A Tale Of Two Benedicts
It is now February 2021, pretty much exactly eight years after Benedict’s abdication. This is a rather funny number, because Benedict was Pope for a little less than 8 years. Therefore, the guy has now been Emeritus for longer than he has been Pope, as in “in charge”.
I don’t think History will be kind to Benedict; not even considering that what came after him was much, much worse. I think that, however you look at him, he was a failure + Summorum Pontificum.
In my eyes, there are two possible Benedicts, and History will help us ascertain who was the real one: weak Benedict and coward Benedict.
Weak Benedict is the Benedict we have followed in the news: no enforcement of Summorum Pontificum, bad appointments to Cardinal, worse appointments to Bishop, a general atmosphere of V II orthodoxy observed in word as he allowed the same V II orthodoxy to be undermined in fact. The V II orthodoxy was deeply flawed anyway: Benedict also wanted to have his Assisi kumbaya theatre, and he never backpedalled on JP II on, say, capital punishment or doctrine of war. Weak Benedict resigned, in good faith, because he felt he was too weak to carry on the job. Weak Benedict thought that his successor would have a stronger and more effective hand. Weak Benedict was very naive, a remarkable trait in so intelligent and perceptive a man.
Coward Benedict, if such a one he was, simply fled before the wolves. Either he caved to personal threats (an extremely grave fault in a Pope), or he was too weak to keep fighting the “deep Vatican”, or – if you are one of those who love conspiracy theories – he chose to resign to avoid some scandal being revealed, as if scandals were something new to the Church or threatening to Her.
In charity, I always assumed that weak Benedict is the real one, and coward Benedict is a fantasy of the usual conspiracy troops. However, I cannot but notice that Emeritus Benedict has always been, in his public declarations, nothing but supportive of Francis, in a sad show of very, very German gregariousness, made sadder by the fact that Benedict must clearly see the amount of damage he supports.
This tells me that, in the end, Weak Benedict was, too, not a little coward.