Pope Benedict XVI: Hero or Villain?

18 Feb 2013

So the Pope has chosen to resign, and indeed will step down from his role in just a matter of days. It begs many questions as to why, indeed the fact he is the first Pope to resign in 600 years has a slight whiff of suspicion about it, but I won’t use this article to fuel conspiracy theories. 

Instead I wish to analyse the life of Pope Benedict XVI – A Pope whose tenure oversaw perhaps the Catholic Churches darkest moments in history, but has an almost – if you’ll pardon the expression – divine reputation. However, much like Mother Teresa (Christopher Hitchens revealed her fraudulent actions) the reputation bestowed upon him is hugely undeserved and should be put to scrutiny, as there are crimes that His Holiness should answer to.


Joseph Ratzinger was always a staunch conservative socially, and perhaps one of the most conservative figures I’ve ever read about. Throughout his life he had a particular loathing for Marxism and the spread of left-wing ideas in in the 1960s whilst we was a Professor of Theology, responded to this by tightening his very traditionalist views.

He argued, somewhat ironically, that religion was being thwarted by an "tyrannical, brutal and cruel” ideology – indeed to his credit Marxism led to untold suffering in the 20th Century, but then again so has religion, so it is a situation of Pot, Kettle Black here for the young Professor Ratzinger – he even became an advocate for the Church not engaging in social activism because it was close to Marxism! 

Nonetheless his early life isn’t something that should be put to scrutiny – it is his actions as Pope that I am particularly interested in. The thing that annoyed me most about Pope Benedict XVI was his absurd 14th Century attitude towards contraception. It’s essentially arguing that AIDs may be bad, but not as bad as condoms! But the Pope remained steadfast in the face of the crisis of AIDs that wrecked and continues to wreck Africa, but I shouldn’t rest blame for this on Benedict XVI – all his predecessors, and no doubt his successor, will maintain this attitude.

However the elephant in the Holy See is the child abuse scandal – which is why I hold Pope Benedict XVI’s reputation in question. In recent years the sheer scale of child abuse cases by priests were brought to light as well as the fact that Benedict may have covered some of it up. Indeed he could practically be described as ‘bungling’ in the way he handled the cases once they were brought to light – and indeed how questionable he acted after the cases were brought to light, more whiffs of corruption. These actions are crimes, and leave many questions that the retiring Pope will most likely never answer.

Joseph Ratzinger’s life was certainly controversial – on the one hand he did speak out for human rights and improved inter-faith relations, but on the other hand he handled the child abuse cases in a manner that led to international criticism, remained steadfast on contraception despite AIDs killing hundreds of thousands in Africa, and remained almost offensively traditional on homosexuality. I would love to see his successor actually open up the Vatican, reveal what is so dreadfully wrong with the religion and correct it – but I sadly suspect that every Cardinal in the Church holds 14th Century views that would shock most moderate people, whilst the retired Ratzinger will go on and live his last days in relative luxury without answering for some of the worst crimes even uncovered against the Catholic Church that I suspect he may have been personally responsible for.

By Rory Claydon


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