Benedict thinks through and with the Church, and that’s the problem. But fair is fair, and just because Benedict starts with the Church doesn’t make him any more fanatical than the atheist who starts with atheism and the atheist intellectual tradition. A Christian or an atheist can be a fanatic, or not, because fanaticism is a quality of the way people hold their beliefs, not of the beliefs themselves.
Indeed, given what Christianity teaches about charity, human sinfulness, and God’s grace, being a Christian may make Benedict or any other Christian far less likely to be fanatical than the atheist. As the Catholic priest Ronald Knox once admitted, he didn’t know why he saw the truth of Christianity and many perfectly nice people he knew didn’t see it at all. He certainly wasn’t better than they were. He could only thank God that he saw it, as unworthy as he was, and pray for those who didn’t. The atheist has no such restraints.
April 2012 Edition of First Things