Benedict Studies Washington
Years ago, a friend of mine (who was the son of a Baptist minister) and I were discussing a report about a conclave of American Catholic Bishops and their efforts to “modernize” (their word, not mine) the Church. Since the story was being reported as exhibiting quite a schism in the Church, my friend stated that he just didn’t understand why American Catholics don’t follow the Bishops and “break away from Rome”. My friend was shocked when I stated flatly that my take was that, given a choice between the American Bishops and the Polish Pope, American Catholics would follow John Paul hands down.
So what about Pope Benedict?
I cannot give readers any more than second hand reports from the Pope’s visit and point you to writers far more capable than I. To that end, The Anchoress has topped herself with marvelous writing here:
John Paul would greet someone by clasping their hands in both of his and leaning in toward them. Benedict extends one hand and leans slightly back. He’s true introvert, and he looked touchingly surprised at the young people hooting and singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
He is nothing like John Paul II except in faith, but for all he lacks JP’s vibrant charisma, there is something about Benedict and his sweetly humble persona, that draws you in. Viva Papa!
The Corinthians brag about their tolerance of sexual immorality, revel in class inequalities, pull their chins thoughtfully while the latest philosopher tells them there is no resurrection from the dead, resent Paul’s authority, are all excited about some new moral theory that “Grace” = “Go Nuts and Do Whatever you Want!”, as well as various other alarums and discursions that force the apostle to put out a bunch of fires.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The Corinthians sound remarkably American.
– and here, where she contrasts Benedict with his predecessor:
In speaking English, John Paul was halting and heavily accented; he spoke slowly and dared you to hang in and listen. Benedict is fluent and fast – he expects you to keep up.
John Paul II, while in public, showed you what he was feeling and wanted to know what you were feeling. Public Benedict does not show you his feelings; he is too busy thinking, and you can see it. On the WH lawn, he clearly appreciated the music and seemed mildly amused by the remarkable pipe-and-drum band, but he was not playing to the audience; he was watching and observing.