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  • The Face of Pope Benedict XVI

    by Deal W. Hudson


    His Holiness came to America
    known as the “enforcer” of Catholic doctrine. He left America as the face of the Church, the face of peace. Benedict XVI arrived in the midst of swirling controversies, but in addressing them, he raised our hearts and minds to the place where all struggles cease and all questions are answered.
    “Peace be with you” the President of the United States said to him on his birthday at the White House. Yet it was the Holy Father who gave us peaceduring his five days here.
    Benedict XVI bestowed his peace while confronting every problem awaiting him in the youngest and wealthiest of the countries under his universal pastoral oversight. He addressed the priest sexual abuse scandal on the plane to Washington, D.C. and will be remembered for his willingness to meet with victims. Both his humility and transparency caught the nation off guard.
    His transparency was apparent in everything he did and said. He praised the American Revolution for its foundations in divinely-endowed human rights while reminding us of the necessity of exercising freedom “for the cause of good.” He congratulated our bishops on the vitality of the Church but asked them to offer “a clear and united witness” on proposed legislation that contradicts sound morality.
    He recognized the sacrifice made by American Catholics to educate their children, but he admonished presidents of Catholic colleges and universities never to use academic freedom as justification for contradicting “the faith and the teaching of the Church.” His admiration for the work of the United Nations was made clear in his speech, but he cautioned, It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.”
    Benedict XVI gave us peace in spite of his admonishments, in spite of his constant reminders that our freedom should never be used as license, and our affluence should not tempt us toward the isolation of self-consumed individualism.
    How did he do it? It was predicted that John Paul II’s successor could never match his charisma, his ability to attract and engage large crowds around the world. No one who watched the Popemobile travel up 5th Avenue or the Holy Father’s entrance into Yankee Stadium on Sunday could doubt he has won the heart of America.
    He did it by relying on something that is rarely discussed in our culture: Benedict XVI spoke the truth. Truth, the Pope knows, is the most disputed idea in our post-modern culture. By proclaiming truth, he defied the accepted opinion of the academy that there is no such thing, only politicized opinions based upon self-interest.
    Benedict XVI expressed his confidence in truth in the way he talked about our common human nature — common because it originated in the hands of God. He used the word “common” over 30 times in his speech to the United Nations as he described the “common good,” “common desire,” “common ends,” “common ground,” and “common origin” of all human persons.
    That each individual shares so much in common with every other individual makes it possible for each of us to know the same truth. This is an idea anathema in most colleges and universities in America. Such comments evoke laughter in the faculty lounge or around the conference table in the departments of philosophy, history, and literature.
    Benedict XVI was himself a college professor during the time when the academy rejected the idea of truth, and when many in the Church used the occasion of Vatican II to reject central doctrines. He dismissed the rejections, and redirected his own scholarship to reaffirm the objectivity of truth and the Magisterium of the Church.
    These fundamental affirmations — that truth can be known in the human sciences and in theology — have crucial political and cultural implications as the Pope explained at the United Nations:
    Those [human] rights are grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world. Recognition of this dimension must be strengthened if we are to sustain humanity’s hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation, and guarantee of rights for future generations.
    Benedict XVI came to America to remind us that there is no peace without truth. He has proclaimed it before to the entire Church. In 2006, he chose the theme “in truth, peace” as the topic for his reflection on World Peace Day:
    In truth, peace — expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace.
    This is the peace that has shown so brightly on the face of the Holy Father throughout his visit to America.
     

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • Karl

      I live in New York and had no desire to go to see the Pope. I defected from the faith last year over liberal Catholic practices regarding divorce/annulment, etc…

      I have been confirmed in my decision to leave the Catholic Church with this Papal visit. I am sad, but satisfied that I have made the correct choice, as difficult as it was and remains.

      There is no home in the Catholic Church for me. It has made my wife and her lover at home in it.

      I will hope that God is more just than His Church

    • Deal Hudson

      Karl, I’m sorry to hear you no longer feel at home in the Church. It’s obvious you feel a lot of pain about the Church and your personal life. What you saw and I saw in the Pope’s face,during his visit, are different, but I appreciate you taking the time to read my column and make a comment.

    • Debbie

      I am praying for you, Karl.

    • Grace Burns

      I had the privilege of being at Yankee Stadium for the Mass with Pope Benedict VI. What an amazing and grace-filled experience!

      This was a true pilgrimage. But despite the long bus rides, the endless waiting, the stadium distractions and the ungodly decibel level of the sound system the moment we saw the popemobile I experienced a sense of awesome peace. Here, finally, was our Holy Father! Actually I couldn’t see but a speck of him. We were in the nosebleed section. Even the large screen images were blurred and sometimes obscured by bright sunlight. It didn’t matter. I knew the peace of his presence.

      I, along with 57,000 others cheered his arrival. We welcomed his message of hope. That CHRIST IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. The mass was truly heaven come to earth. The classical music was sweetness itself. The reverence of the clergy and the faithful was inspiring. To be with our Holy Father and so many other Catholics was thrilling.

      In hearing his speeches throughout the week I was struck by the truths that Benedict spoke. I am hoping to take these truths to heart and live them more fully in my life. I pray that the educators, youth and UN representatives also hear and accept the truth and strive to live out the Pope’s message.

      Thank you for all the articles on the Pope and his visit to the United States. We desperately need the message of this Pope.

    • Summer Golf Girl

      Dear Karl,
      Wow, how much pain you have. I know how it feels having walked under it myself. So much flesh tearing pain of the soul. You were one, now you are not. Don’t give into the temptations of it. I am sorry so many of us feel divorce so deeply. It means your marriage was real to you. Your heart and soul will heal as time buries the divorce and you let God heal the heart. I assure you, time won’t do the job. If its any consolation, God hates divorce and says so in scripture. He also hates ingratitude. Follow what God loves. It will bring you peace.
      Love,
      Me

    • Eileen Cosby

      Thank you for the excellent summary, Deal, of the many imprints that Pope Benedict XVI left behind.

      What impressed me most is that he gifted us Catholics with the example of dialoguing with others who do not share our world view completely.

      There is a great deal to unpack from his trip here and I hope that the discourse that he initiated continues for the sake of our world (at the UN), our faith (renewal of all those “former” Catholics curious to see him), and our communities (for more gatherings of prayer at stadiums, schools, and even the White House of other faith traditions for the common good. ) I am still smiling when I think about how many people came out to the streets to praise God and sing Alleluia waiting for the Popemobile to pass. Or recalling the reverance of the sunrise preparations for the Papal Mass at National Stadium and how peaceful the crowds were.

      After reading his speeches and homilies, I am inspired to read and defend the faith with a renewed vigor. I pray that many more Catholics rise to the challenge Pope Benedict gave us to be faithful witnesses of God’s Hope, especially now.

      Jesus sent him to us at this time in our history for a reason.

      Thank you for the forum.

    • Buster

      Karl:

      Many people are baffled and disheartened by the state of affairs in the Church since 1965. Leadership has vanished. Corruption is rampant. We have seen the Church eclipsed, as it were. There is a prophecy in scripture: “…the moon will cease to shine forth its light.”

      I suggest you find a platoon of traditional catholics in your area. Start by visiting sspx.org or some other traditionalist group. I’m estranged from the Church myself, but I haven’t abandoned the cause. Neither should you, my friend.

    • Ted Swoboda

      Deal,

      With all due respect to you and especially the Holy Father, your depiction of him “speaking the Truth” seems to me to be a bit superficial. Perhaps you can explain the how he can come to a country where only 25% of the population is Catholic and try to dictate an open boarder ploicy that in the best case scenario would have a severe negative impact on our economy. Yet he ignors the government of a country (Mexico) that has a Catholic population of over 85% that is outwardly corrupt and openly violates the human rights of citizens. Mother Theresa didn’t go into wealthy neighborhoods and preach her message, she went into the ghettos and worked with the poor first hand. I would also ask the questionss; If this Pope is for open boarders then why does he ride around in a bullet proof automobile? Why is he and Vatican City well guarded? And why can’t people wonder in and out of the Holy City without proper identification and reason for being there?

      Please explain the TRUTH on this matter!

      TED

    • A.J. Sanfeliu

      I attended the Yankee Stadium mass on Sunday. The amazing thing that happened was Benedict’s ability to define himself as a worthy successor to JP II in and of his own right. JP II’s magnificent shadow has now been overcome. Benedict is not of secondary caliber. He is different and inspiring and now the church in the US is aware of this magnificent Vicar.

    • Deal Hudson

      Ted, my point wasn’t so much that he “spoke the truth” but that he proclaimed that truth exists and that it can be known. This is an epistemological assertion denied by most people in the academy, especially in regard to human nature and morality.

    • Ted Swoboda

      Thanks Deal for the clarification. I guess I will have to save my questions for a future discussion. In the mean time please be working on the answers. Also I will be wondering if Pope Benedict spoke the Truth to Hugo Chavez during his Papal visit last year. Because I am not seeing any measurable changes in the conduct of this Catholic/Socialist dictator who directly impacts the lives of about 26,000 people.

      Yes the Truth exists and it can be known but you can not cherry pick it to suit your agenda and then ignor reality.

      TED