"Between ourselves, these are two things that I have always observed to be in singular accord: supercelestial thoughts and subterranean conduct..."
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
"At the Vatican, everyone is against everyone, and everyone feels they have God on their side."
Der Spiegel, 2012
"It all began in the accursed seventh year of the papacy of Benedict XVI, with striking parallels to the latter part of Pope John Paul II's papacy. The same complaints about poor leadership and internal divisions are being aired outside the Vatican's walls, while the pope himself seems exhausted and no longer able to exert his power...Read it all here
When compared with expectations, the results of Benedict XVI's seven years as pope have been rather modest. The German pope will not be remembered much for his avowed fight to preserve the unity of the Church. Instead, he will be remembered as a victim of circumstances and of fragmented, competing factions, as a pontiff plagued by scandals, mistakes and gaffes. He even built walls back up that seemed to have been worn down long ago. His papacy has consisted of years of ongoing apologies and alleged or actual misunderstandings."
Personally, it's difficult not to have some sympathy for Ratzinger, an intellectual and sometimes brilliant theologian thrust into the halls of power with great expectations that he would definitively reform the Roman church after decades of the ascent of liberalism and the rise of moral corruption to the surface. It was always going to be a tall order for the mild-mannered and devout German to outwit the Vatican insiders, who seem to take their inspiration more from Machiavelli than from the Gospels.
As this scandal increasingly plays out in the unforgiving light of media scrutiny, it might be said by some in defence of Rome that all churches suffer from sometimes vicious ecclesiastical politics. True enough, I suppose, but none seem to rise - or perhaps should that be sink - to the levels of Rome; after all, how many church hierarchies today can, on their own authority, imprison an apparent whistleblower in a cell with only the barest of amenities without appeal to a judge unconnected with the prosecution (habeus corpus!)? Furthermore, most other church bodies do not claim that their hierarchies are the succcessors to the Apostles and the only guarantors of God's grace in this world. That claim would seem to require a higher degree of probity than that usually associated with the Roman curia.
It is premature to judge what the legacy of Ratzinger's papacy may be, but it does seem clear that he has not been the great reforming pope it was hoped he would be. Once again, it seems, the motto is proven true: Rome is semper eadem, always the same!
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.