He took on heathens, Muslims and Jews. Now, it's the Protestants' (and Orthodox Christians') turn. You get the impression that he would have been mighty handy with the rack.
The Vatican spin doctors are used to it by now; Father Augustine Di Noia, under-secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, went into action.
"The Church is not backtracking on ecumenical commitment," Di Noia told Vatican radio.
"But, as you know, it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity. That is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be."
Nothing can be further from the truth. Cardinal Ratzinger is defining the identities of the Orthodox Churches and the Protestant denominations, not the Catholic Church. Look:
A 16-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Pope Benedict used to head, described Christian Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a "wound" since they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
But the document said the "wound is still more profound" in the Protestant denominations -- a view likely to further complicate relations with Protestants.
"Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress ... it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to them," it said.
The Vatican text, which restates the controversial document "Dominus Iesus" issued by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2000, said the Church wanted to stress this point because some Catholic theologians continued to misunderstand it.
Pope Benedict seems to have stopped growing in the 16th Century.