Pay Attention to the Pope’s Onion
My humble suggestion: pay attention to what the pope says, but pay special attention to his less quotable words. Those will not be cotton candy.
Benedict is convinced that if the new generations have nothing important to learn at a deeper, human level, both faith and reason lose. Even worse, humanity loses.
For him this is not a mere abstract, philosophical issue. He believes it is a tragedy when kids at school ask what car Napoleon was driving in Marengo, or if Salvador Dali is a relative of Muhammad Ali (by the way, I didn’t make up these two examples).
Second, to the dismay of the Richard Dawkinses of the world, Pope Benedict is convinced that faith is not only not opposed to reason, but is rather its best ally in the fight for reason to survive the postmodern belief that truths worthy of being transmitted down the generations don’t exist.
First, within the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict is convinced that Catholic theology needs to engage in an honest discussion with modernity. However, by “discussion” he does not mean naively embracing modernity. Quite the opposite: for Benedict, the blind embracing of modernity that many Catholics see as the future of the church is the kiss of death to the integrity of the church’s message.
As soon as Pope Benedict starts speaking publicly on American soil, all those interested, Catholics or not, should pay attention to the three possible layers of his message.
His message’s first layer will be obvious and predictable. The pope will repeat the church’s teachings on all the “controversial” issues: the beginning and the end of life, marriage, family, celibate priesthood and Catholic education. After all, the pope is, of course, Catholic, so do not expect surprise announcements about lay people electing bishops or women becoming priests.
A second aspect of Pope Benedict that might appear in his addresses — the second layer — is the fact that “political correctness” is not in his dictionary. His straightforward approach is evident in the surprising and controversial statements he has made in places like Regensburg and Aparecida, Brazil. This Pope is a creative, independent thinker, and he is more used to intellectual honesty than to crowd-pleasing.
This meaty but mostly stealthy part of his message will not come in the form of catchy phrases that are easy to quote or to show on TV. To get to this layer, some of his phrases, though abstruse at first sight, will have to be reread with two crucial keys of interpretation: