The elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope in 2005 was met with disappointment by many inside and outisde the Roman Catholic Church. As a hard core conservative theologian, Cardinal Ratzinger was a less than ideal choice to unify Christians. Has Benedict XVI's record, while no one will argue it hasn't been conservative, been more balanced? Faith in Public Life's John Gehring argues the answer is yes:
In his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict denounced the “scandal of glaring inequalities” and called for a more just distribution of global wealth. A defining theme of Benedict’s papacy – especially after the 2008 global financial crisis – was an uncompromising critique of economic systems that subjugate the human person to the demands of profit. In his World Day of Peace message just last month, he lamented “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.” Along with “terrorism” and “international crime,” the pope named unfettered markets as a threat to stability and peace. It’s an understatement to say you won’t hear that kind of talk from most U.S. politicians who rely on Wall Street largesse to finance campaigns. While free-market fundamentalists lobby for greater deregulation of markets and corporations, the Vatican’s justice and peace council during the Benedict era called for a “minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market” and a “world reserve fund” to support countries hard hit by the economic crisis.
Benedict has also been called the “Green Pope” for defining environmental stewardship in stark moral terms and his frequent warnings about climate change. More than any of his predecessors, this pope has articulated a clear theology behind what he calls the “covenant between human beings and the environment.” In 2011, the day before world leaders from 194 countries met in Durban, South Africa to chart the next steps to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gases, the pope used his weekly noon blessing to urge the international community to “agree on a responsible, credible and supportive response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, keeping in mind the needs of the poorest populations and of future generations.” He told a Franciscan environmental group attending the Durban conference that “there is no good future for humanity or for the earth unless we educate everyone toward a style of life that is more responsible toward the created world,” according to Catholic News Service.
It is worth noting that the Vatican under Pope Benedict also endorsed President Obama's call for gun violence prevention efforts.
There is much that good people of faith can disagree with Pope Benedict on: his attacks on the rights of women and gays and lesbians, and the failures of the RCC under his leadership to deal with the child abuse scandal. This pope has not been the best friend to the ecumenical movement. Yet all people deserve to be judged on the totality of their work and life. I also remember Cardinal Ratzinger as a strong and vocal opponent of the Iraq War that began 10 ten years. Let us keep him and the people of the Roman Catholic Church in prayer during this time of transition.