God’s Rottweiler

A Reflection on the Life of One of the 21st Century’s Greatest Theologians

Jack Nowak '23, Editor

This past year ended with a major loss for Catholics around the world. In the last week of 2022, the Vatican updated the world on the condition of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, saying that his illness had taken a turn for the worse. Then, on Saturday, December 31, at 9:34 a.m., he died. Pope Benedict XVI was pope for seven years, retiring in 2013 due to declining health. During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI was known as “God’s Rottweiler” for his fierce defense of the Catholic faith during a time when the world was becoming increasingly secular and opposed to the Church’s teaching. The Pope stayed strong when it would have been easier to cave into pressures from both outside and inside the Church. He was a true shepherd of the Church who cared for his flock, and a man of prayer with deep love for the Mass. He worked to protect its sacredness during a time when, all too often, the Mass was being said without due reverence throughout the world. He carried on the difficult task of his predecessors to work to bring about what the Second Vatican Council truly intended for the Church, and before and throughout his pontificate, he wrote in defense of keeping the Liturgy sacred and reverent. 

Pope Benedict XVI was often criticized for being too dogmatic and too loyal to controversial Church teaching, earning him the nickname of “God’s Rottweiler”. But he had profound words to say about remaining in the Truth: “Love without truth is blind; truth without love is empty.” This is something that the Church needs to remember during today’s cult of relativism. Oftentimes we Catholics sacrifice the Truth out of good intentions to not hurt others’ feelings. Other times, we forget to love others as Christ does, which makes our defense of the Truth vain and a waste of time. Pope Benedict was wise to remind us that Truth and love are one, and when they are separated, they are empty and blind.

When I read about his death, Pope Benedict’s last words struck me. His words summed up his papacy and his life: “Lord, I love You.” This simple prayer is one that cuts through so much of the turmoil the Church faces today. It reminds us of when Jesus walked on the water. He called Peter to also walk on the water, which Peter did. But when he began to focus on the dark storm and crashing waves instead of the Lord, he began to sink. This is something that I and so many Catholics around the world do today. We place our focus on the problems going on in the Church and in the world, forgetting to simply look at Christ and love Him. Pope Benedict’s last words are a profound prayer, and a good reminder to the Church to stop looking at the storm and to love the Lord. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul rest in peace.