The Quiet Prophet

on Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation

One of the great surprises following the death of Pope John Paul  II in 2005 was the accession of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the pontificate. I was one of those (perhaps many) orthodox Protestants who had been indebted to the work of John Paul, having cut my teeth on his important encyclicals during the 1980s and 1990s while teaching at the university and doing public-policy research in Washington, D.C. Following his penultimate encyclical, Fides et Ratio (“Faith and Reason,” 1998), which in many ways seemed the culmination of a remarkable career, I assumed that his vision would cease, or at best be muted. I was wrong. As it happened, in the years ahead, until Benedict  XVI’s resignation, there remained a wondrous continuity, to Benedict’s great credit.

Benedict is said to be the first academic theologian (narrowly defined) in two centuries to become pope. This should have come as little surprise to those who knew him, for at a very early age Joseph Ratzinger desired to attend seminary. His father, a policeman, had been anti-Nazi in sentiment and was thus not infrequently demoted or transferred in his work. Joseph would mirror his father’s attitudes in this regard; at age 14 (1941), though legally required to join Hitlerjugend (the Hitler Youth), he refused to attend its meetings. Following the war, he studied theology and was ordained a priest. In 1953 he received his doctorate in theology, with a thesis titled “The People and House of God in Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church.”

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


J. Daryl Charles is the Acton Institute Affiliated Scholar in Theology & Ethics. He is the author or editor of twenty books, including Retrieving the Natural Law (2008), Natural Law and Religious Freedom (2018), and, most recently, Just War and Christian Traditions (forthcoming). He is also co-editor of Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God's Gifts for a Fallen World, Volume 3 (2020). He is a contributing editor to Touchstone.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more on Catholic from the online archives

29.3—May/June 2016

Health of the Nation

A Deathbed Reflection on Catholic Social Teaching & Our Future Prospects by Karl D. Stephan

35.4—Jul/Aug 2022

The Death Rattle of a Tradition

Contemporary Catholic Thinking on the Question of War by Andrew Latham

27.5—Sept/Oct 2014

The Hundred Years' War

The Culture of Death's Campaign Against the Catholic Church by Brantly Millegan


more from the online archives

31.5—September/October 2018

Pastoral Realism

on the Congregation as a Wilderness by Paul Gregory Alms

32.6—November/December 2019

Strategic Christians

The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis by Alan Jacobs by Jesse Russell

31.1—January/February 2018

In Defense of Prudery

The Wisdom of the Victorian Quest for Innocence by David Sandifer

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00