Is Benedict XVI the Right’s Barack Obama?

1) Regarded, pre-election, by his partisans as a near genius, or at least intellectually far above his peers. His academic background much emphasized. Then, after election, he makes as many silly, thoughtless mistakes as anybody else.
2) Criticized by his opponents for connections to radical movements in his youth.
3) Regarded by his opponents as an ideological radical, who then governs in a fairly moderate way.
4) Often criticized by friends for having the attitude of a professor rather than a statesman.

In the case of BXVI, #4 is backwards. Benedict’s problem is that he isn’t thinking like a German professor. He makes statements that will almost inevitably be misunderstood and then seems surprised when this happens. Some Catholics try to see a bright side in this ineptness, saying that they’d prefer that the Vatican not become expert at public relations and “spin”. That’s not what I’m talking about. Skill in sophistry is not needed (or wanted) in a pastor, but skill in pedagogy is. Right now, as I draw up lession plans for my spring class, I’m constantly thinking about how best to get my ideas across. I have to decide which example will help illustrate a concept and which will cause confusion by drawing students’ attention to unrelated topics. I try to anticipate how students will be most likely to misunderstand a given topic, and then I plan to explicitly counter likely misunderstandings in class. Is it too much to ask for the pope to do a similar mental exercise before he performs his teaching duties?

One Response

  1. […] it on his old blog, Throne and Altar, which is still able to be viewed online. Examples are here, here, and here. He seems always to keep at the forefront of his criticism the humanity of the man […]

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