...I think Joseph Ratzinger — aka Pope Benedict XVI — is one of the greatest men of the age — possibly the only great man of the age — and almost certainly the last great man Europe will produce. As far as I’m concerned, he should turn the continent’s lights out as he steps down at the end of the month.
B-16′s greatness doesn’t lie in his papacy. Or that is, if it does, I wouldn’t know. It’s his writing, his theology, his thought that elevate him in my mind. When I was but a youngish dude, pounding my way through the great works, it seemed to me that the wisdom of many of the great German thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries had been thrown aside for no good reason. Kant and Hegel had philosophically rescued the essence of Christianity for the scientific age, and had been ultimately left behind by mainstream thinkers not because they were wrong, but because they were just sort of out of keeping with the atheistic spirit of the day.
As Nietzsche understood, that God-is-dead zeitgeist would perforce lead to moral relativism. And so it has. But Ratzinger, shrugging off the zeitgeist like the cheap suit it is, humbly went on tilling the Kantian and Hegelian fields, making his way back not just to the essentials of Christianity but to the sacred person of Christ himself.
This is a great act — an intellectual feat that shows the idols of the age — men like Derrida and Lacan and Foucault — to be the mental pygmies that they are. When they are forgotten (which will be around Thursday at 4PM), the writings of Ratzinger will be remembered and read and discussed for their radical divergence away from the wisdom of the age and toward the truth.