Pope Benedict's Red Thread

by Martin Mosebach

Description

In this essay, Martin Mosebach explores the catastrophic confusion and disorientation that visited the Catholic Church in the years after Vatican II, as the lives of ordinary parishes were disrupted by radical theological views and liturgical experiments.

Larger Work

Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness

Publisher & Date

Angelico Press, 2017

One shouldn’t speak of a “cult of personality” when describing the papal devotional items that are offered to the hordes of pilgrims and tourists round about Saint Peter’s in Rome: postcards and calendars, coffee cups and silk cloths, plates and plastic gadgets of every kind, always with the picture of the current happily reigning Holy Father—and next to them also those of Popes John Paul II, John XXIII, and even Paul VI. There is only one pope you will not find in any of the souvenir shops—and I mean none, as if there were a conspiracy here. To dig up a postcard with the picture of Benedict XVI requires the tenacity of a private detective. Imperial Rome knew the institution of damnatio memoriae: the extinction of the memory of condemned enemies of the state. Thus, Emperor Caracalla had the name of his brother Geta—after he had killed him—chiseled out of the inscription on the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus. It seems as if the dealers in devotional goods and probably also their customers (for the trade in rosaries also obeys the market laws of supply and demand) had jointly imposed such an ancient Roman damnatio memoriae on the predecessor of the current pope.

It is as if, on this trivial level, should be accomplished that which Benedict himself could not resolve to do after his resignation (disturbing to so many people, profoundly inexplicable and still unexplained)—namely, to become invisible, to enter into an unbroken silence. Those especially who accompanied the pontificate of Benedict XVI with love and hope could not get over the fact that it was this very pope who, with this dramatic step, called into question his great work of reform for the Church. Future generations may be able without anger and enthusiasm to speak about this presumably last chapter in the life of Benedict XVI. The distance in time will place these events in a greater, not yet foreseeable order. For the participating contemporary, however, this distance is not available because he remains defenseless in the face of the immediate consequences of this decision. To speak about Benedict XVI today means first of all trying to overcome these feelings of pain and disappointment.

All the more so, because during his reign this pope undertook to heal the great wounds that had been inflicted on the visible body of the Church in the time after the Council. The party that had assembled against tradition at the Council viewed the compromise formulas that had settled the conflict in many conciliar documents only as stages in the grand war for the future shape of the Church. The “spirit of the Council” began to be played off against the literal text of the conciliar decisions. Disastrously, the implementation of the conciliar decrees was caught up in the cultural revolution of 1968, which had broken out all over the world. That was certainly the work of a spirit—if only of a very impure one. The political subversion of every kind of authority, the aesthetic vulgarity, the philosophical demolition of tradition not only laid waste universities and schools and poisoned the public atmosphere, but at the same time took possession of broad circles within the Church. Distrust of tradition, elimination of tradition began to spread in, of all places, an entity whose essence consists totally of tradition—so much so that one has to say the Church is nothing without tradition. So the postconciliar battle that had broken out in so many places against tradition was nothing else but the attempted suicide of the Church—a literally absurd, nihilistic process. We all can recall how bishops and theology professors, pastors and the functionaries of Catholic organizations proclaimed with a confident, victorious tone that with the Second Vatican Council a new Pentecost had come upon the Church—which none of those famous Councils of history which had so decisively shaped the development of the Faith had ever claimed. A “new Pentecost” means nothing less than a new illumination, possibly one that would surpass that received two thousand years ago; why not advance immediately to the “Third Testament” from the Education of the Human Race of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing? In the view of these people, Vatican II meant a break with the Tradition as it existed up till then, and this breach was salutary. Whoever listened to this could have believed that the Catholic religion had found itself really only after Vatican II. All previous generations—to which we who sit here owe our faith—are supposed to have remained in an outer courtyard of immaturity.

To be fair, we should remember that the popes attempted to counter this—with a weak voice and above all without the will to intervene in these aberrations with an organizing hand as the ruler of the Church. Only a very few individual heresiarchs were disciplined—those who with their arrogant insolence practically forced their own reprimand. But the great mass of the “new-Pentecostals,” unrestrained and protected by widespread networks, could continue to exercise a tremendous influence on the day-to-day life of the Church. So, for outside observers, the claim that with Vatican II the Church had broken with her past became ever more probable. Anyone accustomed to trusting his eyes and ears could no longer convince himself that this was still the Church that had remained faithful for thousands of years, through all the changes of the ages.

One is reminded of Carl Schmitt's scornful rhyme: Alles fließt, lehrt Heraklit. / Der Felsen Petri, derfliesst mit (“Heraclitus taught that all things flow; the rock of Peter—it’s flowing too”). An iconoclastic attack like the worst years of the Reformation swept through the churches; in the seminaries the “demythologizing of Christianity” à la Bultmann was propagated; the end of priestly celibacy was celebrated as something imminent; religious instruction was largely abandoned, even in Germany, which had been highly favored in this regard; priests gave up clerical attire; the sacred language—which the liturgical constitution of the Council had just solemnly confirmed—was abandoned. All this happened, so it was said, to prepare for the future, otherwise the faithful couldn’t be kept in the Church. The hierarchy argued like the proprietors of a department store, who didn’t want to sit on their wares and so tossed them out to the people at throwaway prices. Regrettably the comparison isn’t exact, for the people had no interest in the discounted products. After the “new Pentecost” there began an exodus out of the Church, the monasteries, and the seminaries. The Church, unrestrainedly pushing ahead with her revolution, continued to lose any ability to attract or retain. She resembled that baffled tailor who, looking at a badly cut pair of trousers while shaking his head, muttered: “I’ve cut you off three times and you’re still too short!” It is claimed that this exodus from the Church would also have happened without the revolution. Let’s accept for the moment this claim. If that had really been the case, however, the great revolution would not have been necessary at all. On the contrary, the flock remaining in the Church would have been able to persevere in faith under the “sign that will be contradicted” (Lk 2:34). There’s not one argument in favor of the post-conciliar revolution; I certainly haven’t encountered one yet.

Pope Benedict could not and would never allow himself to think in that way, even if in lonely hours it may have been difficult for him to defend himself against an assault of such thoughts. In no way did he want to abandon the image of the Church as a harmoniously growing organism under the protection of the Holy Spirit. With his historical consciousness it was also clear to him that history can never be turned back, that it is impossible as well as reckless to try to make what has happened “unhappen.” Even the God who forgives sins does not make them “undone,” but in the best case lets them become a felix culpa. From this perspective, Benedict could not accept what the progressives and traditionalists expressed equally and with the best reasons: that in the post-conciliar era a decisive break with Tradition had indeed occurred; that the Church before and after the Council was not the same institution. That would have meant that the Church was no longer under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; consequently, she had ceased to be the Church. One cannot imagine the theologian Joseph Ratzinger as laboring under a naive, formalistic faith. The twists and turns of ecclesiastical history were very familiar to him. That in the past, too, there had been in the Church bad popes, misguided theologians, and questionable circumstances was never hidden from him. But, while contemplating ecclesiastical history, he felt borne up by the indisputable impression that the Church, in constant development, had again and again overcome her crises not simply by cutting off mistaken developments but by making them, if possible, even fruitful in the succeeding generations.

It thus appeared to him imperative to combat the idea that this rupture had really occurred—even if all the appearances seemed to argue for it. His efforts aimed at attempting to remove from men’s minds the assertion of such a rupture. This attempt has an air of legal positivism about it, a disregarding of the facts. Please do not understand it as irony when I quote in this context the famous lines of the great absurdist poet Christian Morgenstern: “what may not be, cannot be!” The Church can never exist in contradiction to itself, to tradition, to revelation, to the doctrines of the Fathers and to the totality of the Councils. This she cannot do; even when it appears as if indeed she has done so, it is a false appearance. A more profound hermeneutic will finally always prove that the contradiction was not a real one. An inexhaustible confidence in the action of the Holy Spirit resides in this attitude. A cynical outside observer could speak of a “holy slyness.” In any case, this standpoint can be justified from both perspectives: that of trust in God and that of Machiavellianism. For a glance at ecclesiastical history shows that the continuation of the Church was always connected with a firm faith (or at least a fearlessly asserted fiction) that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in every phase. What Pope Benedict called the “hermeneutic of rupture”—whether asserted by the traditionalist or progressive side—was for him an attack on the essence of the Church, which consists of continuity without a rupture. Therefore he proposed a “hermeneutic of continuity.” This was not so much a theological program nor a foundation for concrete decisions but an attempt to win others over to an attitude of mind—the only one from which a recovery of the Church could arise. When, finally, all understood that the Church does not and cannot rely on ruptures and revolutions, then the hierarchy and theologians would, of their own accord, find their way back to a harmonious development of Tradition.

From these thoughts speaks an almost Far Eastern wisdom, a principled distrust of all manipulations and the conviction that decrees issued from a desk cannot end a spiritual crisis. “Les choses se font en ne les faisant pas.” No Chinese said that but the French foreign minister Talleyrand, who after all was a Catholic bishop. “Things get done by doing nothing”—this is a quotidian experience that everyone has encountered. But it is also a profound insight into the course of history, in which great developments remain uninfluenced by the plans of men—however excitedly the political protagonists in the foreground of the present day may gesticulate. That was what Benedict, as Cardinal and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had already criticized in Paul VI’s reform of the Mass. Here organic growth, the development shaped by the imperceptible hand of time, had been interrupted by a bureaucratic act, a “dictatus papae.” It appeared to him to be not just hopeless but even forbidden to try to heal through another dictate this wound that Pope Paul’s attack on Tradition had inflicted. A gradual transformation of thought, proceeding from the contemplation of the model that Benedict gave the world, would create a frame of mind in which the return of Tradition would ensue almost by itself. He trusted in the power of images arising out of his public appearances, where, for example, he employed the Roman Canon or distributed communion on the tongue to the kneeling faithful. To allow truth to act only through what Dignitatis Humanae called “the gentle power” of truth itself corresponded both to his temperament and to his conviction.

A characteristic expression of his approach was his care for overcoming the many aberrations in the liturgy that obscured the Eucharistic mystery. He hoped to be able to eliminate the abuses through a “reform of the reform.” “Reform”—now that’s something the justification for which is completely understandable. Everyone demands, after all, continuous economic, political, and social reforms. Indeed, wasn’t “reform of the reform” well-nigh an intensification of this positive word, an expression of the maxim ecclesia semper reformanda? And wasn’t an evaluation and reassessment of the ad experimentum phase which the liturgy had gone through since its revision by Paul VI also necessary? The progressives, however, were not deceived regarding the innocuousness of this “reform” initiative. They recognized even the first ever-so-cautious steps of the Cardinal and even more so those of the Pope as a danger for the three great objectives of the revolution in the Mass (even though the popes had already contested all three). What Benedict wanted to achieve would stand in the way of the desacralization, the Protestantizing, and the anthropomorphic democratization of the rite. What struggles were involved just in eliminating the many errors in the translations of the missal into modern languages! The philologically incontestable falsification of the words of institution, the well-known conflict over the pro multis of the consecration, which even with the best (and worst) of wills cannot mean pro omnibus, has not yet been resolved in Germany. The English-speaking and Romance worlds had submitted, more or less gnashing their teeth, while for the Germans, the theory of universal salvation, one of the dearest offspring of the post-conciliar era, was endangered! That at least a third of the Gospel of Matthew consists of proclamations of eternal damnation so terror-inducing that one can hardly sleep after reading them was a matter of indifference to the propagandists of the “new mercy”—regardless of the fact that they had justified their struggle against Tradition by the desire to break through historical overgrowth and encrustation to the sources of the “authentic” Jesus.

The same thing happened to another central cause of Benedict’s—one that really didn’t touch Pope Paul’s reform of the Mass. As is well known, that reform did not require a change in the direction of the celebration. The liturgical scholar Klaus Gamber, admired by Pope Benedict, had given the scholarly proof that in no period of the Church’s history had the liturgical sacrifice been made facing the people instead of facing East, together with the people, to the returning Lord. Already as Cardinal, Pope Benedict had pointed out again and again how greatly the Mass had been distorted and its meaning obscured by the celebration’s false orientation. He said that Mass celebrated facing the people conveyed the impression that the congregation is not oriented towards God, but celebrates itself. This correct insight, I admit, never made it either into a binding document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or into papal legislation. Here too, truth was supposed to prevail through the “gentle power” of truth—so appeared the rule of the “Panzerkardinal” or “God’s Rottweiler” (or whatever other compliments public opinion dreamed up for Pope Benedict). The consequences of the effects of this “gentle power” are today apparent to everyone. The unique hope of the present Curia, Cardinal Sarah, who teaches and acts in Benedict’s spirit, has been given no power to continue the mission he inherited from Benedict, even though he is head of the Congregation for Divine Worship. “Reform of the reform,” which was always a motto instead of a policy, is now even forbidden as a phrase.

Is it then still worthwhile to ask how the “reform of the reform” might have looked had it been achieved? Pope Benedict did not think of calling into question the use of the vernacular. He considered this to be irreversible, even if he might have greeted the spread of occasional Latin Masses. Correcting the incorrect orientation of celebrating the Mass was very important for him, likewise the reception of communion on the tongue (likewise not abolished by the missal of Paul VI). He favored the use of the Roman Canon—also not prohibited today. If he had, moreover, thought of putting into the new missal the extremely important offertory prayers of the traditional rite, one could say that the reform of the reform was simply a return to the post-conciliar missal of 1965 which Pope Paul himself had promulgated before his drastic reform of the Mass. In regard to the 1966 edition of the Schott missal, the Cardinal Secretary of State at that time, Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, specifically wrote: “The singular characteristic and crux of this new edition is its perfected union with the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”

What drove Pope Paul to disregard the missal he himself had promulgated and shortly thereafter to publish a new missal—one which no longer corresponded to the task set by the Council—is among the great puzzles of recent Church history. One thing is certain: If things had remained as they were in the 1965 version, which although inflicting many senseless sacrifices, left the rite as a whole untouched, the rebellion of the great Archbishop Lefebvre would never have occurred. But one other thing is also true: Even today nothing prevents a priest from including in his celebration of the Mass the most important components of the “reform of the reform”: ad orientem celebration, communion on the tongue, the Roman Canon, the occasional use of Latin. According to the books of the Church this is possible even today, although in an individual congregation it requires considerable courage and authority to find the way back to this form without support from Rome. In truth, the reform of the reform would not have been a tremendous achievement; it would not have won back many spiritual treasures of the old Rite. But it certainly would have led to a change in the atmosphere—it would have allowed the spirit of adoration and of sacred space to arise again. When an individual priest undertakes this in a parish alone and on his own account, he risks an exhausting struggle with his superior and trouble with his liturgy committee. Thus, that which is possible and permitted quickly becomes practically impossible. How helpful would be a single papal document that recommended ad orientem celebration!

While entertaining (perhaps pointless) thoughts regarding “what would have happened, if…,” it may be appropriate to recall what would have been more important still than work on ritual details. Anyone who has dealt more thoroughly with the great crisis of the liturgy in the twentieth century knows that it didn’t simply fall down from heaven or rise up out of hell. Rather, there were developments reaching into the far past that finally led to the catastrophe: a mindset which, looked at in isolation, doesn’t seem dangerous at first, cannot be understood as simply anti-liturgical and anti-sacral, and can be found even today among some friends of the traditional rite. One could call it Roman-juristic thought or misunderstood scholastic analytic thought. In any case, it was a manner of thinking and perceiving that was completely foreign to the first Christian millennium that formed the rite.

According to this view, some parts in the rite are essential and others less important. For the mindset influenced by this theology of the Mass, the concept of “validity” is critical. It is a concept derived from the realm of civil law, which inquires into the prerequisites that have to be present for a legal action to be valid, and those things that do not contribute to this validity. This perspective necessarily leads to a reduction, a formal minimalism that only wants to know whether the minimal prerequisites for the validity of a certain Mass exist. Under the influence of this understanding, reductive forms of the rite were created early on, for example, the “low Mass.” We can certainly love it, but we cannot forget that it represents a conceptual impossibility for the Church of the first millennium, which continues to live in the various Orthodox churches. Choral music is prescribed for the Orthodox celebrant even when he celebrates alone. For the liturgy moves man into the sphere of the angels, the angels who sing. And the men who sing the songs of the angels, the Sanctus and the Gloria, take the place of the angels, as the Eastern liturgies expressly state. The low Mass developed when, in monasteries, several priests celebrated at the same time at different altars. Easily understandable practical considerations sought to avoid musical chaos. But you only have to have been in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to experience that in the spiritual world of the first millennium practical considerations had no legitimacy in matters of the opus Dei, the liturgy. Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, and Armenians sing at different altars each in their own chant, until a holy noise fills the space. Admittedly, that may confuse, perhaps even repel people of the North in their search for Protestant inwardness and contemplation—especially when from a nearby mosque the call of the muezzin gets mixed into the whole. What interests us here is that even in the face of such jarring consequences, the Eastern liturgies could not even imagine a minimalization, a “reduction to the essentials,” the omission of elements that do not concern the consecration, etc.

The essential distinction between the thought of the ancient Church and the more recent Western Latin conceptions consists in the understanding of the consecration of the offerings. Ancient Christian belief understood the entire liturgy in all its parts as “consecrating.” The presence of Christ in the liturgy is not centered only on the words of consecration in the strict sense, but runs through the entire liturgy in different forms till it experiences its summit in the form of the sacrificial death made present in the consecration. Certainly, whoever understands the Mass in this way does not think of reduction and even less of arbitrary interventions, for, from the outset, the presence of Christ excludes any arbitrary arranging and staging by man. It was the new Western way of perceiving the “real” sacred act as narrowed down to the consecration that handed over the Mass to the planners’ clutches. But liturgy has this in common with art: Within its sphere there is no distinction between the important and the unimportant. All parts of a painting by a master are of equal significance, none can be dispensed with. Just imagine, in regard to Raphael’s painting of St. Cecilia, wanting only to recognize the value of the face and hands, because they are “important,” while cutting off the musical instruments at her feet because they are “unimportant.”

What is decisive, however, is that the Latin world reached this opinion against the facts of its own liturgy, which spoke a totally other, increasingly incomprehensible language. Not only the Orthodox but also the Roman liturgy consists of a gradual increase of the Lord’s presence, culminating in the consecration. But this is precisely not in the form of a division separating the parts before the consecration from those afterwards—just as the life of Christ is not separated from its climax, the sacrificial death, but logically leads up to it. Christ recalled and made present is the theme of the Latin liturgy from its first moments; the language of its symbols permits no other interpretation. The liturgy had taken over from the court ceremonial of the pagan emperors the symbolic language for the presence of the supreme sovereign: candles, which preceded the emperor, and the thurible. Whenever candles and incense appear in the liturgy, they indicate a new culmination of the divine presence. The priest himself, as he enters upon his liturgical function, is an alter Christus, a part of the great work of theurgy, Gottesschöpfung or “God-creation,” as the liturgy has been called. He represents the Christ of Palm Sunday, who festively enters into Jerusalem, but also Christ come again on the last day, surrounded by the symbols of majesty. At the reading of the Gospel the candles of the Gospel procession and the incensing of the Gospel book as well as of the celebrating priest once more indicate the presence of the teaching Christ. The readings are not simply a “proclamation” but above all the creation of a presence. Then the offertory gifts, hidden by the chalice veil, are brought to the altar and are reverently received and incensed. The prayers that are recited at this moment can be understood to mean that these gifts, even though unconsecrated, just by reason of their having been set aside already have the role of representing Christ preparing for his sacrificial death. Thus, the liturgical understanding of the first millennium interpreted the removal of the chalice veil on the altar as a representation of the moment in which Christ was stripped of his garments.

The traditional offertory was a particular thorn in the side of the reformers of the Mass. Why these prayers, why these signs of reverence, if the gifts have not yet even been consecrated? A theology of the Mass of the second millennium had stolen in, from whose perspective this offertory had suddenly become incomprehensible, a detail that had been dragged along which only produced embarrassment. Now just appreciate the spirit of reverence of, say, the epoch of the Council of Trent. It had revised the liturgy, but of course did not think at all of changing a liturgical rite because it had been found to be theologically inconsistent. But when this offertory reached the desks of the unfortunate twentieth century, it could finally be eliminated. One senses the satisfaction of the reformer in eliminating the nonsense of millennia with one stroke of the pen.

It would have been so easy, on the other hand, to recognize the offertory as a ritual of representation if one had glanced over at the Orthodox ritual. But Roman arrogance preserved us from such digressions. It haughtily ignored the fact that one cannot make any competent statement concerning the Roman rite unless one also keeps an eye on the Orthodox rite. In it, the offertory is celebrated in a far more festive and detailed way, precisely because it is considered part of the consecration. Why did no one at the time of the reform wonder why the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit at the consecration of the gifts, is part of the offertory in the Latin rite? That the liturgy thus contains a clear sign that the consecration has already begun at that point? But the more profound understanding of the liturgical process had already been so largely lost that one felt able to throw away that which one could no longer understand as if it were a meaningless frill. It must have been an exalted feeling, as a member of a future generation, to be able so blithely to cut down to size the greatest pope in history, St. Gregory the Great! Allow me here to cite an atheistic writer, the brilliant Stalinist Peter Hacks, who said regarding the question of revising classic plays: “the best way to revise classic plays is to understand them.” A principle already heeded in literature—how much more so should it be when it involves the liturgy, the greatest treasure we possess? Among the greatest achievements of Pope Benedict was directing the Church’s attention once more to Orthodoxy. He knew that all the striving towards ecumenism, however necessary, must begin not with attention-grabbing meetings with Eastern hierarchs but with the restoration of the Latin liturgy, which represents the real connection between the Latin and Greek churches. Now, in the meantime, we have realized that all such initiatives were in vain—especially because it wasn’t death that interrupted them, but a capitulation long before one was sure that irreversible facts had been created.

The disappointment over the shocking end of the Benedictine pontificate is all too understandable, but threatens to obscure a sober view of the facts. Just imagine what the liturgical reality would be if Pope Francis had immediately succeeded Pope John Paul II. Even if the dearest cause of Pope Benedict, the reform of the reform, has failed, he remains a pope of the liturgy, possibly, hopefully, the great savior of the liturgy. His motu proprio truly earned the designation “of his own volition.” For there were none—or very, very few—in the curia and in the world episcopacy who would have stood at the side of the Pope in this matter. Both the progressive side and regrettably also the “conservative” side (one has grown accustomed to putting this word in quotation marks) implored Pope Benedict not to grant the traditional rite any more freedom beyond the possibilities created unwillingly by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict, who with his whole being distrusted isolated papal decisions, in this case overcame himself and spoke an authoritative word. And then, with the rules of implementation for Summorum Pontificum, he created guarantees, anchored in canon law, that secured for the traditional rite a firm place in the life of the Church. That is still just a first step, but it was a conviction of this pope, whose spiritual seriousness cannot be denied, that the true growth of liturgical consciousness cannot be commanded. Rather, it must take place in many souls; faith in tradition must be proved in many places throughout the world.

Now it is incumbent on every individual to take up the possibilities made available by Pope Benedict. Against overwhelming opposition he opened a floodgate. Now the water has to flow, and no one who holds the liturgy to be an essential component of the Faith can dispense himself from this task. The liturgy IS the Church—every Mass celebrated in the traditional spirit is immeasurably more important than every word of every pope. It is the red thread that must be drawn through the glory and misery of Church history, the path through the labyrinth; where it continues, phases of arbitrary papal rule will become footnotes of history. Don’t the progressives secretly suspect that their efforts will remain in vain so long as the Church’s memory of her source of life survives? Just consider how many places in the world the traditional rite has come to be celebrated since the motu proprio; how many priests who do not belong to traditional orders have come to learn the old rite; how many bishops have confirmed and ordained in it. Germany—the land from which so many impulses harmful to the Church have issued—regrettably cannot be listed here in first place. But Catholics must think universally. Who would have believed it possible twenty years ago that there would be held in St. Peter’s, at the Cathedra Petri, a pontifical Mass in the old rite? I admit that that is little, far too little—a small phenomenon in the entirety of the world Church. Nevertheless, while soberly contemplating the gigantic catastrophe that has occurred in the Church, we do not have the right to undervalue exceptions to the sorrowful rule.

The totality of the progressive claims has been broken—that is the work of Pope Benedict XVI. And whoever laments that Pope Benedict did not do more for the good cause, that he used his papal authority too sparingly, in all realism let him ask himself who among the cardinals with realistic chances to become pope would have done more for the old rite than he did. And the result of these reflections can only be gratitude for the unfortunate pope, who in the most difficult of times did what was in his power. And his memory is secure, if not in evidence among the items of devotional kitsch at the pilgrims’ stores around St Peter’s. For whenever we have the good fortune to participate in a traditional Mass, we will have to think of Benedict XVI.

This essay, translated from the German by Stuart Chessman, originally appeared as a foreword in Peter Kwasniewski’s Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness.

© Angelico Press

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