Apr 24, 2008
His Holiness came to America known as the "enforcer" of Catholic doctrine. He left America as the face of the Church, the face of peace. Benedict XVI arrived in the midst of swirling controversies, but in addressing them, he raised our hearts and minds to the place where all struggles cease and all questions are answered.
"Peace be with you" the President of the United States said to him on his birthday at the White House. Yet it was the Holy Father who gave us peace during his five days here.
Benedict XVI bestowed his peace while confronting every problem awaiting him in the youngest and wealthiest of the countries under his universal pastoral oversight. He addressed the priest sexual abuse scandal on the plane to Washington, D.C. and will be remembered for his willingness to meet with victims. Both his humility and transparency caught the nation off guard.
His transparency was apparent in everything he did and said. He praised the American Revolution for its foundations in divinely-endowed human rights while reminding us of the necessity of exercising freedom "for the cause of good." He congratulated our bishops on the vitality of the Church but asked them to offer "a clear and united witness" on proposed legislation that contradicts sound morality.
He recognized the sacrifice made by American Catholics to educate their children, but he admonished presidents of Catholic colleges and universities never to use academic freedom as justification for contradicting "the faith and the teaching of the Church." His admiration for the work of the United Nations was made clear in his speech, but he cautioned, "It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one's rights."