A brilliant teacher steps down from the papacy

I have hesitated to write a commentary on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI because I believed that the words he used when he made the announcement were sufficient. He did not suggest a secret illness or a conspiracy afoot or anything of the kind. He said quite plainly and most sincerely, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

It had been my privilege over the past 16 years-since the time Pope John Paul II appointed me to the Pontifical Academy for Life-to have learned a great deal about that Holy Father’s closest ally, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger’s writings were extensive and, after the conclave that elevated him to Pope Benedict XVI, his encyclicals, books, and public addresses have continued to teach, inspire, and spiritually support anyone who wishes to live and act consistently with Catholic doctrine. For that I am eternally grateful to this holy man.