Monday, April 21, 2008

Deal Hudson: "The Face of Pope Benedict XVI"

Deal Hudson offers his retrospective on the Holy Father's visit:
His Holiness came to America known as the "enforcer" of Catholic doctrine. He left America as the face of the Church, the face of peace. Benedict XVI arrived in the midst of swirling controversies, but in addressing them, he raised our hearts and minds to the place where all struggles cease and all questions are answered.

"Peace be with you" the President of the United States said to him on his birthday at the White House. Yet it was the Holy Father who gave us peace during his five days here.

Benedict XVI bestowed his peace while confronting every problem awaiting him in the youngest and wealthiest of the countries under his universal pastoral oversight. He addressed the priest sexual abuse scandal on the plane to Washington, D.C. and will be remembered for his willingness to meet with victims. Both his humility and transparency caught the nation off guard.

His transparency was apparent in everything he did and said. He praised the American Revolution for its foundations in divinely-endowed human rights while reminding us of the necessity of exercising freedom "for the cause of good." He congratulated our bishops on the vitality of the Church but asked them to offer "a clear and united witness" on proposed legislation that contradicts sound morality.

He recognized the sacrifice made by American Catholics to educate their children, but he admonished presidents of Catholic colleges and universities never to use academic freedom as justification for contradicting "the faith and the teaching of the Church." His admiration for the work of the United Nations was made clear in his speech, but he cautioned, "It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights."

How did he do it? It was predicted that John Paul II's successor could never match his charisma, his ability to attract and engage large crowds around the world. No one who watched the Popemobile travel up 5th Avenue or the Holy Father's entrance into Yankee Stadium on Sunday could doubt he has won the heart of America.

He did it by relying on something that is rarely discussed in our culture: Benedict XVI spoke the truth. Truth, the Pope knows, is the most disputed idea in our post-modern culture. By proclaiming truth, he defied the accepted opinion of the academy that there is no such thing, only politicized opinions based upon self-interest.


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