As the world comes to terms with the sudden and incredibly unusual resignation of the papacy by Pope Benedict XVI, the general consensus appears to be that Joseph Ratzinger was a scholarly, introverted conservative who will ultimately be remembered most for the controversies that surrounded him. Among the opinions:
- Despite trying twice, Benedict was never able to tame the wild and Byzantine Vatican bureaucracy. "The pope's failure to establish a grip on the Curia was to cost him dear, all the more because he showed a marked reluctance to consult others," writes John Hooper in the Guardian, noting the Church bureaucracy is actually larger and more complex than it was at the start of his tenure. Another failed goal: "to launch the re-evangelization of Europe"; instead, sex-abuse scandals overtook the continent.
- After the charismatic, 26-year reign of John Paul II, Benedict "never had a chance," writes John Moody for Fox News. In contrast to John Paul II's popular brilliance and willingness to show off, "Benedict’s meek initial outings were public relations meltdowns." Other goals for the Church—to "expand its foothold in Asia, cement its dominance in Latin America, or make serious inroads in Africa"—went unachieved. But Moody adds that Benedict's willingness to resign shows both bravery and humility. "For that he should be remembered."
- Actually, Benedict could end up with a legacy of dealing with the secular world in "a remarkably liberal, if agonizingly slow, way," writes Martin Baccardax for the International Business Times. He notes that Benedict made the first, tentative steps toward changing the Church's views of contraception and criticized the Church's response to its global child abuse scandal. (Hooper agrees that Benedict's remarks on condoms "could yet turn out to have been the most significant initiative of [his] papacy.")
- But others aren't so willing to give Benedict credit in those areas. The resignation presents a chance for the Church to "deal with sex-abuse victims more honestly, and to wake up and listen to the parishioners who have been widely ignoring Church teaching for decades," writes Michael Tomasky in the Daily Beast. "But I would imagine it's an opportunity the Church won't take."
Click to see a list of five names being floated as the potential next pope