The Benedict Balance

On the anniversary of Pope Benedict’s departure from Rome, here is my latest article for Aleteia on his emerging role as “Behind the Scenes Pope.”

What is the emerging role of Pope Emeritus Benedict? At last Saturday’s consistory, he looked alert and strong for a man of eighty-six years. Is he really in complete seclusion in the Mater Dei monastery, or has Pope Benedict really returned to the kind of “second fiddle” role he played during the long papacy of John Paul II? During John Paul’s papacy, then-Cardinal Ratzinger remained a quiet but strong supporter of the crowd-pleasing Polish pope. In his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger provided the theological precision the papacy needs to define and defend the faith.

While Pope Benedict does not play that role actively, it is very probable that he provides intellectual and spiritual support for Pope Francis.  Pope Francis is a Vatican outsider; Pope Benedict knows the Vatican inside and out. Pope Francis is a crowd pleaser; Pope Benedict always seemed shy and self-effacing with the crowds. Pope Francis is ready to make prophetic pronouncements which sometimes seem theologically ambiguous; Pope Benedict is precise and measured in his writings. Benedict could well be bringing balance and stability to his successor’s brilliant papacy without overshadowing or competing with him.

Read the whole article here at Aleteia.