Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Professor Stephen J. Safranek on Pope Benedict XVI 

Being Protestant as the day is long, I have refrained from serious Pope-blogging. Until now. TigerHawk proudly presents a guest post from Professor Stephen J. Safranek, Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Professor Safranek (bio here -- scroll down) is a distinguished professor of constitutional law, a former colleague of TigerHawk, and once had the honor of advising Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger ("until yesterday, I had his personal fax number"). Professor Safranek graciously agreed to offer his thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI exclusively to TigerHawk's readers. We were, of course, thrilled.

Professor Safranek:


I think that the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to be the new Pope needs to be seen on a variety of levels.

First, unlike political appointments, Catholics believe that this action is guided by the Holy Spirit in a unique way. Thus, all of my comments below may completely fail to capture the enormity of this selection and can only be taken as the views of this world. But, his selection tells us some things.

1. The Cardinals, who had all recently witnessed the outpouring of love for John Paul II, thought that Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was the person most able to continue what John Paul II has done in the Church. They, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, picked John Paul II's right hand man or vice-president as we might say in America.

2. People should remember that Ratzinger was one of the Catholic Church's leading theologians before he was called to Rome. He and John Paul II were important figures in Vatican II.

3. Benedict XVI is said to be humble, a bit shy and quiet -- an academic with humility (a rare commodity) -- he will not be like John Paul II who was a natural extrovert.

4. The selection of Benedict by Ratzinger is probably a good indication of his view of the status of the Catholic Church today. Benedict was the founder of Western monasticism. At that time, the Church and all of civilization was being destroyed -- the dark ages we might call them. Benedict formed monasteries so that the Catholic faith and its life could flourish. And it did. The Benedictine monasteries became the basis for the eventual reflourishing of all that we know as western civilization.

Many might have their own view of what the Church should be -- but when the Church truly flourishes, so does the society in which it is rooted.

I think that Benedict XVI will try to help the 1st world see why the 3rd world Catholic Church is flourishing -- because faith and family are at the core.

5. If you want to see what Benedict the XVI thinks about the world today, google or yahoo his homily before the conclave met.

6. What those of us here see is not what holy men and God sees. Today, the West, especially tired old Europe sees militant Islam as its huge concern. From the Church's perspective, these are millions of potential converts. I think that just as the Huns, Goths, Franks, and Normans of old threatened Christendom and became part of it, so too -- in 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 years -- will we see the rebirth of Catholic Europe. And just as the man we call St. Benedict worked to make this so, so too Benedict XVI hopes to be God's instrument to make it so in the future.

Remember above all else, Benedict XVI is an intelligent and holy man who will want to continue the legacy of John Paul II who wanted to continue the legacy of Jesus Christ.

Much of the commentary that has accompanied Benedict XVI's elevation has focused on the influence he will have within the Catholic church. Few observers have predicted as Professor Safranek has -- that the new Pope will usher in a new age of expanding Christiandom, perhaps at the expense of Islam. We live in interesting times.


By Blogger Scurvy Oaks, at Wed Apr 20, 06:21:00 PM:

The incomparable Lileks has some funny, apt and very Protestant observations at http://www.lileks.com/bleats/. (He ultimately is less optimistic than Prof. Safranek.)

Seriously, I think your guest is completely on the mark with points #4 and #6. The Church will always survive, even if means putting up with a neo-pagan Dark Age in Europe. The new pope sees fidelity to historic doctrine as the road to long-term survival. Accomodation to every shifting wind of doctrine causes churches to atrophy, not grow (even in the short term and certainly in the long term). Witness the Episcopal Church USA, especially as contrasted with Anglicanism in Africa. Any thoughts on that last point, TigerHawk?  

By Blogger Dymphna, at Sat Apr 23, 10:20:00 AM:

Thanks for the heads-up on your guest. Not many of us have (or had)Ratzinger's fax #.

Dr. Safranek was right to point out the differences in character between the two pontiffs. The iconic photo of John Paul, walking across the tarmac,smiling and arms outstretched as though to embrace the world, is not a pose we'll ever see B.16 assume. That's the essential extrovert/introvert difference:the former rushes out to meet the world, the latter waits and observes whatever of the world passes by.

But make no mistake, Benedict is an astute observer!

I have a quibble re his reasons for taking his name. Your professor goes all the way back to St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism as it exists today. Following on the original desert father, St. Anthony, Benedict's genius lay in his corrective guidance. A life devoted to prayer is a fragile existence which needs safeguards or the river or our good intentions will soon become the whitewater of the unforeseen. As anyone who has tried it can tell you, all the bizarre and unresolved quirks that everyone is heir to will come "floating to the surface." (Thomas Merton's words; he tended toward being more a hermit than a monk in his later years. And had the leverage to get his little house in the woods, too).

But anyway, St.Benedict *was* a genius, and one who definitely had greatness thrust upon him. Down the centuries his Benedictine Rule would be observed, renewed, rejuvenated. Always returning to the original and incomparable beginning ( e.g., see Bernard of Clairvaux).

I'm just not sure that this was the only Benedict in play, though. Go back and read B.15, whose pontificate lasted from 1914-1922. His was a voice crying in the wilderness, warning of the immense damage should the Western Powers give in to the evil of war -- the Great War ensued anyway. So his mission became the victims of war: the widows and orphans, the maimed soldiery, the displaced and homeless. Were he merely operating on the human plane, he would have been a bitter man. But he knew his part was only that: a small piece of an eternal picture.

My ideas re Benedict's name choice can be found here.

In one sense, I see the connection between the first Benedict and this one: I predict that his clear vision about the void in Western Europe and the need of the Church to form small "mustard seed" communities that will see it through the coming tumult will be borne out.

I do not think he is an evangelizer out to convert the Muslims or repeat the kinds of mass conversions your Professor mentioned -- those happened at the level of rulers of territories and that time is past, is history...

From reading Benedict's ideas re the coming demographic implosion, I think he sees that his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church must weather this as it did the Black Plague, in small "mustard seed" communities (his phrase)resting its future in God's hands and taking care of the remainder of the people of God.

John Paul was a lover of humanity; Benedict is a thinker about humanity. Both have their place in the Communion of Saints.


Also, B.15 served about 8 years. Maybe B.16 sees his own papacy as equally brief (as in comparison to John Paul's anyway). Did you know Ratzinger twice tried to retire but JP wouldn't let him?  

By Blogger Dymphna, at Sat Apr 23, 10:32:00 AM:

Another thing--

Scurvy Oaks made an extremely important point in his comment: ECUSA (the Episcopal Church in America) has been dis-invited as a member of the Anglican Communion. The presiding bishop, Frank GIfford, made a disgusting remark in the days following 9/11. He said he was "ashamed to be an American." At that moment he made me ashamed to have chosen the Episcopal Church. I've had one foot out the door ever since. Not many places in Protestantism left to go, though. So many of them are busy divesting themselves of anything to do with Israel that they're every bit as craven as Gifford and his crew. This is a dark time for mainline, liberal American Christianity. The rigor has moved rightward. Only the rigor mortis remains...

Ah, Benedict sees clearly. And Americans continue to think it's all about them and their demands for equality--gays, women's ordination, etc. Right. Dream on, brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, Catholics/Christians in China, Africa, etc., are dying for their choices. Dying horribly, too.  

By Blogger Sissy Willis, at Tue Sep 19, 06:07:00 AM:

Awesome that you know someone who advised this great man . . . I'm not Catholic either but have blogged early and often about Papa Ratzi, "the pope who loves cats and Mozart." From earlier this year:

We agree with Oriana Fallaci -- the renowned Italian Journalist indicted last year in her native country for vilifying, as the law says, a "religion admitted by the state," in this case Islam -- that "You cannot survive if you do not know the past." In an Opinion Journal interview with Tunku Varadarajan last June -- blogged here -- she said "I am an atheist, and if an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true. It's that simple! There must be some human truth here that is beyond religion."

And just yesterday:

Change "corporate" backbone to "papal" backbone and "politically driven" hysteria to "religionistically driven" hysteria, and the same can be said about Papa Razi's polite but firm refusal yesterday to bow down in dhimmitude before the howling heresimachs of the Religion of Peace.™  

By Blogger Sissy Willis, at Tue Sep 19, 06:22:00 AM:

Egad . . . 'Don't know how I stumbled onto this year-old post of yours, but I assumed it was recent . . . No matter. I'm as thrilled as you were then at your two degrees of separation . . . Here's corrected link for above:

The truth will out  

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