What the Benedict Papacy Meant for Women
You don't have to be a Catholic to be interested in Pope Benedict XVI's teachings and legacy. After all, the pope is a global figure with political and cultural influence that extends beyond his church. As thoughtful Christians, Benedict's papacy can help us better understand the Catholic faith as well as our own.
The simplest analysis of Benedict's eight-year papacy would recall that he did not welcome female priests, did not support the use of contraceptives, did not pause the church's campaign against abortion, and did not change its stance on homosexuality… same as anyone elected head of the Roman Catholic Church would have done.
These points alone are enough for some to consider his papacy far from female-friendly, but devoted Catholics, particularly women, push us to think more deeply about Benedict. In blogs, these women write how much they surprisingly came to love him.
"I love the fact that Pope Benedict is a scholar and prolific author," wrote one Catholic blogger, who "scandalously" admitted she was more saddened by Benedict's resignation than Pope John Paul II's death.
Benedict offered the church robust commentary on the role of the Catholic faith in a changing world. And because his writings allowed followers to interact with him more regularly and more intimately than with previous popes, many Catholics—women especially—felt closer to him.
Open communication is the great un-doer of hierarchy. As with many patriarchal institutions, there are fair criticisms to be made over the historic and current role of women in the Catholic Church. Within the structure and positions of the church, Benedict offered today's Catholics the theological grounding behind the church's teachings through his writing.
His true distinctives were his theology and his willingness to share it in speeches, documents, and even tweets. Despite his tough reputation as "God's Rottweiler" and his relatively short papacy, Benedict embraced open communication, bringing theological insight to the masses, including sometimes-marginalized groups like women and minorities.
Unlike his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, Benedict "preferred to write books and issue encyclicals rather than travel," Catholic priest Thomas Reese told The Washington Post. John Paul went for the big screen with grand political gestures; Benedict's writing made him popular in a different, more personal way.