Benedict XVI: No Grand Inquisitor
A gentle, pious man, the new pope is hardly the spiritual despot depicted by the media.
BY: David Scott
The honeymoon was over before it began for the new Pope Benedict XVI.
Minutes after the conclave curtain lifted, the airwaves and internet were clogged with the new conventional wisdom-former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a hard-line extremist, a former Nazi, a sinister "grand inquisitor" who ratcheted the rack against all who dared debate his vision of the faith.
American Catholics, some warned, would vote with their feet-emptying the pews in "an accelerating exodus," as one commentator put it.
It's a frustrating caricature unworthy of a faithful servant of the Church.
The new pope is a gentle man with a humble sense of piety and devotion. He has written with great sensitivity about music and architecture-even collaborating on a book with the quintessential modernist painter, William Congdon. Despite what critics say, his vital interest isn't in punishing heretics but in the Christian liturgy and its power to bring people into communion with the living God.
Even in his work for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one would be hard-pressed to find the spiritual despot depicted in popular media accounts.
We're told that he wants to repress women in the Church and to relegate homosexuals to a spiritual and social ghetto. But his writings on such issues as women's ordination and homosexuality are reasonable and charitable, and always based on Scripture and the natural law. He has never advocated a personal opinion, only the settled teaching of the Church.
One may disagree with his logic or wish the Church would now change its teaching after 2,000 years. But surely it's a crass attempt at intellectual blackmail to label his teachings as bigotry or "hate speech."
We're told that the new pope is a triumphalist whose vision of the world has no room for other Christians or other world religions.
But again his writings belie this. He only affirms what the Church has always taught-that Jesus is who he said he is: the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to God but through him.
He has never said that non-Catholics can't find God or reach salvation. Indeed, he has written that the teachings of other religions can help their adherents become pure and pleasing to God. He believes however, as the Church does, that the graces given to men and women of whatever faith flow in a mysterious way from Christ's redemptive work on the cross.