"Thy will be done."
Shortly before Benedict XVI resigned as Pope of the Holy Catholic Church he addressed the priests of Rome -- his priests, since he was the Bishop of Rome. To everyone's surprise he gave an impromptu talk on Vatican II.
I have come to think of this as a final and public confession of Benedict as Pope. And who better to confess to than a room full of priests.
Vatican Council II has hung like a cloud over his papacy and even over his whole life as a priest. His priestly life seems to begin and end with the Council. And his time in the Chair of Peter is bookmarked by speeches regarding the Council.
In this speech he confesses that the Council produced some very bad fruit, but he draws a distinction between two councils. The good council and the bad council; or the true council and the false council.
This allows him to continue to praise the council while criticizing its bad fruit. But historically and in reality there was only one council. So this is a problem.
Ratzinger was part of the Rhine Alliance which according to my current understanding dominated the council. And in fact that is what the Pope tells his priests in his address. And the first and foremost objective of the Rhine Alliance was to "reform" the liturgy. In other words to institute the Novus Ordo Mass.
How interesting then that as Pope he became so closely associated with reviving the Traditional Latin Mass.
The problem with reform is that it is like opening Pandora's box. How can you stop the reform once it begins? Is it possible to institute a reform and then exactly control the extent and nature of that reform?
I made a similar criticism of the sexual liberation movement of the 60s. Perhaps there was a moment of perfect equilibrium between sexual freedom and traditional morality regarding sexuality. But once the sexual revolution had begun it did not stop at that point of equilibrium, but continued in a radical direction.
I'm convinced that this is no accident. There are huge societal forces that must be manipulated in order to create such changes. Remember that people and societies are naturally resistant to change. And so in order to continue to change society requires a constant force that will overcome this natural inertia and friction.
And these same societal forces worked to push the reforms of the Catholic Church's liturgy further and further from those that Ratzinger had imagined at the time of the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council.
So perhaps his speech was a warning to his young priests to be wary of change.
Our last two popes both participated actively in the council and tried to steer the interpretation of the council afterwards. What will be the relationship of the next pope to the council?
This will be one of the key questions that the next pope will need to answer early on in his papacy. And he will need to continually re-address this issue throughout his papacy, just as Benedict had to.