Published December 31, 2022
In the 1980s I had two long conversations with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would be elected pope in 2005 and was known as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he died Saturday at age 95. Our meetings were private affairs and off the record. This allowed us to have unhurried and unfiltered discussions about issues and personalities in the church.
The press already had branded him Panzerkardinal, the humorless German commandant of the Vatican’s doctrine police. I had read his bracing work, and the label seemed implausible. I still wasn’t prepared for his personal simplicity and humility.
Francis X. Maier is a senior fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. Maier’s work focuses on the intersection of Christian faith, culture, and public life, with special attention to lay formation and action.