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Watch: “What Is the Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI?”

Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, Mary Ann Glendon, and Francis X. Maier talk with Kathryn Jean Lopez about the life, work, and legacy of Benedict XVI

Father Joseph Fessio with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during his 1999 visit to Ignatius Press / Dorothy Petersen and Eva Muntean

Hosted in partnership with National Review Institute, Catholic World Report, and Ethics and Public Policy Center:

Mary Ann Glendon is the Learned Hand Professor of Law, emerita, at Harvard University, and a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. She writes in the fields of human rights, comparative law, and political theory. Glendon chaired the U.S. State Department Commission on Unalienable Rights (2019-2020) and served as a member of the Commission on International Religious Freedom (2012-2016), and the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics (2001-2004). She received the National Humanities Medal in 2006.

Fr. Joseph Fessio S.J., is editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press and a longtime personal friend of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. (Ignatius Press is the primary U.S. publisher of his works, having issued some 40+ books.) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was Fr. Fessio’s doctoral director and mentor at the University of Regensburg in then West Germany from 1972-1975. As a member of Ratzinger’s “Schulerkreis” or group of former students, Fr. Fessio participated in many of the yearly three-day-long gatherings of that group.

Francis X. Maier is senior fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who previously served as senior adviser and special assistant to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., for 23 years in Denver and Philadelphia.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at National Review Institute where she directs the Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society and an editor-at-large at National Review.

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  1. This wide ranging quadrilogue moves from Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address (critiquing the West and Islam, both) to, I propose, Mary Ann Glendon’s insight that the Western experiment is self-terminating if it forgets the CHRISTIAN FOUNDATIONS for the “humanitarian ideals” it still claims to embrace in the interests of “the future of humanity.”

    Might we consider the problematic PREDISPOSITION behind both the world of Islam and what now ails the West?

    And this predisposition, which renders dialogue ineffective (as between, for example, President Biden and Archbishop Broglio, the president-elect of the USCCB), is recently exemplified by a remark tendered by Biden–that Benedict XVI occupies a different space than himself in the “Catholic REALM.”

    The “realm?” Is such Western realm-ness not also the Moorish cultural model whereby, in both cases, Christianity is rendered a tolerated DHIMMI as within the cosmopolitanism of Islam?

    Islam, a predisposed PATCHWORK of many flavors: retained pagan features (the jihad warrior code, a folk hero, pilgrimage to the retooled Kaaba in Mecca, polygamy but no longer polytheism), parts of the Hebrew Pentateuch, overlaid Christian parts (e.g., three of the five pillars of Islam are Judeo-Christian: alms, prayer, fasting; plus Christ reduced to a prophet), and generally a reductionism toward an instinctive natural religion as if restored from before corrupting history began (sensing the innate and universal Natural Law as distinct from, but validated by the divinity and humanity of Christ?).
    Enter the cult-hero Biden MINDSET…his predisposition toward a polyglot “realm”? Where there can be no such thing as coherence versus contradictions (as between human natural law and state-mandated abortion); instead an inclusive and syncretic perimeter, and maybe Islamic-like fatwas of “abrogation” if needed.

    The point here being that “Christian foundations” rest directly on the Incarnation as such–the singular, central and “alarming” (Benedict’s term) EVENT within human history! Does the expansive and transcendent (!) God actually talk to people, or not? Another binary! The definitive “Word made flesh”; not the mimic Qur’anic “word made book” as dictated in Arabic under Islam, nor the total wreckage word(s) made subjective-cafeteria as pontificated by Biden.

    How, then, to DIALOGUE between the self-disclosing LOGOS and the opposing and generic/cross-cultural predisposition (!) underlying both post-modern radicalism with Biden, and pre-modern/resurgent Islam? (A question which has some bearing, too, on whether a “compiled, aggregated and synthesized” Synod on Synodality, within the Church itself, is to be done Faithfully—or not, as a plebiscite.)

    Pope Benedict XVI clarified such matters at Regensburg, and before and since.

  2. About the renunciation (18:18). A key to understanding Benedict XVI’s resignation is the homily on the death of Paul VI by Cardinal Ratzinger himself, who seems to have meditated on his own 35 years earlier.
    The Dean of the College of Cardinals, G.B Re, said that he withdrew like Moses on the mountain, to pray for the Church.
    Father G. Cavalcoli, an Italian prominent Dominican theologian, explains that Pope Benedict XVI, in the fullness of his pontifical authority, has established the figure of Pope Emeritus as a dogmatic explanation of the essence of the Papacy. In some way, he acted as a counterweight to the resignation and in any case constituted a share of the pontifical power.
    In my very poor opinion, the renunciation is comparable to the circumstances of Rembrandt’s death whose meaning lies in the first beatitude, the primacy of God, of Christ’s grace.
    On October 5, 1669, in a hovel in the suburbs of Amsterdam, a diligent notary drew up an inventory of the few miserable things that still belonged to the late Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, the greatest Dutch painter of the seventeenth century. Of the rich antiquarian collection that the artist had owned in his lifetime, and which he was forced to sell due to a reverse of fortune ten years earlier, almost no trace remains in the notarial document. Instead, there are scarce furnishings, some work tools, and only two paintings: The return of the prodigal son and Simeon with the Child Jesus. From here begins the story of the painting of the merciful Father, which Rembrandt, surprised by death, left partly unfinished. Among other things, it amazes me for its dimensions: about two and a half meters in height by two in width. Yet no client showed up to claim the prodigal son, once the artist disappeared. He had therefore painted it only for himself, choosing the subject at will, a rather unusual case for a man who had spent his entire life working to order.
    He preferred to create and contemplate for himself the essential masterpiece that he never entrusted to his “commercial”, public, ministerial production.
    Reduced to poverty, having lost his wife and also his son, he closed his eyes, having before him the hope of this mercy. The absolute protagonist is the Father.
    Cardinal Comastri recounts: «We were invited to give the Pope a last farewell as he exited the lift before he set off for the car that would take him to the Vatican heliport. As soon as I saw the Holy Father Benedict XVI get out of the lift, understanding the gravity of that moment… I burst into tears. And spontaneously these words came out of my heart: “Holy Father, it is a moment of sadness”. Pope Benedict XVI looked at me almost amazed, then with his hand he delicately touched my cheek as if he wanted to dry a tear and whispered to me softly: “No, no sadness! Only Jesus is indispensable, and Jesus continues to hold the helm of the boat of the Church of him! Forward… with confidence!».

  3. Application of knowledge, wisdom and scripture is everything! Ok! Pope Benedict XVI could make music with knowledge, wisdom and scriptures! Did he then use his wisdom to help/fight to correct the tremendous Spiritual distress the Catholic Church is in today? Or did he simply keep his mouth shut, as unspoken Catholic Taboo demands?

    According to future theology historians, while the Catholic Church was going through the Greatest Era of Spiritual Distress in Catholic Church History, the Great Pope Benedict XVI, did what?

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