Action Alert!

Pope picking up steam?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 26, 2009

In April 2005, when Pope Benedict was elected to the Chair of Peter, many of his friends hoped (and his enemies feared) that he would use his new power, quickly and dramatically, to set a new course in Vatican affairs. They were wrong. Although he was known as a man with strong opinions and a clear sense of what the Church needs, he did not take precipitous action. Within a few weeks it became clear that the new Pope would work carefully, building consensus before making changes.

As the months passed, and no major policy changes were evident, the new Pontiff's friends began to fear (and his enemies to hope) that his pontificate would be a holding action: that he had no major ambitions and no plans for new initiatives. Wrong again. 

As his pontificate closes in on the 5-year mark, Benedict XVI is advancing simultaneously on several different fronts. And if he took a long time to launch his policy offensives, his careful planning has ensured that once they are finally begun, his initiatives produce results quickly, and those who oppose his plans are scrambling to find the grounds on which they might mount a defense. 

So now Pope Benedict is driving forward with his opening to the Anglicans, his effort to reconcile the SSPX, his bid for a real dialogue with Islamic leaders. There are rumblings about new plans for a liturgical "reform of the reform," and new hopes for a "summit meeting" with Orthodox leaders. 

Given the Pontiff's recent track record, it would be foolish to dismiss those rumblings as idle rumors. Along with his habit of careful planning, the Pope has shown an extraordinary ability to catch the world off guard. No one anticipated that a scholarly address in Regensburg would force Islamic leaders to come to grips with the violence committed in the name of their faith. Before the Pope's decision to lift the excommunications of SSPX prelates, very few people saw it coming. The invitation to the Anglican world came with less than 24 hours of notice. 

So what should we expect next week? Next month? Things are traditionally quiet around the Vatican during the summer, and then heat up in the fall. We're right on schedule. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Oct. 29, 2009 12:49 PM ET USA

    I agree with jeffbell06 that Pope Benedict XVI has been a wonderful and worthy Pope. He has definitely been much more than a caretaker Pope.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2009 11:30 PM ET USA

    I think we all may have underestimated the wisdom of God (once again) when His Holy Spirit guided the Cardinals to select Cardinal Ratzinger be our Holy Father. I remember several Catholic questioning his selection and saying he was only an interim Pope. How wrong they were. He is a loving, holy man and we are so blessed to have him as our spiritual leader. The Church needs his wisdom, his love, and his intelligence right now, more than ever. He is a wonderful and worthy Pope!