Rutler: Pope Among Great Thinkers, Resigns with Strong Mind

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 08:14 PM

By L.D. Breen

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Does Pope Benedict XVI’s startling decision to resign save the Catholic Church from years of enfeebled leadership in an age of media hyper-scrutiny? Or is it a revolutionary act that will cause long-term harm to the Catholic Church, condemning every future Pope to an inevitable pressure to step aside?

Newsmax asked several Catholic commentators to mull the future of the Church. Each of these experts boasts a different brand of Church expertise.

The Rev. George Rutler, is pastor of the Church of Our Savior in Midtown Manhattan, an EWTN commentator and the author of many books on spirituality, including most recently “Cloud of Witnesses,” a memoir of personal encounters, and the soon-to-be-published “Principalities and Powers” an examination of the way the Catholic Church confronted enemies of humanity during World War II.

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“Benedict XVI is perhaps the most intellectually distinguished Pope since possibly Gregory the Great,” Rutler told Newsmax, “and he is resigning at a time when his mind is very strong, after giving the Church probably the greatest encyclicals of modern times. The fact that his resignation is such a surprise shows a strength of initiative, indicating that this is his will and not the will of the Roman Curia or the media.”

At the same time, Rutler said Pope John Paul’s decision not to resign was, too, of great importance.

“In our culture of death, when there are so many people who think that the value of a life depends on its utility – if Grandpa is old, euthanize him – the world observed someone by his very infirmity set an example of the nobility of life. John Paul II as Holy Father deliberately let people see him in his wheelchair, almost unable to speak, as a message on how we are to treat our fathers," he said.

Pointing out that the papacy is a monarchy as well as an apostolic office, the prominent New York City priest noted the value of serving until death. The older the Queen of England gets, for instance, he noted, “the more she grows in the affections of the people. When people see the efforts she is making to fulfill her oath to serve the people, the more moral power she has.”

He also argued that media coverage has been muddled as regards previous papal resignations.

“They claim that the most recent one was in the 15th century with Gregory XII, but he was elected at the time of the Great Western Schism and was elected with the understanding that he would resign if they could reach an agreement with the antipope, Benedict XIII in Avignon.”

The more apt comparison, according to Rutler, is with Pope St. Celestine V, a hermit elected Pope against his wishes who resigned in the 13th century and to whom Pope Benedict has developed a special devotion, visiting his tomb in 2009, at which he may have contemplated following in the medieval Pope and saint’s footsteps.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League of Religious and Civil Rights and a constant TV presence and formidable debater, spoke of the possibility of significant changes.

“I do think you may see some younger Popes elected,” Donohue told Newsmax. “In the future, if it becomes clear that a Pope is in declining health, then I think there will be a little more pressure on him. We all remember the closing days and months of John Paul II, and we began to wonder, ‘Who’s running the Catholic Church?’”

Editor's Note: Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

Donohue said, “I also do think there’s a moral obligation on the Pope if he’s in declining health for mental of physical reasons for him to step aside.” But the Catholic League president added that “it will create some new problems. On the other hand, I think we already witnessed some problems with John Paul II in his declining weeks.”

Asked why the Catholic Church can’t simply run without vigorous leadership for a few years, as it has done so many times in its 2,000-year history, Donohue told Newsmax, “As with families and the corporate world, when the leader is absent, for whatever reason, that’s when the mice will play.”

He said he believes, “when there’s a vacuum at the top it’s a recipe for conflict, because there’s a jockeying for power that will take place from those on the left and those on the right, and even within those factions. It’s not healthy. It opens the door to mischief.”

Looking to next month’s conclave to choose a new Pope, Roger McCaffrey, the president of Roman Catholic Books and publisher of the Traditionalist magazine, tells Newsmax, “most informed observers right now would say that an Italian will be selected.”

But according to McCaffrey, who interviewed Cardinal Ratzinger numerous times before he became Pope, “the only Italians of prominence are two men who would bring us back to the days of Paul VI, Angelo Cardinal Scola, the archbishop of Milan, and Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, the first appointee to the new Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.” McCaffrey calls Ravasi “talented, left-wing and dangerous.”

As to non-Italians, “my hunches include Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Bishops Conference” because “we have to get wise to there being a trend in the Church to elect men from the heart of Europe. So he can’t be dismissed.”

“If lightning strikes,” McCaffrey says, “you could see Burke elected.” Raymond Cardinal Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis, is Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court.

But McCaffrey believes “the man who’s really someone to watch is Ouellet.” Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the former archbishop of Quebec, is prefect of the Congregation for Bishops – “arguably the most important dicastery in Rome,” says McCaffrey – and head of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. “If I had to put money on it, I would say he would be elected.” McCaffrey even put Ouellet on the cover of his Traditionalist magazine several years ago, suggesting then the strong possibility of his becoming the next Pope.

Editor's Note: Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

“He’s got qualities that could put him in the running,” says McCaffrey, who had a private dinner with Ouellet several years ago. “He is totally trusted by Benedict, and half of the Cardinal electors will see him as a seamless transition from one good Pope to another.”

If the Cardinals go to outside of Europe, according to McCaffrey, the short list is Ouellet, along with the Jesuit Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, believed to have received dozens of votes in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict, and then Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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