control over each one of its citizens than any mediæval ruler did or had. The Pope is monarch of the Church in this sense.
Should not the Pope act in all meekness and charity, in consort with the College of Bishops, as the Servant of the Servants of God? Of course - but is he to sit in the Vatican inactive, passive, smilingly presiding over the complete and abject falling away of the Church from adhesion to Christ? No, of course not! He must act, reading the signs of the times: which means, not giving into the Zeitgeist (which is not the Holy Ghost, but a far different unholy spirit), and to the contrary most unpopularly acting in opposition to it. And his consequent unpopularity, inside as well as outside the Church, is the mark of his true teaching in loyalty to Christ: his unpopularity, inside as well as outside the Church, is the mark of his detractors' love of falsehood in disloyalty to the Lord (for they may imagine themselves better Christians, while being lovers of expediency and moral turpitude, but I fear He shall say to them as to all who refuse to follow the Narrow Way, "Amen, I say unto you, I never knew you"). Faith is a free choice, an act of the will consequent upon knowledge: the Pope is to strengthen his brethren by giving reasoned grounds for our constant belief against all foes: if so many fall away, this does not disprove the Deposit of Faith one whit, but rather demonstrates how misbelief is attractive to fallen minds and wills.
A sign of Catholic Faith is one's clear-eyed discernment of the big issues, and these days one is that to be a believer one must follow the leadership given by the Supreme Pastor of the faithful, even against what direction the madding crowd of baptized Catholics suggests, even against (I say in sorrow) what winking infidelity so many priests and prelates purvey. Now, what proportion of the Church is loyal to its earthly leader - not to him personally (though he appears affable enough), but to him in his office? It appalls me that the generality, dare I say, of bishops and priests are dumb dogs, if not intractable curs: they don't support and explain the directions given by the Pope, but all too often treat him as strange and alien - so much for the schismatic mindset. All too many are loyal only to their own curious image of Vatican II (in other words, they are a strange sort of Conciliarists, which used to be called a heresy), rather than loyal to the Pope in his true role as enunciated by both Vatican Councils. Ever since 1968 and before, too many have no love of the Vatican, but plenty of pretended loyalty to their convenient false interpretation of the Council - which permits them to believe and do whatsoever their passions demand.
How amusing that the greatest criticism of the Pope is for his lifting the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops - not so much, as has been gifted to all critics of this act, for the ostensible objection that one of them has gratuitously offensive views, but for the real underlying reason that Vatican II, or rather its "spirit" (call it forth, and ask its name!), is thereby being stript away from its supposed central place. Myself, I believe in all 21 Ecumenical Councils; but confess that some, such as Lateran V and Vatican II, have been rather less successful than others - these I cite were not successful, respectively, in averting the Reformation and the secularist fallaway from the Church dating from the 1960's: "by their fruits ye shall know them". Why do so many then express their ardent commitment to the Council over the Pope (that nasty old German)? Not because it has been overall successful, but because their own spin on it has been markedly successful for them and their cohorts.
No, of what dreadful blunders is Benedict XVI accused? Of not listening to the Fourth Estate: in amazed horror, The Australian reports that he's not even brought a daily press summary - to which I say, I'm glad. Instead, he spends much of his day cloistered, reading and writing theology: they implicitly deprecate this, but for God's sake, literally, isn't that precisely what a Pope should do? He's a churchman, and I should say a Church Father, not a modern politico surfing the opinion polls, bending in the wind, and spinning all stories to inflate his ego and our adulation of him. Would that the clergy fulfil their teaching ministry by correctly informing the faithful and the unfaithful - preaching to the converted and the unconverted, rebuking, entreating, exhorting, in season and out of season, so disseminating the Word that saves by being ingrafted into the soul. Yes, an eye to the press is useful - but to a preacher, above all to see what ought be said to propagate the Faith: and I think that the fault lies not with Pope Benedict but with his fellow bishops and their clergy, who seem to devote their energies not to seconding him in ways appropriate in their several stations, but to detracting from him and giving succour to enemies.
The same article I'm fisking rehashes the Regensburg Address, which any fool can see proved exactly the Pope's point - which of course at all costs much be denied, in this age when Islam and Judaism must be uncriticised, while Christianity ruthlessly mocked and attacked (these contradictions all undertaken in the name of free speech!) - that Islam is fundamentally nominalistic and unreasonable, all morality being a fiat of Allah, and furthermore it has an innate propensity to violence (hence the ensuing riots). Bizarre, really, that endlessly Christianity is rejected for its Crusades, whereas the many bloodthirsty conquests of Islam are swept under the carpet.
Interestingly, the mainstream media (such as The Oz) unblushingly trumpets its favour toward the pack of rebels at St Mary's, South Brisbane (weep, O Holy Virgin, and beg God sway their hearts) - these are so free, so good, so brimming over with every secular virtue, loving "gays" and every fashionable minority group real or imagined: and absolutely defiant of their Archbishop, who received a bomb threat from obscure elements. In my opinion, these squatters should be excommunicated, forcibly evicted, and charged with trespass. "Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. " (I Kings xv, 23) Oh what a pity the police in Queensland have lost their former (rather bad and deserved) reputation for dealing all too harshly with hippies, leftists, and commies!
I expect some bleeding heart will be all too predictably aghast at my last comment, over and above the rest of this little post: but did not Our Blessed Lord in righteous anger drive out those profaning His Father's House? and how did He not weep over cursed Jerusalem, doomed to destruction, yet rejecting the Holy One who came to save?