Mouw is president of Fuller Theological Seminary and a supporter of Evangelicals and Catholics Together.
What is particularly appealing to evangelicals about this pope?
We have much in common with Pope Benedict, both doctrinally and morally. He has chosen to proclaim a Christ-centered message to the world, and he is not afraid to confront the prevailing mores of postmodern culture. Furthermore, his is a scholarly voice, echoing themes that resonate well with many of us in the evangelical world.
How will the pope's visit affect the U.S. Catholic church?
My sense is that Benedict's visit had a longrange consolidating and unifying effect on U.S. Catholicism. When he was elected pope, the almost universal response among my Catholic friends—most of whom are moderates— was negative. But my initial reading of their reaction to his visit is extremely positive. The pope sent friendly signals to all but the most liberal segments of American Catholicism. Most of those who occupy the right-to-middle part of the spectrum, which is the majority, were pleased and impressed.
He did them proud as well. He was a big hit, not only with grassroots Catholics, but also with the larger American population, even with the non-religious. He was firm in his basic convictions without coming across as cranky. This won over many who were not sure what to expect [of him].
The pope's anticipated censure of liberal Catholic colleges didn't happen. Did he give them a pass?
He did exactly what he should have done with academics: He taught. He did not issue condemnatory statements; he established trust. This is good pedagogy. A wise teacher creates an environment for the reception of his or her views.
How significant was the pope's willingness to meet with sex-abuse victims?
I was not prepared for the emotional impact of seeing him [meet with the victims]. I believe the encounter will turn out to be a durable image of his papal leadership.
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