Jason and the Callers tell us that Protestantism doesn’t have a magisterium that can settle disputes and end disunity. They fail to mention that Protestantism also lacks ecclesiastical partisans who by interpreting the pope according to their own image function as their own magisterium. Sean Michael Winters thinks “right-of-center writers appeal to those parts of Benedict’s speeches that people like me always loved and which they ignored.” He also says “there really is a deep continuity between Benedict and Francis, but there is virtually no continuity between Benedict as interpreted by U.S.-based Catholic neo-cons and Pope Francis.” How are the faithful to make sense of this? Ask a reporter who covers the Vatican:
In the often heated (and sometimes self-referential) debate surrounding the continuities and discontinuities between Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, people are often so hasty to draw contrasts and point to the differences in style and focus of the two Popes, that they risk creating caricatures out of both figures. A series of artificial clichés end up being attached to Ratzinger’s person, as if his teachings were entirely about the strenuous and tireless defence of non-negotiable values in the public arena.
On his first visit abroad for World Youth Day in Cologne, in the summer of 2005, Benedict XVI chose not to speak about chastity, premarital sex etc. Instead, he concentrated on the beauty of Christianity. He followed a similar approach a year later when he visited Spain, the cradle of “Zapaterian relativism” and the home of same-sex marriage. Benedict XVI met families who had come to the city of Valencia from all corners of the world to testify the beauty of their experiences. On this occasion he chose not to launch any criticisms against the Spanish government, focusing on positive aspects instead.
The courageous and evangelical response Ratzinger gave in 2010, when the Church was right in the thick of the paedophilia scandal is another case in point. Instead of pointing the finger at the Church’s external enemies, he said that the biggest threat comes from inside the Church, from the sin that exists within it. Newspapers that are now pro-Ratzinger did not like this move. Ratzinger’s “penitential Church”, became a slogan used to express a nostalgia and yearning for Ratzinger to adopt stronger public stances.
Then there were the words Ratzinger pronounced on his last trip to Germany (Freiburg) as reigning Pope in 2011.Words which disappeared into a vortex self-interested silence. He talked about a Church “that is satisfied with itself, makes itself at home in this world, that is self-sufficient, adapting to worldly principles.” A Church that tends to lend “greater importance to organization and institutionalization than it does to its calling to be open to God, and to open this world up to its neighbours.” “Free of burdens, and material and political privileges, the Church is able to better devote itself, and in a way that is truly Christian, to the entire world; it can truly be open to the world,” Ratzinger said.