His academic career got off to a rough start when his post-doctoral dissertation started a heated public argument between two of his professors, and he was nearly denied his degree. Always a controversial theologian, he helped change the course of Vatican II away from the goals of conservative insiders and towards a more progressive and pastoral agenda. Afterwards, he rose quickly through the ranks, and has since been nicknamed ”God’s Rottweiler,” “the Grand Inquisitor,” and “Der Panzer-Kardinal” (“Panzer,” of course, being a reference to the tanks made famous by the German army in World War II). The media has always considered him to be a raging conservative, traditionalists usually malign him as a raging liberal, and Richard Dawkins just thinks he’s a “leering old villain in a frock.”
And now he sits on St. Peter’s throne. And frankly, as a Catholic, I couldn’t be more thrilled that God has given him to us as our Shepherd.
We’ve been told that, at some point early in 2013, we’re going to get to read a new encyclical by Pope Benedict (*theology nerd fist-pump!*). In honor of that, I thought I would do my humble best to write a series of posts outlining the theology of the current Bishop of Rome. I’m not a theologian, and I don’t play one on TV… but I absolutely love Pope Benedict, and have enjoyed his writing since before I became Catholic.
So over the next week or two, I’ll share my understanding of what this great thinker stands for. I think that it’s vital that we study him: Joseph Ratzinger and his allies fought a theological war–and, thanks be to God, they won decisively. Now that the Pope has appointed a majority of the Cardinals that will choose his successor, it seems that victory is secured for at least a generation.
A hundred years from now, the Church may very well look back and realize that our current Pope was the most important figure in our historical era. But for now, we’ll have to do with the assessment once made of him by an elderly English priest: that God had given the Church “a new Athanasius–and from Germany of all places!”
To Be Continued…