Rorate Caeli

Mosebach on Benedict

The following appeared originally in German at Die Tagepost on January 3, 2023.

According to the Frankfurt best-selling author Martin Mosebach, it will turn out that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on Saturday, "recognized and named with astuteness precisely the conflict" that will form the "necessary and most important theme" of the internal Church debate: "Is the Church forever committed to the tradition of the evangelists, the apostles, martyrs, and Church Fathers, or can it break that commitment and discover other ever-new sources of revelation? Does Vatican II mark the beginning of a break with tradition or does it stand in that tradition and want to continue it without a break?" In response to a question from this newspaper, Mosebach commented thus on the impact of the emeritus beyond his death.

"This struggle will determine the near future".

The Büchner Prize-winner speaks of an antagonism between a "hermeneutics of rupture" and a "hermeneutics of reform," as Benedict had called it. "This struggle will determine the near future," Mosebach said. At the same time, the 71-year-old acknowledges that the "long bitter period after the abdication" of Pope Benedict XVI and before his death left the impression "that this pontificate was a great failure." Benedict, he said, appeared at the time of his death as a last man "who awkwardly and with unsuitable means waged a futile defensive struggle against a new creation of the Church demanded by the times."

Respectful praise for the "great theologian" and the modern "Father of the Church" who, with his life's theme of "faith and reason," offensively met the challenge of post-Christian modernity, would hardly conceal "the disappointment of those who were devoted to him and even less the malice and denunciation of his numerous enemies, especially German ones."

Against this view Mosebach holds that even if Benedict XVI had been the underdog, he had nevertheless formulated the decision that no Catholic, cleric or layman will be able to avoid: "Do I believe that the Church of the Apostles, the Martyrs and Fathers is the Church of Jesus Christ, or do I believe that this ancient Church has perished and that the Holy Spirit is now manifesting itself in the spirit of the age?" When the "fumes of the present confusion" are cleared away, the writer said, Benedict's call for decision [on this matter] will become visible as "the real and imperishable achievement of his pontificate."