Msgr. Whitmore praised Benedict XVI as “a man of tremendous integrity and honesty” who would express himself “very, very simply” and “very, very clearly.”
He suggested this played a role in media misunderstandings of the Pope.
“He was, if you like, a man without guile,” the monsignor said. “Sometimes in order to play the media game, you need to have a little bit of guile. You need to be able to wrap up other things that you’re going to say in terms and expressions that press the right buttons. That wasn’t really who he was, that wasn’t where he was coming from.”
“He would say things beautifully, simply, clearly. For those with ears to hear and eyes to see, I think it was very clear.”
Msgr. Whitmore is among those who hope “very much” that Benedict XVI will be named a Doctor of the Church because he was “such a great teacher.”
“Of course, he has to be canonized first. If that happens, then I would think it would be a very, very natural step to proclaim him a Doctor of the Church.”
The priest also sees continuity between the papacies of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, predicting that this will become “much clearer in the course of history.”
Their message is “exactly the same,” he said.
“There’s a difference in style, and that’s to be expected. There’s always been a difference in style from one Pope to the next. We forget sometimes how absolutely normal that is. For all the differences in style, the message is the same, the truth is there.”
The priest noted that Pope Francis has said “a number of times how much he admires Pope Benedict, how much he loves him, how much he is happy to have him there.”
In Msgr. Whitmore’s view, Benedict is “a kind of grandfather” that Pope Francis can turn to and ask questions.
Reflecting on the one-year anniversary of Benedict’s resignation announcement, the priest recalled being “very surprised” when he first heard the news, but said the Pope “gave us plenty of warning.”
Benedict XVI said in an interview published in the book “Light of the World” that if a Pope felt the task was beyond his physical or spiritual capabilities, including his stamina, it would be appropriate to resign.
“On reflection, I think we saw that it was a very wise, and a very gracious and a very humble move,” Msgr. Whitmore said. “We were sad, of course, to see him go, but then, we got a new Holy Father, and our hearts were filled with joy.”