Peggy Noonan, the syrupy WSJ writer (and former Reagan speech writer) who famously coined the phrase “John Paul the Great” (whom Neuhaus predicted would usher in “the Catholic Moment”), now throws that hopeful papacy and the Ratzinger one under the bus and signs onto the “Church-in-ruins” model that Francis of Assisi was asked to fix:
One of the most famous moments in St. Francis’s life is the day he was passing by the church of St. Damiano. It was old and near collapse. From St. Bonaventure’s “Life of Francis of Assisi”: “Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray. Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation. . . . While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord’s cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: ‘Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.'” Francis was amazed “at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church.” He set himself to obeying the command.
Go and repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Could the new pope’s intentions be any clearer?
But after the great hopefulness of Vatican II, and the long and “great” papacies of JPII (with Ratzinger as the “doctrinal watchdog”) and then Ratzinger the great theologian, how in the world is “my house” [in this metaphor, the “One True Church”] falling into ruin?
Ruin is a very strong word. In this way, the convert-hopefulness of John Richard Neuhaus, exemplified in his work “The Catholic Moment” and the very founding of the journal “First Things”, is in “ruin”. But never mind that.
The Catholic Church in 2013 is falling into ruin. The church has been damaged by scandal and the scandals arose from arrogance, conceit, clubbiness and an assumption that the special can act in particular ways, that they may make mistakes but it’s understandable, and if it causes problems the church will take care of it.
What were JPII and Ratzinger doing for the last 35 years? Who were the “arrogant”, “conceited” “clubby” “insiders” who, while promising such hope, in the meanwhile, “shepherded” Christ’s “one true church” into ruin? Where is the “true church” if not in this “visible hierarchy” that was so promised to give the kind of “epistemological certainty” that Roman Catholic converts know to rely on?
It’s not “the liberals” who ruined things. It was the last two popes, the last two “shepherds”.