“Through the megaphone of his enemies”

The Irish journalist John Waters has written an excellent article in The Irish Times on the legacy of Pope Benedict.

Waters writes that “The pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI has had two key themes: the crisis engulfing humanity in modern man-made culture and the possibility of rediscovering the antidote. Crisis and Christ, or perhaps, crisis in a Christian world in Christ’s apparent absence. These two strands have been interwoven in virtually every public statement of this extraordinary pope. Yet, most people remain convinced that he spoke of nothing but abortion and homosexuality”.

Not only that Benedict often went out of his way to ignore these very issues when he could. In his 2010 state visit to the UK in which he gave a stunning and magnificent speech in Westminster Hall arguing for the role of religion in the public sphere in front of the elite of British society. In his 2012 trip to Mexico he said nothing about the city that had just legalised gay marriage. This was not because he was given tacit support to these governments actions but because his broader mission meant so much more that these issues.

The piece goes on to note Benedict “had, for example, some things to say about markets and how they might be rescued from ideology and harnessed to a moral purpose in the common good. Such themes, given a chance, might have sparked an important ‘secular’ discussion, if the journalists had not been furiously scanning the text for the words ‘homosexuality’ or ‘abortion’. But Benedict moved towards a different conclusion: none of this could be separated from the person and presence of Christ. By then, alas, the journalists had left the building. With equal insistence, the pope reminded humankind of the dangers of misunderstanding human desiring, of pursuing too narrow a definition of freedom, of misusing reason in ways that would make these errors unavoidable”.

Waters mentions “There is, he told us in that dazzling ‘bunker’ speech in the Bundestag in September 2011, an ‘ecology of man’. Man, he [Benedict] said, ‘is not merely self-creating freedom’ – he is intellect and will, but also nature, ‘and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled'”.

The article ends “Had we been disposed, or enabled, to pay attention, we might well, over the past eight years, have devised a more useful map of ourselves and our present condition. We might have begun making connections between the nature of the human and the nature of the crisis that besets the systems we have generated for human welfare and convenience. We might have been struck by the idea of growing debt as evidence of something more than technical malfunction – perhaps as an indicator of the ravenousness of human desires when unmoored from core meanings. All this we missed, and much more besides. The main problem faced by Pope Benedict, I wrote five years ago, is that he was obliged to address his people through the megaphone of his enemies”.

Our world is much poorer now that Benedict is gone. It falls to the electors to choose another man, though there will surely be not quite like Benedict.


4 Responses to ““Through the megaphone of his enemies””

  1. Complex legacy | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] of articles on the legacy of Pope Benedict, be it his foreign policy, musical, liturgical, and cultural challenge to society another article has emerged, this time by John […]

  2. CEO of the Church | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] modern individualistic society swept up in itself. He also ignores the point that Benedict had to speak his message through a media that was more or less relentlessly hostile, even if it ended up benefiting society as a […]

  3. Francis, interviewed | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] is not to say that Francis endorses gay sex, he does not, but he stops short of saying this, or is mis, or badly quoted leading to a different image that is unfair to Pope […]

  4. A year of retirement | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] the importance of both professional and spiritual formation for those working with the poor. Sadly, the media were so focused on what he had to say about abortion, gays and condoms that what he had to say on other issues was […]

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