Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ragnarok: the Twilight of 815

Let's make sure there's no mistletoe at 815.

Crusty Old Dean is trying to get the Official Child of Crusty Old Dean (OCOCOD, an afflication for which, sadly, there is no known cure) into mythology.  COD immersed himself in Greek and Norse myths around ages 8-10, mainly for two reasons.  For one, he had been reading a lot of comic books and found out that Thor was not just a comic book character.  For another, he was simply fascinated by all the bizarre stuff that came up: in a world of four TV channels showing inoffensive sitcoms, no cable TV or internet, he thoroughly enjoyed the dysfunction of rampant sex, violence, monsters, cow-licking creation stories, and child-eating that seemed to be part and parcel of myths.

One of the recurrent themes in Norse mythology is that of Ragnarok:  that history is cyclical, that the world, including the supposedly immortal Gods, will destroyed in an apocalyptic battle – and yet reborn, only to have the entire process repeat itself.

Well, at the last meeting of Executive Council, we received the latest installment of the 815 Ragnarok:  a seemingly endless cycle of apocalyptic discussion about the placement and future of the denominational offices of the Episcopal Church.

As a reminder to any new readers out there, or any readers at all (seriously:  don’t you have real blogs to read?), Crusty spent a decade on the denominational staff of the Episcopal Church, and at one time had an office with a window and his name outside the door at 815 Second Avenue.  And yea verily, rumors and plans for relocating the Church Center have abounded pretty much ever since it was opened there.

First of all, we should note that the opening of the Church Center itself was an act of Anglican establishmentarian hubris, like calling a denominational Cathedral that represents less than 1% of the population a "national" Cathedral.  At the time of 815's founding, many church denominations were consolidating offices on Riverside Drive, on the upper west side of Manhattan, in a new bulding which also housed the National Council of Churches.  Dwight Eisenhower laid the cornerstone of 475 Riverside, and Congregational, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, and other denominations either had their headquarters there or housed significant parts of their denominational structure there.   Yet the Episcopal Church Center had no interest in joining this party, continued with plans to open its own headquarters, with the Presiding Bishop at the time noting that “These people work for the Episcopal Church, not the National Council of Churches.”  Note:  accuracy of quote is disputed, this was relayed orally to Crusty Old Dean by an aged NCC employee. And, in a bit of irony, the Presiding Bishop was also first president of the National Council of Churches for part of this time.  Awkward!

In addition, the area where 815 is located is not, as some might presume, built on an ancient Indian burial ground, the standard trope for buildings that may be seen to carry a trouble history.  Rather, the area was available for redevelopment in the 1950s for the Church Center and United Nations because of another reason. In the days before reliable refrigerated shipping, the mid-town east side was the home of slaughtering yards and was home to abbattoirs, cattle pens, and breweries.

Lastly, we should also acknowledge that moving denominational HQs are difficult.  The times that it has happened, historically, often has to do with denominational mergers.  The most recent example is illustrative:  the ELCA opened a new HQ in Chicago, in an office building within spitting distance of O’Hare.  It did so because the ELCA was formed from the merger for three different entities in 1987 – the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), and the American Lutheran Church (ALC), each previously with its own denominational headquarters.   However, these three entities were only formed after 1963, when 26 Lutheran bodies merged – and these 26 are in turn the result of mergers from the 1910s and 1920s which brought together over 50 Lutheran bodies. The ELCA was able to “do it” because they were creating a new body, and, rather than privileging the headquarters of any of the existing merger partners, chose a new one.  Likewise, for instance, with the formation of the Presbyterian Church, USA, in 1983, from the United Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  Rather than either of the major partners’ existing HQs, the organizing assembly had a choice between Kansas City and Louisville, or, as one member at the founding Assembly told COD, reflecting on the historical background of the properties in question, “A choice between a whorehouse and a warehouse.”  The most recent successful relocations have come from mergers, not from denominational choice – though there have been smaller church bodies which have done so, such as the United Church of Christ (to Cleveland).

So 815 was born with a hefty dose of establishmentarian hubris and on top of rendering plants.  What could go wrong?

And, 50 years after its founding, it has become an almost ecclesial Detroit:  once occupying 9 floors with over 400 employees, it now leases out 3.5 floors, with further consolidation in place to allow for more floors to be rented. 

Alas, the cycle of Ragnarok for 815 does not seem to be in the thousands of years the ancient Norse believed, but, roughly, every few years or so.  There have been reports, or General Convention resolutions, or internal conversations about selling, regularly since its opening in 1963.  There have been resolutions at the General Convention level in 1982 (D081), 1985 (A069), 1988 (D130), 1991 (D002), 1994 (D092 and D033), 1997 (D012).  These are only resolution available through the online electronic database of GC resolutions -- Crusty is 34,000 feet over America right now and does not have access to his pre-1976 collection of General Convention journals.  Also this does not include any Executive Council or internal staff proposals.  In the lunchroom at 815, one of the older support staff once swore that in 1974 potential new owners were measuring out and parceling up office space before a proposed deal was squashed.  Whether apocryphal or not, evidence to the theory of continued discussion about the place and role of the Church Center.

We are in the midst of just another cycle.  Last General Convention passed Resolution D016; to see Crusty’s initial thoughts on this, go here.  The original resolution, passed by the House of Deputies, called for the establishment of a Task Force and a recommendation within a specific, designated time period -- by June 2013.  This was amended simply to express the "will of the General Convention" to move the headquarters away from 815 Second Avenue without any Task Force or required benchmarks.  Having been on staff up until 2011, COD knew that there were already internal discussions and conversations, which were also noted in the debate around Resolution D016.

At the most recent Executive Council meeting, a report was presented on the question of the Episcopal Church Center. The Executive Oversight Group – hereafter for COD to be EOG – consisting of senior staff at the Church Center, prepared this report.  This report was, in turn, informed by work undertaken by Cushman and Wakefield, a global real estate firm that “assisted” in the work, and whose involvement was underwritten by the diocese of Los Angeles (perhaps in atonement for its significant reduction of its diocesan giving to the denominational offices?  Crusty does not know).

Crusty, as usual, has some thoughts – and he freely admits that his comments here are based on the Episcopal New Service coverage.  Crusty has neither seen the report, nor was present at the Executive Council meeting.  All COD has, like 99.99% of the church (more than the percentage of the church that live in the Eastern and Central time zones) is this ENS report.

Right off the bat, Crusty has a problem with the lede of the story (as the son of a printer, having smelted lead for hot lead linotype machines, Crusty refuses to use lead instead of lede): “The church’s denominational offices would remain at the Episcopal Church Center in New York if the Executive Council accepts a recommendation it received Feb. 26 from a group of Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society executives.”  Shouldn’t this read something like, “could remain” or “would remain for the time being” or something?  After all, can’t the General Convention pass a resolution in 2015 to undo any action Executive Council might make during a triennium?   Seems overly deterministic here.

But onward!  The report makes several recommendations; key among them are:

--that the denominational center and staff remain at 815 in New York City,
--that there be further consolidation to rent out more office space.

There are many reasons given for this recommendation.  One is the synergy and proximity to organizations such as Episcopal Church Foundation, Episcopal Relief and Development, Church Pension Group, the United Nations, and so on.  The other is the critical mass of Episcopalians who live in the Central and Eastern time zone (80%, which is an improvement from 1900, when 90% of Episcopalians lived east of the Mississippi).  Crusty, frankly, wonders what the real implications of this are as a reason not to move; perhaps Episcopalians are unable to understand our time zone differences?

Among the several reasons given, several stand out for Crusty:

1)            Crusty is glad that we, apparently, have rediscovered our sense of social justice in terms of employment fairness.  The report notes several issues related to a move, including the potential for a two-tiered compensation system (some new hires in a lower cost of living area being paid less than some continuing employees), concerns about moving to an area which does not recognize same sex marriage, the fact many staff could or would not be able to relocate, and so on.

Crusty is delighted!  He also hopes perhaps this commitment to fairness can be applied in other areas and not only trotted out when deciding not to move the denominational headquarters.

Maybe we will no longer terminate union contracts without notification or negotiation, as occurred in 2009 with maintenance staff, while at the same time speaking out in favor of union rights in other areas.

Perhaps we can actually set standards for severance which are in conformity with other non-profit organizations.

Might we even redress the already existing two-tiered compensation system that we have, where employees with the exact same qualifications can receive different compensation packages because of ordained or lay status?

2)            COD notes that everyone in the church seems to be embracing our polity when it suits them and ignoring it when it does not.  Many will, no doubt, be infuriated with this recommendation, given that the General Convention clearly expressed its desire for the relocation of 815.  Crusty, rather, sees this as a sign of progress and acceptance of our true polity.  Because the reality is, many levels of the church simply ignore General Convention resolutions and canons as they see fit.  We do, after all, have a canon on communion of the unbaptized, along with GC resolutions on eucharistic hospitality (like the 1979 GC standards passed in resolution form), but in many places and many area this is just ignored.  Likewise, a friend once sent COD a power point presentation on the revised ordination process to be rolled out in a diocese, asking for input.  Crusty noted that it departed in some respects from that approved in the 2003 and 2006 revisions of the Canons; the person replied that they knew that and this was better for their missional context.   Just look over resolutions passed in 2003, 2006, and 2009, let alone stretching back years, and we can see how many are routinely ignored.  So what’s good for the diocesan and parish geese are good for the denominational gander? Or are we all willing to be accountable?

3)            Crusty is frankly baffled by some of the language in the report as quoted in the release.  He was struck, in part, the way the report

declares that “the real underlying energy in examining the location of the church center is less about its location and more about how it actually functions,”

ponders, “how long, we wonder, would it be before complaints about the isolation of the Church Center in New York would become complaints about the isolation of the Church Center in some other city?”

and further suggests that “Perhaps rather than shifting the locus of our communal anxiety from one site to another, we would be better served in the long run to use our best judgment to make a rational and strategic decision in the best interests of the church’s engagement of God’s mission and then clearly articulate that decision to the church.”

WTF is that all about? COD is perplexed that comments such as these appear in a report whose goal is to present a recommenation about the location of the Church Center.  On what grounds and basis and data is this report able to identify “underlying energy?”   Why is it speculating about whether a move would lengthen or shorten the Ragnarok 815 cycle?  Why not just make a recommendation and put a lid on the editorializing and creating of straw men?  COD, for one, welcomes discussion of new ideas about a denominational center, but holds none of the opinions mentioned here.

Why needlessly antagonize or dismiss people with language like this?  

4)            In fact, if anything, COD is concerned that fixation on issues above – like whether the EOG is thwarting the will of Convention when in fact everybody ignores what they feel like – will take attention away from some other potentially important aspects of this report which may not get their due.

--For one, the recommendation by the very real estate firm retained to provide advice that they should sell the place, and that the church should not be in the business of property management.  The EOG report's recommendations not only firmly puts the church in the business of property management but expands that business by suggesting

a)            further consolidation to make more floors available for rental and
b)            eventually asking for rent/financial agreements from current Episcopal Church agencies located in 815.

--For another, one the one hand Crusty finally welcomes some financial transparency; in some of his budget posts from spring 2012 (remember spring 2012?  Before Psy and when Michelle Bachman was running for present? Doesn’t it seem like five years ago?)  COD wanted to know more about debt service and lines of credit which were not outlined in detail in various draft budgets.  Well, here we get it:  we find out there was a $37 million loan, not line of credit, taken out in 2004 to fund the extensive – and admittedly needed, included asbestos abatement – renovations of the Church Center, and that this is secured not by the building, but by unrestricted endowment assets.  We even know the interest rate, 3.69 %!

Remember last time we counted on investment income?  "Oops."
Yet an important element in the recommendation not to sell is that it is better to pay off a loan at 3.69 percent with the expectation for 8% growth in investment assets.  To this Crusty says, “Yes, we know how well depending on investment growth worked for the 2000-2009 triennia.”  One of the reasons for the massive, and in part foreseeable, budget shortfall in 2009 which led to layoffs was the consistent underperformance of investment growth. Have we learned nothing?  Maybe we'll get another "oops" in 2015 like we did in 2009.  After all, the finance and investment people won't be the ones losing their jobs.

5.            Crusty also has a procedural concern here:  what about the newly formed Task Force on Restructuring?  What are the implications of making a report and recommendation to Executive Council when there is another entity charged with looking at reform and restructuring of the church?  Should we consider tabling this report (it was presented to Executive Council, will go to a committee for discussion, and future consideration at the June meeting) or even referring it to the Task Force?  Or will we have dueling proposals for 2015?

Finally, Crusty, while not agreeing with some of the language used here, particularly some of the bizarre editorializing comments above, does agree in essence with some of the central tenets here.  It really doesn’t matter where our denominational headquarters is unless we are committed to a holistic rethinking of the kind of denominational structure we need.  Moving it for the sake of moving it, without concurrent discussion about the nature, scope, and purpose of a denominational structure, is pointless.  Likewise, keeping it in place without a holistic appraisal is likewise pointless.  As Crusty has said repeatedly on this blog, we have regularly rethought and changed our structure.  In the 1780s, governance inherited from the Church of England was in some ways radically reimagined for a new context: having clergy and lay people share governance; electing bishops; and so on.  Likewise, at the turn of the 20th century the Episcopal Church engaged in a sustained conversation about restructuring and governance (one could even argue this extends from the period of the Civil War through World War I) , leading to changes in 1919 that led to creation of a denominational structure.  So who the hell cares where a denominational HQ is if we can’t rethink how we need to do mission in radically changed contexts and think through how this relates to dioceses, congregations, ecumenical partners, and other networks and organizations?

And, like Ragnarok was not the end, the Episcopal Church will survive.  After all, in 1801 the first bishop of New York resigned to become a gentleman botanist farmer, thinking that Anglicanism would die out.  In the early 1800s the diocese of Virginia didn’t even bother to hold its diocesan council for a couple of years and had shrunk to a handful of clergy.  We still have African American Episcopalians despite a legacy of de facto segregation, exclusion, and institutional racism which the church, at times, tries very hard to forget.  We could go on with other examples.  Even if we do die, we will be reborn; the question is, can we seize this moment and shape the change that is coming, rather than be shaped by it?  This triennium, Crusty thinks, will be a referendum on whether the church is able to do that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Papal Predictions: Pontifical Bracketology

Crusty feels he should be first out of the gate in the papal prediction derby.  But first of all, he needs to highlight just a few ways Europe kicks America's ass:

1)  posting the alcoholic content of beer along with the price in pubs;
2)  excellent rail travel;
3)  being able to gamble on anything, anywhere.

A mentor once told COD when he was a young seminarian, "You should have a nominal vice, like smoking or martinis or small-stakes gambling, because if you don't, we all know nobody's perfect, especially clergy, and people will wonder what really weird secret stuff is your vice."  Crusty settled on martinis and small-stakes gambling.  It's even better when combined, COD spent a magical night -- literally, from about midnight to five AM -- drinking free beer and playing craps at a 25 cent one-man craps table that had only three chairs in a Holiday Inn in Sparks, NV.

Beer and betting?  Light years ahead of us!
COD loves the fact that in most UK and Irish pubs, you can bet on pretty much any current sporting event.  Likewise, bookies in the UK also take action on all sorts of non-sporting events, like who was to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury (and who will be the next Pope, FWIW).  In the USA, we seem to have legalized all forms of gambling except for sporting events in the past thirty years.  Show me a petition, and I'll sign it!

This is why COD pushed hard for General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Reno or Las Vegas in 2015:  since a new Presiding Bishop is being elected, we could place bets!  COD would change his name to Reno Mike and work in the sports book in Lake Tahoe for the duration of Convention.

So read Crusty before placing your bets on the next Pope.

A couple of preliminary remarks:

a)  anyone holding out hope for another John XXIII, put down the wacky tobacky and take a whiff of reality.  While it's true that the papacy is one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, the notion that a reformer could be elected and bring about sweeping changes -- while possible -- is remote.  Bl. John Paul and Benedict have appointed the current batch of cardinals -- Benedict 67 out of the 118 with a vote.  Neither of those popes could be labeled as a moderate or a reformer, and neither are many of those with a vote.

b)  what clergy, or laypeople, might look for in a Pope is not necessarily what the people who get to vote are looking for.  During the Presiding Bishop election in 2006, COD asked a bishop his thoughts on the election.  The bishop noted, "Keep in mind what is an important concern for bishops is not as important to others; a factor for us is how we think someone will manage and run the House of Bishops."  The rest of the church mainly sees the Presiding Bishop as primate, but the people with the vote -- the bishops -- have additional concerns and perspectives.  Similarly, what the people with a vote -- cardinal bishops under the age of 80 -- are looking for is someone who can manage the complex and difficult Vatican bureaucracy.

c)  ignore any media story that mentions the possibility of Timothy Dolan of New York.  While it may get people's attention in American media, there will not be an American pope in my lifetime.  Not happening.

On to some candidates and scenarios.

Jay Bilas comparing Papabiles' upside and wingspan.
1)  After two non-Italian popes -- after having only Italian popes for 400 years -- there may be a push to elect an Italian.  They have a disproportionate number of electors (28 out of 118 are Italian).  Heck, Crusty's been to Italy, where it's nearly impossible to get anything done, like convincing your taxi driver to take you to the correct hotel.  Maybe an Italian can do better at trying to get the Vatican to work.  If so, COD thinks Angelo Scola of Milan.  Historically Milan has at times served as a stepping stone to the papacy.  Danger here is whether electing an Italian dooms the church to an inwardly looking papacy when that's the last thing it needs.

2)  If a non-Italian European, (again a disproportionate number of electors: 62 out of 118 voting cardinals are Europeans) COD thinks maybe Christoph Schoenburn of Austria.  Personally COD would vote for Schoeburn, he's the closest thing to a moderate in the race.

3)  There will be considerable push from some quarters for a non-European, non-Western candidate, given the numerical strength of Catholicism is in South America, the fact it is growing rapidly in Africa, and potential for future growth in Asia, and that in the past generation cardinals from the developing world have advanced into the papal curia and gained crucial networking and experience.  If they decide to go this way, COD thinks Peter Turkson of Ghana for an African or Odilo Scherer of Brazil for a South American.  It's not Asia's time yet.

4)  The dark horse.  Remember that Bl John Paul II was an unexpected dark horse candidate; this has happened in the past.  Archbishop Tagle of Milan has been mentioned, but COD thinks the memory of John Paul is fresh and that Tagle's age (he's 55) may count against him, there may be reluctance for another potentially long pontificate.  Crusty would put his longshot money on Marc Ouellet of Canada.

But it's prediction time.  Crusty predicted Justin Welby for Archbishop of Canterbury, so it's time to get out ahead of the pack:  COD predicts

Cardinal Scola; or, if they go with a non-European, Cardinal Scherer of Brazil; or someone else.

And remember, all predictions guaranteed or your money back.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Benedict's Resignation: No Need for AntiPope Containment

Crusty awoke this morning and discovered it was one of those rare days when religion invades the news cycle, and, for once, not having something to do with homosexuality and sexual misconduct by clergy.  Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, effective February 28. COD was glad this was not a Leap Year, so the Pope wouldn't have to serve that extra day before the end of the month.

COD found himself pondering several aspects to this revelation:

1)  whether Popes can resign,
2)  whether something else is going on, and
2)  an initial assessment of Benedict's papacy.

As for (1), of course Popes can resign.  The Code of Canon Law which governs the Catholic Church contains provisions for this, in the 1917 and revised 1983 versions.  Depending on how you count, perhaps upwards of 10 Popes have resigned -- Crusty says "depending" because some of these "resignations" were depositions by various German Emperors, or Popes resigning due to charges of misconduct against them.  Honest-to-goodness resignations, with the incumbent legitimately resigning the office freely, are more rare.

AntiPope Containment Unit
The two most recent are Pope Gregory XII in 1415 and Celestine V in 1294.  Gregory XII is a particularly illuminating example:  the church had been rocked by the so-called Great Schism since 1378, when rival popes were elected, one residing in Rome, the other in Avignon.  This caused a bit of a kerfuffle, so say the least; since's one's salvation rested in being subject to the Roman pontiff (see Unam Sanctam, 1302), which one was the right one? Most everyone agreed the Schism wasn't a good thing, but weren't sure how to solve it.  One of the solutions put forward by leading canonists and theologians was for the Popes to resign and a new one elected.  A group of cardinals, frustrated by the situation, elected a third Pope, hoping that the other Popes would do precisely this.  Naturally, they did not, so it resulted for a decade or so with there being three Popes.  In a gracious gesture, Gregory XII resigned to help clear the way, thinking that there needed to be a clean slate.  John XXIII, the last of the three popes standing tried to get the church council that met to solve the schism to elect him Pope, but, when it became clear they wouldn't, he tried to flee, was tracked down, caught, and deposed by the church council.  The reason there was another John XXIII (1958-1963) is that the previous John XXIII was declared an antipope.  Nothing in Canon Law about whether a massive explosion occurs when Popes and Anti-Popes mix (like in Star Trek, when it always seemed matter and anti-matter were always about to crash into each other and end the galaxy).

Celestine V is the other classic example of a pope resigning.  He was, by all account, an elderly, pious,  monk when elected at age 79 or 80.  Overwhelmed by the office, he resigned barely six months into the papacy.  Retirement did not go so well for him.  His successor, worried someone might try to place Celestine back on the papal throne, had him imprisoned for the rest of his life.  Some scholars also identify him as the figure in Dante's Inferno (III. 59-60) who was sentenced there for his cowardice.

The reason for some modern consternation about popes resigning stems from Paul VI, who, as Thomas Reese noted in his piece for the National Catholic Reporter, opined that "paternity cannot be resigned." During John Paul II's pontificate, numerous rumors swirled during his different health crises that resignation was imminent.  COD was working as a hospital chaplain in a Roman Catholic hospital the summer of 1994, and gossip among the Catholic priests on staff reached an almost fevered pitch about a possible Papal resignation due to ill health.

So yes, Popes can, have, and will resign.

2)  The rumor mill is already swirling that maybe there were other reasons for Benedict's resignation: one that seems to be in the twittoblogofacesphere is that he is somehow implicated in sexual misconduct coverups, either from his time as Archbishop of Munich or as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Crusty sincerely doubts this -- not because he doesn't believe Benedict might have done some things which reflect poorly on him; there's plenty in the public domain already, and the Vatican already turned Holy Week 2010 into a pep rally for the Pope.  This is an organization which has resisted calls for resignation of senior bishops clearly compromised far more than Benedict.  Only one prelate, Bernard Law, resigned his see, and in turn he was rewarded with a plum position in Rome and still entrusted with a say in the committee which selects new bishops.  There's a bishop in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops with a criminal conviction on his record, for God's sake (the Bishop of Kansas City).  If no other figures have been asked to resign or be held accountable, except for Law, why should we imagine suddenly the person at the top would resign?

If anything else is going on, COD suspects it has to do with Benedict's health.  He has looked noticeably older in recent months, can no longer walk down the main aisle during services at St Peter's. A well-connected friend of Crusty's passed along a rumor a couple of months ago that the Pope had had a stroke, but COD didn't give it much credence because it seems there's always something in the papal rumor mill.  But maybe he does have health complications that are not being revealed.

So on to (3), an initial assessment of his papacy.   Crusty's initial thought it is: mission accomplished.  Now, first off, not that Crusty is particularly pleased with that assessment.  But let's go back to 2005, when the enclave was meeting to elect a successor to John Paul II.  If Crusty had been blogging then, he would have made three points about what he thought the cardinals were looking for in a new pope:

a)  someone with strong managerial credentials.  There were some who felt John Paul II spent too much time traveling and speaking; combined with his extended health issues, this led to a leadership drift.  Just like in a congregation with a long gap between pastors, when committees and factions in the congregation step into that vacuum and begin running things, many felt someone needed to come in and have a firmer organizational hand in the many departments and factions in the Vatican.
b)  someone with strong theological credentials; there were some who felt, despite all his gifts, John Paul was not forceful enough theologically.  For example, while he reached out to Jews and Muslims, there were those who felt the theological issues in interreligious dialogue were not being given enough attention.
c)   someone older:  having emerged from the long and charismatic shadow of John Paul II, nobody wanted another 25-year papacy; rather, an older Pope with the above credentials could be a good transitional figure.

Lots of rumors swirled in 2005:  would it be an African or South American, reflecting the increasing diversity and globalization?  COD thought those folks were dreaming, and, had he had a place to put down a bet, it would have been on a conservative European cardinal.  And Crusty was not surprised at all to see Cardinal Ratzinger emerge on that balcony.

Thus COD's initial assessment:  they got what they elected.  An older theological conservative with extensive managerial experience.  COD will leave it to the real Vatican insiders to break down Benedict's legacy in the Catholic Church, he will reflect on one aspect where he did have some contact:  the Catholic Church's ecumenical engagement with other Christians.  Crusty did served as Ecumenical Officer for the Episcopal Church during his pontificate, after all, and helped to coordinate relationships with the Catholic Church.

Put simply, Benedict was at the forefront of a great ecumenical reordering and retrenchment.  This is a Pope whose prominent ecumenical "successes" include:

1)  working to heal the breach with the Society of St Pius X, a conservative break-away from the Roman Catholic  Church.  Crusty wishes the Pope spent as much time trying to heal the breach with other Christian bodies that didn't have bishops who denied the Holocaust.

2)  establishing Ordinariates for those Episcopalians and Anglicans to be received into the Catholic Church.  Well, not so much the Ordinariates themselves because

a) there had been something like this before, a Pastoral Provision which allowed Episcopal and Anglican priests to become Roman Catholics, remain married, and still use an Anglican Rite.
b)  the Catholic Church is free to do whatever it wants, Crusty sure doesn't ask their approval for what Episcopalians do.

Rather, Crusty was bothered because of the way this was presented as an outgrowth of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, because, while the Catholic Church has every right to do this, it was and is as profoundly un-ecumenical action, taken without consultation or discussion with Anglicans, and because it is a reassertion that the only acceptable form of full communion with the Roman Catholic Church is reintegration and return.

John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, wanted to have a conversation about how the ministry of the Pope could be in the service of Christian unity.  Crusty still longs to have that conversation, but isn't holding his breath.

Farewell, Benedict; maybe retirement will treat you better than it did Celestine V.  And I will keep praying for my Catholic brothers and sisters.