I was struck by the gracious summary on NCRep by Thomas Reese, SJ on Pope Benedict. This piece of analysis rang true to me:
As a German professor, he was used to lecturing students who took down his words, memorized them and gave them back in exams. As a professor, he used technical language that might mean one thing in the classroom but something completely different on the street. Thus, he could say most Protestant churches were not true churches because he had defined “church” as a Christian community with a legitimate episcopacy. He could also use a word like “disordered,” which for him had philosophical meaning while on the street it would be interpreted as a psychological term.
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he saw his role as being like that of a German professor. Those who questioned or did not provide the right answers were flunked and dismissed from school. He saw to it that theologians raising questions or having contrary views were removed from seminary faculties. Priests with these views could never become bishops. In this, he and John Paul were on the same page.
The Catholic world is not a university, however. In the
world communion of faith such practices of removal, dismissal, and throwing obstacles accomplished the opposite of the intention of smoothing the internal unity of the Body. The persecuted drew followers, often not of their own intent. Book sales rose. The CDF was whispered about as an unjust and antiquated body. Often the commentary was louder than whispers. Its head was vilified as vicious, uncaring, and cruel. Ascending to the Chair of Peter, he had more baggage than a jet airliner.
Pope Benedict “haters” were never on the warpath against a pope. They were skeptical and sometimes bitter about the head of the theology department-turned-university president.
The NCRep comboxes are quite illustrative as they developed this morning. Fr Reese is attacked for being soft on Benedict. Fr Reese is attacked for “hate.” Who can deny that Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict was and is a polarizing figure? That should be the consensus of everybody.
I think the time for commentary on the man is drawing to a close. Soon enough the 1982-2013 era will be well-ensconced in the realm of memory. Those of us who disliked the actions of the man in question can strive for a greater graciousness when we speak of him. Speaking for myself, my plate is pretty full of the things I’m tasked to accomplish for the sake of the Gospel today. I’d rather consider the future than nurse grudges about the past, be it 2007, 1998, 1985, 1982, 1968, or whenever.