As part of my holiday reading, I’ve been working my way through the delightful new book on Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World. The book is the result of a six-hour interview with the Pope by journalist Peter Seewald. Although it’s divided into topical chapters, the chapters consist of questions from Seewald and answers from the Pope.
The benefit of this format is that it gives readers the sense that they are listening in on an intelligent, personal conversation with Pope Benedict. You feel like you know him better for having read the book. I heartily recommend it for that reason.
The disadvantage of a Q and A format is that the Pope must answer questions framed by someone else. Even before the book was released, the media (led by the New York Times) misreported that, in the book, the Pope had changed the Church’s position on contraception. But the limits of the interview format are especially obvious on the subject of climate change and environmental stewardship. Without too much trouble, the New York Times could (mis)report that Pope Benedict fully agrees with left-wing environmentalists.