Benedict XVI’s death leaves Catholic conservatives destitute

“He represented the West par excellence,” he said. “The Constantinian era, the European era of the church, ends with him.” With François, and the opening to the Americas, he says, “the rules are different”.

“Benoît brought back the fundamentals,” Mr. Badde said.

While Benedict favored ornate vestments from the church’s past and facilitated the return of ancient Latin liturgies, his most ardent supporters rejected traditionalist, even conservative, labels as so restrictive as to be incorrect.

“Traditionalist in dress perhaps, theologically not at all,” said Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, a German aristocrat who said she saw her good friend Benedict in November when she knelt down to kiss her ring and held her hand, but found her voice so soft as to be unintelligible.

For decades, however, admiring Catholic conservatives and the liberals he shot down heard Benedict loud and clear.

As the powerful guardian of Church orthodoxy from 1981 to 2005 during the papacy of his predecessor and mentor, John Paul II, Benedict – who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany – served as the chief doctrinal of the Vatican. “God’s Rottweiler”, called him his detractors.

He acted as an enforcer, a conservative compass and a culture warrior, distracting the Church from what he eventually came to see as the liberal scope of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. He sought to suppress social activism in the church which he suspected of Marxism. He crushed dissent among the most liberal theologians and drew a hard line against homosexuals. He helped promote clerics in his mold and that of John Paul II in the Roman curia, the bureaucracy that runs the church, as well as in dioceses and orders around the world.


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