This Pope’s Legacy
And the future of the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI in 2005


I believe he will continue on as a senior adviser for his successor — keeping in the background, as he did for Pope John Paul II. By retiring, Benedict XVI will create a new kind of papacy — one in which a younger man can become a kind of global evangelist in the style that John Paul II pioneered, while the “pope emeritus” holds the fort and is available as an adviser, counselor, and elder statesman. Joseph Ratzinger will step off the stage and play second fiddle again, and in so doing will help create a newer, stronger papacy to serve the ever-growing Catholic Church.

— Fr Dwight Longenecker is parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C. He is author of 15 books on the Catholic faith, including The Gargoyle Code, a Screwtape Letters book for Lent. His website is

Pope Benedict XVI was a true academic and a great Pope. If you look at his life, you see that he was a fighter, not a quitter, so I have to believe that his decision to resign is of a piece with the rest of his decisions: He is doing what’s best for the people in his care.

He began his career as a university professor, but before that he was a university student. He and other students struggled in the aftermath of the war, which had laid waste to Munich’s university buildings, and the aftermath of Nazism, which had laid waste to his school’s faculty.

Ratzinger saw firsthand the sacrifices of academic freedom — his favorite professor had to flee the country because he wouldn’t stop teaching what the Church teaches. Ratzinger also saw what a real Catholic college looks like. After the war, students and professors had to bunk together in second-rate lodgings. They lived, prayed, and ate together, and together sifted through the rubble to rebuild their school.

It is no wonder then that when he met with Catholic university professors in America in 2008, he told us that our job was to “love our students.” He knew what he was talking about — and I, for one, was inspired by what he said to understand my job differently.

Those of us who met with him to discuss Ecclesia in America last December saw a man determined to keep building the Church, and to keep teaching the truth. We saw him send his first tweet. We got to hear him at Mass and at his audience. But we also saw him give a bouquet of flowers to Our Lady on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe on her feast day.

It was as if the “professor pope” was teaching us something new. The Church isn’t in his hands, ultimately. It is in the hands of God and the saints. We have no reason to fear for its future.

— Stephen D. Minnis is president of Benedictine College.

Several aspects of Benedict XVI’s pontificate caught the attention of observers from the outset. People were immediately struck by his radical humility, his theological depth and sophistication, and his remarkable courage in confronting hostilities. Yet, during these packed eight years, Benedict planted another, less evident yet equally important seed: a thirst for beauty. In a world distracted by the superficially attractive and seduced into looking for truth in the ugliness of human sinfulness, Benedict has insisted that we must learn to demand authentic beauty. This beauty, he has declared, is not merely for an elite band of connoisseurs, but speaks a universal language open to all.