The problem with Benedict’s essay

Catholic World Report

April 13, 2019

By Christopher R. Altieri

Right or wrong, Benedict told us very little—practically nothing—we did not already know.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI attends a consistory for the creation of new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Feb. 22, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s release of his letter on “The Church and the Crisis of Sexual Abuse” took most of the world—including Rome, by all accounts—quite by surprise. In the English-speaking world, the Catholic News Agency led the way with the full text, in a well-prepared—even elegant—translation from the original German. The New York Post anticipated the letter’s release in English, with an editorial take that described Benedict’s foray into the public debate over the great matter as, “a post-retirement encyclical.”

Reaction in the press was swift and hot.

The portion of the commentariat usually well-disposed to Francis was quick to decry the intervention of the Pope emeritus as temerarious. Writing for Commonweal, Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University opined, “The publication of Benedict’s essay has already damaged his reputation and sown confusion.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter said the letter seemed a “caricature of both Joseph Ratzinger’s once powerful intellect and of conservative explanations for the sex abuse crisis.”

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