Over at Catholic World Report, a few notables have tried to evaluate Benedict XVI’s papacy. Have these been five years of disaster? Not at all. In fact, despite the bad press, they have been five very fruitful years for the Catholic Church. Here are some excerpts. Check out the whole round-table here.
As prophet, he not only exposed a false prophet whose followers threaten to overwhelm Europe demographically, but he laid another solid foundation, the only one on which genuine dialogue with Muslims can be constructed: the affirmation of the validity of human reason. He did this in his remarkable address at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006. But his prophetic critique was not only, or even primarily, directed at Islam. He called the West back to a deeper understanding of reason that goes beyond the self-limitation of modern science to what can be counted and measured—to reason that is open to transcendence.
Still, with the passage of time, the overall trend of this pontificate has clearly emerged. Pope Benedict is aiming to end decades of confusion, to challenge an increasingly hostile world to recognize the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. That goal is inimical both to secularists outside the Church and to dissidents within. It is not surprising, then, that today we find the secularists and the dissident Catholics united in a common cause: to portray this Pope, who has been the leading champion of reform in the Vatican hierarchy, as a foe of reform. The charges themselves cannot be sustained. The ferocity of the campaign betrays the desperation of the Pope’s critics.
In general one might summarize the first five years by saying that this papacy has been focused on healing the schisms of the 11th and 16th centuries and the problems created by the “hermeneutic of rupture” approach to the Second Vatican Council, including the schism of 1988. It has been a papacy devoted to Christian unity. This has required a certain sensitivity to historical and theological differences not often possessed by the average secular journalist. Someone with Benedict’s intellectual ability and “nose for history” is very well placed to do this and he has bravely taken the flack, especially from people who either can’t think beyond the present or want it to be forever 1968.