His bags are packed and he’s ready to go……

Pope Benedict XVI is eager to meet crowds of young people who are gathering in Madrid for World Youth Days, which begin on August 16th.

The Pope himself will arrive on the evening of Thursday, August 18th. He will then preside at a total of nine events with young people over the next four days, culminating in a Sunday morning Mass at the city’s Cuatro Vientos airport.

The upcoming papal days in Spain are a special time of grace for re-examining the contemporary mystique of the papacy.


Since he was five years old, and fell in love with the Archbishop of Munich’s fancy threads, Joseph Ratzinger has been fascinated by the pompous trappings  of the medieval Catholic Church. Today in fact, his papal entourage looks more  like a medieval royal court than the plainly dressed community of those who followed Jesus of Nazareth.

The contemporary papacy is sign and symbol of what has been happening in the Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II became the Bishop of Rome on October 16, 1978. Pope Benedict calls it the “reform of the reform.” The rest of us see it, however, for what it is:  “restorationism,” the carefully planned dismantling of the theology, ecclesiology, and pastoral vision of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962 — December 8, 1965).

What the Polish Pope launched in the 1970s the Bavarian Pope has now shifted into high speed motion: a carefully orchestrated plan to restore an earlier and more controllable nineteenth century triumphalist model of the Church. A clerical empire.

Through an increasingly centralized Vatican power structure, everything in the life of the Church is now controlled through a network of Vatican congregations led by right-wing cardinals who ensure strict compliance with what they deem to be “orthodox.” Those who do not comply face censure and punishment. Without explanation.

When Pope Benedict last visited Spain in early November 2010, he condemned what he called the “aggressive secularism” that had also been rampant in Spain in the 1930s….leaving the strong impression that he supported the right-wing Catholic,  Generalisimo Don Francisco Franco (1892-1975) who, in 1936, became “Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios,” meaning “Leader of Spain, by the Grace of God.” (That happened of course because Franco had the backing of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.)

In any event, and from wherever he is, the Generalisimo must be smiling at Pope Benedict. The contemporary power mystique of the papacy is Benedict’s particular talent. Any hint of critique or any questioning of his policies, his way of thinking, his antiquated theology, his exercise of authority, etc. is equated with disloyalty. Because of this Ratzinger papal mystique, unquestioning obedience to the pope is now  required as a sign of the ethos and fidelity of a true Catholic.

And……thanks to Pope Benedict’s reform of the reform, the Pope’s authority has now been intentionally extended to the Vatican Curia.

Today we are told that unquestioning obedience to the very human opinions offered by Curial departments and cardinals  — about a whole range of human life and Church disciplinary issues — has become the mark of one’s fidelity as a Catholic. Anything less is interpreted as being disloyal to the Pope and therefore, we are led to believe, unfaithful to Christ.

It comes as no surprise that Pope Benedict is now greatly looking forward to his days in Spain with crowds of young Catholics. He needs their enthusiasm and cheerful support…….Older Catholics have now begun to realize what he is really up to…….

One thought on “Papal Mystique and World Youth Days in Spain

Leave a Reply