Some thoughts on “The Two Popes”
The Two Popes tells the story of the rise of Cardinal Bergoglio in the midst of a Church embroiled in scandal and abuse. Pope Benedict the XVI calls on his harshest critic, Cardinal Bergoglio, to help forge a path forward for the Church and for the world.
There are many humorous and touching scenes throughout the film. Whether it be Cardinal Bergoglio and Pope Ratzinger watching a soccer game together between their homelands Germany and Argentina or the profound conversations on not being able to hear the voice of God that the two share.
There is also an exploration of the alleged role that Cardinal Bergoglio played in support of the Argentinian military dictatorship. The film is ripe with many lessons and much to reflect on.
Yet, in spite of these strengths, the film still does have its weaknesses. For example, the film has an overly harsh portrayal of Pope Benedict. He is constantly portrayed as a “difficult” man who is disconnected from the world and its needs.
Worse still, the movie does not do justice to the Pope Emeritus’ handling of the sex abuse scandal. According to the film, Ratzinger did absolutely nothing, and in some ways was stepping down from his office because of his inability to handle the pressures associated with the crisis. Yet, actual history would sing a different story.
Alexander Stille of the New Yorker writes,
“Though the sexual-abuse crisis reached its peak in the public sphere during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the single figure most responsible for ignoring this extraordinary accumulation of depravity is the sainted John Paul II. In the context of his predecessor’s deplorable neglect, Pope Benedict gets slightly higher marks than most.
In 2001, he acted to give his office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, jurisdiction over all sexual-abuse cases, and soon he began to push the Maciel investigation, despite considerable Vatican opposition. After ascending the throne of St. Peter, he became the first Pope to kick predator priests out of the Church: in 2011 and 2012, the last two full years of his papacy, the Church defrocked three hundred and eighty-four offending priests.”
Marcial Maciel was the founder of the Legionnaires of Christ. It was Pope Benedict the XVI who forced him out of active ministry.
One line that is continually brought forward in the film is that “God corrects one Pope by presenting the world with another Pope.” I think the line highlights one tendency among many to place people into black and white boxes without accepting the fact that there are nuances to every individual and story.
Each Pope had (has) their strengths and weaknesses. God uses each one to work his will. In the end, each one was and is looking to the best interests of the Church and the world.