The unexpected retirement announcement by Pope Benedict was a shock to the world, though I’m personally not surprised. I always sensed that Joseph Ratzinger humbly accepted the call to the papacy out of a sense of duty. He has always been a scholar first, a man of letters. Consider: How many sitting popes have produced so many scholarly books—not encyclicals or apostolic letters or exhortations, but scholarly books—in just a handful of years? He’s now 85, and I bet there are a few more works he’d still like to write. Besides, he humbly knows that there are other men capable of stepping in, especially as his capacities slow with age.
As to the world’s reaction, my favorite was the BBC. Americans think the BBC smart and sophisticated—it’s that British accent. In truth, the BBC is simply Britain’s version of the New York Times, but even more ignorant and disrespectful of religion. Consider how the BBC summed up Benedict’s life and papacy:
- Born in Germany in 1927, joined Hitler Youth …
- As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent 24 years in charge of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition
- A theological conservative, with uncompromising views on homosexuality and women priests
Ah, yes, of course. So sayeth the BBC. The first reader comment at the BBC story was equally revealing: “Does anyone really care? … This is 2013 when a lot of educated people choose not to believe in god or other mythological / fictional characters.”
Well, unfortunately, the world’s secular progressives do care. They will be angrily sticking their nose into the Church’s business. Unreligious and anti-Catholic, they will nonetheless demand a pope of their liking, one who agrees with, say, Obama. The new spirit of the age is gay marriage and taxpayer-funded abortion, and, no doubt, the Roman Catholic Church should fall in line and reject its theological “conservatism.”
These are the voices that Joseph Ratzinger called the “anonymous power” that dictates prevailing moods and fads and fashions. They have never, however, dictated Joseph Ratzinger. Thank you, Pope Benedict, for your service and duty.