Rupert Shortt

Joseph Ratzinger’s coat of many colours

The previous pope was once a keen reformer of the Catholic Church, says Peter Seewald, but became obsessed with the alleged nihilism of modern mores

Photograph taken in 1943 of Joseph Ratzinger as a German Air Force assistant. Credit: Getty Images

A common but flawed assumption about Joseph Ratzinger is that he is simply an ardent conservative. That’s the figure we see in Netflix’s The Two Popes. Anthony Hopkins’s performance may be a visual feast, but the script leaves no cliché unaired. Better informed observers note that the Vatican’s former doctrinal guardian is a poacher turned gamekeeper who once supported major reform of the Catholic Church but then performed a somersault, partly because of worry about threats including Marxism and moral relativism.

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