The book is valuable in its debunking anti-Ratzinger myths that seem to have arisen from the theologian, the late Hans Kung. Kung claimed that Ratzinger had left a post at Tubingen University because he had problems with radical students. The book states that this is untrue and that Ratzinger always enjoyed good relationships with students wherever he taught. Seewald also debunks Kung's claim that both he and Benedict had interviews with Pope Paul VI. While not denying that Kung was thus interviewed, he recounts Benedict's statement that no such interview happened in his own case. In this book Kung comes across as somewhat unreliable and bent on self-publicity, as opposed to the shy and humble Benedict. It is good to note that the two men were reconciled prior to Kung's death.
Kung has done little good for Benedict's reputation, and certainly did no good for Benedict's reputation as "the Panzer-cardinal", gained when he was in charge of the Holy Office, the department responsible for doctrine. The image of Benedict as a ruthless, conservative inquisitor bent on suppressing nice, liberal theologians was concocted at this time. Seewald states with success that this was a false image and that Benedict was neither liberal nor conservative, but was a churchman who saw the need for change, but did not change for change's sake. Nor was he one who was blown hither and thither by the changing winds of the times or intellectual fads and fashions. This is a mark of a great mind.
Benedict's clash with some liberal theologians, Seewald thinks, was to preserve the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which he believed was being misappropriated by liberal theologians. As one responsible for steering the council through its difficult passage he was committed. In this claim I believe that Seewald is completely correct. Great minds like Benedict's can never be pigeon-holed into simplistic, stereotypical. It is a sad fact that liberals claim to oppose stereotyping, but are hugely guilty of themselves stereotyping their opponents.
This is a good book well-worth reading. I commend it to readers.
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