We need no strategy, Benedict said at the Konzerthaus, to relaunch the Church.
“Rather, it is a question of setting aside mere strategy and seeking total transparency,
not bracketing or ignoring anything from the truth of our present situation, but living
the faith fully here and now in the utterly sober light of day, appropriating it completely,
and stripping away from it anything that only seems to belong to faith, but in truth
is mere convention or habit”.
The Pope’s Sept. 22  speech to the Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament, became the latest candidate for “best speech of his papacy.” Addressing German lawmakers, but really speaking to Western culture generally, Benedict took on logical positivism — the view that only empirical science counts as real knowledge, and that all moral claims are subjective. Secular media outlets, even those which were otherwise critical, raved about the speech. Der Spiegel called it “courageous” and “brilliant,” while Bild quoted a prominent lawmaker hailing it as a “masterpiece.” Even Die Welt grudgingly allowed that it was “not completely without cunning.” (In a further indication that Benedict got through, the left-wing London Guardian published a lengthy commentary on the speech, encouraging secular environmentalists to see past their stereotypes of the pope as “a prissy and repressed German professor”.) Armin Schwibach gave this assessment of the Pope’s visit to Germany in: THE BENEDICT REVOLUTION
There is no doubt that the German trip of Pope Benedict XVI was a historic event. What the Pope said and did is like a red-hot stone thrown into a murky pool that is incapable of heating up, of boiling, of being stirred up. But the stone is so hot that even in the scummy water it continues to burn. However, the slimy pool needs to be cleaned so that the light of the new-old glow of faith that the Pope proclaims may reach the core and work the desired renewal. Of course, the Pope’s words do not apply only to Germany. The Pope always speaks to the universal Church. But in a secularized country, his words take on a special relevance, especially when they are addressed to a Church that must internally fight its own self-inflicted secularization. Beyond the Pope’s words, inspiration and teaching which we can take away, it became clearer during the visit that there was a great distance between the truth of the faith that the Pope preached and the reality of the Church that surrounded him – like the dubious ‘democracy drill’ that preceded the Prayer Vigil with the youth in Freiburg on Saturday evening, or the way people received communion at Mass the next day. The difference between the Pope’s celebration of the Eucharist and how others do it was never so clearly demonstrated as during those four days. It also quickly became clear what Benedict XVI thinks of the so-often cited ‘dialog process’ before the visit – namely, nothing. One of the most-used words before the visit, ‘dialog’ never once came from the lips of the Pope during the visit. This in a country where the Church has programmed a ‘dialog process’ lasting till 2015, a process conceived in terms of mundane structures, following the usual worldly schemata. Instead, Benedict XVI upheld the ‘unequal exchange’ between God and man, for which the Church thanks the Lord. The emphasis was on that ‘unequal’ exchange. The Pope stressed the need for a ‘de-mundanization’ of the Church as a condition for any real ‘change’ – not just putting fresh paint on rotten wood to give the appearance of something ‘new’. In other words, change must have to do with substance, which cannot result from elaborate maneuvers, because “the fundamental motive for change is the apostolic mission of the disciples and the Church herself”. The Church, in other words, “must constantly rededicate herself to her mission”, the Pope said in his last address on Sunday at the Freiburger Konzerthaus. This message “is built, first of all, on personal experience”, “finds expression in relationships”, and spreads a universal message. But through the demands and constraints of the world, Benedict admonished, “this witness is constantly obscured, the relationships are alienated, and the message is relativised”. And that is why the Church needs urgently to set herself apart from her surroundings, to make herself ‘unworldly’. That is why one must not be so concerned with the external image of the Church but rather, to draw from the mystery of the Church, from the depths of her communion with Christ. This is not something that is readily at one’s disposal, and it can never be the subject of ‘dialog’. At Olympic Stadium, the Pope said in his homily, that if one only looks at the outward form of the Church, then the Church would “appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the Church”. Then, “the Church is no longer a source of joy,” and “dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of Church, their dream Church, fail to materialize”. Result: Goodbye, dialog process! In other words: To use the dialog process as the leading point to start renewing the life of the Church means placing the horse before the cart. Because Church members must first turn to God, if only to thank him for having called them to his Church. The Pope’s words in Berlin, in Freiburg to the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK), and finally to the entire Church, at the Konzerthaus, set a milestone: Now it will no longer be possible to hide behind commissions, committees and dialog groups.
Like Christ, his Vicar poses the decisive question that cannot be answered ‘structurally”: Do you love Christ? Do you love his Church, which is his mystical Body? Benedict XVI urges that we must seriously consider the indispensable ‘scandal’ of Christianity in order to “discover the right form of detachment from the world, to move resolutely away from the Church’s worldliness”. It does not mean rejecting nor disavowing the world, but with the true freedom that Christians have, one does away with the bar of conventional ballasts in order to communicate Christian vitality and witness authentically. That does not mean withdrawing from the world, but its opposite. We need no strategy, Benedict said at the Konzerthaus, to relaunch the Church. “Rather, it is a question of setting aside mere strategy and seeking total transparency, not bracketing or ignoring anything from the truth of our present situation, but living the faith fully here and now in the utterly sober light of day, appropriating it completely, and stripping away from it anything that only seems to belong to faith, but in truth is mere convention or habit”. The Benedict Revolution has entered a new and even more expressive phase. The Pope wants radicality, passion and a return to the primordial Rock of the faith, because only from this faith can everything else follow. He demands ‘total honesty’ which exposes everything that is relative and eliminates it by kindling ‘the torch of unvarnished faith’. Only through such untarnished faith do we recover the primacy of God, which is not a result but a foundation. “It is above all the primacy of God that we must recover in our world and our life, because it is this primacy that allows us to find the truth about who we are, and it is in knowing and following the will of God that we find our true good,” Benedict XVI said in Ancona last Sept. 11. In Germany, Benedict XVI showed that he is a prophet. His admonitions and instructions immediately bring to mind his great and saintly predecessor Gregory VII, through whose reforms a once ailing Church achieved a new flowering and sanctity. One must hope that the revolutionary storm that Benedict XVI has sought to spark off will not be stifled in the banality of everyday. It would be convenient for many if they could simply check off the visit of the German Pope as nothing more than a ‘show’ that is over and done with, and that one can now go on with business as usual’. One must hope that there is some terrain which has absorbed the words of the Pope like a dry sponge so that it can become fruitful again. …. At the same time, it will be more difficult for many to remain indifferent to Benedict’s words. The ‘small relative’ that is his faithful flock in Germany is called to forge ahead cum et sub Petro (with and under Peter) and to implement the teachings of the Pope in the German Church. The testament and legacy of Benedict XVI is the possibility to go forward with him on the firm foundations of faith and make him the starting point for authentic renewal. Everything else would be banal palaver in a Church that has the mission to announce ‘the scandal of the Cross’ but which has succumbed to the illusion that it is attractive to surrender to the world and to sell the truth short. One can say, “The games are over”: Either the German Church follows the Pope, or it consolidates an already existing de facto schism. The Pope’s testament is the absolute challenge that will determine the future of the German Church…..