“The best theologian among all the popes” — Cardinal George Pell
Cardinal Pell is right. Of the 20th, and thus far the 21st century popes, Pope Benedict XVI sits at the top of the great hill of theologians the Church has been gifted. The impact of his vast collection of works—of which there seems no end and of which he is still creating—have renewed but not reconstructed the Church in the modern world.
Knowing this, we owe a huge thanks to Joseph Pearce for his new book Pope Benedict XVI: Defender of the Faith. Pearce, better than most, has a special way of articulating the importance of a work of literature without watering down the content whatsoever. He’s made commentary on some of history’s greatest writers, and now he has the responsibility of ushering forth the teachings of one of history’s greatest popes who at heart is truly a defender of the Catholic Faith.
The opening chapter is dedicated to a short synopsis of his life, particularly the early years when his family was forced to live under Nazi controlled Bavaria. His father bitterly hated what the new regime stood for. The young and high-minded Joseph Ratzinger was brought up in a very Catholic household, and did their best to oppose Nazi rule but some of his siblings were forced to participate in marches and gatherings. Amid the harassment directly to his family, one of his cousins with Down Syndrome is reported to have been taken away and murdered in the campaign of eugenics. Despite sadness of these opening scenes, it sets the tone for a very solemn review of the great teachings of this extraordinary man, that despite the wicked world the future pontiff grew up in, he would rise above and offer the world answers to desperately demanded in the world since the scourge of Nazism.
The chapter organization created by Joseph Pearce and the publisher works. Each section explores a new items of criticism or theological elucidation by Pope Benedict XVI. The chapters contain a copious amount of direct quotes, with Pearce offering insights in the white space. These insights are given not the way some writers go about the task, mainly by interruption, but by connecting the dots with the reader rather than for the reader. Only a great writer like Pearce is capable of doing this without appearing to “spoon feed” the reader.
Many topics are, then, included in this book: modern war, theological virtues, faith and reason, globalism, the human person, and too many to list here without just regurgitating the huge table of contents.
Again, it works. This is the best, most readable, and well-organized collection of the teachings of Benedict XVI in any resource. Readers new to Ratzinger, those who tried to read Jesus of Nazareth but couldn’t get past the first ten pages, or seasoned bibliophiles who want even more works from the Pope Emeritus will profit from this great book.
Joseph Pearce’s new book Pope Benedict XVI: Defender of the Faith is published by TAN Books, arguably the best in Catholic publishing for biographical works and hagiographies. Add this one to your current reading or your backlog as soon as possible!
All images courtesy of St. Benedict Press.