Much like an ex-partner you keep running into in the street, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s continued presence in the church serves as a constant reminder of the way things used to be. Benedict’s occasional but thoroughly traditional statements offer a painful reminder and glimmer of hope to conservative Catholics. Just last week, in written remarks read aloud at the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome, Benedict wrote that interreligious dialogue “is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures.” Benedict’s arguments are expressed somewhat philosophically, but they are music to the ears of those tired of Francis’s soft embrace of atheists, aliens, and—worst of all—progressive social policies.
Conservatives can also be encouraged that Benedict is showing support, albeit subtly, for the previously important conservative Cardinals that Francis ousted from power. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a pro-life traditional prelate whose demotion by Francis was recently announced, invited Benedict to a Latin Mass at the Vatican. In declining the invitation, Benedict wrote that he was glad that the Latin Mass was being “celebrated by great cardinals,” a statement that many conservatives see as tacit support for those sent into exile by Francis.
Benedict is hanging back for now, but there’s no doubt that he could easily become a figurehead for traditionalists harkening back to the good old days.