Light of the World
The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times
Benedict XVI, interviewed by Peter Seewald. Translated by Michael J. Miller and Adrian J. Walker
Ignatius Press, $21.95, 239 pp.
Like most Evangelicals of my generation—like most Protestants for the last five centuries—I was raised to regard the Vatican as a den of iniquity and the pope as the living symbol of all that was wrong with the Roman Catholic Church. Pius XII, the pope in office when I entered grade school in the 1950s, had no individual reality for me, nor did his immediate successors: they were merely different versions of “the pope,” a figure at once sinister and ridiculous.
All that has changed, of course. On the bookshelves you’d encounter if you were entering our house, there’s a photo of Benedict XVI. He was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when I first read a number of his books, including two earlier volumes of conversations with the journalist Peter Seewald. I have long been attracted by Benedict’s combination of deep learning and piety (not a pejorative word in my vocabulary). I don’t read him as a Catholic would—I know from the outset that there are points of sharp disagreement—but much of his work serves to illuminate what all Christians have in common, the hope that transcends our differences.
This preamble is necessary, gentle reader, to emphasize that I came to Light of the World with anticipation, not with any animus (at Christmas we sent a copy to our daughter and son-in-law in Texas, who converted to Catholicism not long after they graduated from Wheaton College). Alas, the book is disappointing. And the fault lies not with the pope himself, nor...