“He was brilliant but timid, causing thousands of children to be assaulted by refusing to act decisively to end decades of irresponsible church secrecy around child sex crimes,” he said.
In the United States, Benedict’s legacy is in the intellectual tradition and hierarchical appointments he leaves behind. His high-profile promotions include Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, formerly of Washington, and Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis.
Cardinals around the country released statements of tribute and mourning.
“His life and his pontificate were based in a deep and abiding faith and an extraordinary record of theological scholarship,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “In all of my personal interactions with Pope Benedict XVI, I found him to be an engaged leader, thoughtful in his decisions and always committed to the mission of the Church.”
He added, simply: “I will miss Pope Benedict.”
Cardinal Dolan called on every parish in the archdiocese of New York to offer a Mass “for the Good Lord’s mercy upon his gracious soul, and in thanksgiving for his vocation as Successor of St. Peter. May the angels lead him into paradise!”
As a young priest and theologian in the 1960s, Benedict attended the Second Vatican Council, where he was perceived as a relative liberal at a time of dramatic change to the church’s liturgy, rituals and approach to the secular world. He later became alarmed by what he perceived as a leftward theological drift in the church, though he said that his theological positions did not change.
“You might say this is the definitive drawing down of the curtain on Vatican II,” said Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota, and the influential founder of the Catholic media organization Word on Fire.
The fact that Benedict’s post-papacy lasted almost a decade surprised many observers, Bishop Barron said, describing Benedict as a fundamentally introverted intellectual. “The way he lived the last 10 years was probably the way he wanted to live his life,” he said.