Jody Bottum has a particularly interesting essay assessing Pope Benedict’s term. I have little to add as a formal or institutional to much of the chatter assessing Benedict’s record, the various scandals that occurred or emerged on his watch, or why or if he should have resigned.
I just want to add two very simple thoughts.
The first is that however history assesses Pope Benedict’s record, from a personal perspective Spe Salvi is one of the handful of most influential books I have ever read. I first read it at an especially appropriate time of my life and it spoke to me powerfully then and ever since. In fact, I just read it again this year over Christmas Break. I was going to say “coincidentally” but then I realized that I have re-read it about once a year every year since it appeared and I always gain intellectual and spiritual nourishment from it. A truly profound and moving piece of work to me.
Second, I’ve always taken great pride that under Benedict’s leadership we had a true intellectual heavyweight at the helm of the Church, a man of incredible learning and sheer intellectual firepower. Reading Spe Salvi or his writings on Jesus, for example, you recognize that you are in the presence of a truly first-class mind and a powerful writer and thinker. With Benedict, Catholics (especially Catholic intellectuals, I suspect) could know that the church was led by someone who not only certainly could measure up to any other religious leader in the world today, but one who could measure up to any thinker in the world today.
Benedict also seemed like an eminently holy and gentle man. But he is a Pope that I experienced through his words and intellect. And for that I’ll personally miss him and what he meant to the Church. As I understand it, he will continue to write. But I can say with certainty that had he never been Pope I would never have come across his writings. And that has made all the difference.