David Gibson. The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 2006. 290 pp.
With a view forward from the past, Benedict is uncomfortable with political/religious collaboration, especially collaborations that will lead to social change. He will speak out on issues like abortion and homosexuality, but he sees them as matters of individual actions. Sin is individual, not systemic, and solutions are to be individual not systemic. His view of the world is also colored by past experience. While the church burgeons in the south, his focus is on Europe, which he perceives rightly to have been overtaken by secularism. The question is whether his solution is workable and whether the bulk of the Catholic Church is in agreement. Catholic unrest in America suggests that at least here and in Europe finds Benedict to be out of touch with their concerns.
What Gibson has done so very well is show us a Ratzinger whose view of the world is not only colored by his experiences, but by his theology. Whereas Aquinas had a forward looking, philosophically inclined theology of the church, Benedict’s Platonism sees the church as the true reflection of Christ. Even as Christ the ideal does not change, so the church as its image does not change. Individual church members may be sinners, but not the church. As for Vatican II, Benedict does not wish to over throw it – for it does reflect the thinking of the church – but he wants to reclaim it in a way that reflects his vision of the church – an Augustinian one to be sure. In due course, as well, we are given clues as to why Benedict likes the Latin Mass and wishes to have modern translations hue close to the Tridentine original.