The Pope Who Resigned: Review of Wyatt North’s Pope Benedict XVI


Pope Benedict XVI



Pope Benedict XVI: Protector of Faith or Opponent of Progress is a brief (154 pages) biographical sketch of Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger). Known as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and who still wears the white robe, Ratzinger is a theologian who became pope and then resigned. His story is perhaps a lesson to those who hold high office. Sometimes high office keeps you were destined to do. While not in any way comparing myself to the pope, I understand. Nearly fourteen years as an administrative attorney, I yearned to write and research. In late 2014, I got chance. I changed offices, not positions, where now 99% of my job is to research and write. Sometimes you have to step back or down, as in Ratzinger’s case. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a born scholar, though perhaps not the usual professor as he often rankled, and disagreed, with professors who taught at the universities where he taught. He is the churchman’s, the priests’ professor.

Wyatt North again, as in Pope John XXIII: The Good Pope has a simple, direct, and concise way writing style that tells Ratzinger’s story that encourages readers to study more about his subject, about the Catholicism, and the Vatican. Along the way, several important theories and concepts (some but not all include the two source doctrine concerning relevations, the pre-Vatican II mass, the role of the liturgy, and the use of biblical exegesis).I am drawn to Wyatt North’s analysis of Catholicism whether for purely academic reasons or to determine whether the Catholic faith is for me.

It is a balanced approach that discusses Ratzinger’s foibles as well as the highlights of the pope emeritus’ life. A few times it is hard to tell which of the Ratzingers North is referring to. The confusion is due in part to there being two Ratzingers sons as well as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI earlier in life having different titles, a necessary consequence of his rise through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. For readers wanting a detailed inside look into the Vatican, this is not that kind of book. Wyatt North concentrates his energies on giving his readers a glimpse of who Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is as well as his faith and beliefs.

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