Funny Truths

Benedict XVI

Writing in the 1980s, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) quoted a humorous couplet from the German poet, Wilhelm Busch. I don’t read German, and I don’t have the German original, but the English translation I have doesn’t quite work. So I have “translated” it, retaining I’m quite sure its essence:

Once your worldly reputation is in tatters,
You’ll have more time for what really matters.

Cardinal Ratzinger quoted the Wilhelm Busch version of this couplet during those years when he was widely and falsely accused of being an ecclesiastical Neanderthal. It’s quite clear to those who bother to read what he wrote during those years that he used his extra time wisely.

When I posted this some years ago on our old weblog I received a much appreciated and graceful correction from someone who left the following comment:

“Ist der Ruf erst ruiniert, lebt sich’s völlig ungeniert.”

It seems that the quote is actually falsely ascribed to Wilhelm Busch (cf.

I am fine with the first part, but I don’t think that you caught the essence of the second: Ungeniert goes more into the direction of “cavalierly, uninhibited by the opinion of others, not being embarrassed or easily embarrassable (if this term exists).

The Cardinal of course did both: Used his time for what really matters and did so without looking for praise by others or by caring for his reputation.

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