There are a lot of strange and unusual events in the news these days, but one of the most unusual of all is the resignation of Pope Benedict.
This hasn’t happened in 600 years. The last time that this happened was before the whole reality that we know as modernity and the modern world.
So there’s no precedent for what we’re going through, and it’s a unique moment for the church. It is a real turning point in church life and for me, personally, because of the times in which I entered the ministry.
Even before I entered the seminary, I would hear people talking about Cardinal Ratzinger and what a strong and powerful and important figure he was. Any conversation about the universal church would eventually revolve around him.
This was the last thing that he wanted; he just wanted to be a scholar and write books. But he kept getting jobs that put him in the middle of the controversies of today’s world, and he did those jobs as best he could according to his understanding of church teaching and tradition.
One of my profs in Baltimore, who is now deceased, got in trouble back in 1984 for a book that he wrote on ethics. That’s one way to get a trip to Rome — write a book that gets you in trouble with the teaching of the church. So he had to go to Rome and explain what he intended to say and that sort of thing, and he returned to his job in Baltimore and continued teaching for another 23 years. So that wasn’t so bad.
He always spoke highly and fondly of Joe Ratzinger, as he called him. Like others, he spoke of his kindness, his personal graciousness and, of course, his knowledge and wisdom.