Apr. 20th, 2005

ealgylden: (Blue Joan (aithine))
I bet everyone's really, really tired of seeing "Pope!" all over their flist again, right? Heh, I sympathize. And yet I post! I can't help myself. It's like some demented Borscht Belt comedy record. "When You're Online the Whole World Is Catholic." I'd be lying if I said I were pleased that Ratzinger got the nod, but I'd be lying even more if I said I were surprised. I had my money split between him and the Italians. Still, if I were the Holy Spirit, I would have wafted in some other direction. So, missed opportunity there.

Anyway! I have nothing really to say about Ratzinger himself, because my general feelings have been nicely covered by all of the many posts saying, "Ack!" (I summarize, of course). But I can't resist commenting on one aspect of these Vatican shenanigans: his chosen papal name, Benedict. Interesting! Now, as a monastic scholar, particularly one who has primarily focused on the 8th-10th centuries, naturally the Benedicts I know best are not popes, but rather the great monastic architects, Benedict of Nursia and Benedict of Aniane. I love Benedict of Nursia. A whole lot. No, more than that. He probably wouldn't like me as much, all things considered, but if I took that sort of thing personally from historical personages, I'd have gone into a different field (plus, I'd be nuts). Benedict of Aniane, a more Type A personality, can be tougher to like, but we've spent a heck of a lot of hours together over the years, and we've been in a good place since about, oh, 1998. So while most of my Benedictine brainpower has been thus directed, I have bumped up several of the Popes Benedict in my researches over the years (I seem to run into Benedicts and Johns most often, esp. John XIII and Benedict VII), so eventually I started jotting down factoids on index cards. You know, for kicks. Heh. They strike me as rather a mixed bag. As is often the case, the bad ones are more fun- there were several antipopes named Benedict, one of the Ottonian-era Benedicts was murdered (strangled! oooh...), and one (Benedict IX) was the sort of pope who goes around gambling, drinking and fornicating, and selling his office to the highest bidder so he'll have more time for gambling, drinking and fornicating. Perhaps not the best candidate for the job. Then again his daddy got it for him when he was just a pup, sort of the eleventh-century version of a Camaro for graduation, so what can you do?

A Benedict (XIII? XIV? I can't read my own writing) made life rather tougher for missionaries by inveighing against describing non-Christian practices and beliefs with Christian terminology. That must have gone over well with the Jesuits. And it was a Benedict-to-be, Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers and dedicated hunter of witches and heretics, who wiped out the last of the Cathars. Well, he was a Cistercian. They're high-strung. I kid, I like the Cistercians (very high-strung). He was also an exceptionally boring theologian who held long debates on mysticism and doctrine with Meister Eckhart, among others, not that I still hold a grudge or anything.

Okay, I'm looking for a Pope Benedict who's even a smidge as likeable as the Abbots Benedict, and... oh! Forgot Benedict VII! Tenth century, was a strong supporter of monasticism and had a relatively peaceful tenure. Which makes him sound really dull compared to the heretic-hunter and the murder victim and the papacy-selling slut, but that's showbiz. Anyway, thumbs up for Benedict VII. He was a good egg, mostly.

As for the most recent Pope Benedict, the one that Ratzinger is presumably trying to recall, well, hm. He was a pacifist and neutral power during WWI, which was more or less interpreted by the nations as, "I'm secretly on the other guy's side and I'm not going to admit it, but you definitely shouldn't trust me." Even so, he tried negotiating peace several times, until the Vatican was told to stay out of it. He's generally considered a moderate, though I rather think he benefits through juxtaposition with hardliner jerk Pius X. He ended the institutional persecution of reformers and modernists that Pius X had favored, but he didn't undo anything that had already been done, and he was no modernist himself. Still. He wasn't John XXIII or anything, but if Ratzinger's planning to model his own papacy on Benedict XV, he's going to have to loosen up a bit.

And how did Benedict XV end up on my mental radar in the first place, despite being a modern pope and therefore far less interesting to me? Well, he presided over the canonization of Joan of Arc. That'd do it.

And so to bed, in the hopes that tomorrow I will wake up to a world which has brought me my Miracles DVDs and freed my poor mailman from the Curse of the Puppy-Dog Eyes. I have to admit, I'm amused that we got Miracles and a new pope on the same day. Slightly different views of the Church, methinks.


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