Benedict the brave
By Andrew P. Napolitano
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When Jesus established the papacy, the Gospels report that he told the apostle Peter: “Amen I say to you: You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” These words are emblazoned in Latin across the front of St. Peter's Basilica. St. Peter's successors have incorporated his name to describe their work, the Petrine ministry.
But the Petrine ministry is more than work. And being Papa Petrus is not a job; it is a calling in which a man has been chosen by the direct descendants of the 12 apostles as agents of God to be the vicar of Christ on Earth. One becomes the pope not as one becomes the president, but as one becomes a Catholic priest or the father of a child. The papacy, like ordination and fatherhood, is a life-changing and irreversible imprint — and hence, my sadness at the abdication of Benedict XVI. It shook my soul to the core.
The present pope is cognizant of the burdens of office and the needs of his enormous flock. He also is a brilliant theologian whose pre-papal- and papal-published works have instructed the faithful and others in a manner and with a level of confidence and erudition that surpass his modern predecessors.
When Benedict was elected to the papacy in 2005, I wept with joy that such a faithful custodian of the church's teachings and traditions and such a worthy bridge to Christ in heaven had been chosen by the cardinals. But it was not always so. Like many of us, the youthful Benedict evolved with the passage of the generations.
Fifty years ago, as a young priest and scholar, he preferred wearing civilian clothes in public — truly a statement in the mid-1960s — and he relished his role as an adviser to the less-orthodox members of the Catholic hierarchy at Vatican II.
But his papacy has been spent attempting to return to the level of Catholic orthodoxy that the somewhat misguided and largely misunderstood teachings of Vatican II have been used to assault. At some point in his career, the future pope recognized that Vatican II made the church worse, not better, and that the Catholic teachings, traditions and liturgy that the world believed Vatican II had watered down needed to be restored. He knew that his public mission was to reverse the trivialization of the liturgy, the lax clerical discipline and the weakened sacramental safeguards from which the church has been suffering since Vatican II.
The Holy Spirit must have recognized all of this, as he sent us Pope John Paul II, the rock star, to blaze a path where no pope had gone before — touching millions of youths with language they understood.
Now Benedict has freely chosen to surrender his power and forgo his temporal glory so one stronger than he can exercise it, no matter his personal loss.
This is the essence of Benedict's gift to us: He used his very existence on Earth near the end of his days to teach others to reach and correspond to a personal relationship with God, driven by conscience and consistent with church teachings, via the sacraments and personal sacrifice, no matter what the world thought.
Such a quiet, personal, Christ-like submission of the will is not the essence of a rock star; it is the essence of a rock. Human salvation has been advanced immeasurably because the church had both types of popes at its helm — each to complement the other in ways we could not have imagined.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penn Hills transportation undergoes second round of outsourcing
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- Woman sues UPMC over pregnancy drug test
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Upper St. Clair woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Pittsburgh’s Rubber Duck to be redeployed to Norfolk
- Sewickley teen’s art helps her deal with challenges of epilepsy
- Pittsburgh police to tear up parking tickets written ‘erroneously’
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract