Pope's Homily at Birthday Mass
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2012 - Here is a
translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Monday at a Mass marking his 85th
birthday and baptism anniversary.
* * *
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
On the day of my birthday and Baptism, April 16, the liturgy of the Church
points to threewhich indicate to me where the road leads and which help me to
find it. In the first place, there is the memoria of Saint Bernadette Soubirous,
the visionary of Lourdes; then, there is one of the more particular Saints of
the history of the Church, Benedict Joseph Labre; and then, above all, is the
fact that this day is always immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of
the Cross and of the Resurrection, and in the year of my birth it was expressed
in a particular way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, of the
apparent absence, of the death of God, but also the day in which the
Resurrection was proclaimed.
Bernadette Soubirous. The simple girl of the South, of the Pyrenees – we all
know and love her. Bernadette in the France of the Enlightenment of the 19th
century, in a poverty difficult to imagine. The prison, which was abandoned
because it was too unhealthy, became, in the end – after some hesitations -- the
family’s dwelling, in which she spent her childhood. There was no possibility of
school formation, only some catechism in preparation for her First Communion.
But precisely this simple girl, who was pure and genuine in heart, who had a
heart that sees, was able to see the Lord’s Mother and, in her, the reflection
of the beauty and goodness of God. Mary was able to show herself to this girl
and through her to speak to the century and beyond the century itself.
Bernadette was able to see with a pure and genuine heart. And Mary indicated to
her the source: she was able to discover the source, the living water, pure and
uncontaminated; water that is life, water that gives purity and health. And
through the centuries, now, this living water is a sign on Mary’s part, a sign
that indicates where the sources of life are, where we can be purified, where we
find what is uncontaminated. In this our time, in which we see the world in so
much anxiety, and in which the need of water bursts out, of pure water, this
sign is that much greater. From Mary, from the Mother of the Lord, from a pure
heart, pure, genuine water also comes which gives life, the water than in this
century – and in the centuries that might come – purifies and heals us.
I think we can consider this water as an image of the truth that comes to us in
faith: truth not simulated but uncontaminated. In fact, to be able to live, to
be able to become pure, we are in need of having in us the nostalgia of the pure
life, of the truth that is not distorted, of what is not contaminated by
corruption, of being men without stain. See how this day, this little Saint has
always been for me a sign that has indicated where the living water comes from
of which we are in need – the water that purifies us and gives us life -- and a
sign of how we should be: with all the knowledge and all the capacities, which
also are necessary, we must not lose the simple heart, the simple look of the
heart, capable of seeing the essential, and we must always pray to the Lord that
we preserve in us the humility that enables the heart to be clear-sighted – to
see what is simple and essential, the beauty and goodness of God – and thus find
the source from which the water comes that gives life and purifies.
Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious mendicant pilgrim of the 18th
century who, after several useless attempts, finally found his vocation of
pilgrim as mendicant – without anything, without any support and not keeping for
himself anything of what he received except that of which he had absolute need –
pilgrimaging through the whole of Europe, to all the shrines of Europe, from
Spain to Poland and from Germany to Sicily: a truly European Saint! We can also
say: a somewhat particular Saint who, begging, wandered from one shrine to
another and wished to do nothing other than pray and with this give witness to
what matters in this life: God. He certainly does not represent an example to
emulate, but he is a, a finger pointing to the essential. He shows us that God
alone suffices, that beyond all thatin this world, beyond our needs and
capacities, what counts, the essential is to know God. He alone suffices. And
this “God alone” he indicates to us in a dramatic way. And at the same time,
this really European life that, from shrine to shrine embraces the whole
European continent makes evident that he who opens himself to God is no stranger
to the world or to men, rather he finds brothers, because on God’s side, borders
fall, God alone can eliminate borders because thanks to Him we are all only
brothers, we are part of one another; it renders present that the oneness of God
means, at the same time, the brotherhood and reconciliation of men, the
demolishing of borders that unites and heals us. Thus he is a Saint of peace
precisely in as much as he is a Saint without any exigency, who is poor of
everything yet blessed with everything.
And then, finally, the Paschal Mystery. On the same day I was born, thanks to
the care of my parents, I was also reborn by water and the Spirit, as we just
heard in the Gospel. In the first place, there is the gift of life that my
parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I owe them my gratitude.
However, it is not taken for granted that man’s life is in itself a gift. Can it
really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what is incumbent on man in the dark
times he is facing – also in those more luminous ones that might come? Can we
foresee to what anxieties, to what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it
right to give life thus, simply? Is it responsible or is it too uncertain? It is
a problematic gift if it remains independent. Biological life of itself is a
gift, and yet it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a real gift only
if, together with it, one can make a promise that is stronger than any
misfortune that can threaten one, if it is immersed in a force that guarantees
that it is good to be man, that for this person it is a good no matter what the
future might bring. Thus, associated to birth is rebirth, the certainty that, in
truth, it is good for us to be, because the promise is stronger than the
This is the meaning of rebirth from water and the Spirit: to be immersed in the
promise that God alone can make: it is good that you are, and it is true
regardless of what happens. From this certainty, I have been able to live,
reborn by water and the Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “Can an old man be born
again?” Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must grow continually in
it, we must always let ourselves me immersed in God’s promise, to be truly
reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than all the weaknesses
and all the negative powers that threaten us. This is why this is a day of great
The day on which I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was usual
to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would have been followed
again by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me
that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of the light in a dark
day, could be almost an image of the history of our days. On one hand, there is
still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ
there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this
anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear his speaking, and
through the darkness of his absence we perceive his light. The anticipation of
the Resurrection in the midst of a history that evolves is the force that
indicates the road to us and that helps us to go forward.
We thank the good God for this light he has given us and we pray that it will
always be with us. And on this day I have reason to thank Him and all those who
have always made me perceive the Lord’s presence, who have accompanied me so
that I would not lose the light.
I am facing the last lap of the course of my life and I do not know what awaits
me. I know, however, that the light of God is, that He is risen, that his light
is stronger than any darkness; that God’s goodness is stronger than any evil of
this world. And this helps me to go forward with confidence. This helps us to go
forward and in his hour I give my heartfelt thanks to all those who continually
make me perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.
Finally, Cardinal Dean, my cordial gratitude for your words of fraternal
friendship, for all the collaboration in all these years. And a big thank you to
all the collaborators of the 30 years in which I have been in Rome, who helped
me bear the weight of my responsibility. Thank you. Amen.
Foundation to Promote Thought of Benedict XVI
Announced at Gathering of
Pope's Former Students
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 1, 2008 - A foundation devoted to
the promotion of the thought of Benedict XVI will be launched this fall
news was announced this weekend at the annual meeting of the “Ratzinger
Schülerkreis” (Ratzinger’s Circle of Students), composed of the
former doctoral and postdoctoral students. The gathering, held at
Castel Gandolfo, ended today.
According to a press release sent
out by Divine Word Missionary Father Vincent Twomey, a member of the
circle, this was the 30th meeting of the Schülerkreis since it was
up after then professor Joseph Ratzinger was named archbishop of Munich
and elevated to cardinal in 1977. Some 40 former students were present.
The final details of the newly established Joseph
Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Foundation were approved at the plenary
sessions, held under the chair of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn,
archbishop of Vienna. The foundation will be publicly launched Nov. 12
The press statement explained that the foundation is devoted to "the
promotion of theology in the spirit of Joseph Ratzinger."
board of trustees," it added, "whose members include former students
from Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Benin, and the United States, reflects
the international character of the Schülerkreis and the
scope of the foundation’s outreach."
this year's meeting, two Lutheran scriptural scholars, Martin Hengel
and Peter Stuhlmacher -- both professors at the University of
where Ratzinger taught in the 1960s -- were invited to read papers in
the presence of the Pope.
The statement of the circle reported
that the topic was "the historicity of the Gospel narratives and the
particular topic of Jesus’ consciousness of the significance of his own
It added that Benedict XVI, who is in the
process of writing the second volume of his book "Jesus of Nazareth,"
took part in the "lively discussion [...] with the same frankness,
humor, and clarity that marked all his university seminars and
For the first time ever, doctoral students who are
researching the Pope’s theology were invited to meet the Pontiff and
his former students.
Some 17 young theologians presented their
research projects at two sessions this weekend, which the circle said
marked "the beginning of a new generation of Ratzinger students."
Benedict XVI, As Seen Up Close
Officials Give Insider's Look
By Marta Lago
ROME, MAY 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- If you
understand Joseph Ratzinger, the man and the Pope, the starting point
is the love of God, affirmed a cardinal who has worked closely with him.
Cardinal Joséé Saraiva
prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, gave an inside look at
the personality of Benedict XVI when he participated Tuesday in the
book launch of "Benedictus," by Giuseppe de Carli.
"The key to the person and the ministry
Benedict XVI is the love of God," the cardinal said, affirming that the
Pontiff's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," "represents the
particularity of this Pontiff."
But the cardinal clarified what that love
means: "Love is not a static attitude," but "a dynamism that, by
definition, is something that spreads.
"It tends to continuously bring into play
energies," he affirmed. "Thus, love provokes the great questions, and
therefore engenders philosophy and theology."
Pope of the people
According to Cardinal Saraiva Martins,
"Benedictus" documents "the development of the presence of Benedict XVI
on the international scene of the third millennium, and shows how, step
by step, the Pope is entering, with his reserved, stately style, into
the hearts of the people."
The cardinal added that without leaving
his intellectual depth, the Holy Father is "becoming the Pope of the
people, because the people clearly perceive his message, even when it
is full of uncomfortable truths, that is, demanding [truths] that call
for a commitment."
The prelate continued: "He is always
guided by a
fatherly love that does not resign itself to seeing his children drown
"And what, if not love, is his constant
to combat the dictatorship of relativism, so thoroughly saturating our
Regarding his presence on the
scene, the Holy Father's "role is not along the lines of appearing, but
of being," Cardinal Saraiva Martins contended. "His very presence, even
before his teaching, is for everyone a constant calling to live in love
and in the search for truth."
His way of presenting himself "to the
the world is never invasive: his tone of voice lacks the slightest
element of arrogance, his discreet, humble, cordial approach manages to
open the hearts of many to his proposals."
Offering another view, Cardinal Andrea
Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside
the Walls, recalled how the Pope, two days after his election, called
him urgently to ask help with the design of the papal coat of arms. The
Italian prelate is an expert in ecclesiastic heraldry.
"I immediately discovered his fundamental
characteristics," the cardinal said, "which the book amply points out:
the aspect of the man's simplicity, humanity, sincerity, spontaneity,
but also the timidity. And I noted that this is accompanied right away
with an element of decisiveness, matured in reflection."
Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and thus one of Cardinal
Ratzinger's closest collaborators just before the election to the See
of Peter, described the pontificate as a continuation of his previous
He explained: "That which we see now in
Father in reality is that which Ratzinger was as the prefect of our
"The same intellectual lucidity, the same
for the defense of doctrine, the same simplicity in human
relationships, the same humility in his person."
Paging through "Benedictus," the
said, one sees four outstanding qualities. "[The Pope's] radiant,
spontaneous, good-hearted and contagious smile" was first on the list.
Then, Archbishop Amato noted, the Holy
characterized by "his willingness to dialogue, matured in his years of
university teaching and sharpened in his meetings with bishops from
around the world," who visited him in his role as prefect of the
"He is a man of dialogue, woven together
with frigidity or indifference, but with an interior passion, because
he is an intellectual with heart," he said.
The prelate proposed that the
strength of the Pope proceeds from the reasonableness of his speech --
as much when he speaks of Christ or illustrates the truth of the faith,
as when he critiques the pathologies of postmodern mentality."
And since "faith and reason are the two
that raise us to the truth," Archbishop Amato concluded, "it is
precisely the truth, love for the truth and the proposal of truth that
is the common thread giving continuity to Ratzinger, before as prefect,
now as Pope."
The Pope and the Press
Is the Love Affair Here to Stay?
By Teresa Tomeo
DETROIT, Michigan, MAY 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In
watching and reading various media outlets days before the Holy Father
arrived for his historic U.S visit last month to Washington D.C. and
New York City, one could have easily gotten the impression that it was
going to be nothing but more of the same media bias and
One expected the media to round up the usual
suspects, the unorthodox authors, so-called scholars and commentators
who are Catholic in name only and cannot accept Church teaching on
abortion, contraception, and the male priesthood, and put them on the
air or quote them in print so they can once again attack the Church for
not following the whims of American culture.
Whether it was HBO’s Bill Maher’’s irreverent
and downright sacrilegious remarks calling Benedict XVI a Nazi, and
referring to the Catholic Church as a cult that houses and protects
child molesters -- which he did later apologize for -- or the major
broadcast networks of ABC, NBC and CBS referring to the Pope as a
conservative, hardliner and traditionalist, the view from the media
front did not look good.
That was, of course, until the Holy Father
himself hit the media with a very pro-active one-two punch. Not only
was it the Pope who first addressed the fallout from the priest sex
abuse scandal here in the United States, but he did it before even
landing on American soil. He discussed the sensitive and embarrassing
issue during a question-and-answer session with reporters on Shepherd
One. And then later in the week he met privately with several victims
of the sexual abuse scandal.
Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the
Media Research Center, explains it was the Pontiff’’s humility and
directness concerning the biggest white elephant in the room that may
have forced the press to take a closer look at this Pope and make at
least some effort to cover him more fairly and at least a bit more
The Virginia-based center was formed more than
20 years ago to prove through research that liberal media bias not only
exists, but undermines American values.
““Addressing the sex scandals on the plane [..]
warmed up press coverage, and meeting with victims was even more
helpful. It is encouraging how Benedict seeks as a theme of his
pontificate to build hope, and you can see everyone from abuse victims
to media commentators feeling more hope on this front as well,”” Graham
Graham adds that the tone was also gentler than
most expected because the media were aware of polls showing Catholics
in America were favorable to Benedict XVI, and because the Holy Father
didn't push politics. He did not mince words when it came to following
the teachings of the Church, but as Graham says, the Pontiff stressed
the theme of hope and repentance, topics that don’’t exactly excite
American secular journalists.
According to the Media Research Center, surveys
dating all the way back to 1978 show that those working in the media in
America are much more liberal than the rest of the country, with one
poll showing that the majority of journalists admit that religion is
not an important part of their lives.
““One, the media’’s polls showed American
Catholics were overwhelmingly favorable to Benedict, which makes it
hard to paint him as unpopular or villainous. Two, the Pope stressed
religious themes and not political ones, a recommitment to Christ and
to evangelization, which secular reporters find either boring or
harmless. Apologizing deeply for the sex abuse scandals also soothed
the tone of the media coverage,”” Graham added.
"We'd love a priest"
There were also some positive elements leading
toward a kinder, gentler press that were going on behind the scenes
months before the Papal coverage began in earnest. Lisa Wheeler is the
executive vice president of the Maximus Media Group. Maximus is a
Catholic communications and marketing company that provides orthodox
Catholic spokespersons for media interviews.
““The secular media appeared to be more prepared
for this major Catholic world event. We were getting calls from the
major networks as early as January for various specials they were
preparing in connection with the Papal visit. We were responsible for
about 75 major placements on CNN, FOX, CBS, USA Today, AP, Reuters, New
York Times, Newsweek and the BBC in connection with the visit,””
Wheeler adds she has seen a noticeable shift in
the type of experts in the mainstream media representing the Church’’s
““For the first time we had an orthodox priest
anchoring Christmas Day coverage on a major network. The requests that
come in to Maximus from the major networks are typically for religious
-- they want priests or nuns in their clerics to speak as commentators.
During this Papal visit the majority of the commentators on mainstream
television were priests. Monsignor Lisante on MSNBC, Father Morris on
FOX, Father Fessio on CNN. Almost every first request from the media
has been, 'we’’d love a priest.' That is a huge shift in the types of
requests we used to get.””
What happens now?
But it still remains to be seen whether the
attempts for more balanced reporting during a special event such as the
papal visit will carry through to the general coverage of faith
matters, especially those dealing with the Catholic Church.
Wheeler says she could share plenty of stories
to show that the liberal bias is still alive among members of the
secular media, including one about a particular network who asked for
““a Catholic who will talk about how if the Pope really wants to heal
the victims of sexual abuse he will change the Church’’s position on
““First I was stunned. I wanted to say, 'Are you
serious?'”” What a way to take five giant steps backward. My response
was, 'Do you want an accurate story of this issue, or do you just want
to start controversy. There is no authentic Catholic who will speak
with any authority on that topic.' Needless to say we had to pass on
assisting them with that particular segment,”” said Wheeler.
Overall, even though it doesn’’t seem like the
folks at the Media Research Center or Maximus will be out of a job any
time soon, Wheeler stresses that she is encouraged by what she says has
transpired in that last three years with regard to the secular media.
She finds them more open and more receptive to
covering topics critical to cultural change, and covering them with an
authentic perspective. And she reminds us with God all things are
possible, especially when Christ and the Church have such a powerful
and humble witness as Benedict XVI.
““My feelings, based on the reactions that I
have heard behind the scenes from members of the media are that Pope
Benedict really surprised the secular media," said Wheeler. "They have
found him authentic, unscripted, and unrelenting in his candor about
issues that affect the country and the world.
"My own hope is that many secular members of the
media who covered this visit, read, and wrote about the addresses of
the Holy Father, will have their own hearts transformed so that a
renewal of the media can occur.””
Benedict XVI's Portrait
came early for Benedict XVI. After the general audience on Wednesday,
Russian artist Natalia Tsarkova presented the Holy Father with a
full-length portrait of himself during one of the rare private
audiences granted by the Pope.
Tsarkova, an extraordinarily gifted painter, has
been working in Rome for over a decade. She produced five portraits of
Pope John Paul II, the only portrait of Pope John Paul I, as well as
the stunning "Our Lady of Light" commissioned by the Primavera
Foundation in the United States to celebrate the institution of the
luminous mysteries of the rosary by John Paul II.
The portrait of Benedict XVI was commissioned by
the Patrons Office of the Vatican Museums a year ago. In the past, the
Patrons Office has usually obtained funding for restoration and
maintenance of the extensive collections of the Vatican Museums, but
under its new director, Legionary of Christ Father Mark Haydu, the
office decided to add a new masterpiece to the galleries.
Tsarkova toiled for almost a year on the
painting, oil on canvas. She attended the audiences to capture the Holy
Father among the faithful, and papal Masses to watch him celebrate the
liturgy. Her portrait is a mixture of the public persona she studied as
well as the private meditative man that she imagined.
Benedict XVI sits on a throne, which the artist
describes as a reminder of his role of teacher from his chair, but also
that of Successor of St. Peter. The Holy Spirit in the form of the dove
hovers above his head, bathing him with light the same way Bernini's
window of the Holy Spirit rains golden light on the Cathedra San Petri
in St. Peter's Basilica.
The elaborately decorated chair belonged to Pope
Leo XIII, and has carved cherubim over the shoulders and under the
armrests. One angel, illuminated by the heavenly rays, turns its gaze
lovingly toward the Pope.
Tsarkova's greatest labor of love in the work
involved rendering Benedict XVI's facial expression. Magazine and
newspaper photos rarely show the Pope in a flattering fashion, but
after careful studies, she captured an intent look tinged with
kindness; his far-seeing gaze looks toward the future of the Church out
of concern for the souls under his care.
To portray the complexity of his expression,
Tsarkova worked on preparatory drawings for months. A small but
beautiful oil sketch remains as testimony to her work, in which the
warm, gentle smile of Benedict XVI is recognizable to all those who
have had the pleasure of seeing the Holy Father.
Unlike Tsarkova's earlier portraits of John Paul
II, where the Pontiff was always portrayed standing as the "Pilgrim
Pope," Benedict XVI's portrait shows him seated, emphasizing his role
Also different from John Paul II's portraits,
Benedict XVI wears a heavy crimson cope which sparkles with reflected
light in its heavy folds. Tsarkova defines her use of red to frame the
Pope as a symbol of both faith and love while the woven gold miter on
his head represents the divine Kingdom.
A curious clasp closes the Pope's mantle. Amid
the Baroque swathes of fabric highlighted with rich embroidery, a broad
pewter buckle draws the cope across his heart. The design is almost
primitive -- parallel waving lines trace the simple form of Christ
embracing his mother.
It seems that Tsarkova is hinting that despite
all his years of curial experience and the grandeur of his role as
Pope, Benedict XVI remains a simple man at heart, unaffected by the
pageantry that surrounds him.
Benedict XVI's unique gift of taking complex
lessons and transmitting them in clear, understandable and even catchy
language motivated the artist to place a slim volume under the Pope's
fingers. Although Benedict XVI has written numerous books as one of the
greatest theologians of the past century, his teaching is
straightforward and accessible, allowing the faithful to gain a better
understanding of the Church and its doctrines.
As I was standing in Natalia's studio, I saw
copies of all her paintings of John Paul II around the rooms and I felt
the now familiar pang of nostalgia for the Holy Father that I had known
all my life. But then looking at her portrait of Benedict XVI, I saw
St. Peter's Square depicted in the background, with the sun shining
down on Bernini's colonnade as it embraces the obelisk that witnessed
St. Peter's martyrdom.
Tsarkova's vision of Benedict XVI, both
intensely passionate about his mission and warm and fatherly toward his
flock, seems to herald the advent of an exciting new day in the life of
* * *
Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and
architecture at Duquesne University's Italian campus.
Cardinal Schönborn on the Pope in Austria
on Benedict XVI's Upcoming Trip
VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 6, 2007 -
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn says Benedict XVI is the last of the
great Second Vatican Council theologians, and that the Pope's words are
always both important and fascinating.
In view of Benedict XVI's visit to Austria this
Friday through Sunday, the archbishop of Vienna and president of the
Austrian bishops' conference spoke to ZENIT about the Pope, the man and
the successor of Peter.
Q: Everyone is talking about the Pope's upcoming
visit. Who is the real Benedict XVI?
Cardinal Schönborn: He is very simple. He
is the successor of the Apostle Peter and therefore for us, he is the
Vicar of Christ, the Lord's representative here on earth in the visible
This is at the same time incomprehensible and
immense, but it is the secret of the Petrine ministry. Whoever meets
with him, whatever country he is from, whatever language he speaks --
all of that is important, but it is secondary. For us he is, above all,
according to the faith of the Church, Peter among us, with all the
depth, greatness and strength of what Jesus prophesied to Peter, of the
ministry that he entrusted to him, a ministry that continues to exist
beyond the historical figure of Peter.
Q: How are your meetings with the Holy Father?
Cardinal Schönborn: Very normal. He is a
man I have known for 35 years, under whom I studied and with whom I
have worked for many years, a man that throughout the years, I learned
to know and deeply esteem and greatly admire. But April 19, 2005, in
his life and in our lives, something greater happened -- he was chosen
as the successor of Peter. This naturally represents a new dimension,
which is evident in meeting with him. He is the man, the teacher, the
cardinal that I know well and have known for many years, and at the
same time, he is Peter.
Q: You have known Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI
for many years. What distinguishes him as a man?
Cardinal Schönborn: I could mention many
things. In his memoirs he wrote in a very modest but wise way about his
life. He is very restrained in manifesting personal matters. He does
not talk much about his life, but its deep Christian roots are notable.
You can tell that he comes from a family profoundly formed by faith, a
family united in faith and love.
I had the opportunity to get to know his sister
Maria well, who died unexpectedly on Nov. 2, 1991. The three siblings
were very close and they must have had parents who profoundly shaped
Who is the Pope based on his personal history?
He is a particularly gifted and intelligent theologian. I do not
hesitate to say that he is the last of the great theologians of the
Council generation -- de Lubac, Congar, Rahner, von Balthasar. He was
the youngest in a long line of theologians who influenced the Second
Vatican Council and he is certainly one of the greatest because of his
spiritual and theological abilities.
Q: During your meeting with Benedict XVI in
Castel Gandolfo you discussed the details of his upcoming trip. What is
the Holy Father expecting?
Cardinal Schönborn: He will let us know and
I think this is good. When Benedict XVI speaks, it is necessary to pay
close attention, because what he has to say is always very clear,
important, incisive and very personal and fascinating. I don't know
what he will say to us. It is good to be open.
What I can say with certainty is that we will
receive enough material for further reflection.
Q: What kind of Church will the Pope find? What
is, in your opinion, the situation of the Church in Austria?
Cardinal Schönborn: Only Our Lord can say
what the situation of the Church is for sure, because faith has him for
its aim. In that sense, hearts and their relationship with God is a
mystery. No statistic is able to measure this. But naturally we live in
a time when religious sociology, the psychology of religion, and
statistics play an important role, and therefore one studies how to
pose religion to the young, to adults and to the elderly.
Since the 1950s there has been enormous change,
but not only in the Church, also in society. We live in a very
Let me offer an example: In our diocese we have
a rural area and an urban area, the great city of Vienna and
neighboring areas that belong to the Archdiocese of Vienna. Fifty years
ago, these areas were farmland; today they make up a large part of the
outskirts of Vienna. This is a radical change, linked to the
professional, social and family lives of many people. The number of
farmers has diminished greatly, and this has impacted religious
I think that today the challenge, in a highly
secularized society, is living Christianity, the Christian faith almost
as an alternative, as a countercultural society.
Q: The Holy Father's visit to Austria is a pilgrimage to Mariazell.
What importance does Mary have in the Christian life?
Cardinal Schönborn: The motto "Turn your gaze toward Christ" is
deeply inspired by Mariazell. If you look at the "full of grace" statue
in Mariazell, the 850-year-old small statue of Linden wood, without
festal vestments, without the opulent robes it is usually clothed in,
you can see a simple figure of this smiling and mysterious Mother of
God, and on her lap a child with an apple in his hand, symbol of the
reign of divine power. And Mary is clearly pointing to the baby. That
means that she is saying to us what she said at Cana -- "Do whatever he
tells you" -- and she teaches us to look to Christ.
She is looking at us but she is pointing to Christ. In a certain sense
she is calling to us: "Look there, look at my son." And I think that
this is the motto that Pope John Paul II chose for his entire life and
especially for his pontificate. "Totus tuus" means to Christ through
Mary. She shows us the way. Therefore let us begin Benedict XVI's
pilgrimage, and with the Holy Father, to Mariazell, and to the Am Hof
Plaza before the Mariensaeule.
On Dec. 8, 2006, feast of the Immaculate Conception, we began a novena
that will last until Sept. 8, in preparation for the feast day of
Mariazell and for the Holy Father's visit.
Q: You recently implied that the scarcity of children is a problem. How
can society be more favorable to childhood?
Cardinal Schönborn: It is above all a big problem for a society
that compromises its future by not having a sufficient number of
children. We know well: Almost all of Europe must face the problem of
falling demographics, which is being helped by strong immigration. It
is a decision that involves all of society that is already facing the
"No Future" problem.
Why are we in this situation today when the situation is Austria is so
positive and there is support for families like never before? At no
other time in history has there been a lack of norms like we have
today. And despite that, families once had more children than they have
Certainly the drama of abortion plays an important role, but along with
that I would add the fact of people not wanting children, saying no to
children through contraception.
In the last 40 years Europe has said "no" three times to its future:
the first time with the pill, the second time with abortion and the
third time with homosexual marriage. Irrespective of the moral
judgments of these phenomenon, it is simply a "de facto" no to the
The yes to the future can only mean a yes to children. I think that
there is a growing awareness among Europeans that this is a necessary
decision. The yes to the future is already a good thing, if you think
the future has a chance.
Q: The Center for Families in the Archdiocese of Cologne has existed
for some time. What are the specific initiatives of the Archdiocese of
Vienna to support families?
Cardinal Schönborn: Naturally many initiatives exist in favor of
the family, for example, associations of families or family workshops.
Different religious movements have familial organizations, like the
Schoenstatt movement. The religious movements of renewal are also
strongly focused on families. But I believe that there is something
more. It has to do with seeing.
Jesus said to his first disciples: "Come and see!" We need to see, we
need to be able to touch -- otherwise you don't live it.
I spent some of my vacation time with a young family who has just had
their sixth child. Naturally it is a life with many sacrifices, but it
is certainly more vital than what happens if we are afraid of every new
life. I think of the experiences of families in similar situations who,
with full knowledge, say yes, even if it is linked to enormous
opposition from those around them. With our lives we witness that it is
good, that having children is good.
Naturally it is tiring. But it is rewarding, gratifying. And I think
that the life of families in similar situations encourages others to
try it. And strangely, it is not a problem of economics.
Naturally it is difficult with six children. But thank God in Austria
there is good support for families. Some things could be better, more
constructive, but it is fundamental to live it and make it possible for
others. "Come and see!"
I see it in many families that have three, four, five, six children or
more. The impression one has is that the future is here, hope is here,
life is here. This is the way in which society should live: solidarity,
mutual respect, mutual assistance; the logical experience that we need
to forgo certain things.
These are the values that we absolutely need, so that society will
become a society worthy of life and love. It is there that we find
them, where we learn them. Woe to the society in which these values are
lost, because it will be an evil society, ruthless.
Q: What are you expecting from the Holy Father's visit?
Cardinal Schönborn: Strengthening of the faith, joy in the faith
and encouragement in walking the way of faith, with the Church and in
the Church, and not on a path we make for ourselves.
The Conscience of Our Age
Interview With Father Vincent Twomey
MAYNOOTH, Ireland, JUNE 25, 2007 - The modern
conception of conscience reduces it to an excuse mechanism, that it
cannot err and that what one thinks is right is in fact right, said
author Father Vincent Twomey.
Father Twomey, retired professor of moral
theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick's College, in
Maynooth, is the author of "Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our
Age," published this year by Ignatius Press.
In this interview with ZENIT, he comments on the
Holy Father's role in providing a way to return to a deeper
understanding of conscience.
Q: You were a doctoral student of Father Joseph
Ratzinger. How has that experience uniquely prepared you to write this
Father Twomey: I joined professor Ratzinger's
doctoral colloquium in the spring of 1971, and studied under his
supervision for the doctorate, which I was awarded in 1979.
Since his election as archbishop of Munich in
1977, he has met with his former doctoral and postdoctoral students
each year for a weekend colloquium, a practice that continued even
after his election as Benedict XVI.
I think that, as a result, I have a personal
knowledge of the Pope that is, perhaps, unique.
Sitting at his feet as a student, studying his
writings, and participating in discussions with him over some 36 years
has also given me a certain insight into his thought, which in turn has
influenced my own theology profoundly.
Q: What do you think are the most defining
characteristics of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI?
Father Twomey: The most defining formal
characteristics of his writings are originality, clarity and a superb
literary style that is not easy to render in translation.
Ratzinger is more than a world-class scholar and
academic: He is an original thinker.
He has the Midas touch, in the positive sense
that whatever he touches, he turns to gold, in other words, whatever
subject he examines, he has something new and exciting to say about it,
be it the dogmas of the Church or a mosaic in an ancient Roman church
or bioethics. And he writes with amazing clarity.
With regard to his style, Cardinal Joachim
Meisner of Cologne is reported as commenting that Ratzinger is the
Mozart of theology -- he writes masterpieces effortlessly.
With regard to its content, as Ratzinger once
said himself, "God is the real central theme of my endeavours."
There is hardly an area of theology -- dogma,
moral, political life, bioethics, liturgy, exegesis, music, art -- that
he has not examined in-depth. And everything he examines, he does so
from God's viewpoint, as it were, namely trying to discover what light
revelation -- Scripture and Tradition -- can shine on a particular
On the other hand, his theological reflection is
firmly rooted in contemporary experience: the questions and existential
issues posed by modernity and post-modernity, by contemporary thinkers
and the epoch-making events of our times.
However, his pastoral and administrative duties
as archbishop and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith were such that he had little time to write extensive monographs,
with the result that most of his writings are of a fragmentary nature.
But what fragments!
Each has the capacity to convey that insight
into truth that touches the mind and heart of the reader -- and can
effect in many a change of heart.
Q: You describe Benedict XVI as unafraid of
making mistakes, and as "having the courage to be imperfect." Can you
explain this further?
Father Twomey: Having the courage to be
imperfect is more than being afraid of making mistakes, though it may
Basic to his whole attitude to life and to
theology is the assumption that only God is perfect, that human effort
is always imperfect.
Perfectionism of any kind is inimical to man,
but above all in the political sphere. Most political ideologies aim to
create a perfect world, a perfect society and usually end up making
hell on earth.
That is a frequent theme of his writings on
political life. But also with regard to the human effort to do
theology, as it were. That, too, will always be unfinished business,
always capable of improvement, of correction and deepening.
We cannot know everything, least of all God and
his design for man. I have described his writings as "fragmentary."
Most of his writings are unfinished -- like his classic book,
"Introduction to Christianity," and, more recently, his "Jesus of
Nazareth." And yet he has the courage to publish them in their
This attitude gave Joseph Ratzinger that inner
calm and detachment which the world is now experiencing in Benedict
XVI. But it also is, perhaps, the secret of his gentle humour and wit.
Q: You suggest that there has been a distortion
of the word conscience. What is this distortion and how has it affected
Father Twomey: The starting point is the
traditional notion of an erroneous conscience, which in the wake of the
turbulence that followed "Humanae Vitae," was falsely interpreted to
mean, in effect for many, that it does not matter what one does,
provided that one is sincerely convinced that it is right.
Sincerity now becomes the criterion of morality
and, taken to its logical conclusion, it would be impossible to condemn
a Hitler or a Stalin, since it could be claimed that they too acted
according to their "lights," according to their sincere convictions.
The traditional insistence on the primacy of
following your conscience, even if erroneous, led to a new notion, that
of the "infallible conscience." This amounts to the claim that
conscience cannot err, that what you think is right is in fact right.
This is to reduce conscience to an excuse
mechanism. This notion receives its persuasiveness, if not its
inspiration, from the prevailing relativism of modernity.
It is sometimes claimed today that each one can
adopt whatever moral principles he or she decides best for them. These
are the fruit of their conscientious choice, after having looked at the
This is indeed a very attractive theory. But it
amounts to the claim that each person can determine for himself what is
right or wrong, the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden.
Often, it is given the title "a la carte"
Catholicism, picking and choosing what suits us. Morality is reduced to
an ultimately irrational personal preference.
This prevailing notion of conscience has had a
devastating effect on the Church and Christian living.
Q: You describe Benedict XVI as a guide for the
conscience in today's age. In what ways do you believe this to be true?
Father Twomey: First of all, as theologian and
later as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
Ratzinger has been the voice of the Church's conscience in affirming
the objective truth when it was denied either theoretically or in
It is astonishing that secular thinkers, those
outside the Church, as it were, seem to recognize this more than those
inside. Thus, for example, the French Academy honoured him as the apt
successor to Andrey Sacharov, the dissident atom physicist during the
tyranny of the Soviet Union.
It was their recognition of a courageous thinker
who was in effect the great "dissident" under the "dictatorship of
relativism" that has swamped Europe and America over the past
Secondly, conscience is not only a central theme
of his writings, he has also made a major contribution to correcting
the false understanding of conscience outlined above, to which I devote
a whole chapter in my book.
Q: How did the experience of growing up in Nazi
Germany helped to prepare Joseph Ratzinger for the papacy? What
particular lessons did he learn then that he still puts into practice
Father Twomey: The answer to this question is to
be found in a comment he made in an interview in 1999: "As a result [of
living through the Nazi period], I learned to have a certain reserve
with regard to the reigning ideologies."
Evidently, he meant "ideologies" also to cover
those found within the Church, which are fashionable since they reflect
current ideological trends in society.
His experience of living under a political
ideology and its bureaucracy made him sensitive to the need for the
exercise of moral responsibility on the part of each one, but in
particular on the part of those who hold public office in the Church or
in the state. Moral responsibility is but another word for conscience.
His skepticism regarding episcopal conferences
is rooted in the experience of how, as a collective, the German
bishops, to put it mildly, had not quite matched up to the witness
given by individual bishops such as Bishop Clemens von Galen of
Muenster and Archbishop Michael Faulhaber of Munich.
He calls on all bishops to give personal witness
and not wait for the collective conference to rubber-stamp some
document prepared by an anonymous commission.
Likewise, his theology has been marked by a
personal search for the truth, urged on by his conscience. All his
life, he has exercised his personal moral responsibility, even when it
earned for him the negative title of "rottweiler" or "grand inquisitor"
-- or, indeed, "the enemy of humanity," as one journalist put it.
To speak the truth in love is to be in
opposition, very often, to the prevailing fashions and so to make
Now, as Benedict XVI, he continues to exercise
that moral responsibility, not least in the way he writes most of his
own speeches, which speak to the heart of his audience because they are
spoken from his own heart and not from a prepared schema.
Moving Away From Religion Toward Christianity
Interview With John Kenney, an Augustinian Scholar
BURLINGTON, Vermont, JUNE 19, 2007 ( Zenit.org
).- Benedict XVI is moving the Church away from religion, in the modern
sense of the term, and toward a deeper understanding of Christianity,
says an Augustinian scholar.
In this interview with ZENIT, John Peter Kenney,
professor of Religious Studies at St. Michael's College, in Vermont,
discusses the role of St. Augustine in the thought and work of Benedict
Kenney is the author of "The Mysticism of St.
Augustine: Rereading the Confessions," published by Routledge in 2005.
Q: What Augustinian influences do you see in the
Holy Father's work, especially his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas
Est," and his general-audience catecheses?
Kenney: Both the encyclical's hidden
architecture and many of its themes are Augustinian.
I was initially struck by the Holy Father's
discussion of "sacramental mysticism" -- the ecclesial dimension of
Christian contemplation. This is an important theme in the
"Confessions," part of the emancipation of Augustine's thinking from
Too often Augustine has been misread as a
proponent of an individualistic sort of mysticism, whereas a close
reading of the whole of the "Confessions" shows his mature recognition
that the human soul can only come to know God when nested in "the
living soul of the faithful," the Church.
In this first encyclical, the Holy Father also
offers a nuanced discussion of the role of the Church in reference to
politics and the state that is very much in keeping with Augustine's
position in "The City of God."
What the catechetical talks have exhibited is
just how deeply the Holy Father's thinking is informed by the whole
range of patristic theology. He has, as you know, been proceeding
chronologically, discussing both major and minor authors in some detail.
I think it is worth keeping in mind that the
Pope's thought is not just Augustinian, but broadly patristic.
Q: Augustine is known for his Order of Love --
"Ordo Amoris" -- emphasizing love over the intellect. How do you see
this fitting into the pontificate of Benedict XVI?
Kenney: Clearly Benedict XVI believes in the
objectivity of truth and in the possibility of the right ordering of
human affections in relation to that truth. These convictions were
central to Augustine's own conversion and they remained at the core of
The "Ordo Amoris" emerged in Augustine's thought
because of his own startled recognition that God is transcendent being
itself and we are made in the image of that reality. Our deepest
longings, loves and desires can finally be fulfilled only if we order
them correctly in relation to their divine source.
For lots of historical reasons, Augustine has
sometimes been interpreted as emphasizing love over the intellect.
But the Holy Father understands Augustine in his
proper patristic context, as discovering eternal truth within the soul
and calibrating human desires in reference to their ultimate divine
It is the dysfunction of our age that we fail to
understand that calibration -- something that Benedict XVI's
pontificate seems intended to remind us.
Q: How does Augustinian thought differ from
Thomistic thought, and how might that influence Benedict XVI?
Kenney: I'd be very reluctant to see Benedict
XVI's affinity with Augustine in terms of any self-differentiation from
the thought of Aquinas. Indeed the Regensburg address emphasizes the
common intellectualism of Augustine and Aquinas in contrast to the
voluntarism of Duns Scotus and the later medieval nominalists.
Both Augustine and Aquinas hold that our
knowledge of goodness and truth mirror, at least to some limited
extent, the inner nature of God.
God is not so remote and his will so inscrutable
that we have no means of knowing him as infinitely good. So for
Benedict XVI, Augustine and Aquinas exemplify the great synthesis of
biblical faith and Greek philosophy.
They are its twin pillars in the Latin West,
even if their philosophical theologies do differ, given their
distinctive appropriations of Platonism and Aristotelianism. But it is
their common character that Benedict XVI has been emphasizing.
Q: Do you think Benedict XVI identified with
Augustine early on because they were both thinkers who became pastors
out of necessity?
Kenney: Yes, perhaps that's true. His doctoral
dissertation, completed a few years after his ordination, was on
Augustine's conception of the Church.
This suggests a connection with Augustine early
on in his life as a priest. But I suspect that the root of this
identification went even deeper and lay in his recognition of the
Church as an anchor of sacred truth in a world riven by dehumanizing
He had, after all, first-hand experience of such
ideology in the Germany of his adolescence. Like Augustine, he
identified the Church as a divinely ordained community that prefigures
the heavenly Jerusalem.
So the events of both their lives brought them
to see the unique role of the Church in a fallen world and also to
discern the pastoral aspects of their own vocations.
Q: What might be the historical significance of
having an Augustinian-influenced Pope at this time in world history?
Kenney: One of the most powerful themes in
Augustine's thought is the universality of the Gospel. This is what
drew him to Catholic Christianity rather than to Donatism, which seems
to have been the dominant tradition throughout much of his native North
For Augustine, Christianity is by its very
nature global, and the Gospel is intrinsically universal in its message
and scope. And so the Church can never be just a local sect or a
Augustine was a member of that post-Nicene
generation who articulated what we think of as the Catholicism of the
Church and who sought to build a communion of faith across the peoples
of the ancient world. There is therefore much in Augustine that speaks
to our present age of globalization.
Q: Where do you think Benedict XVI is trying to
point the Church and the world right now?
Kenney: He's pointing us away from religion --
in the modern sense of the term. Religion is a category of modernity,
usually understood to mean either individually authenticated spiritual
experiences or else a particular type of collective ideology based on
socially defined values.
To think of Christianity in such terms is to
drift toward the relativism that Pope Benedict has so famously decried.
Hence Benedict XVI has insisted that personal spiritual experiences can
only become meaningful within the shared context of a lived theology.
And the collective life of the Church is far more than a form of social
or political association. Christianity is not an ideology.
These modern representations of religion can
constitute a reduction of Christianity to psychological, sociological
and political categories and can result in a denial of its claims to
Benedict XVI has a masterful grasp of all these
reductionist tendencies and he has pushed back hard in order to restore
recognition of the richness and depth of Christianity.
So one might say that we have a Pope who is
opposed to religion -- and in favor of Christianity. Thank God for that.
Benedict's critique of capitalism no surprise
on May 13, 2007
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Benedict XVI’s stinging criticism of both
Marxism and capitalism this afternoon may have caught some off-guard
used to thinking of him as a consumate conservative, but it shouldn’t
surprise anyone who knows Joseph Ratzinger’s history.
“Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point
out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared
that these, once established, would function by themselves; they
declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual
morality, but that they would promote a communal morality,” the pope
said this afternoon at the opening of the Fifth General Conference of
the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.
“And this ideological promise has been proved
false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it.”
That declaration builds on a lifetime of
In 1988, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
published a collection of essays under the title of Church, Ecumenism
and Politics. In it, he argued that capitalism is little better than
national socialism or communism, in that all three propose false idols
(prosperity, the Volk, and the state, respectively). Ratzinger said
that to build a humane civilization, the West must rediscover two
elements of its past: its classical Greek heritage and its common
From the classical era, Ratzinger wrote, Europe
should rediscover objective and eternal values that stand above
politics, putting limits to power. Ratzinger used the Greek term
eunomia to describe this concept of the good. In that sense, one could
say that Ratzinger proposed a eunomic, rather than capitalist, model of
Over the years, Ratzinger has been close to the
Communio school within Catholic theology, which stresses the need for
cultures to take their point of departure from the Christian gospel
rather than secular ideologies. Its primary exponents have repeatedly
criticized capitalism for promoting an ethos of individualism and
“survival of the fittest” that is at odds with the communitarian thrust
of Catholic social teaching.
Since becoming pope, Benedict has often
criticized what he considers the injustices of a growing neo-liberal
system of economic globalization.
On April 23, for example, Benedict wrote to
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, current president of the G-8,
demanding the “the rapid, total and unconditional cancellation” of the
external debt of poor countries, describing it as a “grave and
unconditional moral responsibility, founded on the unity of the human
race, and on the common dignity and shared destiny of rich and poor
alike.” In a recent message to the Pontifical Academy for Social
Sciences, Benedict highlighted three key challenges: 1) the environment
and sustainable development, 2) respect for the rights and dignity of
persons, and 3) the danger of losing spiritual values in a technical
It’s also worth noting that to some extent,
skepticism about capitalism is built into Ratzinger’s DNA. His great
uncle on his father's side, Georg Ratzinger, was one of the towering
Bavarian figures of the nineteenth century, a Catholic monsignor with a
strong track record of political and social engagement on behalf of the
Georg Ratzinger’s best-known book was Die
Volkswirthschaft in Ihren Sittlichen Grundlagen (“The economy in its
ethical foundations”), published in 1881, which offered a critique of
capitalism that reflected a growing body of Catholic social analysis
which culminated in Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical, Rerum novarum.
George Ratzinger was twice elected to the
Bavarian and the federal legislatures, and helped found a political
party, the Bauerbund, which represented the interests of poor farmers
against large capitalist industrial concerns. The Bauerbund stood for a
mix of populist protectionism and progressive social measures such as
child labor laws and minimum wages. The Bauerbund's chief goal was a
system of social supports that would insulate poor farmers and small
traders from the “boom and bust” cycles.
Benedict XVI has spoken warmly about his
great-uncle’s political legacy. In 1996, he said: “As a representative
of the state and national assemblies, he was really a champion of the
rights of the peasants and the simple people in general. He fought –
I’ve read this in the minutes of the state parliament – against child
labor, which at that time was still considered a scandalous, impudent
position to take. He was obviously a tough man. His achievements and
his political standing also made everyone proud of him.”
Benedict XVI’s tough comments about the failures
of capitalism at the opening of the CELAM general conference thus
represent something of a family legacy.
April 17, 2007
The Catholic Herald
Publication Date: April 16, 2007
Joseph Ratzinger came to the Chair of St Peter
late in life, a 78-year-old man who could look back (although he
rarely, if ever, chose to do so) on decades of intellectual
accomplishment. Recognised by even his critics as one of the premier
Catholic theologians of the 20th century, he had also attracted the
respect of his fellow intellectuals throughout Europe, many of them,
like the influential German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, of a
decidedly secular cast of mind. Indeed, the then Cardinal Ratzinger
convinced Professor Habermas, in January 2004, that the new Europe
embodied politically in the expanded European Union could not be built
on the thin and shaky foundation of epistemological scepticism about
the human capacity to know the truth of things, including the moral
truth of things. And it is because Pope Benedict was elected three days
after his 78th birthday that his papacy's teaching has had the
character of a great summing up: here is a master-teacher, distilling
decades of research and reflection into a body of truths that he
manages to convey in language and imagery accessible to those untrained
in theology and philosophy -- which is to say, to the overwhelming
majority of the human race. The enormous crowds at his general audience
addresses testify to the hunger for truth which Pope Benedict has
Familiar themes were in play in the Pope's first
encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, which was no surprise, in title or
content, to those who had never bought the cartoon Ratzinger and who
understood that the image of the "God with a human face" was central to
Ratzinger's theological project. Similarly, in a recently published
book entitled Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Pope Benedict
distils a lifetime of reflection on the relationship between faith and
reason, and on the cultural consequences of a collapse of both faith
and reason, into a challenge of prime importance for the entire world
-- but especially for Europe, in its current crisis of civilisational
In the controversy immediately following his now
famous lecture at the University of Regensburg in September 2006
attention was focused almost exclusively on the Holy Father's analysis
of certain theological tendencies in Islam and their unhappy
consequences in the world of politics. Yet that remarkably cogent
lecture was in fact addressed at least as much to the West as to Islam.
Yes, the Pope warned his listeners that an unreasonable faith is a real
and present danger to the world -- a faith, for example, in which God
can be imagined capable of commanding the irrational, like the murder
of innocents. But so, the Pope argued at Regensburg, is a loss of faith
in reason: that, too, is a real and present danger. If, for example,
the West limits the concept of "reason" to a purely instrumental
rationality, or, in a fit of post-modern self-indulgence, denies the
human capacity to grasp the truth of anything with certainty, then the
West will be unable to defend itself. Why? Because it will be unable to
give an account of its political commitments and their moral
foundations, to itself, or to those who would replace the free
societies of the West with a very different pattern of human community,
based on a very different idea of God -- and, consequently, of the just
These, of course, are points that Joseph
Ratzinger has been making for years, indeed decades. In Christianity
and the Crisis of Cultures he synthesises his arguments into a series
of finely tuned propositions on which all men and women of good will
would do well to reflect. Among the most important of these
propositions I would list the following, illustrating each with a brief
citation from the book:
Proposition 1: We live in a moment of dangerous
imbalance in the relationship between the West's technological
capabilities and the West's moral understanding.
Thus Ratzinger writes: "Moral strength has not
grown in tandem with the development of science; on the contrary, it
has diminished, because the technological mentality confines morality
to the subjective sphere. Our need, however, is for a public morality,
a morality capable of responding to the threats that impose such a
burden on the existence of us all. The true and gravest danger of the
present moment is precisely this imbalance between technological
possibilities and moral energy."
Proposition 2: The moral and political lethargy
we sense in much of Europe today is one by-product of Europe's disdain
for the Christian roots of its unique civilisation, a disdain which has
contributed in various ways to the decline of what was once the centre
of world culture and world-historical initiative.
Thus Ratzinger writes: "...Europe has developed
a culture that, in a manner hitherto unknown to mankind, excludes God
from public awareness... God is irrelevant to public life... [This
contemporary European culture] is the most radical contradiction not
only of Christianity, but of all the religious and moral traditions of
Proposition 3: The abandonment of Europe's
Christian roots implies the abandonment of the idea of "Europe" as a
civilisational enterprise constructed from the fruitful interaction of
Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. This infidelity to the past has led, in
turn, to a truncated idea of reason, and of the human capacity to know,
however imperfectly, the truth of things, including the moral truth of
things. There is a positivism shaping (and mis-shaping) much of Western
thought today -- a positivism that excludes all transcendent moral
reference points from public life.
Ratzinger asks whether such a positivism is an
exercise of what the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor describes as
"exclusive humanism", and then asks whether such an exclusivist
humanism, is, itself, rational. His answer is a resounding no. As he
writes: "This philosophy expresses, not the complete reason of man, but
only one part of it. And this mutilation of reason means that we cannot
consider it to be rational at all. Hence it is incomplete and can
recover its health only through reestablishing contact with its roots.
A tree without roots dries up..."
And so, evidently, do civilisations.
Proposition 4: The recovery of reason in the
West would be facilitated by a reflection on the fact that the
Christian concept of God as Logos helped shape the distinct
civilisation of the West as a synthesis of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome.
If men and women have forgotten that they can, in fact, think their way
through to the truth of things, that may have something to do with the
European forgetfulness of God which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn identified
as the source of Europe's 20th-century civilisational distress.
Thus Ratzinger writes: "From the very beginning,
Christianity has understood itself to be the religion of the Logos, to
be a religion in keeping with reason... [But] a reason that has its
origin in the irrational and is itself ultimately irrational does not
offer a solution to our problems. Only that creative reason which has
manifested itself as love in the crucified God can truly show us what
Then, in light of these propositions, the Holy
Father lays down a challenge: "In the age of the Enlightenment, the
attempt was made to understand and define the essential norms of
morality by saying that they would be valid etsi Deus non daretur, even
if God did not exist... [Today], we must... reverse the axiom of the
Enlightenment and say: Even the one who does not succeed in finding the
path to accepting the existence of God ought nevertheless to try to
live and to direct his life veluti si Deus daretur, as if God did
indeed exist. This is the advice Pascal gave to his non-believing
friends, and it is the advice I should like to give to our friends
today who do not believe. This does not impose limitations on anyone's
freedom; it gives support to all our human affairs and supplies a
criterion of which human life stands sorely in need."
In his fine introduction to Christianity and the
Crisis of Cultures, Marcello Pera, a member of the Italian senate, a
distinguished philosopher of science, and an agnostic, takes up Pope
Benedict's challenge and issues a clarion call for moral and cultural
renewal throughout the West: "This proposal should be accepted,
this challenge welcomed, for one basic reason: because the one outside
the Church who acts [as if God did indeed exist] becomes more
responsible in moral terms. He will no longer say that an embryo is a
‘thing' or a ‘lump of cells' or ‘genetic material'. He will no longer
say that the elimination of an embryo or a foetus does not infringe any
rights. He will no longer say that a desire that can be satisfied by
some technical means is automatically a right that should be claimed
and granted. He will no longer say that all scientific and
technological progress is per se a liberation or a moral advance. He
will no longer say that the only rationality and the only form of life
outside the Church are scientific rationality and an existence bereft
of values. He will no longer act as only half a man, one lacerated and
divided. He will no longer think that a democracy consisting of the
mere counting of numbers is an adequate substitute for wisdom."
How might such decisions to live "as if God did
indeed exist" effect the needed changes in the civilisational morale of
the West -- and particularly the civilisational morale of Europe, the
progenitor of the West? In their jointly authored book Without Roots,
Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera agreed, in a variant on Arnold
Toynbee's theory of historical change, that a "creative minority" of
men and women, convinced that the truths the West lives politically are
truths susceptible to rational defence, can be the agents of Europe's
rebirth as a culturally self-confident civilisation, capable of giving
an account of its democratic political aspirations -- which is to say,
a civilisation willing to face squarely and respond imaginatively to
the threat posed by the aggressive elements of the far different
civilisational project now housed within it.
With the dust settled after the Regensburg
lecture, perhaps we can see that Pope Benedict, in cooperation with men
like Senator Pera, has for some time now been trying to give the world
a precious gift: a vocabulary through which a serious, global
discussion of both the crisis of technological civilisation in the West
and the crisis posed by jihadist ideology and its lethal expressions
around the world can be engaged by believers and non-believers alike --
the vocabulary of "rationality" and "irrationality". If Europe begins
to recover its faith in reason, then at least some in Europe may, in
time, rediscover the reasonableness of faith; and in any event, a
renewed faith in reason would provide an antidote to the spiritual
boredom from which Europe is dying -- and thus open the prospect of a
new birth of freedom in Europe, and throughout the West.
Benedict XVI has been trying to remind the world
that societies and cultures are only as great as their spiritual
aspirations. It is not an act of ingratitude toward the achievements of
the Enlightenment to suggest that the soul-withering secularism -- the
exclusivist humanism -- that has grown out of one stream of
Enlightenment thought threatens the future of the West, precisely
because it prevents us from giving an account, to ourselves and our
children and grandchildren, of the noble political ends embodied in the
Western democratic tradition. As Marcello Pera put it in Without Roots:
"Absolute [worldliness], supposing there is such a thing, is an
absolute vacuum in which neither the happy majority nor the creative
minorities can exist."
I dislike the role of Jeremiah, as I am sure
Pope Benedict does. But it is neither cynicism nor despair to note that
two possible Dark Ages loom on the horizon of the 22nd century: there
is the Dark Age of a technologically manufactured and morally stunted
humanity, created by the unwise deployment of the new, Promethean
knowledge given us by genetics; and there is the Dark Age in which an
anti-humanistic theism fills the vacuum created by atheistic humanism
and extinguishes the Western experiment in freedom whose deepest roots
run to the Christian civilisation of the Middle Ages. Neither is
inevitable; both can and must be resisted, with all the tools of wit
and wisdom at our disposal. We are fortunate to have, in Pope Benedict
XVI, such a wise guide through the thickets before us.
-- George Weigel, the biographer of Pope John
Paul, is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in
Washington DC and the author, most recently, of The Cube and the
Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God (Gracewing) and
God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church
The real Ratzinger revealed
Allen 14 April 2007
Benedict XVI turns 80 on Monday, and on Thursday
celebrates the second anniversary of his election. To date,
expectations of a ‘Catholic fundamentalist' papacy have been
confounded. As cardinal, he was the man who said ‘no' for 20 years. Now
he seems to want to express a deeper ‘yes'
Reporters on the Vatican beat generally seek out
the bishops who come to Rome for their ad limina visits, a mandatory
five-yearly meeting with the Pope. During their visits the bishops also
make the rounds of Vatican offices, so debriefing them provides a sense
of what's on the "radar screen", so to speak, of the various
For a number of years, a few reporters had a
standing bet that if one of us ever found a bishop who did not say that
his best meeting was with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the legendary
prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the rest of
the group would buy that person dinner. In the end, no one ever claimed
Normally, bishops would tell us that many ad
limina encounters with the heads of Vatican offices were unsatisfying.
The cardinal-prefect would enter the room, read a lengthy statement,
and leave little time for real conversation. Cardinal Ratzinger, they
reported, was different. While he brought careful notes, he allowed the
bishops to speak their minds. Almost universally, they found him
thoughtful, gracious, and open.
Such impressions framed the great disjunction
between the public image of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and private
perceptions of the man. In public, Ratzinger was the Darth Vader of
Roman Catholicism; he was seen as draconian, inquisitorial and
imperious. Those stereotypes shaped the early line in the media on his
election as Pope Benedict XVI. To take one typical example, an Italian
editorial cartoon the day after Cardinal Ratzinger's election, in a
play on the famous scene of John XXIII telling a moonlit crowd in St
Peter's Square in 1962 to give their children a kiss from the Pope,
showed the new Pope instructing a similar crowd to give their children
not a kiss but a firm spanking.
In private, however, Cardinal Ratzinger had a
different profile. Co-workers and brother bishops saw him as strikingly
humble and collegial. The conviction of the 115 cardinals who elected
him Pope was that they were elevating this "real" Ratzinger.
On 16 April, Pope Benedict XVI turns 80, and on
19 April he marks two years in office. As he passes those milestones,
perhaps the most notable storyline about his pontificate is the way the
private Ratzinger has, to a considerable extent, become the public
Pope. To date, Benedict XVI has proved a more gradual, centrist and
collegial figure than his earlier public image would have suggested.
To be sure, Benedict is capable of drawing lines
in the sand, as he did by approving a November 2005 Vatican edict
barring gay seminarians. He has also reminded the world that diplomacy
is not always his strong suit. In September 2006, he triggered a
firestorm in the Muslim world with an incendiary fourteenth- century
quotation on Muhammad during a lecture in Regensburg. More recently, he
disappointed whatever friends the Vatican has left in the EU by
accusing Europe of "apostasy" less than 24 hours after the President of
the European Parliament, the practising Catholic Hans-Gert
Pöttering, extended a hard-won invitation to the Pope to address
the Parliament. In that context, Benedict's broadside struck many as
ill-tempered; one Catholic who works for the EU said the remark has
become "the Regensburg of Europe".
Furthermore, Benedict's listening skills did not
stop the Vatican from issuing a critical notification on Jesuit Fr Jon
Sobrino, a famed liberation theologian, just two months ahead of the
Fifth General Conference of CELAM, the council of bishops' conferences
of Latin America and the Caribbean. Senior Latin American clergy had
asked the Vatican to delay the notification until after the CELAM
meeting in Brazil in May, which Benedict XVI will attend, but to no
Yet, on the whole, expectations that Benedict
XVI would be a bruiser-pope have proven off the mark. Two vignettes
make the point. First, in July 2006 the Pope visited Valencia, Spain,
for the World Congress of Families. He met Prime Minister José
Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose Socialist Government has pursued
a liberal agenda bitterly opposed by the Spanish Church, including full
gay marriage and adoption rights. Yet when Benedict arrived, there was
none of the finger-wagging and apocalyptic language one might have
expected. Instead, the Pope struck a consistently positive tone, never
even directly engaging gay marriage or other matters of sexual
morality. His main concern was to offer a positive Christian vision of
the family. Later, a German television reporter asked Benedict why he
didn't call down fire and brimstone in Spain. His response is revealing:
Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of
prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look
at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today.
We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to
say: we have a positive idea to offer ... The human person must always
be respected as a human person. But all this is clearer if you say it
first in a positive way.
For a Pope with a passion for classical music,
this effort to phrase the Christian fundamentals in a positive key has
become something of a leitmotif. Having been responsible for expressing
the "noes" of the Catholic Church for 20 years, Ratzinger as Pope
appears determined to articulate what he sees as its much deeper "yes".
The second such occasion came with Benedict's
trip to Turkey late last year, his first to a majority Muslim state,
which took place shortly after the Regensburg episode. On the basis of
that contretemps, many had enlisted Benedict as chaplain for a new
anti-Islamic crusade. Instead, what they saw in Turkey was a "kinder,
gentler" Benedict, whose consistent message was reconciliation. That
spirit culminated in a remarkable, and thoroughly unexpected, moment of
simultaneous prayer with the Grand Mufti of Istanbul inside the city's
In Benedict's approach to matters inside the
Church, a similar pattern has emerged. His most important appointments,
both in the Holy See and in major archdioceses, have revealed a
preference for pastoral moderates rather than ideologues. To date,
there has been no systematic clampdown on dissidents, no night of the
long knives. This gradualism has even generated alarm among some of the
most ardent supporters of Benedict's election. Last year, Fr Richard
John Neuhaus publicly acknowledged "palpable uneasiness" about the
Pope's lack of decisive action. Another American neo-conservative
privately groused, "We thought we were electing Ronald Reagan, but we
got stuck with Jimmy Carter."
Benedict's commitment to collegiality has been
visible in ways large and small. He has repeatedly spoken out about the
crisis of Africa, for example, including a strong condemnation of the
way Africa has been "plundered and sacked" in his new book, Jesus of
Nazareth, and a plea for humanitarian concern with Africa in his Easter
homily. That focus does not come out of the blue. In the General
Congregation meetings in April 2005 leading up to the conclave, the
African cardinals made a plea for the next pope, whomever it might be,
to put Africa at the centre of his pastoral concern. Benedict obviously
wants to honour that request. His collegiality can also be measured by
what hasn't happened, including the delayed release of a motu proprio
authorising wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass. If it were
entirely a matter of the Pope's personal instincts, the document would
have come out long ago, but in light of reservations voiced by several
bishops, Benedict has opted to go slow.
Perhaps the best expression of Benedict's
emerging persona came in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est,
released at Christmas 2005. The Pope treats human erotic love in deeply
approving terms, deliberately avoiding anathemas. In general, most
observers regard the Pope's writings and public addresses to date as
impressive. Some have been tempted to style Benedict as "a pope of
words", in contrast to his predecessor, John Paul II, as a "pope of
Although Benedict at 80 seems remarkably
healthy, his advanced age nevertheless beckons thoughts about his
In the long run of history, John XXIII and Paul
VI will be remembered as the popes of the Second Vatican Council, the
men who launched that moment of top-to-bottom reform in Catholicism and
who brought it to fruition. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, on the other
hand, have sought to foster a rebirth of Catholic identity, a
transition from a period of internal reform to one of engagement with
the wider world. Under John Paul II, evangelisation was the watchword
rather than aggiornamento; he was an ad extra pope, far more interested
in how the Church can affect the social, cultural and political
questions of the day than in reform of its internal structures.
Cardinal Ratzinger was key for John Paul, but no one is to Benedict XVI
the same trusted lieutenant. The vision of the pontificate is flowing
very much from himself for good and for ill, and there have been
instances of both.
Benedict XVI's top priority, as stated on 22
March by his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, during a
lecture in Milan, is to complete his reassertion of Christian identity.
If the danger of the John XXIII and Paul VI era
was throwing the baby out with the bathwater, the chief risk in today's
politics of identity cuts in the opposite direction, towards rigidity
and exaggerated defensiveness - a sort of "Taliban Catholicism" that
knows only how to excoriate and condemn. To be sure, one can see the
stirrings of such a spirit in today's Church. Potentially, Benedict
XVI's legacy may lie in pointing a way around these shoals. Given all
that he represents, Benedict is in a unique position to illustrate that
one can embrace Catholic fundamentals without becoming a
fundamentalist, that reason and faith are not opposed but inextricably
linked. That, in fact, was the argument he was trying to make in
Regensburg, although the uproar over the quotation occluded his effort.
Because Benedict is not the charismatic media
figure that John Paul II was, it is unclear how much of this will ever
register on the broader cultural radar screen. To date, pundits still
seem to be waiting for the "real" Ratzinger to emerge from beneath his
thoughtful, pastoral facade. Perhaps, however, the deepest truth is
that this facade is the real Ratzinger.
Pope Benedict XVI reaffirms John Paul the Great’s challenge to modernity
Benedict XVI Saves Eros By Walter
Christianity stands accused
In his first encyclical Benedict XVI
reveals two striking qualities he has been granted: personal courage
and confidence in the power of truth. Pope Benedict does not hesitate
to confront an accusation which would undermine Christianity at its
very heart. No Christian truth is more fundamental than the one Pope
Benedict proclaims in the opening words of his encyclical: “God is
love” (1 John 4:16).
Yet Friedrich Nietzsche accused
Christianity of giving a bad name to human love itself in the form of
eros. Modern secular culture has frenetically made this charge its own.
“Christianity gave Eros poison to drink,” Nietzsche quipped; “he did
not die of it but degenerated — into vice.”  Who could deny that in
today’s culture eros has indeed degenerated into vice? We have only to
consider the mega-brothel which was constructed in Berlin next to the
World Cup 2006 venue, with a capacity to accommodate 650 “customers.”
Wooden “sex huts” were built in a fenced area the size of a football
field to allow prostitution. It is estimated that some 30,000 women
were “imported” from Central and Eastern Europe to “sexually service”
the approximately three million soccer fans expected to attend the
If Christianity is ultimately to blame
for this unashamed degradation of eros, then Nietzsche’s charge becomes
a stark condemnation of the faith. Pope Benedict formulates Nietzsche’s
accusation in the strongest possible terms: “ Doesn’t the Church, with
all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most
precious thing in life? Doesn’t she blow the whistle just when the joy
which is the Creator’s gift offers us a happiness which is itself a
certain foretaste of the Divine?” (Deus Caritas Est, 3)
Modernity’s crisis revealed
Pope Benedict’s response to the charge
that Christianity alienates men and women from human love appears
disarmingly simple. But it runs extremely deep. He turns the tables,
showing that what has actually poisoned eros is not Christianity, but
modern secular culture itself, by exalting sensual pleasure. Pope
Benedict goes well beyond refuting Nietzsche, as he exposes the roots
of a profound crisis affecting modern man: the splitting up of the
human person, the alienation of our body from our soul due to
Enlightenment rationalism. What is the specific form this alienation
assumes? The body-soul dualism introduced by Descartes in the
This dualism actually lays the foundation
for the twentieth-century sexual revolution — a force which has almost
managed to sweep away the inner, personal meaning of the act of sexual
union between man and woman.
Always a serene teacher, Pope Benedict
manages in a few, concise paragraphs in numbers 2-8 of Deus Caritas Est
to realize several wonderful feats. He reclaims the authentic nature of
human love or eros, rescuing it from being reduced “to pure ‘sex’”
(merum ad “sexum,” DCE, 5) by secularist culture. He spells out the
consequences of such an impoverishment, as if challenging modernity to
rise above itself. At the same time, he shows how eros actually depends
upon Christian love or agape to reach its fulfillment. Finally, he
refutes Cartesian dualism, and offers an implicit defense of Humanae
Vitae, even though the encyclical’s name is not once specifically
mentioned. As he accomplishes these Herculean tasks with gracefulness
and apparent ease, Benedict displays in his thought a profound
continuity with John Paul II’s theology of the body. Even though that
is the case, his predecessor is never appealed to directly.
Let us journey with Pope Benedict through
these opening numbers of his first encyclical, which lay the groundwork
for all that follows. From the perspective of John Paul II’s theology
of the body, we will be able to perceive just how rich and how
compelling Benedict’s teachings are. They possess the strength to
definitively rescue eros and save modernity from itself.
The epitome of love
Like a true theologian, Pope Benedict
begins by considering the philosophical aspects of the question about
love. He ponders the wide range of meanings of the word “love” based on
different human experiences: “ love of country, love of one’s
profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents
and children, love between family members, love of neighbor and love of
God” (DCE, 2). Each of these types of love evokes strong sentiments
about events which mark the center of our lives. But Benedict is
searching for the paradigmatic form of love. He is striving to
encounter that type of experience which best seems to embody the very
essence of love. His conclusion is somewhat startling.
“ Amid this multiplicity of meanings,
however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman,
where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an
apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the
very epitome of love; all other kinds of love immediately seem to fade
in comparison” (DCE, 2). In exalting the dignity of married love, to
the point of making it the paradigmatic form of love in our human
experience, Pope Benedict reveals himself to be in direct continuity
with John Paul II. Already in 1960, Wojty?a would describe betrothed
love between husband and wife as “the fullest, the most uncompromising
form of love.” 
But is this spousal love celebrated by
both Pope Benedict and John Paul II merely eros, that subjective
ecstasy which above all seeks the fulfillment, the happiness of the one
who experiences it? Or at the heart of authentic love between man and
woman is there something much deeper and more profound? To resolve this
question we must penetrate more deeply into the nature of eros.
The promise and perils of Eros
Pope Benedict displays a second point of
continuity with John Paul II’s theology of the body in his description
of eros itself. “ That love between man and woman which is neither
planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings, was
called eros by the ancient Greeks” (DCE, 3). Eros was viewed as a
divine power. It caught human beings up in its spell, enabling them to
transcend their everyday lives and somehow touch the Divinity itself.
“The Greeks — not unlike other cultures — considered eros principally
as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a ‘divine
madness’ which tears man away from his finite existence and enables
him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to
experience supreme happiness” (DCE, 4).
Pope John Paul II’s definition of eros
corresponds quite closely to that of Pope Benedict, as he also embraces
the transcendent aspects of this form of human love, rejecting the
modern tendency to reduce eros to its merely sexual characteristics.
According to Plato,
‘eros’ is the love that thirsts for the transcendent Beautiful and
expresses the insatiability tending toward its eternal object; it,
therefore, always elevates what is human toward the divine, which alone
can appease the yearning of the soul imprisoned in matter; it is a love
that does not shy away from the greatest effort in order to reach the
ecstasy of union; it is therefore an egocentric love; it is desire,
though directed toward sublime values. 
Though it seems to promise supreme
happiness, eros is an ambivalent reality. If given free reign, it can
degrade man instead of causing him to rise in ecstasy to the Divine.
Pope Benedict speaks of the concertatio — the challenge or dispute — of
eros, which must be overcome. Why is this the case? Why is eros unruly?
Without doubt, it is a result of original sin. But it is also due to
the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul. Thus, eros
represents only a half-truth. It tries to convince the person that he
or she is only a body, and that sensual pleasure is the ultimate goal
If eros is divinized and made an end in
itself, as happened in the Greek and other pre-Christian cultures,
“this counterfeit divinization of eros actually strips it of its
dignity and dehumanizes it” (DCE, 4). The resulting degradation of the
human person can be seen in “sacred” prostitution, where temple
prostitutes are exploited as a mere means of arousing “divine madness.”
Not only Christianity, but also the faith of the Old Testament firmly
opposed this practice as a perversion of religiosity. “ An intoxicated
and undisciplined eros, then, is not an ascent in ‘ecstasy’ towards the
Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man” (DCE, 4).
Behind Eros run amok:
Descartes’ legacy of alienation
Why has eros gone into such a frenzy in
today’s culture? Why has the half-truth which it represents been able
to convert itself so widely into a blatant lie? The roots of the crisis
penetrate even more deeply than Wilhelm Reich, Margaret Sanger, and the
sexual revolution of the twentieth century which they helped usher in.
The bold challenge by eros to reduce love to sensual ecstasy has
emerged in large part due to a radical dichotomy in the human person
introduced by Descartes three centuries earlier.
In his philosophy, Descartes took up the
scientific-technological project begun by Francis Bacon (1561–1626),
which sought above all power over nature by man. In order to widen the
scope of this power as much as possible, it was necessary to eliminate
the intrinsic meaning present in the order of nature. A necessary step
was the eradication of the final cause, the end or inherent purpose of
things. Descartes proclaimed: “The entire class of causes which people
customarily derive from a thing’s ‘end,’ I judge to be utterly useless
in Physics.” 
In the quest for power over nature, along
with reducing material beings to mere mechanical things or external
matter (res extensae), Descartes exalted human freedom as the supreme
human good. “Now freewill is in itself the noblest thing we can have
because it makes us in a certain manner equal to God and exempts us
from being his subjects; and so its rightful use is the greatest of all
the goods we possess, and further there is nothing that is more our own
or that matters more to us. From all this it follows that nothing but
freewill can produce our greatest contentments.” 
The exaltation of freedom as the supreme
value for man and the reduction of the order of nature to matter
without intrinsic meaning led Descartes along a path of rigorous
dualism. Michael Waldstein sums up his position well. “On the one side
stands the mechanical cosmos of extended things (res extensae), whose
only attributes are extension and movement, constituting an objective
world of pure externality without any interiority. On the other side
stands the human soul, the ‘thinking thing’ (res cogitans), whose only
attribute is rational consciousness, that is, knowledge and free will,
a world of pure interiority.” 
In this new, modern, form of
subjectivity, man becomes alienated, not only from the physical cosmos,
but also from his own body, which lacks all inner meaning or purpose,
reduced to a mere physical object. The consequences for human love and
sexuality are devastating. If the body possesses no inherent meaning,
than neither do sexual relations. Since the body can be exploited and
manipulated as any other physical object, the same is true of
sexuality. Anything goes. Erotic, sensual pleasure becomes an end in
Pope Benedict traces the final, sad
consequences of this downward spiral. Reducing eros to “pure sex,”
making it nothing more than a commodity, also makes the human person
himself a mere object for manipulation. John Paul II had long since
identified this type of philosophy, whose very name represents a
self-indictment: utilitarianism. “Utilitarianism is a civilization of
production and of use, a civilization of things and not of persons, a
civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are
In a few prophetic lines, Pope Benedict
reveals the paradox to which Descartes’ philosophy and the sexual
revolution have led. Modern culture’s attempt to exult the body and sex
actually debases them, by depriving them of all inherent, personal
meaning and reducing them to the merely biological sphere. And where
the body is alienated from the soul, the pendulum can easily swing to
an actual hatred of the body.
Eros , reduced to pure
“sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or
rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great
“yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his
sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and
exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of
his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to
make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a
debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our
overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our
whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological
sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a
hatred of bodiliness (DCE, 5).
Descartes refuted: It is the
whole human person who loves.
Against the radical division of the human
person which Descartes would foist upon us, Pope Benedict responds by
reaffirming the perennial truth about the unity of our human nature. “M
an is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his
body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said
to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved” (DCE, 5). Pope
Benedict echoes John Paul II’s constant defense of the unity of the
human person, with all of its implications in an act of true love: “As
an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body
and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his
unified totality.” 
With eloquence and simplicity, Pope
Benedict reaffirms this fundamental aspect, not only of John Paul II’s
teaching, but that of the Church itself. “ Yet it is neither the spirit
alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified
creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both
dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only
thus is love — eros — able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur”
Just how central is this defense of our
personal unity against Cartesian dualism undertaken by both John Paul
II and Benedict XVI? Important enough for John Paul II to have carried
out a series of Wednesday audiences spanning five years (1979-1983) in
order to respond to this rationalistic position. “The purpose of The
Theology of the Body is to defend the body against its alienation from
the person in Cartesian rationalism.” 
Only if the body is an integral part of
who we are as a person can it possess an intrinsic meaning, inscribed
in it by the Creator and expressed in what John Paul II has called “the
language of the body.” That is why the Pope reaffirms repeatedly that
in a certain sense it is more correct to state, “We are our body,”
rather than, “We have a body.”  This inherent meaning of the body
itself is what gives to human sexuality its deep, personal meaning. It
is precisely because our prevailing culture, following the lead of
Descartes and Nietzsche, fails to recognize the inner meaning of the
body that it “largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something
common place, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and
impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish
Not only does Descartes commit a
devastating mistake by reducing the human body to mere extended matter,
with no intrinsic meaning, thereby impoverishing human sexuality; he
errs in a second fundamental way when he exalts freedom as the highest
of all human values, the source of our happiness. This position is
simply false. Freedom is not an end. It can never bring us fulfillment
in and of itself. What is the end, the goal of freedom? Nothing other
than that most supreme reality for which every human heart has been
made — love. As Karol Wojty?a so profoundly states, “Love consists of a
commitment which limits one’s freedom…. Limitation of one’s freedom
might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a
positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of
love…. Man longs for love more than for freedom — freedom is the means
and love the end.” 
Pope John Paul II would later sum
everything up in a single sentence: “Love is therefore the fundamental
and innate vocation of every human being.” 
Christian Agape as the response to
We have seen that the present degradation
of eros into blatant sensuality has its roots, not in Christianity, but
in the rationalistic dualism of Descartes, which deprived the body of
its inner, personal meaning and helped lay the foundations for the
sexual revolution of the twentieth century. What is the remedy? How can
eros be restored to its authentic grandeur? Pope Benedict responds that
Christianity itself, far from being the problem, is actually the
solution, since it leads to the purification of eros.
“Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined
and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a
certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude
for which our whole being yearns” (DCE, 4). As Benjamin Wiker correctly
discerns, “The entire argument of Deus Caritas Est is packed into this
single reply.” 
Pope Benedict reaffirms his central
point: “True, eros tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to
lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path
of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing” (DCE, 5).
What is the reality capable of purifying
eros and enabling it to reach the heights of being a foretaste of our
eternal beatitude? It is precisely that form of love “grounded in and
formed by faith” (DCE, 7), which is called agape. Whereas eros is
“ascending” or possessive love, amor concupiscentiae, a love that is
centered on the happiness of the one who experiences love; agape is
“descending” or oblative love. It is amor benevolentiae, a love that
centers itself on the person loved and is willing to endure any
sacrifice for the beloved.
When eros is purified, it naturally tends
to be transformed into agape, to such an extent that the two tend to
merge and become a single reality of love. “Yet eros and agape —
ascending love and descending love — can never be completely separated.
The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in
the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is
realized” (DCE, 7). Once again we find Pope Benedict in full continuity
with the thought of John Paul II. Comparing the human love of eros
described in the Song of Songs with the Christian love of agape
described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, John Paul II makes the
What is the relation
between the love that is “strong as death,” according to the Song of
Songs, and the love “that will never end,” according to the Pauline
letter? … It seems that love here opens up before us, I would say, in
two perspectives, as though that in which human eros closes its own
horizon were opened further, through Paul’s words, in another horizon
of love that speaks another language, that is, the love that seems to
emerge from another dimension of the person, and which calls, invites,
to another communion. This love has been called agape. And agape brings
eros to fulfillment while purifying it. 
Yet, we can still ask, what does this
purification of eros mean in the concrete reality of love between man
and woman? Though Pope Benedict does not take up the point directly in
the encyclical itself, he does so in a letter to the Italian magazine
Famiglia Cristiana, explaining the encyclical. Pope Benedict reveals
that this purification of love refers to the virtue of chastity. “In
the encyclical, I speak of a process of purification and maturation
which is necessary in order that the real promise of eros may be
fulfilled. The language of tradition calls this ‘training in chastity,’
which in the end means nothing other than the process of learning total
love with patience for the necessary growth and maturation.” 
Why is chastity necessary to purify love?
That question brings us to a second, even more fundamental one, which
we have not yet answered directly. What is the inner core of love
itself? What lies at the center of love’s very nature, its essence?
Self giving as the essence of love
Pope John Paul II answers this question
in a single sentence: “In its most profound reality, love is
essentially a gift.”  That succinct conclusion makes it possible to
sum up the Pope’s entire theology of the body of the body in one
concise phrase, as the French theologian, Pascal Ide, has done: “Gift
expresses the essential truth of the human body.”  A similar
one-sentence summary can be found in the definition of love by St.
Thérèse of Lisieux, which is in full agreement with St.
John of the Cross’s theology of love as gift, the point of departure
for John Paul II. “Aimer c’est tout donner et se donner soi-même.
To love is to give everything and to give oneself.” 
How does John Paul II’s description of
love’s essence as self-giving compare with Pope Benedict’s vision? The
two coincide exactly, which can clearly be seen from the culmination of
Pope Benedict’s reflections on the purification of love: “Love is
indeed ‘ecstasy,’ not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but
rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking
self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards
authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: ‘Whoever
seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will
preserve it’ (Luke 17:33)” (DCE, 6).
An implicit defense of Humanae Vitae
Identifying the essence of love as making
a gift of one’s entire self, and recognizing the need for chastity in
order to purify love has profound implications for that supreme
expression of love between husband and wife in sexual intercourse. Here
we see how an implicit defense of Humanae Vitae can be discovered in
Deus Caritas Est.
John Paul II makes clear that the inner
language of the body in the act of conjugal union between husband and
wife expresses both fruitfulness and the total gift of the self. That
is the reason chastity is such an important virtue in order to be able
to live out the spousal meaning of the body. It is necessary to first
possess oneself through chastity in order to make a gift of oneself to
the other spouse in love. Whereas naturally family planning requires
the practice of chastity, contraception does not.
This fact enables us to discover the
essential evil of contraception. It violates the inherent language of
the body and results in telling a lie with the body. Not only does
contraception violate the procreative meaning of the conjugal act,
since spouses are not open to new life, it also violates the unitive
meaning, the meaning of complete self-giving in love which the conjugal
act should embody. On the one hand, the husband should be saying to the
wife through the language of the body, “I give myself completely to
you, with everything I am as a person, and I accept the gift of
yourself in the totality of who you are as a person.” But when
contraception is practiced, the husband in reality does not give
himself totally nor accept the fullness of the gift of his wife. He
does not give himself in his capacity to be a father, nor does he
accept her capacity to be a mother. A lie is told with the body. Can a
lie ever be an authentic act of love?
We can see John Paul II’s clear
conclusions first in a passage from the theology of the body, and then
in abbreviated form in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio:
According to the
criterion of this truth , which must be expressed in the “language of
the body,” the conjugal act “means” not only love, but also potential
fruitfulness, and thus it cannot be deprived of its full and adequate
meaning by means of artificial interventions. In the conjugal act, it
is not licit to separate artificially the unitive meaning from the
procreative meaning, because the one as well as the other belong to the
innermost truth of the conjugal act. The one is realized together with
the other and, in a certain way, the one through the other. This is
what the encyclical teaches (see HV 12). Thus, in such a case, when the
conjugal act is deprived of its inner truth, because it is deprived
artificially of its procreative capacity, it also ceases to be an act
One can say that in
the case of an artificial separation of these two meanings in the
conjugal act, a real bodily union is brought about, but it does not
correspond to the inner truth and dignity of personal communion,
“communio personarum.” This communion demands, in fact, that the
“language of the body” be expressed reciprocally in the integral truth
of its meaning. If this truth is lacking, one can speak neither of the
truth of the reciprocal gift of self nor of the reciprocal acceptance
of oneself by the person. Such a violation of the inner order of
conjugal communion, a communion that sinks its roots into the very
order of the person, constitutes the essential evil of the
contraceptive act. 
Thus the innate
language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and
wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively
contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to
the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life
but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which
is called upon to give itself in personal totality. 
By coinciding with John Paul II in
identifying the essence of authentic love as self giving, and outlining
the path for the purification of human love or eros through chastity so
that it can become one with agape and attain its authentic grandeur,
Pope Benedict clearly renews the challenge launched by John Paul the
Great to modernity to rise above itself, to rise above the
contraceptive and hedonistic view of sex in order to embrace the
liberating truth of self-giving love.
But in our present-day, secularized
culture, where can one find the strength to live up to such a lofty
ideal? Pope Benedict does not hesitate to respond in one of the central
passages of the encyclical. Living the true ideal of love is possible
only through contemplating the pierced side of Christ, by discovering
and making our own that love of God which has become self-giving to the
point of immolation on the cross. “ This is love in its most radical
form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can
understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: ‘God is love’
(1 John 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is
from there that our definition of love must begin. In this
contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and
love must move” (DCE, 12).
Encapsulating John Paul II’s
Theology of the Body in One Simple Diagram
Seen from the perspective of John Paul
II’s theology of the body, the deep inner richness of the encyclical
Deus Caritas Est comes even more clearly to light. But the theology of
the body at times might seem an entire world unto itself — and one that
it is not always easy to penetrate. Wouldn’t it be a boon if we were to
discover a way to illustrate the foundational pillars of this theology
in one effortless diagram? Well, one person has done so. Michael
Waldstein, in his introduction to his new and definitive English
translation of the theology of the body puts forward the “Sanjuanist
triangle.” This triangle presents the three fundamental principles of
John Paul II’s theology of the body, which derive from St. John of the
Cross’s spiritual theology of spousal love, and the relationship of
these three principles to one another.
(1) To love is to give oneself.
(2) The spousal love of man and woman is
the paradigmatic case of a total gift of self in our experience.
(3) The Trinity is the exemplar of love
“The first point on this triangle is a
general account of love as a gift of self. From this point, one line
extends horizontally to the thesis that the gift of self is present
with particular completeness in the spousal love between man and woman.
Another line extends upward diagonally, to the analogous application of
the same account of love to the Trinity. Love and Gift take place in
complete fullness in the begetting of the Son and the procession of the
Spirit (see Dominum et Vivificantem, 10). The descending line from
point three to point two represents the thesis that communion between
created persons, particularly the communion of spousal love between man
and woman, flows as an image from God’s own Trinitarian communion.” 
May our society respond to the challenge
proposed by John Paul the Great and reaffirmed by Pope Benedict in his
first encyclical. May men and women rise above all forms of “weak love”
that are in vogue today,  to embrace the authentic self-giving love
of eros purified by agape. Christ’s act of total oblation on the cross
not only reveals to us the deepest meaning of love, but also gives us
the strength to live that love in our own lives — the only path that
can bring us true happiness. For “love is the fundamental and innate
vocation of every human being.”
^1 As cited in Benjamin D. Wiker,
“Benedict Contra Nietzsche: A Reflection on Deus Caritas Est,” crisis,
May, 2006, 20.
^2 Zenit News Agency, May 4, 2006.
^3 Karol Wojty?a, Love and Responsibility
(Farrar, Straus, Giroux: New York: 1981), 97.
^4 Audience of March 26, 1980, Footnote
35 in Theology of the Body, new English translation by Michael
Waldstein pre-publication manuscript (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul:
2006). Pope John Paul II refers to Anders Nygren, Agape and Eros,
trans. Philip S. Watson (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953),
^5 Descartes, Meditations, 4, in
Discourse on Method and Meditations, 83, 3rd ed. (Indianapolis:
Hackett, 1993), Adam and Tannery, 55. As cited in Michael Waldstein,
“Introduction” to the Theology of the Body, pre-publication manuscript,
^6 Descartes, “Letter to Christina of
Sweden,” in Adam and Tannery 5, 85; cf. Meditations, IV.8. Translation
following Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern
Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 147. As cited
in Waldstein, “Introduction, 36. Waldstein notes, “One can perhaps
temper the astonishing statement that freedom ‘exempts us from being
his [that is, God’s] subjects’ by adding the word ‘seems.’ In fact,
Descartes writes, ‘semble nous exempter de luy estre suiets…’, emphasis
^7 Waldstein, “Introduction,” 36.
^8 John Paul II, Letter to Families, 13.
^9 John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 11.
^10 Waldstein, “Introduction,” 92.
^11 Waldstein enumerates the references
on page 4 of his exhaustive index to The Theology of the Body̧ based on
the numbering of the audiences in the Italian edition, Uomo e donna lo
creò: The human person is a body, rather than merely having a
body (è corpo, essere corpo) 25 times: 2:4 • “What” man is on
the generic level is “a body.” 5:5-6 • He is a body among bodies. 6:3 •
8:1 • 10:1.4 • 19:4 • 21:3 • concupiscence causes difficulty in
identifying oneself with oneself as a body. 29:4 • The body determines
man’s ontological subjectivity and participates in the dignity of the
person 45:1 • 44:6 • Man expresses himself in the body and in that
sense is the body. 55:2 • Nearly all the problems of the “ethos of the
body” are at the same time linked with the body’s ontological
identification as the body of the person. 60:1-2 • 69:2.4 • 72:5 • 85:9
• 86:4 • 99:4 • 102:5 • 119:4.
^12 John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio,
^13 Wojty?a, Love and Responsibility,
^14 Familiaris Consortio, 11.
^15 Wiker, “Benedict Contra Nietzsche,”
^16 John Paul II, Theology of the Body,
Uomo e donna 113 (Audience not delivered), 433.
^17 As translated into English and
reprinted in The Catholic World Report, March 2006, 26.
^18 John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio,
^19 Pascal Ide, “Don et théologie
du corps dans les catéchèses sur l’amour dans le plan
divin,” in Jean-Paul II face a la question de l’homme: Actes du
6ème Colloque International de la Fondation Guilé, ed.
Yves Semen (Boncourt: Guilé Foundation Press, 2004), 161. As
cited by Waldstein, “Introduction to the Theology of the Body,” 113.
^20 St. Thérèse of Lisieux,
Pourquoi je t’aime, ô Marie!, Why I Love you, Mary, stanza 22. As
cited in ibid.
^21 John Paul II Wednesday audience of
August 22, 1984 (Insegnamenti, 7, no. 2 : 227–30) as translated
by Waldstein in Theology of the Body, pre-publication manuscipt,
^22 Familiaris Consortio, 32.
^23 Michael Waldstein, “Introduction to
the Theology of the Body,” 21-22.
^24 See the article by Orazio Petrosillo,
“Ratzinger contro ‘l’amore debole,” in Il Messaggero, May 12, 2006, for
a more complete explanation of the term, “weak love,” or “amore
debole,” coined by Pope Benedict XVI. “Weak love” refers to all types
of unions that are not monogamous marriage, “based on an exclusive and
definitive love” between a man and a woman.
Reverend Walter Schu, L.C., was ordained
a priest in 1994. He obtained his S.T.L. in moral theology at Regina
Apostolorum University in Rome and is currently working on his doctoral
dissertation. He teaches at the Legionary of Christ novitiate and
humanities college in Cheshire, Conn. Fr. Schu is author of The
Splendor of Love (New Hope Press, 2003) on John Paul II’s theology of
the body. This is his first article for HPR. He can be reached via
email at email@example.com.
The New Yorker on Benedict
A few years ago a good friend commented
that The New Yorker was for people who liked single-panel cartoons and
the appearance of being sophisticated and intellectual. He had family
members who read The New Yorker (and let everyone know about it) and he
was obviously less than impressed with their casual condescension about
any and all topics. They, after all, had read The New Yorker! I've
rarely read anything from that particular periodical, but it does
appear to have casual condescension down to an art form, as evidenced
by a long, erratic, skewed, and often very annoying April 2nd piece,
"The Pope and Islam," written by Jane Kramer.
To appreciate how bad the article
sometimes is, you'll have to suffer through on your own. But, of
course, I cannot help but point out some of the "highlights," beginning
with the subhead: "Is there anything that Benedict XVI would like to
discuss?" In short order, there is reference to Benedict's "unfortunate
reference to the Prophet Muhammad" at Regensburg, and then this bit of
It is well known that
Benedict wants to transform the Church of Rome, which is not to say
that he wants to make it more responsive to the realities of modern
life as it is lived by Catholic women in the West, or by Catholic
homosexuals, or even by the millions of desperately poor Catholic
families in the Third World who are still waiting for some merciful
dispensation on the use of contraception. He wants to purify the
Church, to make it more definitively Christian, more observant,
obedient, and disciplined—you could say more like the way he sees
Islam. And never mind that he doesn’t seem to like much about Islam, or
that he has doubts about Islam’s direction. (His doubts are not unusual
in today’s world; many Muslims have them.) The Pope is a theologian—the
first prominent theologian to sit on Peter’s throne since the
Oh my, the Pope isn't being responsive to
the ideological hopes and dream's of The New Yorker! What shall we do?
Hey, let's bash the Pope and wrap it in serious-sounding
journalism-speak and misrepresent all sorts of things, big and small,
about Joseph Ratzinger. And let's do with a big dose of casual
condescension. Here goes!
Still, not even a
Jesuit could explain what the Pope intended when he addressed a group
of theologians at the University of Regensburg in September, beginning
a speech that could best be described as a scholarly refutation of the
so-called Kantian fallacy—Kant’s distinction between rational
understanding and apprehension of the sublime—with a question posed by
a fourteenthcentury Byzantine emperor to a Persian guest at his winter
barracks near Ankara. “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was
new,” the emperor asked the Persian, “and there you will find things
only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the
faith he preached.”
What, not even a Jesuit could make sense
of the Regensburg address? Yet Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., a former
student of Ratzinger, offered many insightful thoughts in this
IgnatiusInsight.com piece. As did another well-known and oft-published
Jesuit, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., a political philosopher at
Georgetown who is quite adept at matters theological as well, who wrote
a couple of pieces on the address and will soon have a 170-page book
published about the topic. Was either man interviewed by Kramer?
Apparently not. And nary a Jesuit can explain it.
Meanwhile, Kramer's grasp of facts is
either tenuous or weakened by, well, a lack of understanding. For
example, this aside:
(It should be
remembered that John of Damascus, the eighth-century saint and last
Father of the Church, considered Islam to be a Christian heresy; today,
by strict Catholic definition, any religion that postdates and rejects
the divinity of Christ is heretical.)
Really? Does that mean that Scientology
is "heresy"? Or various branches, so to speak, of "New Age"? Or even
Jehovah Witnesses, who deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ? Yet
the Catechism, which is a fairly Catholic work (strictly speaking, of
course), explicitly connects heresy with "the post-baptismal denial of
some truth that must be believed with divine and catholic faith" (CCC
2089). The term "heresy" is used too often and loosely (and many good
Catholics are guilty of such use); however, it's fair to consider
whether or not Islam is a Christian heresy, since many scholars
acknowledge that Muhammad was influenced by and used elements of
Christian and Jewish doctrine.
Far worse are paragraphs such as this one:
Ratzinger and Wojtyla
shared this: an exceptionally narrow view of what constitutes a morally
acceptable Christian life. That view is reflected in the daily
decisions of bishops who in the past few years have denied the
sacraments to pro-choice politicians (St. Louis); refused to allow
Muslims to pray at a church that was once a mosque (Córdoba);
and denied Catholic burial to an incurably ailing man who, after years
of suffering on a respirator, asked to die (Rome). But the resemblance
ends there. Ratzinger did not really think that theological dialogue
with non-Christians was useful, or meaningful, or even possible. John
Paul II did. His papacy, he said, was going to be a peace papacy—a
papacy of bridges. Unlike Ratzinger, he was not much concerned about
whether a Trinitarian faith with an anthropomorphic God was
“comprehensible” to a Muslim whose God is never manifest. He would talk
to anyone about God. In twenty-six years as Pope, he made a hundred and
two trips abroad, many of them to Muslim countries, and it didn’t
matter whether the understanding of God was the same from one airport
to the next.
Strange how Kramer matter-of-factly
describes, without editorializing, the outbreak of violence and insane
rhetoric from sectors of the Islam world following the Regensburg
lecture, but then informs readers that John Paul II and Benedict XVI
shared "an exceptionally narrow view" of Christian morality, as
evidenced by three anecdotes devoid of any factual context. The two
Popes, of course, shared a perfectly Catholic view of morality—a topic
that both wrote about at length. (Do you get the sense that Kramer has
a problem with the Church's teachings regarding sex, sex, and sex? Yep,
Meanwhile, what of the bizarre assertion,
"Ratzinger did not really think that theological dialogue with
non-Christians was useful, or meaningful, or even possible"? Uh, if
that's the case, it's difficult to understand why he wrote a
theologically dense book, Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the
Church, and the World (English, 1999) examining the relationship—both
theological and historical—between Judaism and Christianity. Or why The
New York Times, not known to be an arm of the Vatican, reported how
pleased many Jewish leaders were with the election of Benedict XVI
because, as Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress,
stated, "I believe that he is the man who created the theological
underpinnings for the good relations between Catholics and Jews during
the last papacy." Hello?
Benedict, for all his
doctrinal rigidity, remains extremely forthcoming as a scholar, and he
is much more careful than his predecessor to distinguish between
opinion and “truth.” John Paul II was untroubled by that sort of
distinction, and, curiously, Benedict did very little to discourage his
conflations of doctrine and what the Church calls “definitive
teachings”—perhaps because, during the last years of the Pope’s long
illness, those teachings were “guided” by Benedict himself.
Ah yes, another clever attempt at a
variation on the ol' "Tale of Two Popes" routine, which is always a
sure sign that you are going to be told that (1) John Paul II and
Benedict XVI are very different in This or That Way, but (2) they are
both, in the end, equally wrong about This or That Topic. Kramer's riff
about distinctions between "opinion," "truth," "doctrine," and
"definitive" is confusing and vague (perhaps purposefully so), and is
not backed up by anything substantive, just a bit about how the two men
had differing opinions about the prayer gatherings in Assisi. But to
say that John Paul II was "untroubled by that sort of
distinction"—between opinion and truth (oh, sorry, "truth")—would come
as a surprise to anyone who has read, say, the encyclical Veritatis
Splendor, which is, if my Latin doesn't fail me, about "the splendor of
truth." That document, it should be noted, refers several times to
"opinion," and never in a positive way, as this excerpt indicates:
In carrying out this
task we are all assisted by theologians; even so, theological opinions
constitute neither the rule nor the norm of our teaching. Its authority
is derived, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit and in communion cum
Petro et sub Petro, from our fidelity to the Catholic faith which comes
from the Apostles. As Bishops, we have the grave obligation to be
personally vigilant that the "sound doctrine" (1 Tim 1:10) of faith and
morals is taught in our Dioceses. (par 116)
As for truth, the late Holy Father states:
Once the idea of a
universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost,
inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no
longer considered in its primordial reality as an act of a person's
intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge
of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgment
about the right conduct to be chosen here and now. Instead, there is a
tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of
independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting
accordingly. Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist
ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different
from the truth of others. Taken to its extreme consequences, this
individualism leads to a denial of the very idea of human nature. (par
And so it goes, with Kramer letting her
dislike of orthodox Catholic teaching continually spill over into her
occasional attempts at serious journalism, often making her sound like
an Episcopalian theologian or, dare I say, a Catholic professor of
"religious studies". Thus:
The Pope was failing,
and Ratzinger had already delivered his own position paper on the
uniqueness of Catholic salvation. (It said that the situation for
non-Catholics was “gravely deficient.”) He called it Dominus Iesus, and
it was a triumphalist document—not, in any event, an “unconditional
opening” of the gates of the Vatican, let alone the gates of Heaven.
Finally, the remark about Episcopalian
theologians was more than a glib shot, as this indicates:
Moral unity doesn’t
sound like a lot to ask of Christians, but it is. For one thing,
Anglicans and Protestants and Orthodox Christians are hardly eager to
take their moral marching orders from a man who holds Catholicism to be
the one true articulation of Christian faith—and who is demonstrably
more at home discussing moral imperatives with secular intellectuals
like Habermas than he is with any of them. It is a matter of
theological status. R. William Franklin, an Episcopal priest and a
fellow of the Anglican Center in Rome, says that, from an ecumenical
standpoint, “we make intellectual but little practical progress on
questions of authority, and of course on the ‘sticking points.’ ” (He
means the role of women and homosexuals in the two churches—subjects on
which this Pope sometimes seems to have more in common with Qom than
Well, I suppose if the Catholic Church
and the Pope would just take a stand on issues and make it clear what
they believe, our Anglican friends would find it easier to stick to the
sticking points, right? And so it goes: everything, it seems, is the
fault of Benedict and those of like mind. If only the Pope would read
(nay, study!) The New Yorker, pursue a policy of indifferentism and
relativism, and follow the lead of hip and happening Anglican divines,
the world would be a much better place. Or so Jane Kramers appears to
believe. And that, folks, is today's tour of the cathedral of casual
• Frank Shaw likes the New Yorker
article, and says, "It's a good example of why long form journalism,
IMHO, will continue to play a substantial role in how people receive
information." It's a good example of something, I'll grant that.
• The New Republic is not impressed by
the article: "It gives off the unsettling aura of term-paper research."
Posted by Carl Olson on Wednesday, April
04, 2007 at 03:18 AM | Permalink
Benedict XVI's "Curriculum"
students and other eager listeners gathered recently at the University
of the Holy Cross in Rome listen to American professor Scott Hahn
expound the theological vision of Benedict XVI.
The weeklong mini course was just one of
several meetings, formal and informal, during which Hahn, a professor
at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and St. Vincent
College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, spoke with laity and religious on a
range of topics.
Foremost on Hahn's agenda was the Holy
Father's "curriculum" for Catholics, which Hahn believes will also lead
many Protestant theologians to discover the answers they have been
searching in the Catholic liturgy.
But even more, Hahn said that Benedict
XVI's "clarity and classic style of theologizing" make his teaching
accessible to the average lay person.
"One of the remarkable things about
Benedict XVI," said Hahn, "is that he is almost too straightforward.
With a little bit of effort, those who are not schooled in theology
will grasp treasures of biblical wisdom in the context of liturgy and
The Pope's writing, Hahn said, has been
significant in his own faith journey.
"I started reading Joseph Ratzinger
before I realized he was Catholic, let alone a cardinal, now Benedict
XVI," he said. "That was 25 years ago; I've only been Catholic for 20."
At a casual reception at the home of a
former student now working in Rome, Hahn encouraged old and new
students to take advantage of their proximity to the Holy Father as a
time of preparation for their own service to the Church.
He said: "This is the hour of the laity.
It is a tremendous privilege to be so near Benedict XVI who is a
teacher par excellence.
"Those of you who have the privilege of
learning from him so directly will be called upon to serve others."
During a visit to the North American
College, Hahn encouraged seminarians to remain rooted in prayer and
American seminarian Johnny Burns was
enthusiastic about Hahn's talk: "He spoke about the priesthood in a
biblical context and then talked about priestly fatherhood by building
on lessons he's learned from being a father.
"His personal stories were quite moving.
And when he shared with us what he truly thought of the priesthood,
that was also moving, indeed unforgettable."
Pope's Study of Church Fathers Not Just for Catholics
With Theologian David Warner
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, MARCH 28, 2007
(Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's Wednesday-audience series on the Apostolic
Fathers can give us hope for unity among Christians, says a Catholic
theologian who was once an evangelical Protestant minister.
In this interview with ZENIT, David Warner
discusses how reading Church Fathers led to his return to the Catholic
Church and offers some reflections on the Pope's teachings.
Warner is now a senior fellow of the St. Paul
Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, and an adjunct
professor for the University of Sacramento, California.
Q: How have the early Church Fathers been
influential in your own life, first as a Protestant minister and later
as a Catholic?
Warner: I left the Catholic Church during my
high school years. A far-ranging search led me away from the Church and
toward a Christianity of my own invention.
After three years of wandering, I re-embraced
Trinitarian theology and had an evangelical conversion to the divinity
and lordship of Jesus Christ. This was the beginning of what turned out
to be a rediscovery of, and return to, what the Nicene Creed calls the
"one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."
Again and again during my 18-year sojourn
through various streams of Protestantism, I kept coming back to study
the early centuries of Christianity.
While teaching a survey course in Church
history, I became convinced that I was incompletely joined to the one
Church directly established by Christ and witnessed to by the Fathers.
Reading the Apostolic Fathers and the
second-century apologists forced me to come to grips with the
thoroughly "Catholic" elements of early Christianity.
There was no escaping the fact that already in
the first generations, Christians believed, for example, in a
sacramental theology, a hierarchy led by bishops who were appointed by
the first apostles, and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
As a Catholic, my Christian formation was
corrected and enriched by studying for three university degrees in
Catholic theology. My favorite studies related to patristics.
Whether I was researching biblical, systematic,
moral, historical, or pastoral theology; Catholic education or
ecumenism; a common point of integration was to discover what the
earliest theologians and pastors taught and practiced.
My doctoral studies centered on the 19th-century
English convert, Cardinal Newman, who, like so many recent evangelical
ministers including myself, returned to the fullness of the ancient
Church largely through the influence of the Fathers.
Q: Why would non-Catholic Christians be any more
interested in the Fathers of the first couple of centuries than in
later saints and doctors of the Church?
Warner: In the Apostolic Fathers and the
earliest bishops and apologists, we have the earliest links in the
chain that connects today's Christians with the Twelve.
Quoting a second-century bishop, St. Irenaeus of
Lyons, Benedict XVI reminded us that St. Clement, the third bishop of
Rome in succession from St. Peter, had the first apostles' "preaching
in his ears, and their tradition before his eyes."
Pope Clement had no qualms about asserting his
extra-local apostolic authority, teaching and correcting the Church of
Corinth, in distant Greece.
Other great bishops whom Benedict XVI explores,
like St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Polycarp died as martyrs for the
truth they knew they had received directly from the original apostles
who had taught them.
I remember reasoning while still a Protestant
minister, that if Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus could not
get it right after just one or two generations, then what hope did I
have for believing that Jesus was who the New Testament claimed he was,
or that he had founded a Church that would kick in the gates of hell,
and be led by the Spirit of truth until his return?
In the end, I wearied of trying to be my own
pope, and returned to the Church of the Fathers.
Q: How do you think non-Catholic Christians and
others will view Benedict XVI's catechesis on the Fathers of the early
Warner: It is unlikely that many of them will,
in fact, come across these teachings directly. But for those who do,
their reactions will be influenced by their preconceived ideas and
Those who are of a more sociohistorical
revisionist persuasion will tend to categorize Benedict's teachings as
being nothing more than a repetition of "history as told by the
victors" in the ancient battles for orthodoxy.
For them, a seemingly endless stream of "lost
gospels" and "new discoveries" are at least complementary to, if not
equal or superior to, sacred Scripture and the orthodox writings of the
early bishops and saints.
It is a case study for what Cardinal Ratzinger
warned of in his homily just before the papal conclave: "Having a clear
faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a
fundamentalism. ¡Ä We are moving toward a dictatorship of
relativism which does not recognize anything as certain."
We have become accustomed, for example, to being
bombarded through the media every Christmas and Easter with wild
theories regarding Jesus and the varieties of early Christian belief,
appealing to so-called suppressed writings.
Typically, these were written by pseudonymous
authors claiming to be one of the apostles or their companions. Many of
these manuscripts promoted Gnostic teachings that were already being
warned against by the New Testament authors in the first century.
They were rejected by the early bishops as being
unfaithful to the teachings of Christ, as passed down through the
apostles and their successors.
One encouraging sign is the growing interest
among some Protestant scholars and pastors who are fascinated with the
project of rediscovering and adapting the unique worldview, theology
and spirituality of the Fathers.
Seeking to become more "Catholic" without
necessarily becoming "Roman," many evangelical theologians and
publishers are producing serious studies on the biblical theology of
This is a promising path of potential
convergence that could serve Benedict XVI's own ecumenical commitments.
I think these brothers and sisters in Christ might find food for
thought and an expansion of their religious imagination by the Pope's
Q: Do you have any thoughts on why Benedict XVI
would choose to teach on these early Christian Fathers just now?
Warner: The present Wednesday-audience series on
the Fathers began on March 7, 2007. It is a continuation of the Pope's
catechesis on the mystery of the Church that began a year ago in March
2006, with weekly meditations on each of the Twelve Apostles.
By October, he was ready to draw our attention
to St. Paul and his collaborators: apostolic men like Timothy and Titus
-- early bishops, and lay leaders in the Church like the married
couple, Aquila and Priscilla.
Benedict XVI is trying to follow Our Lord's
command to Peter to "feed my sheep." The food he has chosen to provide
us during this series is the tremendous heritage of holy men and women
who lived and died as witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his
Church during the first centuries of the Christian era.
From their witness, we can better understand the
mystery of the Church as the "presence of Christ among men."
For Catholics, salvation history is the drama of
God's unfolding plan for his people. This story can be read in the
pages of sacred Scripture and Church history. Benedict XVI's
reflections are designed to cause us to reconsider the essential nature
and mission of the Church in the context of salvation history.
Q: What common ground can Christians find in the
Fathers, and how might this help ecumenical efforts?
Warner: The Fathers can inform and challenge
Christians of every description. Protestants can rediscover their
forgotten roots. This in turn often results in an increased
appreciation for Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other episcopal and
In other cases, openness to the Fathers becomes
a steppingstone toward embracing what we believe to be the fullness of
Christian faith and practice found within the Catholic Church.
Catholics can and should rediscover some of the
patristic priorities that modern evangelicals are noted for, including:
living in and for Christ; reverencing and studying the Bible as the
unique, authoritative written word of God; and becoming better informed
and enthusiastic witnesses to Jesus Christ, the one and only savior of
We can reaffirm our Catholic tradition of
promoting all of the gifts of the Spirit -- including the charismatic
and hierarchical gifts -- toward the end of Christian maturity and
unity. All of these distinctive traits are clearly taught and modeled
in the Fathers.
We can relearn how to "breathe with both lungs,"
a phrase Pope John Paul II often used to refer to drawing from both the
Western and Eastern Christian traditions of theology and spirituality.
Many of the earliest Fathers were in fact
"Eastern"; they lived in the Near East or Northeast Africa, and wrote
in Greek and other non-Latin tongues. Our Eastern Orthodox brothers
have the highest regard for the same figures the Pope is holding up for
our example and instruction.
Benedict XVI gives us hope for Christian unity
by directing us to Ignatius of Antioch who was "truly a doctor of
unity." He taught the unity of the Trinity, the unity of the Incarnate
Logos, and the unity of the Church in the bonds of love.
Ignatius' prescription for authentic
spirituality and ecumenism was "a progressive synthesis between
configuration to Christ -- union with him, life in him -- and
dedication to his Church -- union with the bishop, generous service to
the community and the world."
The Second Vatican Council taught that authentic
ecumenism begins with individual, interior repentance and renewal. This
can lead to a broader institutional humility and renewal, and docility
toward the lessons of history.
Through the Fathers' writings, all Christians
may learn from these privileged witnesses to the sacred deposit of
faith entrusted by Our Lord to the first apostles. The first- and
second-century Fathers and apologists serve as windows into the mystery
of the Church as "one, holy, catholic and apostolic."
Benedict XVI By George Weigel Nov. 7, 2005
When the newly elected Pope Benedict
XVI first appeared on the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica this past
April, he was smiling broadly—a surprise, perhaps, for those accustomed
to the cartoon of Joseph Ratzinger as "God's Rottweiler." Was this,
perhaps, the smile of a man who had finally gotten something he wanted?
No, for Ratzinger most certainly didn't want to be pope. He thought
himself too old for the job, and ill suited for an office that required
greater administrative skills than he thought he possessed. After Pope
John Paul II refused his resignation three times, Ratzinger, 78, was
also looking forward to a return to his native Bavaria to take up his
work as a theologian. So what the world saw on the afternoon of April
19 was not the smile of a man who had achieved a great ambition.
Rather, having accepted the decision of a lightning-swift conclave
after no small amount of internal wrestling with God's will (and his
own), Benedict XVI's happiness was that of a man who had been liberated
to be himself after subordinating his personality for 23 years to the
work John Paul II had asked him to do.
A liberated Joseph Ratzinger was likely to produce some surprises. And,
in fact, Benedict XVI has been a pope of the quiet, understated
surprise during his first seven months in the papacy. Throughout
September and October, Benedict drew larger crowds to his weekly
general audience than the late John Paul II—no mean magnet—ever
managed. During the Great Jubilee of 2000, John
Paul brought 40,000 to 45,000 people a week into St. Peter's Square.
Over the past two months, Benedict has regularly pulled crowds of more
than 50,000; on Oct. 15 the square overflowed with 150,000 pilgrims,
many of them Italian schoolchildren who had just made their first
communion (the idea of a conversation with children was the pope's).
Some of this extraordinary turnout reflects the 20,000 pilgrims who
come to pray at John Paul II's grave every day. But that, in turn,
underlines the dynamic continuity between Benedict and his great
Though he lacks John Paul's electric public personality, Benedict has
an engaging style, offering the demanding yet accessible Gospel of a
theologian who has mastered the complexities of doctrine. His composure
in public is also telling. When it was suggested to the pope's
secretary, at the audience for those Italian children, that it was time
to give the pope his text, the secretary responded, "He doesn't need a
text; he's got it in his heart." (When Benedict does preach from notes,
however, his homilies are handcrafted.)
Then there was Benedict's striking rapport with a million young adults
at August's World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany—another surprise for
some. Yet, as a professor, Ratzinger had inspired passionate loyalty in
his doctoral students, and like John Paul, Benedict knows that to be
young is to yearn for a challenge to heroism. So there was no
patronizing and no pandering, but rather solid teaching and the example
of a pope in silent prayer before the Holy Eucharist.
Benedict XVI has met, cordially, with representatives of the
"progressive" and reactionary wings of Roman Catholic dissent. He's
dropped hints about holding a joint synod with Orthodox bishops —
something that hasn't happened in more than a millennium. He's taken a
hands-on approach to the appointment of Catholic bishops throughout the
world, influenced perhaps in part by his experience with malfeasant
bishops who turned sexual scandal into crisis in the United States.
He's challenged Islamic leaders to take a more publicly critical stance
toward violence in the name of God, and he's challenged Europe to
recover its greatness by rediscovering its Christian roots. (Benedict's
forthcoming book on the subject, "Without Roots," is coauthored with a
nonbelieving Italian intellectual who shares the pope's diagnosis of
the secularist sources of Europe's civilizational malaise.)
Interpreting the coming papacy accurately is going to require a
determined effort to get beyond the "liberal/conservative" taxonomy of
all issues Catholic. The Vatican is at work on a document concerning
candidates for the priesthood who wrestle with homoerotic temptations
and passions; should Benedict approve a policy requiring that such
candidates have demonstrated a capacity to live chastely, the
conventional impulse will be to interpret him as a persecutor of
homosexuals. The truth, however, will be more complicated: at heart and
in practice, Benedict is a reformer who wants all candidates to
demonstrate the ability, with God's grace, of living the challenge of
celibate chastity. Chastity, Benedict will likely remind the church, is
a virtue for everyone—gay or straight, clergy or laity.
Benedict XVI's shrewdness as a manager and reformer of the Roman Curia
remains to be tested. So does his judgment in people. In his first
seven months, though, the man who never wanted to be pope has shown the
unflappability which comes from a deep spiritual life. That suggests
that the quiet surprises of Benedict XVI will continue.
George Weigel, a senior fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy
Center, is the author of God's
Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church,
published on Nov. 1 by HarperCollins
On Benedict XVI's 100 Days
Interview with Marco Tosatti of La Stampa
ROME, JULY 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- On the eve of
XVI's 100-day mark as Pope, La Stampa's Vatican correspondent comments
on the prudent, subtle style of the current Bishop of Rome.
In this interview with ZENIT, Tosatti, who recently
in Italian, "The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger: Guide to the
comments on the papacy of Benedict XVI.
Q: What are the best known, most original and
thoughts of "The Dictionary of Pope Ratzinger"?
Tosatti: I very much like his reflection on the
of Peter -- hard and uncomfortable -- and on Judaism in Jesus' time.
New Testament is no more than an interpretation of Judaism, beginning
Jesus' history of "the law, the prophets and the writings," which in
times had not reached their mature form as a definitive canon, but were
still open and were therefore presented to the disciples as a testimony
in favor of Jesus himself, as Sacred Scriptures that reveal his mystery.
Q: It seems like one part of Europe and the Western
is oriented to legislating against the natural law and Christian
A confrontation on moral topics and Church-state relations seems
What is your opinion?
Tosatti: This danger is certainly present. Natural
and natural right seem to be in danger in the Western world. But
cases, I am referring to the position of many and significant "secular"
thinkers in Italy in the last months, lead one to hope that at least a
part of the world that defines itself as Christian will understand the
risks derived from individualism, from the dictum "every desire is a
Q: Do you think that Benedict XVI's pontificate, the
German Pope in centuries, might influence the political and cultural
of his native country?
Tosatti: I don't think so, I don't think the country
his birth is at the center of his concerns. I have the impression that
he regards it as a piece of the Western world, in which new forms of
are gaining ground and in which there is a re-emergence, as a
of the lack of faith, of superstition. However, I think the election of
a German Pope might increase the interest of his compatriots in his
and message, as a long-term effect.
Q: As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine
the Faith, and as an intellectual, Joseph Ratzinger intervened in a
manner against moral and religious relativism. What have you discovered
in this connection when writing your book?
Tosatti: I have dedicated two ample passages to the
of relativism. I quote at the beginning: "Relativism has become … the
problem of our days." In another passage he says: to believe in Jesus
"is considered as a fundamentalism which appears as a genuine attack
the modern spirit."
Q: As a Vaticanist, could you make a synthetic
on these first days of Benedict XVI's pontificate?
Tosatti: I don't dare make a commentary, but rather
impressions. He moves with patience, prudence and delicacy, but he
and does much more than we perceive. He is not afraid of saying things
with courtesy, but also with the greatest clarity.
Little by little he is letting his human side show,
is extremely rich, and which is never easy for a timid person. He knows
how to speak with simple people and philosophers and to make himself
and this is an uncommon ability. I think he will do much good for the
and the world.
Benedict XVI, Vatican II and Modernity
Tracey Rowland on the Pope's Interpretation of the
MELBOURNE, Australia, JULY 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).-
believe that "Gaudium et Spes" was the key document that shaped the
of the Church in the years immediately following the Second Vatican
However, according to theologian Tracey Rowland, 40
of post-conciliar history and reflection on the 1965 pastoral
have led many to conclude that the document had an inadequate
of culture, particularly that of the culture of liberal modernity.
The result, Rowland reckons, was the unleashing of
within the Church that gravely harmed the liturgy and offered a false
ultimately destructive to the pastoral care of souls.
Rowland is dean and permanent fellow of the John
II Institute for Marriage and Family -- Melbourne and author of
and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II" (Routledge).
She shared with ZENIT why a reconsideration and
of "Gaudium et Spes," a dominant theme in the theological work of
Ratzinger, is necessary to reorient the Church's encounter with liberal
Part 2 of this interview will appear Monday.
Q: What was Joseph Ratzinger's role at the Second
Council, and how did it shape his theological views?
Rowland: He attended the Council as a peritus for
Cardinal Frings of Cologne. In a famous speech, Frings launched an
on the Holy Office and the exchange between him and Alfredo Cardinal
is often described as the most passionate debate of the Council. It is
thought that the young Ratzinger contributed ideas for Frings'
As for the effect of the Council on Ratzinger, his
as a peritus would have given him a valuable bird's-eye view of the
intellectual landscape, a knowledge of the problems faced by the Church
in different parts of the world and some experience of the operation of
I don't think, however, that the Council changed his
so much as his views shaped the Council.
Q: What is the new Pope's view of the Church's role
its relationship to "the world" as understood by the Second Vatican
Rowland: The Second Vatican Council described the
as the universal sacrament of salvation. Accordingly, the Church is not
an entity distinct from the world but the world reconciled unto itself
and unto God. This is the kind of vision one would expect Benedict to
Contrary to popular perceptions, his Augustinian
does not mean that he is against the world or that he believes that
should crawl into ghettos.
What it does mean is that he is no Pelagian. He
think that with sufficient education the New Jerusalem can be built on
earth. Civics education alone, lectures on human rights, exhortations
brotherly love and the common good, will get nowhere unless people are
open to the work of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A humanism that is not Christian cannot save the
This was the conclusion of his fellow peritus Henri de Lubac, and
has made some very strong statements against the pretensions of a mere
Moreover, while he is not advocating a retreat from
world, he has exhorted Catholics to rediscover with evangelical
the courage of nonconformism in the face of the social trends of the
He has said that we ought to have the courage to
up against what is regarded as "normal" for a person at the end of the
20th century and to rediscover faith in its simplicity. In other words,
one can engage the world, and be in the world, without being of the
Q: How has this project, laid out by the Council
in "Gaudium et Spes," succeeded or failed?
Rowland: Against the background of secularizing
of "Gaudium et Spes," John Paul II argued that the document needs to be
read from the perspective of Paragraph 22. In a nutshell, it says that
the human person needs to know Christ in order to have
No doubt Pope Benedict would agree that this
undercuts some of the ambivalent language if it is taken as the lens
which the rest of the document is read. But how many of the world's
including the clergy, know about the significance of Paragraph 22?
The popular interpretation of this document was that
represented an acknowledgment on the part of the Church that modernity
is OK and that it is the will of the Holy Spirit that Catholics
their practices and culture, including liturgical culture, to
spirit as quickly as possible.
This had the effect of generating a cultural
within the Church such that anything that was characteristically
Modes of liturgical dress, forms of prayer,
devotions, hymns that had been a part of the Church's cultural treasury
for centuries, were not just dumped, but actively suppressed. To be a
Catholic in many parishes, one had to buy into the pop culture of the
Against this, Ratzinger has been critical of what he
"claptrap and pastoral infantilism" -- "the degradation of liturgy to
level of a parish tea party and the intelligibility of the popular
If the project of "Gaudium et Spes" is taken to mean
the practice of the faith to the culture of modernity," then I think
the project has been problematic in pastoral terms.
If, however, it is read more through the lens of de
"The Drama of Atheistic Humanism," then I think that the project of
out to so-called modern man and helping him to find himself by
John Paul II's theology of the body, the Trinitarian anthropology of
encyclicals "Redemptor Hominis," "Dives in Misericordia" and "Dominum
Vivificantem," and the values of the Gospel of Life in "Evangelium
and "Veritatis Splendor" -- that project has really only just begun and
has a long way to go before it starts to bear fruit.
Q: In what sense is there continuity or
between in the views of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II -- a
contributor to "Gaudium et Spes" -- in regard to the Church's
with "the world"?
Rowland: I think that there will be continuity in
sense that Benedict would no doubt agree that a de Lubacian-type
of "Gaudium et Spes" is desirable -- that culture is not theologically
neutral, that we have a choice between a civilization of love and a
of death, and that Christ and a Christian anthropology are needed to
us from a web of cultural and moral practices which destroy human
and foster nihilism.
However, one difference in nuance is that Benedict
less inclined to use a particular rhetorical strategy favored by John
To give an example, John Paul II once said that the
of the Council "saw itself as the soul of modernity." He then defined
as "a convergence of conditions that permit a human being to express
his or her own maturity, spiritual, moral and cultural." The problem
is that this is not what most people think of when they hear the
"modernity"; and it is certainly not the reading one finds in the many
scholarly accounts of this cultural phenomenon.
From what I have read, Benedict doesn't adopt this
strategy. When Benedict talks about modernity he doesn't try to
the common meaning. This is perhaps because he thinks that there is
rhetorical advantage in presenting the Church as modern when the
are so busy being critical of modernity. It simply aligns Catholics
a position whose popularity in on the wane.
A second way I think the papacies of the two might
is that whereas John Paul II concentrated on ethics and anthropology --
and hence the central themes of "Gaudium et Spes" -- it is possible
Benedict will take a more ecclesiological focus, concentrating on
in "Lumen Gentium" and the [Vatican II] decree on ecumenism as well as
dealing with the whole territory of liturgy.
In the "City of God," St. Augustine wrote that in
composition of the world's history under divine providence there is a
arising from the antithesis of contraries -- a kind of eloquence in
instead of in words.
Comparing the two papacies there is a kind of
eloquence in that Wojtyla, the Pole, is elected to see off the Marxists
and focus on the promotion of an alternative Christian anthropology,
the German Ratzinger is elected to contend with problems created by,
others, Luther and Nietzsche.
This papacy may well be focused on healing the
of the Reformation that began in Germany, and fighting what Benedict
the "dictatorship of relativism" whose intellectual lineage is also
There is a definite divine beauty and playfulness in
Tracey Rowland on the Church's Response to
Is liberalism a positive and "liberating"
development within Western history that can be both baptized and
into the life of the Church? Or, is it a destructive cultural and
force that thwarts the desire for transcendence?
Theologian Tracey Rowland believes the latter
of liberalism -- an intellectual tradition derivative of the
and moral, political and economic philosophy of the various European
in the 18th century -- better understands the phenomenon, and believes
Benedict XVI shares at least some elements of this diagnosis. The
with liberal culture, she says, may be one of the central themes of his
Q: You have said that the major intellectual and
battle within the Church is between the "Augustinian Thomists" and the
"Whig Thomists." What does this mean?
Rowland: First, let me define "Whig."
The _expression "Whig Thomist" was coined by Michael
to describe his intellectual project. Originally the word "Whig" came
the Scottish word "Whiggamor" for a cattle driver -- though some
say cattle thief and others say horse thief. It was initially applied
Scottish Presbyterians, mostly from the west coast of Scotland, who
the Stuart cause in the wars of the 17th century.
Their counterparts, the Tories -- a word derived
the Gaelic for "outlaw" -- consisted of some aristocrats, large
and agrarian peasants. They were mercantilist in economic policy,
in politics and tended to support the succession of James II
Over time the term was used to refer to a faction in
politics. Although there was never anything like a strong doctrinal
of the term, as a sociological generalization it can be said that the
were the heirs of the Scottish Enlightenment, which emphasized economic
and political liberty, or an emerging philosophy known as liberalism,
was often fused with a Puritan form of Protestantism.
In the 19th century Lord Acton popularized the idea
Thomas Aquinas was the first Whig, that is, the first proponent of a
post-Enlightenment concept of politics. Thus "Whig Thomism" refers to
intellectual project that seeks to locate the genesis of the liberal
in the thought of Thomas Aquinas and to synthesize elements of the
tradition, particularly those provided by the Scottish Enlightenment,
The project of reading Aquinas as the first Whig or
Liberal has been criticized by a number of scholars.
For example, Robert Kraynak, in his work "Christian
and Modern Democracy," has written that "though intriguing, Acton's
is misleading because Thomas defends power sharing and political
not as a right of the people to parliamentary consent nor as a means
protecting personal rights and liberties, but as the prudent
of natural law whose ends are best realized in a stable constitutional
order dedicated to peace, virtue and Christian piety. This is medieval
corporatism applied within the [Augustinian] doctrine of the Two
rather than the first stirring of modern liberty."
Those who may loosely be classified as "Augustinian
follow such a Kraynak-style reading of Aquinas, rather than an Actonian.
What I argued in my book "Culture and the Thomist
After Vatican II" is that there is a division between those who think
the Thomist tradition should accommodate itself to the culture of
particularly the economic dimensions of this culture -- the
"Whig Thomists" -- and those who believe that modernity and its liberal
tradition are really toxic to the flourishing of the faith.
Those who take the latter position do not want to
the Thomist tradition with doses of Enlightenment values. They are very
broadly described as Augustinian Thomists for the want of a better
because, in a manner consistent with St. Augustine's idea of the two
they reject the claim of the liberal tradition to be neutral toward
perspectives of the good and competing theological claims.
While the Whigs argue that liberalism is the logical
of the classical-theistic synthesis, the Augustinian Thomists argue
the liberal tradition represents its mutation and heretical
and they tend to agree with Samuel Johnson that the devil -- not Thomas
Aquinas -- was the first Whig.
There are thus two different readings of modernity
with that, two different readings of how the Church should engage the
world. While the Whigs want the Church to accommodate the culture of
the Augustinians favor a much more critical stance.
Another point I made in my book is that those who
that the liberal tradition is avant-garde are about 40 years behind the
times. Liberalism ceased being the hegemonic intellectual tradition in
the Western world in 1968. At least since then the intellectual
has been three-cornered.
First of all there are theists -- Catholics,
Jews, Protestants, etc.; secondly, there are believers in
rationality, that is, different varieties of liberals who sever reason
from faith; and thirdly, there are the postmoderns who think that the
was a very oppressive social experiment and that all versions of
are in some way related to theological or mythological presuppositions,
although they do not accept that we can use our reason to judge between
those competing theological presuppositions.
On some fronts Catholic scholars may do better to
with the postmoderns than those who insist on a strict severance of
and reason, or at least not nail their colors irrevocably to a liberal
The point at which the Whigs and Augustinians come
conflict is over the issue of the moral quality of what is called the
of America," which is not of course confined to the geographical
of the United States. It is, as Alasdair MacIntyre says, a theoretical
The Whigs want to baptize the current international
order, while the Augustinians take a more critical approach, arguing
there are economic practices characteristic of this order that cannot
squared with the social teaching of the Church.
Moreover, the Augustinians are more likely to point
that most people do not sit down and develop a worldview for themselves
from hours of philosophical and theological reflection. They tacitly
up values and ideas from the institutions in which they work.
The Augustinians argue that there are aspects of the
of modernity that act as barriers to the flourishing of Christian
and belief, and unless the culture is changed, no amount of
gymnastics on the part of the Church's scholars will be of help to
1 billion Catholics who have to make a living within the world.
In other words, if one has to be a saint not to be
compromised by the culture in which one works, then there is something
wrong with that culture.
I don't think that this is the major intellectual
within the Church, but it is an important one.
Q: In what sense is Pope Benedict an Augustinian? In
sense is he a Thomist?
Rowland: I would say that Pope Benedict is a Thomist
as he would probably agree with most of what St. Thomas wrote. However,
he is not a Thomist in the sense of appealing to the authority of St.
in his defense of the faith, focusing his scholarly endeavors upon the
works of Aquinas or in the sense of using a scholastic methodology.
Rather, Pope Benedict is one of the many members of
generation who, while not disagreeing with the content of Thomist
believed that the scholastic presentation of the faith doesn't exactly
set souls on fire unless they happen to be a particular type of soul
a passion for intellectual disputation. He has said that "scholasticism
has its greatness, but everything is impersonal."
In contrast, with Augustine "the passionate,
questioning man is always right there, and you can identify with him."
Benedict has also been strongly influenced by the
principle that faith is the door to understanding. He has said that he
believes that a kind of memory, of recollection of God, is etched in
though it needs to be awakened.
His Augustinian pedigree is also manifest in his
in the transcendental of beauty and his understanding of the
importance of language and symbols and the relationship between matters
of form and substance.
So much of the liturgical mess of the last 30 years
been brought about by philistines who want to dumb down the language of
the liturgy, replace symbolic gestures by lay people explaining what
is doing -- as if we are all uncatechized Martians -- and gutting
language of its poetic dimensions.
Even secular linguistic philosophers argue that form
substance are inseparable -- that if we change language, we also in
sense change the way that people think. Pope Benedict is onto this,
with Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, and liturgical scholars such
Nichols, OP, Monsignor Peter Elliott, Stratford Caldecott of the Center
for Faith and Culture in Oxford, and Alcuin Reid, OSB.
Q: How does Pope Benedict XVI's "Augustinian
shape the way he views the phenomenon of liberal democracy?
Rowland: From an Augustinian point of view, the
problem with liberalism is its claim to be theologically neutral or
toward different religious traditions. Quite a long list of scholars
coming to the view that the liberal claim to theological neutrality is
bogus. This list includes Anglicans associated with the radical
circle and scholars with a more Baptist-oriented theological background.
It is not a position limited to so-called
or ultra-montanist Catholics. Indeed most postmoderns would agree with
this criticism of the liberal tradition. Pope Benedict has made it
that Catholics should not be persuaded by the liberal rhetoric to
that in order to be good citizens they must bifurcate themselves into
and private halves.
He has observed that secularism is itself an
a kind of religious position that presents itself as the only voice of
rationality. He sees these views as posing a challenge to the dominant
political cultures of contemporary liberal democracies.
To say this, however, is not to say that he is
constitutionalism. He is not saying that the Church should run the
He would probably agree with the saying of Martin Luther King that the
Church is neither the master of the state, nor the servant of the
but the conscience of the state.
Q: Pope Benedict XVI has been described as a "man of
and suspect of theologians who do not have an appreciation for great
music or beauty. What role does culture play in theology and political
Rowland: One of my favorite Ratzinger quotations is
"A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be
It comes in a close second behind his observation that in some ways he
prefers the Italian spirit to the German because the saints were all
with imagination -- not functionaries of apparatuses.
In other words, beware the person with no interest
literature, music, art, poetry and nature but who has a big interest in
keeping the machinery operating. I haven't heard what he has said to
Vatican bureaucrats who reportedly wanted to ban his cats from the
apartments, but they sound dangerous, too -- the bureaucrats, that is.
But to answer your question about culture and
the territory of the theology of culture is very broad. It ranges from
the morality of different institutional and social practices, including
practices within political institutions, to questions about the
of different types of music for liturgical use and questions about the
role of language in the process of evangelization.
For example, should we adopt the language of hostile
traditions when presenting the Church's teachings? And what principles
should be applied when discerning which of the "spoils of the
Pope Benedict has observed that the Church is its
cultural subject for the faithful, which is a further indication that
is not inclined to follow the pastoral strategy of accommodating the
culture to whatever happens to be fashionable in the contemporary
In a recent address to the Knights of Columbus,
Stafford said that every world religion is trembling before the
of American pop culture. I think that Pope Benedict would agree with
assessment and that he understands that the Church, in a sense, needs
be the mother of culture. She needs to put life back into culture, so
people can be edified and experience self-transcendence.
Q: By what standards is the health of a culture
according to Pope Benedict?
Rowland: In his book "The Spirit of the Liturgy,"
made the point that the sole purpose -- not the major purpose, but the
sole purpose -- for the liberation of the Jews from Pharaoh was that
wanted them to be able to worship according to his prescriptions.
Thus, I would say that for Benedict the most
question about any culture is, where does liturgy stand within this
Is it the highest good? Are we dealing with a liturgical city? Or are
dealing with a culture which is driven by economic factors? Who are the
gods of this culture? What is the dominant vision of the human person?
How are the sick and vulnerable treated?
Concretely, it is of little benefit to Christians to
in a culture where any kind of liturgical _expression is permitted, if,
like the Jews under Pharaoh, they are being forced to work like slaves
just to provide shelter and food for their families and have no time
prayer and leisure, that is, no time for God, in lives dominated by the
quest for physical survival.
In the same work, Benedict said that law and ethics
not hold together when they are not anchored in the liturgical center
inspired by it.
He also made the point that every society has its
even the decidedly atheistic, materialistic systems create their own
of cult. He comes very close to the position of scholars such as
Pickstock and William T. Cavanaugh who have argued that in contemporary
Western society the market has replaced the Eucharist as our object of
This is not to say that he is against the idea of a
per se, but my judgment is that he is against making market competition
the underlying, infrastructural dynamic of a culture.
Karl Polanyi expressed the position well when he
that a "natural order" is one in which the economy is embedded in
relations, rather than one in which social relations are embedded in
economic system, making society a mere adjunct to the market.
By making the test that of the place and nature of
within a culture Benedict is also taking a very Augustinian position.
would say that what we adore is a sign of what we love, and what we
is a declaration of our membership card of one of the two cities -- the
city of God or the city of Man.
Benedict XVI as "God's Response to Secularism"
Interview With Archbishop Cordes, "Cor Unum" President
ROME, JULY 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Paul
a longtime friend of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, is
the new Pope is "God's response" to the spread of secularism.
In this interview with ZENIT, the 70-year-old
of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," who oversees the coordination of
the Church's charity institutions, describes some of Joseph Ratzinger's
Q: According to some observers, John Paul II was for
what Benedict XVI will be for moral and religious relativism. In your
to what degree is this affirmation valid?
Archbishop Cordes: In his appointments, God
has in mind the biographical experience and specific capacities of his
In his youth and as bishop of Krakow, the deceased
had lived the painful experience of communism. And for this reason he
energetically against the regime's atheist forces. …
As Bishop of Rome, he never ceased to struggle
kings and presidents on behalf of freedom and people's dignity.
his ardent desire to visit Russia and China was not heard.
As a professor of theology, Pope Benedict XVI has
transmitted the truth of the faith and Tradition in a clear and
way. He formed future priests and catechists in the university. He
to identify and spread in the intellectual world the arguments for an
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of
Faith, he helped John Paul II in his work of formulating theological
for the people of God; suffice it to think of the writing of the
of the Catholic Church.
It is obvious, therefore, that as Pope he will not
resigned in the face of moral and religious relativism.
Q: A journalist has said that John Paul II filled
squares, while Benedict XVI will fill the churches. Given the
that has arisen in these first months, it seems that Benedict XVI will
fill the squares and the churches. What do you think?
Archbishop Cordes: I wholly agree with you. The
of pilgrims arriving in Rome is enough to describe that journalist's
Undoubtedly, John Paul II has helped and continues
help from heaven to make interest in the person and ministry of Pope
Ratzinger have such amazing repercussion. …
Q: Another significant element is the novelty, after
1,000 years, of a German Pope. It is even more significant that it
place after the fall of the Berlin Wall. St. Benedict saved
from the ruin of the Roman Empire; Benedict XVI has been given the task
to revive the Judeo-Christian tradition in Europe and the West in the
of moral and religious decadence. Germany is a decisive nation for the
future of Europe and, in this connection, a German Pope seems to be
What do you think?
Archbishop Cordes: The secularism of the so-called
World was of profound concern to John Paul II.
Although he came from a land firmly rooted in the
tradition, which through political challenge had succeeded in
further its religious energies, nevertheless he saw with clarity the
Because of this, on the occasion of his trip to
in 1983, and despite the fact that he was advised against it by
diplomats, he wished to visit Kahlenberg, on the outskirts of Vienna,
commemorate the third centenary of the "fortunate victory," which had
Europe from the penetration of the Turks and their religion.
When meeting with Austrian bishops on that occasion,
expressed acute thoughts on the sickness of Europe: "The experience of
the apparent absence of God weighs not only on those who are absent or
those most distanced, but is general. The spiritual current of today's
conscience has a profound influence also on the active members of the
For this reason, the Good Shepherd feels obliged to leave space in the
world and the Church above all to the light that comes from faith, in
active presence of God."
The new Pope is certainly God's response to the
of secularism. And it is not just the name he has chosen which makes
to it. Pope Benedict has expressed clearly his regret over the lack of
reference to God in the preamble of the European Constitutional Treaty.
However, for several reasons I think too much
must not be given to the contribution of Germany in the correct
of Christianity in Europe.
I count rather on a revitalization of the faith in
continent thanks to the new spiritual movements that have arisen in
Spain and France, and which are found in the origin of World Youth Day.
Pope Benedict also considers necessary that on the
of Pentecost 2006 they come here again, to Rome, to have a great
Q: Many observers have described Cardinal Joseph
as a severe guardian of orthodoxy. Could you, who have had the
to know the Pontiff, describe the one who has portrayed himself as "a
and humble laborer in the Lord's vineyard"?
Archbishop Cordes: Surely, the few weeks of his
have been enough to eliminate this prejudice. Those who knew Cardinal
never shared this opinion. Those who did not know him, have now had to
change their opinion.
The reason why he was discredited in this way was
to the fact that he always had to remind about disagreeable truths on
faith and Tradition. But, how can those who transmit these messages
their resentment? Meanwhile, they diminish the message or hardly
something positive in it.
The world of information has always been
by the aggressions of some journalists. But then they were astounded by
the innumerable pilgrims who came to see John Paul II or those who
want to see and hear Benedict XVI.
Father John Corapi on the Eucharist and Benedict
An EWTN Preacher on Conversion and Restoration
WHITEFISH, Montana, JULY 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A big
of Benedict XVI is the restoration of the priesthood and the sacred
says Father John Corapi.
Father Corapi was once a businessman who fell into
addiction and homelessness before undergoing a powerful spiritual
After studies in the United States and at the University of Navarre in
Spain, he was ordained at age 44 in 1991.
A member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy
he now preaches missions, retreats, and conferences throughout North
Father Corapi appears regularly on EWTN. He shared
ZENIT some of his insights into the Eucharist and the pontificate of
Q: What role has the Eucharist played in your own
Father Corapi: The initial "conversion" wherein I
to the practice of the Catholic faith, which I was born into, proceeded
in a classic fashion.
The progression was from worldly success and
to loss, rejection and utter destitution; from millionaire to
It took about five years to hit bottom.
There is a pedagogical dimension to suffering, as
prodigal son of the Gospel demonstrates. Then, I went from praying one
Hail Mary each day, to the rosary daily. This led me to the sacrament
penance or confession, and this to the Eucharist.
I immediately began to go to daily Eucharist. This
me to a deeper thirst for knowing God, loving God, and serving God.
adoration began a part of my daily life. This led me to religious life
novitiate, then seminary, then doctoral studies in theology in Europe.
I was ordained by Pope John Paul II on Trinity
of 1991. The night before, my superior and I prayed before the Blessed
Sacrament all night to prepare for ordination. I have been experiencing
conversion daily as I celebrate Mass daily and pray before the Blessed
The source of any power in my preaching, which now
millions of people, Catholic and otherwise, comes from the holy
The Eucharistic Lord is the Vine. We are the branches. Without him we
Q: Benedict XVI, at the recent Eucharistic Congress
Italy, referred to "the Eucharist as the sacrament of unity." How can
seek union with other Christian faiths through the Eucharist?
Father Corapi: Benedict XVI, like all recent Popes,
continue to stress the Eucharist as a sacrament of unity. As the "Bread
of Life" consists of many grains of wheat to make the one Bread, so the
Eucharist ultimately will effect unity from the many individuals,
The Eucharist is the key to the realization of the
Shepherd and one flock" that we must all pray for. However, between now
and then there is a chasm that can be bridged by the Holy Spirit alone.
We do our part, but it will be in God's time.
Jesus clearly reminded us "I have come not to bring
but division ... that will separate a household of five, three against
two and two against three, father against son and son against
What could the Prince of Peace mean by this? Precisely that the bold
clear proclamation of the truth will separate at first. We know this by
common experience. Some accept it, some do not.
In order for the Eucharist to effect unity,
must be Eucharistic people in fact, not merely in words. The gap
what we profess and what we live must be narrowed until the Eucharist
truly the veritable source, center and summit of each Catholic's life.
We must teach the doctrine of the Eucharist clearly
faithfully and then live it just as forcefully and purely. Then, when
world sees how we believe, live and love they will be drawn as to a
Q: What have you noticed so far about Benedict XVI
his dedication to Eucharistic devotion, and what do you think the trend
of his pontificate will be?
Father Corapi: When Cardinal Ratzinger chose the
Benedict XVI, I immediately did some research to come to some
of why he chose that name, which usually indicates the direction of a
I believe that I found a real clue through what
XV was most interested in. Certainly he was interested in preserving
restoring peace in the tumultuous days surrounding World War I.
It seems to me, however, he was also very interested
the restoration of the priesthood and in the sacred liturgy. The
of course, has been historically of great importance to the Benedictine
However, it may be in what is arguably Benedict XV's
notable encyclical, "Humani Generis Redemptionem," that we find a clue
to the course Benedict XVI may be setting.
This document concerns the restoration of the
and the preparation of good preachers of the Gospel. One cannot
approach a Year of the Eucharist without considering the ministerial
Quite simply: no priest, no Eucharist. Jesus instituted the two
together and they are indissolubly linked.
I believe that the proper education and holiness of
is of paramount importance to the new Holy Father. This is, of course,
very much wrapped up in his already-known interest in a "Reform of the
reform" of the sacred liturgy. Not a return to the days before the
but a proper and authentic interpretation and praxis of what the Second
Vatican Council truly said.
That, I believe, is one of the primary focuses of
new Pope's vision for the Church: holy and well prepared priests and a
reverence and love for Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.
This will automatically result in a tremendous
and love for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Benedict XV wanted
educated preachers -- in authentic doctrine -- and, most of all, holy
You can't give what you don't have, and Jesus Christ is all we have to
Q: What are your plans for this year dedicated to
Eucharist to promote Eucharistic devotion?
Father Corapi: I have produced a new series entitled
Power of the Eucharist," which is the theme of all of my missions
the country this Year of the Eucharist.
I am trying to concentrate on this theme, attempting
both educate and inspire the faithful to a greater knowledge of the
of the Eucharist and a practical love that engenders reverence at Mass
and the practice of the Holy Hour, or a "holy minute," as I tell people.
If you can't make a holy hour, make a holy minute.
can't outdo God in generosity. If we give him a little of our time,
give us so very much in return.
Cardinal Ratzinger on Liturgical Music
By Michael J. Miller
(Reprinted from the July 2000 HPR)
?In an article entitled “Liturgie und Kirchenmusik”
in 1986 in Communio, Cardinal Ratzinger referred to the incompatibility
between rock music and the liturgy of the Church. A storm of
protest ensued, most of it aimed at the messenger instead of arguing to
the contrary. How can a theologian judge modern music? What right does
a Curia official have to say how today’s young people should
in the Liturgy? Implicit in the controversy was the hackneyed
of Ratzinger as the "Teutonic academician turned doctrinal watchdog."
A revisionist view became necessary in 1996 with the
of another book-length interview with the Cardinal (this time by German
journalist Peter Seewald), because the second Ratzinger Report began
eighty pages of biographical information. His Eminence, we learn, is
human after all. Reminiscing about his childhood in Bavaria, Cardinal
admits that music (especially Mozart) had a major role in his family
“Music, after all, has the power to bring people together. . . . Yes,
is elemental. Reason alone as it’s expressed in the sciences can’t be
complete answer to reality, and it can’t express everything that man
wants to, and has to express. I think God built this into man.” 1
Being an intellectual does not disqualify one from
upon either music or liturgy, provided one recognizes the limits of
discourse. As Cardinal Ratzinger himself put it, theologians “cannot
into musical discussions per se, but they can nonetheless ask where the
seams are, so to speak, that link faith and art.” 2
What follows is a summary of three articles by
Ratzinger on liturgical music which appeared in German journals during
the years 1986-1994 and were reprinted in English as part of the
A New Song for the Lord: Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today. 3The essays
were written for different occasions, but they follow the same pattern:
the author contrasts a problematic theory or a pernicious trend with
true theology of the liturgy, and from that draws conclusions as to the
proper place of music in the liturgy and suggests guidelines for
A) The cultural challenge vs. the biblical culture
(“‘Sing Artistically for God’: Biblical Directives
Church Music,” pp. 94-110.)
“Since church music is faith that has become a form
culture, it necessarily shares in the current problematic nature of the
relationship between Church and culture” (94). This relationship was in
crisis during the Renaissance and the Reformation, but as of the
secular culture “emancipated” itself from the faith: they went their
ways and have drifted further apart ever since.
Since the seventeenth century the Church has seen
Caecilian reform of sacred music, the rediscovery of Gregorian chant,
the renewal of polyphonic church music. Nevertheless, as a result of
dislocations, “we are at a loss as to how faith can and should express
itself culturally in the present age” (95).
The picture from the culture’s side is bleak. In the
of religion, art becomes groundless aestheticism with neither direction
nor purpose. Music in particular has split into two worlds: pop (a
commodity) and rationally constructed high-brow music (an elite,
form of “classical” music). A middle ground remains: “a staying at home
in the familiar music that preceded such divisions, touched the person
as a whole and is still capable of doing this even today. . . . Church
musicmostly settles in this middle ground” (95).
Many are the calls for the Church to dialogue with
today, but few imagine the talks as being bilateral. You can’t expect
Church to subject herself to modern culture, which, having lost its
base, is in a never-ending process of self-doubt. Culture, too, must
itself radically and be opened to a cure, a reconciliation with
Are there any biblical directives for the path that
music should take? Cardinal Ratzinger narrows the question: “Can we
one biblical text that sums up the way Holy Scripture sees the
between music and faith” (96)?
The Bible contains its own hymnal: “the Psalter,
from the practice of singing and playing musical instruments during
Furthermore this practical tradition contains “essential elements of a
theory of music in faith and for faith.” Within the Old Testament, the
Psalter is like a bridge between the Law and the Prophets; it also
as a bridge connecting the two Testaments. From the earliest days of
Church, the psalms are prayed and sung as hymns to Christ, the Son of
the psalmist. “Christ himself thus becomes the choir director who
us the new song and gives the Church the tone and the way in which she
can praise God appropriately and blend into the heavenly liturgy” (97).
Cardinal Ratzinger selects one psalm verse which
throughout the history of theological reflection on church music. Psalm
47:7 (in some numberings Psalm 46 and/or the eighth verse) exhorts us
“Sing praises with a psalm” (RSV). The Hebrew word maskil is variously
rendered in modern translations as “an inspired song” (M. Buber,
or as playing “with all your skill” (Jerusalem Bible, French), or as
“artfully” (in a version approved by the Italian Bishops Conference).
The ancient translations of the Church also shed
on the subject. “The Septuagint, which became the Old Testament of
wrote psalate synetos, which we might translate as: ‘. . . Sing with
both senses of the word: that you yourselves understand it and that it
is understandable” (97). Of course this involves more than a merely
act; we are to sing “in a way worthy of and appropriate to the spirit,
disciplined and pure” (98). St. Jerome’s rendering is along the same
psallite sapienter. Sapientia means more than understanding; “[it] also
denotes an integration of the entire human person . . . with all the
of his or her existence.” Just as the gift of wisdom integrates
and experience with the requirements of Divine Law, so the singing of
inspired psalms involves the human person, body and soul, with all its
faculties, in divine worship.
The first word of the verse, “Sing praises with a
in Hebrew zamir, is also laden with history. “The emphasis is on
singing, a singing with reference to a text, which is instrumentally
as a rule” (98-99). In stark contrast to the orgiastic cult music of
pagans, zamir refers to “logoslike” music, “which incorporates a word
wordlike event it has received and responds to it in praise or
in thanksgiving or lament.” The Septuagint Bible chose psallein as its
translation, giving a new, culturally conditioned meaning to a Greek
that previously had meant only to play a stringed instrument, but never
From this word study, Cardinal Ratzinger draws
conclusions about possible biblical directives for music in the Church.
1) The command, “Sing to the Lord,” runs through all
Scripture as part of the call to worship and glorify God. “This means
musical expression is part of the proper human response to God’s
. . .Mere speech, mere silence, mere action are not enough” (100).
2) There is no such thing as a faith completely
by culture, which could then be inculturated any way you like. “The
decision as such entails a cultural decision; . . . Faith itself
culture and does not just carry it along like a piece of clothing. . .
. This cultural given . . . is capable of encountering other
cultures. . . . This ability to exchange and flourish also finds its
in the ever-recurring imperative, ‘Sing to the Lord a new song.’” The
interpretation of the psalms is a particularly dramatic example of this
capacity for development in what is an irrevocable and fundamental
3) The various meanings to be found in the second
of our psalm verse range between the two translations sapienter and cum
arte. Singing in accordance with wisdom implies a word-oriented art,
is not concerned merely with intelligibility but “stands under the
of logos” and makes demands upon our highest moral and spiritual
The second translation, artfully, tells us that encountering God
a person to respond to the best of his or her abilities. God gave Moses
detailed specifications for the tabernacle; artistic endeavor in the
of Exodus is portrayed as a participation in God’s creativity (103).
The New Testament, by both frequent citation and
command, takes up the psalm tradition as an integral part of its own
and worship. “When you come together, each one has a hymn [Gk:
a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things
be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26). To the early Church the psalm
appeared as a gift of the Spirit. The epistles also give evidence of
Christological hymns newly composed in Greek. By the second century,
as a precaution after the musical innovations of the Gnostic sect, the
Church reduced liturgical music to the Psalter. “The theology of the
sufficed and set the standard in terms of content, but also . . . the
of making music specified by the Psalter became the musical model of
Christendom” (104). To put it in a less scholarly way, revelation was
with the end of the apostolic age, and the divinely inspired hymns
in Sacred Scripture were sufficient for the Church’s worship.
In light of the foregoing discussion, both “pop”
and the music of elitist aesthetes are unsuitable for divine worship.
latter, proclaiming art to be “for art’s sake” and for no other
elevates the composer to the level of a “pure creator.” “According to
faith, however, it belongs to the essence of human beings that they
from God’s ‘art’. . . and as perceivers can think and view God’s
ideas with him and translate them into the visible and the audible”
On the other hand, hasn’t the Church’s liturgical
always drawn on popular music to renew itself? Isn’t “pop” music just
the Church needs in order to “relate” with contemporary culture?
Ratzinger recommends “treading carefully” in this area (107-108). In
past folk music was the expression of a clearly defined community held
together by language, history and a way of life. Springing from
human experience, it conveyed a truth, however naive the form may have
been. Pop music, in contrast, is a standardized product of mass
a function of supply and demand. The 20 th-century composer Paul
called the constant presence of such noise “brainwashing,” and C. M.
claims that hearing it gradually makes us incapable of listening
“we become musically comatose. . . . This medium kills the message” (p.
108 cf. footnote 19).
Cardinal Ratzinger insists that the faith must not
trivialized in the name of inculturating it. Today we do not have to
church music so strictly to chanting of the psalms, because we have “an
infinitely larger trove” of good liturgical music to draw on. But to
the line against the onslaught of misguided attempts to import “modern”
musical forms into the liturgy requires “the courage of asceticism, the
courage to contradict. Only from such courage can new creativity arise”
B) The sociological challenge vs. true Christian
(“The Image of the World and of Human Beings in the
and Its Expression in Church Music” pp. 111-127.)
“Conversation with God transcends the boundaries of
speech” (111); therefore it calls on music, both vocal and
After the Second Vatican Council there were disputes
the right form of music in worship. The initial clashes were between
expediency (“We worship in the ver-nacular now . . .”) and musicians
maintained that their traditional repertoire had intrinsic and pastoral
value. The question underlying such differences of opinion then was:
do we apply liturgical directives? More recently, a second wave of
has been “pushing the questions forward, as far as the foundations
The issue has become: what is liturgical action in the first place,
are its anthropological and theological foundations?
Symptomatic of the new thinking is the Nuovo
di Liturgica (1984), article on canto e musica. It declares the
point of liturgy to be the gathering of two or three in the name of
(Matt. 18:20). This sounds harmless enough, but it gains revolutionary
momentum when the verse is isolated and pitted against the entire
tradition. Such a definition places the group before the Church and
“autonomous” individuals into conflict with an “authoritarian”
“It is evident that with the adoption of sociological language the
adoption of its evaluations has also occurred” (113). New music good;
music bad! Gregorian chant and Palestrina are seen as “tutelary gods”
those in power who, threatened by cultural change, cling to an ancient
Cardinal Ratzinger turns the hermeneutic of
back on the liturgical theorists. “There is of course not only an
of sociology at work here but also a complete separation of the New
from the history of the Church” (114). The notion, that the Church has
been in decline since Jesus began it, is a familiar Enlightenment myth,
which ultimately becomes an excuse for cut-and-paste editions of the
(like Jeffer-son’s) or the Marxist texts of the Missa Nicaraguensis
in the 1980s.
What are the new and better ideas of the liturgical
They insist on two basic values: “The ‘primary value’ of a renewed
is, we are told, ‘the full and authentic action of all persons.’” The
of God proclaims its identity in song. The second value judgment
music is the power that brings about cohesiveness within the group.
ergo, becomes creativity; the “how” becomes more important than the
Condensed in this way, the argument reads like a
Yet Ratzinger’s full analysis of the effects of modern “scientific”
upon liturgical music is trenchant. “I would not be speaking of all
in so much detail if I thought that such ideas were attributable to
a few theoreticians” (115). It is all too common that “so-called
the active participation of all present, and the relationship to a
in which everyone is acquainted with and speaks to everyone else” are
for the real categories of the conciliar understanding of liturgy.
The philosophical basis of this sociological “take”
liturgy is the view that power opposes freedom. This assigns, a priori,
a negative quality to the concept of “institution” and reduces the
of hope from Paschal redemption to social progress. Herein lies the
paradox” of this trend in liturgical reform: the institutional Church
seen as a hindrance to “freedom,” yet liturgy without the Church is a
“Here it has been forgotten that the liturgy should be the opus Dei in
which God himself first acts and we become redeemed people precisely
his action. [If] the group celebrates itself . . . it is celebrating
at all since it is no cause for celebration” (117).
In actuality, the Church is the communio sanctorum
all places and all times (118). Romano Guardini has elaborated upon the
momentous consequences of realizing that the communion of saints (and
the Base Community) is the true subject of the liturgy. The Church’s
has an objective and positive character, because it lives in three
dimensions: cosmos, history and mystery. Liturgy has a cosmic dimension
because as believers we do not create it, but participate in something
greater that transcends us all. As a result of its historic dimension,
it develops as a living thing while maintaining its identity (cf. the
of biblical culture, above). Finally, liturgy’s dimension of mystery
that we do not initiate the liturgical event; rather, it originates in
a call and a divine act of love, to which our response is obedience.
This vantage point is of great importance for the
questions involved in preparing liturgical music. The music of
is inconsistent with true liturgy. Furthermore, “creativity” that
the creaturely status of man “is by its very nature absurd and untrue
humans can only be themselves through receptivity and participation.”
real human condition is that we stand in need of a redemption which
effort cannot bring about.
Our faith is Logocentric, and so must our worship be
logike latreia Rom. 12:1). “The ‘Word’ to which Christian worship
is first of all not a text, but a living reality: a God . . . who
himself by becoming a human being. This incarnation is the sacred tent,
the focal point of all worship which looks at the glory of God and
him honor” (121).
“Liturgical music is a result of the claim and the
of the Word’s incarnation. . . . Faith becoming music is a part of the
process of the Word becoming flesh” (122). At the same time (one might
say: in counterpoint), the flesh becomes “logocized” or spiritualized,
restoring harmony to postlapsarian creation. “Wood and brass turn into
tone; the unconscious and the unsolved become ordered and meaningful
Our Incarnate Lord, who was raised up on the cross,
up our fallen human nature. Western music, from Gregorian chant through
Renaissance polyphony to Bruckner and beyond, lives from this great
“of spirit, intuition and sensuous sound. . . . [T]heliturgical music
the Church must be subject to that integration of the human state which
appears before us in incarnational faith” (124).
Practically speaking, the prerequisites for sacred
include “awe, receptivity and a humility that is prepared to serve by
in the greatness which has already gone before” (125). Furthermore, the
Church has posted road signs: the great liturgical texts (Kyrie,
Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) and the references in her official documents
to Gregorian chant and Palestrina as models providing orientation.
C) The “postconciliar” challenge vs. the cosmic
(“‘In the Presence of the Angels I Will Sing Your
The Regensburg Tradition and the Reform of the Liturgy,” pp. 128-146.)
The point of departure of this essay is a
of the medieval frescoes in the crypt of the monastery of Marienberg in
South Tyrol. “The real focal point is the Majestas Domini, the risen
lifted up on high, who is seen at the same time and above all as the
returning, the one already coming in the Eucharist. . . . Liturgy is
Parousia. . . .” (129).
Indeed, St. Benedict, in his Rule, reminds his monks
Psalm 138:1: “In the presence of the angels I will sing to you,” and
them, “Let us reflect on how we should be in the presence of God and
angels, and when we sing let us stand in such a way that our hearts are
in tune with our voices.” Cardinal Ratzinger goes on to explain, “The
is not a thing the monks create. It is already there before them. It is
entering into the liturgy of the heavens that has always been taking
This is the clear mean-ing of the frescoes.
Sadly, this “already, but not yet” character of the
liturgy has been obscured lately by a preoccupation with a liturgical
that is “already” with us but has “not yet” overcome the old Tridentine
order. According to this strange perspective, “a chasm separates the
of the Church into two irreconcilable worlds: the preconciliar and the
Cardinal Ratzinger’s brother served as choirmaster
the Regensburg cathedral from 1964 to 1994. When he began, the
on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II had not yet been implemented. The
at Regensburg Cathedral realized in an exemplary way the artistic
expressed in the motu proprio of Pius X, “Tra le sollecitudini” of
22, 1903. As bishop of Mantua and patriarch of Venice, Pius X had
the operatic style of church music prevalent in Italy. “Insisting on
as the truly liturgical music was for him part of a larger reform
that was concerned with restoring to worship its purity and dignity and
shaping it according to its own inner claim” (131).
Another historical note helps to narrow the chasm
pre- and post-conciliar. Sacrosanctum Concilium, in laying the
for reform, constructed a large framework permitting a variety of
“The reform itself was then shaped by a post-conciliar commission and
in its concrete details simply be credited to the Council.” The history
of liturgy is always marked by the tension between continuity and
in the twentieth century the real tension has not been between tired
and radical reform, but rather between two stages of reform.
The Cardinal warns that “the dualistic historical
of a pre- and postconciliar world” leads to notions that call the very
essence of liturgy into question. One example of this exaggerated
is the idea that the priest alone was the celebrant of the liturgy
the Council, but now it is the assembled congregation. This implies
the congregation determines what happens in the liturgy. But the priest
never had the right to decide arbitrarily what was to be done in the
It was a “rite,” that is, an objective form of the Church’s corporate
The new Catechism, on the other hand, sums up the
insights of the Liturgical Movement. Liturgy means “service in the name
of / on behalf of the people.” But “the People of God is not simply
as the Germans, French, Italians, or other peoples are; it comes into
again and again only through the service of the Son and by his lifting
us into the community of God which we cannot enter on our own. . . .
liturgical celebration is an action of Christ the priest and his Body
is the Church (p. 134; cf. CCC 1069-1070).”
Cardinal Ratzinger does not mince words. “Liturgy
. . . that the heavens have been opened. . . . If the heavens are
then whatever liturgy was is reduced to role playing and, in the end,
a trivial pursuit of congregational self-fulfillment in which nothing
happens. The decisive factor, therefore, is the primacy of Christology”
We must resolutely defend ourselves against
efforts to assign an absolute value to the “community.” In the liturgy,
the priest acts in persona Christi. The Catechism discusses the role of
the congregation also, significantly in the chapter on the Holy Spirit:
“The liturgical assembly derives its unity from the ‘communion of the
Spirit’ who gathers the children of God into the one Body of Christ.’
assembly transcends racial, cultural, social—indeed, all human
The assembly should prepare itself to encounter its Lord and to become
‘a people well-disposed’” (CCC 1097, 1098).
What significance does this Catholic understanding
liturgy have for church music? The Council’s reform was aimed at
modern individualism and the moralism connected with it, so that the
of mystery in liturgy could reappear, its cosmic character which
heaven and earth (p. 135; cf. SC 8). For Christians, the Logos orients
our worship towards the historical origin of faith, preserved for us in
Scripture and Tradition. Church music should not be a performance on
occasion of worship, but is to be liturgy itself, “a harmonizing with
choir of the angels and saints.” Gregorian chant and classic polyphonic
music are ordered to the mystery in liturgy and to its Logos-character,
as well as to its bond to the historical world. They furnish us with a
norm which does not exclude new musical forms, but which guides us more
surely toward what lies on the horizon.
Attention to the essence of liturgy clarifies the
concerning the place of music in liturgy. You might say, “As liturgy
so goes musica sacra.” Philipp Harnoncourt has put it this way: “Jews
Christians agree with one another that their singing and music-making
to heaven, or rather that these come from heaven or are learned from
(137). Cardinal Ratzinger elaborates: “Faith comes from listening to
word. But wherever God’s word is translated into human words there
a surplus of the unspoken and unspeakable which calls us to
a silence that in the end lets the unspeakable become song and also
on the voices of the cosmos for help so that the unspoken may become
Because church music comes from the Word—both as
of the Truth and response to a call—its character must correspond to
words in which the Logos has expressed himself. Hence not all music is
appropriate for liturgical use: “By its nature such music must be
from music that is supposed to lead to rhythmic ecstasy, stupefying
sensual excitement, or the dissolution of the ego in Nirvana, to name
a few possibilities” (138). St. Cyp-rian’s treatise on the Lord’s
offers a useful guideline: “Discipline, which includes tranquility and
awe, belongs to the words and posture of praying.” 4It should also
to sacred song.
Cardinal Ratzinger quickly dismisses two other
demands of the “new” liturgists. Some, mistaking external busyness for
“active participation,” would veto the use of the choir as intruding
the congregation and the liturgical action. But the choir is part of
community and its singing legitimately represents the prayer assembly.
The concept of representation, of standing in for another, affects all
levels of religious reality, including worship, and is a fundamental
of the Christian faith.
Another commonly heard “postconciliar” objection is
“fanaticism about vernacular,” even to the point of forbidding chant
hymns in Latin. The Cardinal wryly observes that, in a multicultural
such an insistence on the vernacular has about as much logic to it as
demand for a hand-shaking, on-speaking-terms community does in an age
increased mobility. Harnoncourt notes that “The traditional, so-called
‘Latin Mass’ always had Aramaic (Amen, Alleluia, Hosanna, Maran atha)
Greek (Kyrie, Trisagion) parts, and the sermon was usually given in the
vernacular. Real life is not acquainted with stylistic unity and
on the contrary, where something is really alive, formal and stylistic
variety will occur . . ., and the unity is an organic one” (140).
In concluding his talk, Cardinal Ratzinger commends
departing cathedral choirmaster for striving “to manage continuity in
and development in continuity” during the theological and liturgical
since the Council, “so that the liturgy in the Regensburg cathedral
its dignity and excellence and remained transparent to the cosmic
of the Logos in the unity of the whole Church without taking on a
character” (140). He also expresses the hope that true reform will
in the spirit of the Second Vatican Coun-cil—reform that is not
and destruction but purification and growth to a new maturation and a
In each of the articles just summarized, Cardinal
responds to a specialized, academic-sounding challenge to the
Catholic understanding of the liturgy by considering the issue from a
ultimately theological perspective. To multiculturalist demands he
with a reminder that Catholic faith and worship are rooted in a
religion and thus are part and parcel of a specific cultural tradition.
When the sociological gauntlet is thrown down, he arms himself with the
insights of a comprehensive Christian anthropology. The notion that
II divides Church history into a reactionary past and a glorious future
is gently corrected with evidence that the reform of the liturgy has
the ongoing work of a century and more.
This technique of “taking the broader perspective”
evident in the very arrangement of essays in the anthology, A New Song
for the Lord. The articles on liturgical music are grouped with one on
church architecture at the end of Part II, preceded by an essay on “The
Resurrection as the Foundation of the Christian Liturgy” (explaining
as a Little Easter and the new Sabbath). Part I of the book, “Jesus
Center of Faith and Foundation of Our Hope,” treats more fundamental
of Christology, catechesis and the true understanding of power in the
The essays are cogently argued and can be read independently, yet taken
together they offer an almost systematic, theological treatise on the
We have grown accustomed to hearing famous
weigh in with expert commentary, each presenting his own abstruse
on a given issue. Not so when Cardinal Ratzinger writes about the
or sacred music. The themes and arguments in his essays on liturgical
recur throughout his works, because he is writing about the lifeblood
the Mystical Body and the atmosphere that baptized souls breathe in
life of grace.
A few random examples illustrate this consistency.
Co-Workers of the Truth, a selection from Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings
arranged as meditations for each day of the year, there are (besides
from the articles summarized above) two other readings concerning
“The first Christmas carol of history . . . had no
origins—Saint Luke records it as the song of the angels who were the
of the holy night: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth
men, those with whom he is pleased, those of good will. This song sets
a standard. . . . Peaceamong men results from God’s glory. Those who
concerned about the human race and its well-being have to be concerned
about God’s glory first of all . . ., [which] is not some private
. . . [but] a public affair.”
“Three great symbols dominate the liturgy of this
of the Resurrection: light [the Paschal candle], water and ‘the new
that is, the Alleluia. . . . Granted, we shall notsing this new song in
its fullness until we are in the ‘new world,’ until God calls us by a
name’ (Rev. 2:17), until everything has been made new. But we are
to anticipate something of this [beatific] newness in the great joy of
the Easter vigil.” 5
When arguing about the liturgy, one runs the risk of
of prescinding from the mystery. Cardinal Ratzinger’s well-reasoned
on sacred music bring to mind vividly the fact that the liturgy is,
1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth: The
at the End of the Millennium (an interview with Peter Seewald,
by Adrian Walker), Ignatius, San Francisco, 1997, p. 47.
2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, A New Song for the
Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today (translated by Martha M. Matesich),
Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1997, p. 96.
3. The Crossroad Publishing Company, 370 Lexington
New York, NY 10017. In this summary, the actual title of each article
given after a descriptive heading in bold. Page numbers for citations
included in the text.
4. St. Cyprian, De oratione dominica, 4.
5. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the
Meditations for Every Day of the Year (edited by Sr. Irene Grassl,
by Sr. Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. and Rev. Lothar Krauth), Ignatius,
San Francisco, 1992. The readings cited are for December 29 (pp.
and April 14 (pp. 123-124).
Mr. Michael J. Miller is a translator for Ignatius
and a free-lance writer. His articles have been published in Faith and
Reason, Catholic World Report and the Month. His last article in HPR
in March 1999.
Ratzinger on the Modern Mind
By James V. Schall
(This is reprinted from the October 1997 issue of
One of the standard questions hovering about
intellectual world since the crisis of Marxism has been, “Where does
intellectual left go next, especially if it refuses to consider
The obvious, most likely answer, I think, is that it goes in the
of ecology and environmentalism insofar as these all-embracing systems
provide an apparently plausible, natural justification to reduce the
importance of man’s individual dignity in the name of a planetary or
if not cosmic, “good.” This postulated inner-worldly transcendent good
is proposed in the name of the on-going cycles of nature and of the
of the living “species” within it. This higher “good” becomes the
by which we judge how many people we can have in each country or on the
earth, how long they can live and under what conditions, what they can
or cannot consume, what their relation is to the state. Indeed, it is
the state but the world state which—since it is said to have the
responsibility to look out for the distant future—can control the
in its name. “Progress” is replaced as an ideal by “stability.” This
relativizing of the dignity of the human person and of the consequent
for the vast expansion of the state has provided a handy way to replace
or rather incorporate the Marxist ideology that formerly justified
inner-worldly goals with a new more comprehensive ideology that
what is happening in a different manner.
One of the immense advantages of Catholicism today,
everywhere outside the universities, is not so much the importance of
authority that is not dependent directly on academic, scientific, or
fashions of the time but on an authority that is rooted in the
of faith. And what is even more useful in this connection is that, in
persons of both the Holy Father and Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, we have
us a coherent body of teaching whereby we can keep contact with the
intelligence of Christianity as it reacts to the dominant intellectual
positions that persist in modern culture. In the case of Ratzinger,
perceptive mind is often overlooked, we can find a bemused and powerful
intellectual force that, from time to time, directs itself to
the movements that are seen daily intersecting, from around the world,
that central crossroads in Rome where not only European and American
are observed, but also those in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
In May of 1996, before the Doctrinal Commission of
Latin American Bishops, in Guadalajara, in Mexico, Josef Cardinal
presented a remarkable discourse on the various interconnecting
trends found throughout the world with their relation to basic Catholic
teaching (“Current Situation of Faith and Theology,” L’Osservatore
English, November 6, 1996). I did not receive my surface copy of this
L’Osservatore Romano until January 27, 1997, but I sat down and read it
immediately. Ratzinger has a remarkable facility for synthesizing and
things of a complicated or subtle nature. He is wide-ranging and, what
can I call it?—calmly bemused by the curious extremes to which modern
go in explaining their ideological substitutes for precisely his area
jurisdiction, namely, doctrine and faith.
The Guadalajara address does not directly touch on
vast confusions that ecology and environmentalism have increasingly
to the basics of Christianity, which has tried, largely unsuccessfully,
to respond by developing a sophisticated doctrine of “stewardship.” The
latter presentations that I have seen so far vastly underestimate the
to which environmentalism has become a rival religion to Christianity.
But Josef Ratzinger does take up a second and not unrelated way in
many of the enthusiasms found in the ecological schools manifest
through an attempt to combine liberation theology with Western academic
relativism and Eastern mysticism. Value-free democracy has become the
expression of academic relativism. Into it are mixed also certain
of particularly Indian religious philosophy. Much of this Eastern
with not a negligible amount of New Age thought, itself related to
philosophies, also has influence in the ecological schools and vice
Ratzinger begins with a very careful analysis of how
why liberation theology came to be considered a substitute for the
idea of redemption. 1 What happened, in Ratzinger’s analysis, was that
relation of personal sin and redemption was shifted to the relation
social structures and redemption. The Christian approach was thus not
be a conversion of heart through repentance and Sacrament but a
of the social order in some specific way (change of property, family,
to eliminate evil from the world. Political struggle was what the faith
was said to be about. “Redemption thus became a political process, for
which the Marxist philosophy provided the essential guidelines.”
theology provided, apparently, a practical method to reform the world
rid itself of spiritual problems. To this theory, Ratzinger says
“The fact is that when politics want to bring redemption, they promise
too much.” Politics cannot accomplish these spiritual things. It seems
ironic, though it is true, that the world’s worst tyrannies arise from
promising too many political things.
Ratzinger next comments on what everyone has
namely, that liberation theology suddenly fell into disrepute because
world realized that the Marxist systems in fact produced neither
nor liberation but tyranny. But Ratzinger adds, in a passage that seems
to me very perceptive,
[that] the non-fulfillment of this
hope brought a great disillusionment with it which is still far from
assimilated. Therefore, it seems probable to me that new forms of the
conception of the world will appear in the future. For the moment, we
be but perplexed: the failure of the only scientifically based system
solving human problems could only justify nihilism or, in any case,
That is, the results in the West and too often in
countries was not natural law or Christianity but relativism.
What about this relativism as a substitute for the
scientific certainties of Marxism? Ratzinger proceeds to trace the
systems that prevail in dominant Western culture. Relativism is
to be a “positive” system. It provides what is thought to be the
grounding for democracy. 2 Democratic dialogue and compromise, it is
depend on the absence of any theoretic grounding for either what is
right or good. “Democracy in fact is supposedly built on the basis that
no one can presume to know the true way, and it is enriched by the fact
that all roads are mutually recognized as fragments of the effort
that which is better.” All positions depend on historic situation, not
on philosophical grounding. No political opinion can be “correct.” Thus
a place for contradictory and morally incoherent systems exists by
in any democracy. The relativist sees any claim to be correct or to
to be the error of Marxism and all dogmatic religion.
On examining the position that this relativist
solves all problems by tolerating them to exist, Ratzinger points out
logical consequences: “However, with total relativism, everything in
political arena cannot be achieved either. There are injustices that
never turn into just things (such as, for example, killing an innocent
person, denying an individual or groups the right to their dignity or
life corresponding to that dignity), while, on the other hand, there
just things that can never be unjust.” Some ways of doing good things
dealing with wrong things can vary widely, no doubt, but what are the
Obviously, the limits arise when we claim the right to contradictory
life and to killing, to speech and to lying.
This philosophical relativism is now invading
Christians are increasingly influenced by this movement in religious
that goes back to the 1950s. The enthusiasm that attached to liberation
theology is now to be found in the enthusiasm of the theologians
the plurality of religion schools. In this approach, Christianity is
to just another religion with no particular claim to uniqueness. And it
is here that liberation theology meets Eastern religion, especially
of India. Behind these newer considerations, Ratzinger mentions, among
thinkers, especially the American Presbyterian John Hick and the former
German Catholic priest, P. F. Knitter. Behind all of these movements
the influence of Kant and the notion that we can “prove” that we can
no contact with objective reality. We must rather turn inwards for any
contact with ourselves. Jesus in this system cannot be considered the
avenue to God. He becomes something of a “myth,” one among other
or spiritual leaders. Since the Absolute cannot, in this view, come
history in any manner, there can be no Church or sacraments or dogmas.
Fundamentalism is, consequently, taken to mean, from
relativist philosophy, the affirmation that there is a revelation of
in history through Christ, that is, taken to mean orthodoxy. This
(that is, standard Catholic orthodoxy) is seen to be an attack on
and its essential philosophical roots in absolute tolerance and
both taken to be without limits. The notion of dialogue also has a new
meaning, not the honest and open accounting for what one believes or
(“We hold these truths”), rather it means “to put one’s own position,
one’s faith, on the same level as the convictions of others, without
in principle more truth in it than that which is attributed to the
of others.” To take this view of dialogue, of course, means that one
already, in principle, doubt one’s faith before entering into dialogue.
“According to this concept, dialogue must be an exchange between
which have fundamentally the same rank, and, therefore, are mutually
Religion in this sense comes to mean implicitly the denial of both
and the Church to enter a dialogue with other “religions.”
How does this thinking relate to Indian
First of all, again, Christ must be made to exist on the same level as
Indian salvation myths. The historical Jesus—it is now thought—“is no
the absolute Logos than any other saving figure of history.” Since in
history, there are these many faiths in space and time, there is not a
reason why one is more important than another. “Under the sign of the
of cultures, relativism appears to be the real philosophy of humanity.”
If anyone might disagree with this view, he denies both liberty and
He is also trying to impose a “Western” view—that is, there is in fact
a revelation—on others. And this encounter of cultures and their
is where the intellectual critical point is in the upcoming New
just as the critical point was with Marxism in the middle part of the
Knitter realized that the pluralism of religion
left the world in a kind of stagnation. That is, if every religion and
culture were the same, why bother to change any? Thus, he wanted to
the theology of liberation (political change) with that of the
of religion. This effort to find an outside prod to the ancient Indian
religions is why Ratzinger does not think Marxism is totally dead. We
however, still looking for the new man and the new age. If there is a
at the basis both of current Western philosophy and of classic Indian
then thought alone, trying to decide which is right, cannot solve our
because all thought is equal in the cultural relativist view. The only
place to go, it seems, is to “praxis,” to practice, to this famous
concept. “Putting praxis above knowledge in this way is also a clearly
Marxist inheritance. However, whereas Marxism makes only what comes
from renouncing metaphysics concrete—when knowledge is impossible, only
action is left—Knitter affirms: the absolute cannot be known but it can
be made.” That is, we presumably know what we “make,” so that all
becomes not something natural, but something “made” or “constructed” by
At this point, Ratzinger himself simply wants to
“Why?” Why is it so obvious that action does not need truth? He
“Where do I find a just action if I cannot know what is just in an
way?” Communist regimes failed, he added, because “they tried to change
the world without knowing what is good and what is not good for the
without knowing in what direction the world must be changed in order to
make it better.” That is a remarkable observation. So to the idea that
we ought to change or make the world no matter how we change or make it
or even if we do not know the truth, Ratzinger adds, in the pithiest of
statements, “Mere praxis is not light.”
Indian religions traditionally did not have any
No compulsory doctrine belonged to them. What they had was ritual. One
was saved, presumably, not by knowing the truth, but by performing the
right ritual. The Greek and Christian idea was different. There was a
between opinion and glory (the same Greek word, doxa). To be orthodox
not mean just having the right opinion or following the standard
but “to know and practice the right way in which God wants to be
This “right way” implied that some ways were the wrong ways, even if we
were to show respect to the persons who hold them. Now most people no
think that the Indian ritual saves, but they do think, because of their
relativism, that some practice will do the trick. Where does this
come from? Why, it comes from politics, so that there can now be
a certain union between East and West, each providing what the other
The problem is, however, that neither of these freedoms, either of
to make what it wants or of Indian mysticism from all matter and being,
has any content, even when presented in Christian terminology. “When
no longer counts, politics must be converted into religion.”
The “New Age” provides a further component to these
“For the supporters of the New Age, the solution to the problem of
must not be sought in a new encounter of the self with another, or
but by overcoming the subject, in an ecstatic return to the cosmic
This New Age system is said to be scientific. But what is proposed is a
kind of anti-rationalist mysticism: “The Absolute is not to be
but to be experienced. God is not a person to be distinguished from the
world, but a spiritual energy present in the universe.” The New Age
is not an encounter with God as a transcendent Trinity of persons.
not unlike the Stoics, it advocates that we become in harmony with the
cosmic whole. The old atheism wanted to identify everything with the
The new atheism wants the self to be absorbed into the whole and be
with it, which is itself the only “god” there is. We must overcome the
idea of a personal being or self against which a world of things,
and God exist and for whom we are to relate ourselves in love and
“Redemption is found in unbridaling the self, immersion in the
of that which is living, and in a return to the whole. Ecstasy is
the inebriety of the infinite which can be experienced in inebriating
rhythm, and, frenetic lights and dark shadows, and in the human mass.”
Ratzinger remarks that this position logically has renounced both
and man himself. The gods have taken the place of God. Thus we are in
process of reviving pre-Christian religions and cults.
What about Christianity in relation to these events?
there is no common truth in force precisely because it is true, then
is only something imported from outside, a spiritual imperialism which
must be thrown off with no less force than political imperialism.” The
living God is indeed met in the sacraments, but if we do not believe or
accept the truth of this meeting, then it too is empty ritual. Thus,
is nothing to prevent us from joining the pagan cults now revitalized.
And Ratzinger makes a remarkable connection here between the rise of
Age and the demise of classic Marxism, “The more manifest the
of political absolutism (as a scientific explanation), the stronger the
attraction will be to what is irrational and to the renunciation of the
reality of every day life.” Notice what he says is that these movements
do not lead to the denial of God, but to a “renunciation of the reality
of every day life,” the very place that Aquinas says that we must begin
our search for God and one another. Without orthodoxy, in other words,
we no longer even see the ordinary things around us because they are no
longer themselves but something we made or a mystical part of ourselves.
Ratzinger proceeds to remark on a phenomenon that I
sure many have noticed.
Externally, in the Church, everything still looks
or less the same. But underneath, there is a widespread loss of faith
explicit doctrine, especially among the intellectuals and many clerics.
If we cannot maintain the sources of authority in the Church as set
in its own doctrines, we find another source. The first of these signs
of loss of faith is the effort to “democratize” the Church after the
of that form of democracy itself based on relativism. Faith, however,
be decided by majority vote. Either faith comes from the Lord in the
or it does not exist. “A faith which we ourselves can decide about is
a faith in the Absolute.” The alternative of those who think that faith
is decided by the majority is either to identify faith with power (the
majority, whatever it is) or, more logically, not to be believe in
The next concern has to do with the doctrinal effect
the Church of widespread changes in liturgy, both those permitted and
practiced whether permitted or not. “The different phases of liturgical
reform have let the opinion be introduced that the Liturgy can be
arbitrarily.” This rapid change of liturgy leads to the suspicion that
the doctrines that explain the liturgy are also subject to change.
New Age tendencies are discovered at work in the liturgical practices
have appeared— “what is inebriating and ecstatic is sought and not the
‘logike latreia.’” Ratzinger says that he perhaps “exaggerates” these
in order to see them, but they are there. We do not dance because of
God is, but we dance because we think ourselves to be gods
in the cosmos and identified with it.
In the light of the appeal to Christians and
alike of Marxism, relativism, and New Age movements, Ratzinger asks,
addressing himself to the intellectuals in the Church, “Why has
theology appeared to be so defenseless in the face of these happenings?
Where is its weak point, and why has it lost credibility?” It is
that this question is asked at such a high level in the Church. These
no doubt, fair and perceptive questions. Ratzinger thinks that one
reason has to do with the status of exegesis. The writers who promote
relativist, Eastern religions, or New Age positions usually begin from
what they believe has been proved in Scripture studies: “They state
exegesis has proven that Jesus did not consider himself absolutely the
son of God, the incarnate God, but that he was made to be such
in a gradual way, by the disciples.” Besides this so-called evidence
contemporary exegesis that the Church could not teach what it said it
theology is also based on a Kantian position about the impossibility of
the mind to reach any kind of reality or to have any awareness of the
Ratzinger thinks that these two sorts of consideration indicate the
of the problem with theology.
In response, Ratzinger first points out that
itself does not uniformly teach that Christ, say, did not consider
to be God. Moreover, historical criticism cannot have the kind of
on this point that modern thinkers claim for it. But let us suppose
most exegetes do hold that the basic Christian positions cannot be
The reason for this claim is that these exegetes have a common
which does not allow them to conclude to anything else. Their method
the reality they study to its (the method’s) proportions. Ratzinger
this position into words: “If I know a priori (to speak like Kant) that
Jesus cannot be God, and that miracles, mysteries and sacraments are
forms of superstition, then I (the exegete with this philosophy) cannot
discover what cannot in fact be in the sacred books.” My philosophical
theory has prevented me from seeing what might be there. What I see is
my theory, not the reality. Ratzinger does not deny that there is value
in the “historical-critical” method. Generally, if it is used to study
the history of the Roman emperors, say, it works fine. When the method
is used on the Bible, two problems arise. The method wants to find out
about the “past as something past.” History further is said to be
This means that all instances of a given type will be judged to be the
same on the basis not of fact but of theory. The method brings us to
past, not to the present.
Secondly, the world in theory must be held to be
the same. The method requires this. The crisis of exegesis is a crisis
of the philosophical presuppositions that guide its method by which it
reaches conclusions such as that Jesus did not affirm his own divinity.
“The problem of exegesis is connected . . . with the problem of
The indigence of philosophy . . . has turned into the indigence of our
faith. The faith cannot be liberated if reason itself does not open up
again.” Reason, in other words, knowing itself, must see that it is
in what is, over which it has no control. What is controls what we know
and not vice versa. The exclusion of any reality, however, is contrary
to the object of reason itself. “Human reason is not an autonomous
Ratzinger thinks that scholastic philosophy in the twentieth century in
a sense failed because it tried to do the impossible, that is, provide
a totally rational ground of the faith that a priori excluded the
of faith’s openness to reason.
Yet, it was reality, not reason, that decided that
which reason was open. And reality included the reality of God and his
activity in time. Faith cares for and about reason. “It is not the
function of the faith to care for reason as such. It does not do
to it; it is not external to it; rather, it makes it return to itself.”
Thus, faith can liberate reason from itself by asking it questions that
it could not itself have anticipated, yet about which it can consider.
“Reason will not be saved without the faith, but the faith without
will not be human.”
Finally, Ratzinger asks, “Why, in brief, does faith
have a chance?” His answer is remarkable: “because it is in harmony
what man is.” Kant lies at the heart of the problems that much modern
has with the faith. Because he arbitrarily cut off any path to reality,
he has to “postulate” substitutes for what reason animated by faith
reach, which remains, in spite of this philosophy’s presuppositions,
what is. “In man there is an inextinguishable yearning for the
Ratzinger concludes. “None of the answers attempted are sufficient.
the God himself who became finite in order to open our finiteness and
us to the breadth of his infiniteness responds to the question of our
For this reason, the Christian faith finds man today, too.” That is to
say, it “finds” man in the today because the active God is not limited
to the rigid past moment examined by the philosophical suppositions
in much exegesis.
In conclusion, let me remark that Josef Ratzinger is
aware that what is behind the philosophical and religious movements
propose themselves as alternatives to orthodox Christianity, many of
already disguise themselves in Christian terminology, is the effort to
solve all human problems and disorders by human means. Ratzinger’s
that Marxism is not altogether dead and how it might reappear reminds
of what Paul Johnson wrote back in 1989:
Perhaps the most important single thing which the
tradition established was the principle of monotheism and the
rejection of natural phenomena—sun, moon, trees, rivers, woods, and
animals—as objects of worship. There is among the more active
an element of pantheism, one might almost say of paganism. . . . The
scene . . . may become more complicated by the next century (2000). . .
. But whatever form this conflict of ideas takes, we can be confident
the radicals will continue to insist that human behavior can be
by political process and that the state must play the leading role in
transformation. Hence those who remain skeptical of this contention . .
. must continue to focus on two fundamental points— the natural
of human beings and the limits which must be imposed on state power. 3
Josef Ratzinger’s discourse in Guadalajara on
intellectual movements is a remarkable reminder of the nature of the
state when it is based on relativism, of the confluence of liberation
with its emphasis on politics joined with Eastern mysticism with its
of definiteness about the divinity and things themselves. What Josef
has shown is that orthodoxy remains the intelligible alternative to the
ideologies of our time at the precise point wherein each deviates from
reality, from what is. ?
1 See James V. Schall, Liberation Theology (San
Ignatius Press, 1982); “Counter-Liberation,” Orbis, 30 (Fall 1986),
“Liberation Theology: Afterthoughts,” Social Justice Review, 86
2 Cardinal Ratzinger elaborated the problem of
and democracy more in detail in his Address on his Induction to the
Academy, found in L’Osservatore Romano, English, February 10, 1993. On
this address, see James V. Schall, “The Threat Posed by Modern
Homiletic and Pastoral Review, XCIV (June 1994), 31-32, 46-47.
3 Paul Johnson, “Is Totalitarianism Dead?” Crisis, 7
Reverend James V. Schall, S.J., is now teaching at
University after having taught at the University of San Francisco and
Gregorian University in Rome for twelve years. A prolific writer, he is
the author of many books and hundreds of articles. A frequent
to HPR, Fr. Schall is also a regular columnist in Crisis magazine. His
last article in HPR appeared in January 1997
What a Biographer of Joseph Ratzinger Is Expecting
Interview With Pablo Blanco
ROME, JUNE 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The author of a
on the life and theology of Joseph Ratzinger says that the new Pope has
only one program: "to do the will of God."
Pablo Blanco, who has a doctorate in philosophy and
studied the life and writings of the present Holy Father for many
told ZENIT in this interview that Benedict XVI is "perfectly capable of
addressing the great challenges of the present."
Blanco's book is entitled "Joseph Ratzinger. Una
(Joseph Ratzinger: A Biography), published by Eunsa.
Q: When you wrote the book, did you ever think that
Ratzinger might one day be Pope?
Blanco: Of course not. I was interested in Joseph
as a theologian and man of the Church, not as Pope. Anyway, now, in
I have realized that the cardinals -- with the inestimable help of the
Holy Spirit -- know how to choose.
This Pope is most qualified on several fronts and,
my opinion, perfectly capable of addressing the great challenges of the
present: of addressing secularization, of promoting ecumenism and of
a resolute and sincere evangelization, to mention only three magic
Q: You wrote that Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John
II collaborated very closely, not only on Friday afternoons and alone,
but also on Tuesdays, the day before the general audiences. From here
several Wednesday catecheses and documents. Now that Ratzinger is Pope,
do you think there is someone who can help him with the catecheses?
Blanco: Frankly, I don't know. Ratzinger was famous
writing everything [John Paul II] read. I imagine he will have valuable
collaborators, but he will be responsible, in a very personal way, for
everything he says or writes.
Q: Are there aspects of Benedict XVI which you think
media have not highlighted?
Blanco: I think that what is very important in his
is what he said in the homily at the start of his pontificate: that his
only program is to do the will of God.
Throughout his life, one can see how he lets himself
led by that invisible hand of God, which takes him where he would
not go: He ceased being a professor to become archbishop of Munich, he
went to Rome to take up one of the hardest posts in the Church: that of
prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and accepted
his election as Pope, beginning to exercise his pontificate with great
ease, under the name of Benedict XVI.
All this seems to me not only courageous but a great
to let God act.
Q: You wrote that Cardinal Ratzinger was one of the
architects of the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar period in
whole Church. In what areas has he most defended the Council?
Blanco: I think he has a privileged vision of the
of all the present problems of the faith.
Among many other topics, one could single out the
of Jesus Christ and the importance of the liturgy, morality, of women
the Church, of the priesthood as service and of ecumenism as a priority
task and, finally, the primacy of the logos over the ethos, that is,
decisiveness of the Creed in the life of Christians.
Proof of this, for example, is Vatican II's
which he himself was responsible for stimulating and coordinating.
In any case, it is clear that -- as the protagonist
he was of the Council -- he knows where the Church must go; all that is
needed is to continue to listen to the voice of God in this continuous
Eucharist in the Pontificate of Benedict XVI
Scott Hahn on the New Pope's Potential Revival
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, JUNE 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).-
XVI's pontificate is not about restoration of the liturgy so much as
-- of the mystery of the Eucharist.
So says Scott Hahn, professor of theology and
at Franciscan University of Steubenville, director of the St. Paul
for Biblical Theology and author of "The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as
on Earth" (Doubleday).
He shared with ZENIT how he thinks Benedict XVI's
will enhance the faithful's understanding and experience of Eucharist.
Q: What was distinctive about then Cardinal
approach to the Eucharist?
Hahn: I don't think any theologian since Matthias
in the 19th century has shown us the profound interrelation of all the
mysteries of Christianity. The doctrine of the Eucharist, for Cardinal
Ratzinger, cannot be properly studied or expressed apart from the
of the Trinity, the doctrine of the incarnation, and the doctrine of
The Eucharist itself is a Trinitarian mystery; we
receive the Son without receiving the Father who sent him in the flesh
and the Spirit through which he comes. The Trinity comes to us in the
And as the Trinity comes to us, we are raised up into the very presence
of the divine glory.
This mystery is connected to the Incarnation because
not just a historical event in the past, but an ongoing reality -- a
mystery -- in our very midst. It all hangs together.
Cardinal Ratzinger's ecclesiology -- his theology of
Church -- is Eucharistic, incarnational and Trinitarian. At the same
his Eucharistic theology is ecclesiological, incarnational and
Q: Cardinal Ratzinger often described the Eucharist
the "heart of life." What does he mean by that?
Hahn: The Eucharist is our encounter and our
with the Blessed Trinity. That is the heart of life. It's the source of
life. It's the summit of life. Communion with the Blessed Trinity is
very definition of heaven, so it doesn't get any better than that. The
amazing thing is that we have heaven in every Mass.
This is a theme Cardinal Ratzinger returned to
in many of his books. The coming of Jesus Christ -- what the Greek New
Testament calls his "parousia" -- is not simply some far-off event. It
is his presence in the Eucharist.
Fundamentalists reduce the meaning of "parousia" to
coming at the end of time; but for first-century Greek-speakers the
meant "presence." Catholic theology holds on to that original meaning.
In his book "Eschatology," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
parousia is the highest intensification and fulfillment of the liturgy.
And the liturgy is parousia. … Every Eucharist is parousia, the Lord's
coming, and yet the Eucharist is even more truly the tensed yearning
He would reveal His hidden Glory."
Q: How do you think Pope Benedict's teachings may
the faithful's understanding and experience of Eucharist during the
of the year of the Eucharist?
Hahn: So many people in the media have already
him off as a restorationist, pining for a return to pre-conciliar forms
of worship. But they're missing his point. It's not about restoration
the liturgy so much as re-appropriation -- re-appropriating the mystery
of the Eucharist, which is both divine and human.
After the [Second Vatican] Council, some theologians
to democratize the Church and secularize the liturgy by reducing the
to debates between so-called conservatives and liberals.
Cardinal Ratzinger preferred to return to the
sources: the Scriptures -- both Old and New Testaments -- and
as well as the best of the modern theologians. Only through such
can aggiornamento truly work.
I think Pope Benedict will de-politicize the
He'll direct our attention away from the hot-button issues, which are
peripheral issues -- such as the battles over liturgical language and
It's not that he doesn't have opinions in these
He does, and he has expressed them in pointed ways. But he always draws
his opinions from the depths of theological and historical study, and
the depths of his personal prayer.
I believe he'll ask us to plumb those same depths --
Catholics who speak, teach, write and guide others in the fields of
liturgy and so on. Out of the depths of our study and prayer, he'll
us to a true re-sacralizing of the liturgy.
Q: If those are peripheral issues, what's at the
Hahn: That the Eucharist creates a flesh-and-blood
-- a family bond -- between us and God. This is another recurring theme
in his books. It's the strong undertow in his "Many Religions -- One
and "The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood."
Christ assumed human flesh in order to give that
for us, and give that flesh to us. The Eucharistic liturgy is a
covenant meal. It renews a covenant, and every covenant seals a family
bond. As the Son of God became human, so we become divine -- "sons in
Son," to use the favorite phrase of the Church Fathers.
Q: Who, then, is a member of the family?
Hahn: I believe that will be a key consideration of
pontificate. He has already demonstrated his eagerness for ecumenical
If he does no more than continue the work he began as a cardinal, he
articulate the doctrine of the Eucharist in powerful biblical terms,
will be powerfully persuasive to Protestants.
The heavenly liturgy is the key to understanding the
books of Hebrews and Revelation. And the experience of liturgy is key
understanding much of the Bible -- both the Old and New Testaments.
What Leviticus and Deuteronomy were to the Old
Hebrews and Revelation are to the New Covenant. Without a knowledge and
experience of the liturgy, so much of the content of these books is
Pope Benedict is himself a profound biblical
steeped in the Fathers and Doctors -- especially Augustine and
-- and in the Judaic and rabbinic traditions as well. I don't think any
pope since St. Peter has taken up such deep study of the ancient rabbis.
I suspect that he will make an understanding of the
essential to the ecumenical project, and he will conduct the dialogue
covenantal terms. This will make it possible to engage not only
but also Jews, who share the covenantal roots of Abrahamic religion.
Q: In his first homily, Pope Benedict said, "The
the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission
of the Church, cannot but be the permanent center and the source of the
Petrine service entrusted to me." How might the centrality of the
play out in his papacy and ministry?
Hahn: The Eucharist is the place where the Church is
perfectly herself. The Church is the Kingdom of God on earth, and the
abides where the King reigns. Jesus' lasting presence with us is in the
Eucharist. As vicar of Christ, Benedict is prime minister to the King
Kings, serving him first of all in the Eucharist.
The Church holds many treasures in common -- the
Tradition, the magisterium, the saints. But it is in the liturgy that
Church is most perfectly herself.
And once we understand the liturgy as the heavenly
as Pope Benedict does, then we have become full, conscious and active
of the Kingdom. The heavenly liturgy becomes the norm that norms the
norms. It's our standard, our touchstone, our sustenance, our light --
as I said before, our source and our summit.
We'll see very soon how this plays out in his
The synod in October will conclude the Year of the Eucharist with a
reflection on the Eucharist. Watch for the themes I mentioned: the
liturgy, the de-politicization of the liturgy, and the re-sacralization
of the liturgy.
Father R.J. Neuhaus' Outlook on Benedict XVI
"Remarkable Gentleness, Combined With a Keen
NEW YORK, JUNE 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI
modest expectations for ecumenism and expects the path to unity to
an unforeseen initiative of the Holy Spirit, says Father Richard John
The editor in chief of First Things shared with
his views about the new Pope and what could be expected in his
Q: Would you share some of your personal experiences
Cardinal Ratzinger, and what special gifts you think he brings to the
Father Neuhaus: I have known Cardinal Ratzinger, now
Benedict, for more than 20 years, and we have been in conversation
As everybody knows, he is a master theologian and, I
might have been recognized as one of the theological giants of the last
100 years if he had not offered the prime of his life to serving John
the Great as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
As everybody should know, he is a person of
gentleness and serenity, combined with a keen intellectual curiosity in
engaging alternative viewpoints.
As for personal experiences, in 1988 I invited him
deliver our annual Erasmus Lecture here in New York, which was followed
by a conference of several days with Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox
The public lecture, held in midtown Manhattan, was
disrupted by gay activists who waved their pink triangles while
pleasantries such as "Sieg Heil!" "Nazi Ratzy!" and "Inquisitor Go
I finally had to call the police to clear the protesters and restore
Throughout, the cardinal was the very picture of
When he got a chance to speak he prefaced his lecture, which was on the
subject of biblical interpretation, with a moving reflection on the
student rebellion in Europe that helped him to understand more deeply
indispensability of civility in human relations.
On this and other occasions, it was obvious to me
his tranquility is rooted in a tried and tested faith. The next day the
tabloid headlines blazoned, "Gays Protest Vatican Biggy." He chuckled
his new title of Vatican Biggy.
Q: Benedict XVI has emphasized ecumenism as a
Does that surprise you at all?
Father Neuhaus: No, not at all. This has been among
constant concerns and interests, and he has written extensively on the
subject of ecumenism. As a German he has had extensive experience with
the traditions coming out of the 16th-century divisions, especially
and Reformed, or Calvinist, Christianity.
He has a sympathetic appreciation of what Martin
got right, and an incisive but non-polemical analysis of what he got
and why. As head of CDF, he was responsible for the doctrinal aspects
all the ecumenical dialogues in which the Church is engaged, and will
to exercise that responsibility.
Although he would of course admit nothing, I see
evidence of his hand in key passages of the 1995 encyclical on
unity, "Ut Unum Sint." In this pontificate we will, I expect, see a
clear line of authority as the Pope, the chief doctrinal officer of the
Church, employs CDF to coordinate other offices dealing with matters of
doctrine. CDF was, for instance, intensely involved in the 1999
declaration on justification.
Q: What does the emphasis on ecumenism say at a time
there are so many concerns about pro-life issues?
Father Neuhaus: There is a strong connection. The
theologian Timothy George speaks about "the ecumenism of the trenches,"
referring to the ways in which Catholics and evangelical Protestants in
this country have come to know and trust one another in the pro-life
This was also critically important to the continuing
called Evangelicals and Catholics Together, ECT, which Charles Colson
I launched in 1994. I have over the years been in contact with Cardinal
Ratzinger on developments in ECT, and he has been entirely supportive.
To be sure, as a European he has had relatively little firsthand
with American evangelicalism, which is very different from what
means in Germany.
But he is very much aware of the explosive growth of
and Pentecostal Christianity in the Southern Hemisphere, and that is
comprehended in his ecumenical vision. The Church's oft-repeated
is that the commitment to ecumenism is "irrevocable," and the goal of
is the establishment of "full communion."
On the latter point, Pope Benedict's expectations
markedly modest. In his writings he has insisted that the only unity we
can seek, the only unity pleasing to God, is unity in the fullness of
He has said that our 16th-century Catholic and Protestant forebears who
were at one another's throats were, in an important way, closer to one
another than is sometimes the case with contemporary theological
because they both understood that what was at stake was the truth that
God intends for all his people.
He has also emphasized that the way toward unity is
a matter of our programs and schedules but of faithful waiting upon a
initiative of the Holy Spirit which we can neither control nor
This does not mean that there is less urgency in his ecumenical
than was the case with, to cite the obvious instance, John Paul the
The ecumenical commitment is irrevocable and every possible step is to
be carefully nurtured, including increased cooperation with other
in contending for the culture of life against the culture of death.
Q: Coming from Germany, does he bring a special
Father Neuhaus: While I have already addressed that
part, it is noteworthy that some of the first statements of Pope
have strongly affirmed the quest for reconciliation with Orthodoxy.
For John Paul, being a Pole, the Orthodox reality
more pressingly immediate, but I have no doubt that Benedict shares his
yearning for the time when the Church will once again "breathe with
lungs, East and West."
I have said that what we share with the Orthodox is
that the only thing lacking for full communion is full communion, and I
do not think Pope Benedict would disagree with that. Sometimes being
neighbors makes things more difficult. In that sense, it is possible
the Orthodox will be less uneasy in dealing with a German rather than
a Pole. Admittedly, that is a "non-theological factor," but God also
non-theological factors in achieving his purposes.
Q: What has struck you the most about the new Holy
Father Neuhaus: There are several things, but
I should mention first his modesty. He has said in several different
that he does not want to impose his person or his personal views, but
be a faithful servant of the received tradition.
We now have another pope who is a high-powered
Under John Paul some worried that his distinctive
perspective was making too strong an imprint on magisterial teaching.
Benedict seems to be anticipating the same concern
his case. After all, he has a "paper trail" a mile wide and miles long,
having registered his views on so many questions. He seems to be saying
that he is well aware that the responsibilities of Joseph Ratzinger the
theologian and Joseph Ratzinger the prefect of CDF are significantly
from his responsibilities as Pope Benedict, and that is surely right.
Another subtle signal since his election, which I
will become more explicit, is that he wants it understood that the Pope
is "the servant of the servants of God," and especially of his fellow
His earlier strictures regarding national
of bishops have, I believe, been seriously misunderstood. He is, in
a great champion of episcopal collegiality and doesn't want national
or other institutions getting in the way of bishops being bishops,
means, above all, being authentic teachers of the faith in their local
Q: How did non-Catholic Christians generally view
Father Neuhaus: The indications are that he is being
well received by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He does not have,
I expect is not likely to develop, what is called the "star quality"
John Paul. That has a lot to do with different personalities. And it
to do with very different life stories.
John Paul's biography could hardly have been more
life under Nazism and Communism, the early loss of his mother and
the successful challenging of the Soviets' "evil empire," and on and
His life made great material for producers of admiring comic books.
I suppose there will be comic books about Benedict,
they will be less exciting. Compared with John Paul, his has been a
of remarkable step-by-step continuity.
Despite the Hitler years, his was a happy Bavarian
an early discernment and fulfillment of a priestly vocation, a very
career as theologian, followed by elevation to cardinal archbishop and
then on to Rome. And now he is Pope. It is a life within the Church for
In the quiet warmth of his personality, the
is in the vibrancy of his faith and the profundity of his thought. I
at the outset his gentleness of manner and serenity of soul. Those are
not bad qualities to have at the center in a time when gentleness and
are in short supply.
I need only add that it would be a serious mistake
think gentleness and serenity mean weakness or lack of firm resolve.
Benedict XVI As Known by Co-worker
Interview with Father Augustine Di Noia
ROME, MAY 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is a
of great inner tranquility, intensely dedicated to his work for the
and very "tradition-minded," said a close collaborator.
So as to get to know the reality of the man behind
image portrayed at times by the media, ZENIT interviewed Father
Di Noia, undersecretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith,
who worked with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when the latter was prefect
Father Di Noia described their working relationship
a "smooth operating team," due to the Holy Father's keen listening
The Dominican priest said that after having worked
with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for the last three years, he has always
been impressed by the example of work ethic that he sets: "It's
true that he is a person of intense dedication. He puts in a full day
work every day -- not only when he was here in the office but also via
a remarkable number of publications, presentations, lectures, panel
"It's quite noteworthy to consider even the enormous
of correspondence he received, of course with the help of secretaries.
So he's a person of real dedication, discipline, focus and has that
element in the sense of man who thinks and writes a lot, but is willing
to share his knowledge with anyone who's willing to listen or talk with
him as he's quite the conversationalist too."
Benedict XVI has even sacrificed many of his
interests to work entirely for the Church and faith, said Father Di
"There is a willingness to make sacrifices in the
that, naturally I presume, he would have been perfectly happy doing
he was doing before -- that is as archbishop of Munich, living in
and serving the Church there -- when John Paul II sent for him to come
to the Roman Curia," he said.
Laughing, he added: "I suppose every Catholic, every
or priest is trained to say 'yes' first, and think about the
"This was the case with him -- Peter called and he
leaving behind his life in Germany, family, friends and culture for
than 22 years. And now, of course, he will never permanently return
Yet, Father Di Noia pointed out, he has embraced
just as it is evident that Rome, via welcoming posters around town and
excited applause throughout his installation ceremony as their bishop,
has clearly embraced him.
"I can't tell you how many ordinary people I've met
the street," said the undersecretary, "who tell me how happy they are
the 'obvious choice' of leader that was chosen. So it's been nice to
that support from Rome."
Regarding the spirituality of the new Pope, his
said: "One of the things which is evident from working with him, that
now become evident to the whole world, is that he's a person of
"You sense, immediately in his presence, a person
as the old spiritual writers used to say is 'recollected.' That is to
he's not thrown into a kind of panic by anything, I mean, he's just a
(and therefore one supposes), deeply spiritual person. Usually that's a
sign of an inner life and a person who is in communion with God.
"He has written a great deal about his own
and the kinds of things that he recommends to others. It's clearly a
"What I mean by that is that the liturgical year,
seasons, the great feasts, are integrated into the experience of the
So it's not a kind of spirituality that is purely private, if you will,
but one that feeds on the liturgical year."
Father Di Noia offered an example: "He would always
for his yearly retreat between Ascension and Pentecost -- in fact, he
be gone now on retreat in this period. He liked to celebrate the
in the period in which Christ is promising the coming of the Holy
If you pay attention to the liturgy every day, we have those kinds of
so that's, I would say, deeply patristic; that is rooted in the fathers
of the Church, especially St. Augustine. It's a rich, ecclesial
He also added that the Pope who chose the name
XVI also has a "deep kind of love for St. Benedict" and the
with whom "he enjoys being with."
"St. Benedict pointed out that his monks, in
to praying the hours of the liturgy, also work. This is not a kind of
that doesn't get its hands dirty. This is a man who works and does
he does in the name of Jesus Christ," said Father Di Noia.
According to the former prelate's undersecretary,
components will be communicated "because naturally a person who has a
spirituality will want to communicate it to others, although as Pope
he'll also have to allow for the attraction of many other kinds of
which might not have attracted him before."
Then, pointing up to a picture of St.
of Lisieux hanging in his office, Father Di Noia revealed the new
special devotion to her: "I know also, that he is very much attracted
the 'way' of the 'little flower,' and was instrumental in her becoming
a doctor of the Church as the prefect of the Congregation for the
of the Faith."
Though the Church might speak of faith and
the reality is that secular standards tend to judge in absolute terms
"conservative" or "liberal," value judgements that exasperate the
priest when applied to Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.
He said: "There is a natural desire on the part of
to try to classify a little bit, in order to figure out who a person is.
"However, I think the best way of describing
XVI is that he is a 'tradition-minded person.' That is to say, he's a
independent of his now being Pope, who saw the Second Vatican Council
the recovery of the deepest identity of the Catholic tradition, going
all the way to the scriptures, the fathers of the Church and the
which was the driving passion behind most of the great figures of that
Father Di Noia continued: "The view of many of those
fathers of the council, and the theologians too -- Von Balthasar,
you can mention many names -- was that once the tradition is exhibited
like a great painting or work of art, it doesn't need explanation. Once
it's presented, people see it and love it. This was certainly what John
Paul II believed -- the face of Christ is beautiful and people will be
drawn to it.
"And Cardinal Ratzinger is absolutely a man of the
of the council, and of what I would call 'tradition-mindedness.' It is
certainly true that there were other people at the council who
it as merely a matter of 'aggiornamento,' or catching up with the
but for someone like Cardinal Ratzinger, and we've talked about this in
light of his writings on the subject, 'aggiornamento' on its own is
seeking to accommodate itself to the times. In other words it is, as a
concept, empty. It adjusts itself to whatever the norm is.
"Now, progressives or liberals could seem to have
primarily the agenda of updating, but not necessarily the heart of the
council, which was 'ressourcement,' or the recovery of tradition."
Father Di Noia went on to say that all this,
is entirely independent of the fact that the man is now Pope.
He said: "you see this in the deep confusion and the
made over the last weeks such as 'what policies will he embrace' or 'I
don't care for his policies, they're too conservative.' It's as if we
talking about the transition of a U.S. presidency."
The Dominican father said that in reality it's a
and much more diverse role than that of a head of state: "The Pope is
bound to be faithful to the tradition than any of us are, in the sense
that he is its articulator.
"He is the Successor of Peter, so just as Peter
the Gospel and message of salvation from Our Lord, so does his
"Thus these labels which were also applied to past
though well-meant, are simply confusing and confuse those who hear
It's a question of being faithful to the gift of love and truth which
have received from Christ, and which the Pope, as Successor of Peter,
obligated by vow and profession, to pass on."
Benedict XVI's Commitment to Faith and Reason in
Timothy O'Donnell on New Pope's Mission in Academia
FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, MAY 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).-
new Holy Father will continue the good work initiated by Pope John Paul
II in his apostolic constitutions "Sapienta Christiana" and "Ex Corde
So says Timothy O'Donnell, president of Christendom
whose faculty members take an oath of fidelity to the magisterium every
O'Donnell shared with ZENIT why he thinks that Pope
XVI will carry on his predecessor's legacy by stressing the synthesis
faith and reason in the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Q: How is Christendom College acquainted with the
elected Pope Benedict XVI?
O'Donnell: I first met Cardinal Ratzinger in 1996
a trip to Rome. I was able to meet with him at the Sacred Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith and introduce him to the work of
College. He was a very gracious man and showed a keen interest in the
I told him that every year the entire faculty at our
arts college voluntarily takes the oath of fidelity to the magisterium
of the Catholic Church in the presence of our bishop. Cardinal
was moved by this and expressed his gratitude and admiration for our
I told him that this takes place each year at our
Mass as a way of signifying to our entire student body that there can
no real conflict between faith and reason, nor is there to be found any
limitation on academic freedom through joyfully embracing the teaching
of the Church.
He also expressed to me at that time his delight
Christendom College prided itself not only on its academic excellence
also on its fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
It is because of this and Christendom's strong
from the late Jan Cardinal Schotte, Secretary General for the Synod of
Bishops, that Cardinal Ratzinger graciously agreed to become the
chairman of our 25th anniversary dinner committee in 2002.
On several other occasions he has also welcomed
of Christendom students and pilgrims to the Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith and to his early morning Masses in Vatican City.
Q: What was your impression of him as an
O'Donnell: It was clear from our conversation that
Ratzinger is a man of refined intellect, who is deeply sensitive to the
trends of contemporary thought. He sees clearly the dangers of a brutal
secularism with its accompanying moral relativism, which would strip
life of its true meaning and dignity.
I found myself impressed not only by the clarity of
thought, but also by his gentleness and kindness, which was quite
to the unfair portrayal given to him in by some the media at that time.
Q: Benedict XVI was a university professor who
the workings of academia. How do you think this will impact his
O'Donnell: I believe that Pope Benedict XVI's
as a university professor will have a great impact on his pontificate,
perhaps very similar to the impact that John Paul II's university
had on his pontificate.
I think that our current Holy Father will continue
good work initiated by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitutions
"Sapienta Christiana" and "Ex Corde Ecclesiae."
I think he will find it particularly important to
to speak to the vital role that must be played by Catholic institutions
of higher learning in an effort to once again re-engage the culture and
communicate effectively to the world the great synthesis of the
intellectual tradition, which unites both faith and reason and
in both of them a common source in Almighty God.
This can only be achieved if the university
a strong Catholic identity with a special commitment to the Gospel as
is communicated through the magisterium.
Q: How do you expect the new pope to deal with
of "Ex Corde Ecclesiae," the document that required verification of a
fidelity to the magisterium?
O'Donnell: I believe that "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" will
very important to Pope Benedict. Evidence of this can be seen in a
document that his Congregation put out entitled, "On the Ecclesial
of the Theologian."
This lucid document should go a long way to helping
who are seeking the truth with sincerity to recognize that there is a
ecclesial dimension to their mission within Catholic education that
require fidelity to the deposit of faith as it is communicated by the
without which they are not really doing Catholic theology at all.
They may be performing an important task in the
of religious studies but that, however, deals primarily with what man
about God rather than the proper subject of theological study that has
for its object God and his loving revelation to man.
"Ex Corde Ecclesiae" insists upon the special bond
should exist between the Catholic theologian and the Church in the
of truth. This beautiful and vital ecclesial dimension of the work of
Catholic theologian needs to be embraced joyfully in service to the
and all humanity.
The apostolic constitution speaks of the Catholic
as being "consecrated" in a special way to the search for and
of truth. It must therefore be open to everything relating to God, man
and the created order. The Catholic theologian has a crucial role to
in this essential mission.
As the Second Vatican Council taught in "Dei
sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and the magisterium are like three
that are so interconnected "that one can't really stand without the
They should be used and joyfully accepted by the theologian in his
to help explicate the Faith in service to the Church and a world that
for the saving truth of Christ.
Q: A corollary: Do scholars have anything to fear
Benedict XVI's papacy?
O'Donnell: The fact that Pope Benedict XVI is a man
great intellect and scholarly ability should reassure scholars
that they have nothing to fear.
Sadly, often times this fear stems from a belief
they will loose their "freedom." As the Pope beautifully stated in his
opening homily, "this yoke of Christ... does not weigh down on us,
us and taking away our freedom."
Pope Benedict, like all true academicians, is
committed to the search for and acquisition of truth. It must be
that truth is the object of the intellect. Once truth has been
there is a special obligation to submit to the truth when it is
This is what the human heart and mind were made for by the God who
We must remember that, contrary to popular opinion,
open mind is not in itself a perfection. The mind is made for truth.
purpose of scholarly endeavor is the acquisition and comprehension of
To that end, scholars, who share this love for the
and acquisition of truth, should rejoice that a man of such intellect,
learning and deep faith has been elevated to the papal throne.
I believe his pontificate will be a grace for our
suffering world. The election of Pope Benedict should be a source of
and hope for all those who love the Church, love the Faith and are
to "communicating the whole truth about man," which is revealed most
in Jesus Christ.
My cousin the Pope
Pope Benedict XVI’s cousin Erika Kopp, who lives in
South and migrated to Australia from Germany with her husband Karl in
recalls visiting a shop with her then six-year-old cousin Joseph and
Felicity Dargan writes.
“THE SHOPKEEPER WAS AN elderly woman and she asked
‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ Mrs Kopp said.
“He replied: ‘I am going to be a Bishop’.”
Mrs Kopp, 79, was not surprised. “That was Joseph’s
she said. “There was lots of prayer. His father was a high-ranking
and before he went on patrol he would always make the sign of the
So did the shopkeeper ask young Erika what she
to be when she grew up?
“Yes”, she chuckled. “I said a baker and I was. I
in my father’s bakery shop.”
The events of the past few weeks have been
for Mrs Kopp and her family. Karl died in 2003 at the age of 83 but she
is close to her daughter Veronica and three granddaughters Laura, 28,
26 and Helen, 23.
A bright and active woman, Mrs Kopp is delighted
her cousin has been chosen to lead the world’s Catholics, and has full
confidence in him.
“I think he is the best person,” Mrs Kopp said. “His
capacity is still as good as if he were younger.
“I feel very excited and proud. Joseph is such a
man, a simple man, very quiet. He is also such a controlled man, very
always on time. I don’t think he can help himself. His father was like
“Joseph has studied all his life and this is the
thing you can achieve. He was always so clever, such a strong thinker.
That is a gift from God. Even as a little boy everyone realised, Joseph
is the wunderkind.
“When we were children I said to Auntie (Joseph’s
Maria), ‘I wish I could be as clever as Joseph’, and she always said
when you finish school, you will be able to count your money’.
“Auntie meant that I would be bright enough to get
in life. I’m not as clever as Joseph, but I’ve got a good IQ and I’m
Mrs Kopp’s father, Benno Rieger, was the brother of
Benedict’s mother Maria and young Erika spent childhood holidays with
and his siblings Georg and Maria.
So how did Mrs Kopp hear the news about her cousin’s
“My 86-year-old German friend phoned in the morning
said ‘Erika, your cousin is Pope’, she said.
“I said ‘Martha, I don’t know’, and she said ‘Yes,
“I phoned Veronica and said ‘Joseph is the Pope,
voted for him’.”
Laura said her grandmother’s phone had been
with calls to Germany as the family monitored developments at the
“We have heard stories about Grandma’s cousin the
since we were kids,” Laura said. “It’s all a bit manic at the moment.”
Mrs Kopp has since spoken to her 84-year-old brother
in Germany. She also has a sister in Germany, Flora, who is 82.
“Benno always thought Joseph would have a better
not being Pope,” she said. “When Joseph was called to Rome (on 25
1981 he was made Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
everyone in Munich was worried that Joseph would be homesick because he
and his siblings were so close and were being separated.
“When we were children Maria, Joseph’s sister, used
say, ‘If Joseph is a priest I will cook for him.’ And that is what she
did. Maria looked after Joseph in the Vatican. She never married.
had an apartment a bit outside and Maria was like his housekeeper.
“When Maria died (on 2 November, 1991, aged 69)
took it very hard. They were so close.”
Mrs Kopp has many fond memories of childhood holidays
with Joseph and his family.
“Joseph wasn’t a sportsperson,” she said. “They had
the music you could imagine and a big piano which Joseph and Maria
a lot. I rode Maria’s bicycle. Uncle spent all his money on their
and Joseph attended a very exclusive school.
“Joseph’s mother did a lot for him. She was my
when I was confirmed. She was very talented and a hard worker. She made
Joseph teddy bears and animals and rabbits, whatever you can think. She
made them by hand.
“I was at Joseph’s ordination (on 29 June, 1951) and
said ‘Erika, I haven’t seen you for 14 years’. I would never have known
how long it had been. Later he said to me ‘Erika, I’ve still got my
“Auntie was also a very good cook. She made these
preserved walnuts and after our meal we were each given one.”
The childhood playmates last saw each other in 1985
Mrs Kopp visited Germany and her cousin was Cardinal of Munich.
“I visited his residence which was like Buckingham
Mrs Kopp proudly shows off clippings from German
charting her cousin’s rise, along with a letter from her cousin Maria
Joseph was appointed Cardinal in June 1977.
“Everyone says we look the same, they say ‘Erika,
look more like Joseph than his sister’,” she beams.
Family and friends have suggested Mrs Kopp visit her
“What would I say to a Pope?” she said. “I would say
I am so proud of you. I hope God helps you carry this hard mission.”
Until then, Mrs Kopp has a congratulatory card to
Pope Benedict XVI.
“I bought one from Coles,” she said. “I just want
to know how proud I am of him.”
By Felicity Dargan
"I Don't Think Benedict XVI's 'Program' Is to
Interview With Journalist Andrea Tornielli of Il
ROME, MAY 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- For Vaticanist
Tornielli of the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, the new Pope will seek
"to proclaim and witness the simplicity, purity and beauty of faith in
In his book "Benedict XVI, Custodian of the Faith"
2005), a collection of testimonies and reminiscences about the prelate
who would become Pope, the journalist describes the personality of a
of the Church who is as authoritative in the field of science as he is
humble from the human point of view.
To learn more about the 265th Roman Pontiff, ZENIT
Q: What will be the novelties of Benedict XVI's
Tornielli: As he has already done since the first
after the election, I think the new Pope will seek to turn attention
from the figure of the Pope, insofar as person, so that all attention
centered on him whose Vicar the Pope is.
This is why I think Benedict XVI has already made
important decision not to celebrate beatifications personally,
for himself only the canonizations.
Moreover, I have been very impressed by the accent
places when emphasizing that the Pope is first and foremost Bishop of
On Saturday, May 14, for the first time, the Pope did not celebrate the
beatifications, but the next day he presided over the ordination of 21
new priests of his diocese, the Diocese of Rome. I think these are
signs, above all from the point of view of the ecumenical commitment.
Q: It has been said that what John Paul II was for
Benedict XVI will be for relativism.
Tornielli: I wish to make a clarification. Just as I
the caricature that certain progressive environments have made of
over the past 20 years, I also try to be on guard against a certain
to think that he will be a Pope on the basis of what Cardinal
prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was and said.
I don't think that Benedict XVI's "program" is to
relativism. I believe, instead, that he will seek to proclaim and
the simplicity, purity and beauty of faith in Jesus Christ.
The antidote to relativism is not a program, it is
a theory, it is not and can never be an invective or a denunciation. An
invective, a denunciation, however, were more useful vis-à-vis
No, the antidote is in a people, even small in number, that lives the
and witnesses the fullness of life.
Q: John Paul II filled the squares. In your opinion,
it for Benedict XVI to fill the churches?
Tornielli: I don't know if this will happen.
I hope churches and squares are full. But if John Paul II with his
and his extraordinary personality could fill squares, it will be hard
Benedict XVI or any one else to fill the churches.
The churches will be filled, God willing, thanks to
Pope's testimony, but above all the testimony of all Christians. "I am
not alone!" Benedict XVI repeated during the Mass [for the inauguration
of his pontificate]. The Pope is not a super-ruler of the Church, he is
not an absolute monarch; he is the servant of the servants of God. And
the task of proclamation and witness is everyone's.
Q: Was it singular to elect as Pope the prefect of
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? What challenges is the
trying to respond to with this election?
Tornielli: I think the election is not so much
to the role as such, but rather to Ratzinger's personality, his
his depth. I think that with this election the Church wishes to again
what is essential in the Christian faith.
Q: As Cardinal, Ratzinger expressed his great
for the liturgy in Latin, manifesting reservations over the reform
out in this area during the Second Vatican Council. What do you foresee
Pope Benedict XVI will do in regard to the liturgy?
Tornielli: Let's look at what he has done. The
over which he has presided have been of exceptional simplicity and
I hope that, little by little, without divisions or
this taste for the liturgy well celebrated, which allows one to
the grandeur of the mystery that is lived in the Mass and that has God
as protagonist -- who comes into our midst and speaks to us -- and not
the cleverness or inventiveness of the priest or the community, will
In his programmatic discourse on the first day after
election, Pope Ratzinger spoke of the centrality of the Eucharist and
the correct liturgical celebration.
I think it will be one of the key points of his
although for the time being I cannot foresee what the concrete steps
be. I also think that there will be greater tolerance in regard to
and perhaps the next months might also be decisive for the
of Monsignor Lefebvre's mini-schism.
Q: It seems that during Vatican II the then young
always posed the question: "And the doctrine?" Forty years after the
in what way will Benedict XVI consolidate the clergy's and Catholics'
to sound doctrine?
Tornielli: I was very impressed by the way in which
Pope spoke about doctrine and the papal chair the day he took
[of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, in the Basilica of St. John
He did not reaffirm a doctrine, asking everyone to
He explained that everyone, including the Pope, must obey Christ, and
Peter's charism is precisely in this obedience. To confirm brothers in
the faith is an act that cannot be separated from love and service.
The more it is seen that the Christian faith is the
with something great and beautiful, the more it will be understood that
the "depositum fidei," the doctrine -- and not our ideas or
-- is key to penetrating this mystery in the truest way.
Q: Can we expect reforms from Benedict XVI?
Tornielli: I would like to remind that Ratzinger has
several times that he would like a reform of the Roman Curia, which he
thinks has become too gigantic and bureaucratized. I would not exclude
the possibility that the Pope will take a step in this direction.
Pope Benedict XVI| An
with Monsignor Michael R. Schmitz
Monsignor Michael R. Schmitz was ordained by
Joseph Ratzinger in 1982. As a German who has had significant contact
Pope Benedict XVI, IgnatiusInsight.com asked Msgr. Schmitz his opinion
of the effect of our new pope on Germany. For Germany, we wondered,
this be a time of hope and renewal of faith?
Msgr. Schmitz, 47, is a German, born and educated,
now serves as the U.S. Provincial Superior of the Institute of Christ
King Sovereign Priest. Msgr. Schmitz oversees the U.S. branch of this
order of priests devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass. As a priest
in Rome, he had regular contact with his fellow countryman Cardinal
During the year prior to his election as pope, Msgr. Schmitz and
others from his order met with Cardinal Ratzinger to bring him up to
on the new order of priests.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What have been your
to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI?
Msgr. Schmitz: I had the great honor to have
ordained by the present pope in 1982 when he was in his first year as
of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Since that time I had the opportunity to meet the
quite regularly during my studies for the doctorate in Rome when I was
living in the Teutonic College in the Vatican. His Eminence used to
Mass every Thursday in the chapel of the college and have breakfast
us afterwards, which was the occasion of short conversations and
Also, I had the chance to meet him several times in
and only recently, during the year before his election, he received the
Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King, Msgr. Gilles Wach,
me for a meeting where we could present to him the more recent
of our young community. During this occasion the Cardinal again showed
his interest and love for all matters liturgical and especially his
respect for the more ancient forms of the Roman Rite.
IgnatiusInsight.com: This pope is the first
Germany in more than 400 years. Could you share any personal feelings
you had upon learning of the outcome of the Conclave
Msgr. Schmitz: As everyone else was, I was
touched by the outcome of the last Conclave because it witnessed the
of the Holy Spirit during the election of a new Pope. Holy Providence
not leave the Church alone and astonishes ever anew all those who may
in their judgment about the future on purely human calculation.
Certainly, Benedict XVI is a gift of Holy Providence
shows through his very presence as Vicar of Christ that "the Church is
alive", as he has put it himself in his sermon during the solemn
of his ministry. The fact that he is German is important for all
but I would stress that Germany is much more regionally structured than
non-Germans would believe. Germany was united under Prussia in 1870,
its kingdoms and principalities only disappeared totally after 1918,
afterwards created a vacuum used by evil forces to deceive the German
toward authority. Still, the former political structure is very present
in the different regions of Germany, whose population speaks many
forms of the German language.
One of the most important regions in Germany is the
of Bavaria. Together with being a German, His Holiness is a Bavarian
has always shown a great love for his country. He was Archbishop of
in Bavaria, and he taught as a professor in Bavarian universities for
years. His brother conducted one of the most important church choirs in
Bavaria, and the links of the Ratzinger family to its Bavarian-Austrian
roots are very visible. I am from the Rhine Valley and traditionally,
ecclesiastic principalities on the Rhine, especially the Archdiocese of
Cologne, have always been in close relationship with Bavaria.
For centuries Bavarian princes governed, as
the part of the Rhine I come from. The Rhine Valley and Bavaria are
the only regions in Germany that have always stayed Catholic. The
of the two regions and their historical links are penetrated by a
Catholic feeling. Also, for this reason, I was very grateful to Holy
for having given to Holy Mother Church a visible head and a Vicar of
rooted in a Catholicism of heart and mind coming from a rich tradition
of faithfulness to the Holy See and of veneration of the Blessed
and the Virgin Mary.
IgnatiusInsight.com: In difficult years
the First World War, Germany saw the rise of Hitler and every
since has had to live with the legacy of one of history’s most evil
Germany culture in the post World War II era was forced to grapple with
this shameful period. What will the election of a German and obviously
holy man, who was alive during the time of Hitler, who himself quietly
resisted Hitler, as did his father, do to Germans’ perceptions of
in general and on the world stage?
Msgr. Schmitz: I am confident that Pope
XVI will help other people to perceive Germany and the Germans in a
appropriate way than just as a nation whose history was partly
by shameful oppression through an inhuman dictatorship.
My grandfather was killed during the war in a train
because his chauffeur did not see the coming train at a crossing, whose
lights were off during the time of the air raids. Our parish priest
to my grandmother "perhaps Holy Providence wanted to spare your husband
because he certainly would have ended in a concentration camp".
My grandfather helped many Jews and others who were
by the Nazi regime and always defended his faith openly. My mother
copied the famous sermons of the upright "Lion of Muenster" Bishop
August Count von Galen against the Nazi terror. One morning she entered
her office and found two Gestapo members sitting on her desk. They took
her to be interrogated, and only the mercy of an elderly judge who
her youthful beauty saved her from the worst.
I tell you these episodes of my family only as
of the many Catholic Germans who opposed the regime and suffered dire
for their faithfulness to the Church. My generation and those after me
have not known this time personally nor are we responsible for anything
that happened then. I am sure His Holiness, who was elected by an
College of Cardinals, will help convey to the world the message that no
nation should be the target of a collectively assigned culpability and
that we have to see the individual person and his personal value before
we condemn him for his national origin.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Germany is perhaps one
the most secularized countries in the world. The rates of church
are low, below 30 percent, and many Germans no longer value the three
Kinder, Küche, Kirche. Will Benedict XVI make a difference?
Msgr. Schmitz: Europe as a whole is
to the point that its political authorities seem to be afraid to
the Christian roots of its civilization. This behavior could be
to a child denying his mother in her very presence.
As a matter of fact, Germany suffers from this
even more because of the historical influence of liberal Protestantism,
which has long since lost its religious meaning but still dominates the
political atmosphere with its consequences. The link between Church and
State in Germany seems to sometimes foster a certain ecclesiastical
to this atmosphere, even by some of the hierarchal authorities. Instead
of emphasizing a Catholic identity in front of the State, like in
for instance, many representatives of the Church in Germany have chosen
to act more like state officials than as clergy.
This secularized view of the their own position is
obvious in the theological faculties in the state universities whose
lately has contributed quite a bit to the image of the German
world as coldly opposed to the Holy See and critical even of the
doctrines of the Catholic faith. The Church in Germany has been
to a "frozen giant". Too much self-centeredness and interminable
discussions about the same old "modern questions" have paralyzed
life in Germany, which seems to be afraid of its own quite glorious
Pope Benedict XVI, with his deep theological
and his awesome intellectual qualities, has already answered many of
theological discussions in the past and will now contribute by his
Papal presence in giving to the Church in Germany what he has defined
two qualities of the universal Church of today: "life and youth"!
IgnatiusInsight.com: It appears the first
Pope Benedict XVI will leave Italy, he will travel to Cologne, Germany,
for World Youth Day. What do you think the possible effect will be?
Msgr. Schmitz: His much-expected visit to
Youth Day will be like an oxygen mask to the Church in Germany. The
on St. Peter’s Square during the beginning of his ministry clearly
that he knows how to speak to the world’s youth. His long experience as
a university professor has given him all the skills necessary to
the attention of his youthful audience. He does not need to be taught
others how to speak to the youth and how to convey to them the great
of the love of Christ.
The entire life of His Holiness has been dedicated
this task, and the large number of his academic pupils, followers, and
admirers reveals the force of his intellect and the charism of his
strengthened now and magnified by the office he has received from the
I am sure that he will not only continue the apostolate for the youth
by John Paul II but that he will add to it a new direction of
depth and clear religious instruction after the example of Venerable
XII and Blessed John XXIII, who also were "youthful popes".
IgnatiusInsight.com: Americans statistically
German heritage perhaps more than any other nationality. How might this
pope’s relations to America and the English-speaking world in general
from Pope John Paul II?
Msgr. Schmitz: Since I have been in America,
have had the personal experience of a strong German presence in
culture. Names, habits, even religious devotions still show the German
roots of large parts of the population.
The Papacy is above all national heritage, and the
of the Roman Pontiff as Vicar of Christ on earth and successor of St.
as Bishop of Rome really is on a universal scale. However, I am
that the love for Germany and its history at its best, which I have
in the United States, will help German-rooted Americans to strengthen
link to the Papacy during this pontificate. The fact that we have a
pope and that Americans like Bavarian customs, not to speak of
and Bavarian beer, will again facilitate a personal link to the great
on the Papal throne because he is a real son of Bavaria.
On a much higher level, though, most of the American
share with their German fellow believers an ancestral love for the Holy
See and a filial devotion toward the Holy Father. Above all useless
of the past forty years, this "Romanity" has survived and every day
unite the Church in America more to the Roman Pontiff actually
by this great intellectual but humanly sympathetic and modest pope
IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you have any other
that you would like to share?
Msgr. Schmitz: The choice of the name
by the present pope appeals to us as very familiar because St. Benedict
and his rule and contribution to Catholic culture are dear to us. The
meetings we have had with the former Cardinal Ratzinger have also
us emotionally to this fine and holy clergyman.
Our Prior General, Msgr. Wach, the Sisters of our
female branch, and I were present on St. Peter’s Square during the
of the beginning of the Papal ministry. Humanly, theologically, and as
faithful, we experienced a unique moment in history, which has
even more the link of our Institute to the Papacy, to which we have
always faithful. The way Pope Benedict XVI fills the highest office
God can bestow on a human being here on earth shows that Christ is
present in His Church and does not leave Her alone in a situation of
Many hopes are now put on the present Pontiff, who has to govern the
in difficult times and is well aware of many different sensibilities.
Instead of asking him to fulfill immediately our
expectations, which may well be limited and partial, we should follow
urgent invitation to pray for him to our Blessed Lord in the Holy
and to our Blessed Mother who is so dear to him. This is not the hour
demanding quick solutions but the hour of prayer, respect, and
toward the Holy Father. If we keep near to him and implore heavenly
for him, the Lord of the Church will certainly give His Vicar all the
and strength necessary to govern His flock.
My Friend, Benedict XVI
An Interview with Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ
These are Father Joseph Fessio’s answers to a series
questions posed by IgnatiusInsight.com's Valerie Schmalz about Pope
XVI. They were answered on April 21, 2005, before Father Fessio got on
an airplane to fly to Rome for the formal installation of Pope Benedict
You have a long-standing relationship with Pope
XVI. Can you describe when you first met him?
Father Fessio: I first met Fr. Joseph
when I arrived in Regensburg, (then West Germany) in the fall of 1972.
I began my doctoral studies there and he was my doctoral director.
How that happened is a story in itself. I had begun
theological studies in France at the Jesuit Theologate in Lyons. There
I was befriended by Fr. Henri de Lubac, S.J., a wonderful man of the
and a renowned theologian. When the time came for me to decide upon the
subject for a doctorate I asked his advice. He immediately told me that
I should do my doctorate on Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar whom he
one of the greatest theologians of the era, if not all time. When I
him where I should do it he immediately said, “Go to Regensburg and do
it under Fr. Joseph Ratzinger; he’s a fine young theologian.” Fr. de
graciously wrote to Fr. Ratzinger on my behalf and Fr. Ratzinger who
not accepting many new graduate students since he had so many already,
accepted Fr. de Lubac’s recommendation.
Joseph Ratzinger was then as he is now, a very quiet
gracious person, always willing to listen; but when he speaks, he
with great clarity and depth of understanding. Even then one felt a
because of his goodness, his openness, and his wisdom.
How has your relationship continued through the
Father Fessio: The doctoral students of
Ratzinger once they had received their doctorates, found a Schulerkreis
(or student circle) that had yearly meetings. Those meetings were
two to three days long, held at a monastery, and had a specific
topic and one or two invited speakers. We celebrated Mass together, ate
together, listened to lectures and discussed them together. In the
we would often sit around a table and have conversation accompanied by
glasses of white wine.
In the period 1987-1989, four priests, working with
then Cardinal Ratzinger, planned and established the Association de
Speyr, von Balthasar whose main work was a house of formation in Rome
Casa Balthasar. The four priests were Fr. Jacques Servais, S.J. another
Jesuit who remains rector of Casa Balthasar, Fr. Mark Ouellet who is
the Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec, Fr. Christoph Schönborn, OP who
is now the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna and myself. (Jesuits are by
required neither to seek nor to accept ecclesiastical preferment. Fr.
and I did not seek any nor were any offered us!) Once Casa Balthasar
established, in 1989, we all met once a year to review the progress and
plan the coming year. This gave us an opportunity to spend some time
Cardinal Ratzinger who would come to Casa Balthasar for a meeting,
and recreation after dinner. I also had the occasion to visit him in
apartment or in his office a number of times throughout the years.
How did you choose to publish his works and
did he choose Ignatius Press to publish so many of his works in English
Father Fessio: Ignatius Press was begun in
with our first books published in 1979. The original intent was to make
available in English the works of the great contemporary Catholic
of Europe. We began with Louis Bouyer and Hans Urs von Balthasar. We
added Cardinal Ratzinger to our list of authors. He very graciously
Ignatius Press as his English language publisher.
What is the impact of Urs von Balthasar on the
Father Fessio: The reason Fr. de Lubac
me towards Fr. Ratzinger to do my dissertation on von Balthasar was
Fr. Ratzinger was both a personal friend and a student of the works of
von Balthasar. Certainly von Balthasar has had a profound effect on
Benedict just as he has on any one who has spent time studying his
and rich corpus.
Which of his works would you recommend to
wondering about the direction of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy?
Father Fessio: For those who would like an
of the direction of this new papacy, I would recommend starting with
Ratzinger Report. It was an interview he gave to Vittorio Messori in
Cardinal Ratzinger comments very openly there on the strength and
of the Church at that time. Not too much has changed except for the
in enthusiasm generated by the vibrant papacy of John Paul II; the
What is Pope Benedict XVI like as a person?
about his reputation as an “enforcer” ?
Father Fessio: As a person, Pope Benedict is
kind, gracious, soft-spoken, with an ever-present sense of humor and a
twinkle in his eye. I’ve never heard him express anger or raise his
He listens very attentively to people and while clear and firm in his
of the truths of the Catholic Faith, he always speaks or writes with
courtesy and respect. He has a reputation as an enforcer because he had
that task assigned to him. Even in treating dissident theologians, he
always open and fair, thorough and objective. Although there are still
lingering complaints about the “secrecy” of the Congregation for the
of the Faith, there is simply no basis for that. The Congregation has
with complete transparency. I can’t think of anyone in the Vatican who
has been more open to being interviewed or being questioned on any
than Cardinal Ratzinger. Of course, when he is obliged to tell someone
who considers himself a Catholic of good standing that what that person
is teaching or advocating is incompatible with Catholic truth, that is
often not well received. In trying to explain the hostility toward
Ratzinger, I can only think that it is a projection of the anger of
who are being corrected upon the one who has to administer the
Comparisons will be inevitable with Pope John
II. Would you venture a comparison and a few thoughts on the
between then-Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II?
Father Fessio: Certainly Pope Benedict and
John Paul II were the closest of collaborators. Pope John Paul II
Cardinal Ratzinger to Rome in 1981 to lead the Congregation for the
of the Faith and he stayed there until he was elected Pope in 2005. No
other prefect of a Vatican congregation has stayed so long in the same
position. It was customary that Ratzinger would see the Holy Father
a week to discuss whatever matters were important at that time.
They both have “charisma” but of different sorts.
John Paul II was an actor on the world’s stage, very outgoing and with
a personal magnetism that was palpable. But Pope Benedict, while
and more serene in his demeanor, also has a warmth and a presence which
all those who have come into contact with him have remarked. I think
John Paul II, especially in his prophetic role, proclaimed Christ to
whole world. Pope Benedict will do the same but I believe he will turn
his attention more towards the Church hierarchy. Just as St. Benedict
his monasteries penetrated and informed a rising Christian civilization
in Europe, Pope Benedict will focus on the celebration of the Holy
on solemn and properly celebrated liturgies, so that the Church herself
will be better able to go forth into the world and be a light to the
Why do you think Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen so
Father Fessio: I can only speculate on why
was chosen so quickly but I do think that the following elements had a
role to play. In the synod which elected John Paul II in 1978, all or
all of the cardinals hand ample opportunity to get to know each other
the four years of the Second Vatican Council which ran from 1962-1965.
Therefore they had a much better personal knowledge of their peers.
with the expansion of the College of Cardinals, and with the emphasis
new cardinals in far-flung parts of the world, I think it’s true that
into the conclave most of the cardinals did not know most of the other
cardinals. In such an important decision, I doubt that anyone,
someone with experience in administration, would want to elect someone
who was not well known to him. Since cardinals get to know each other
they come together, and that’s normally done in Rome, obviously
who are living in Rome or near Rome, and those visiting often in Rome
as those in Italy and in Western Europe would know each other better.
also have more access to each other’s writings. For these reasons I
that the most likely candidates were in those groups.
But Cardinal Ratzinger was certainly the best known
the cardinals. He was older and he had published many books, spoken
the world, and acted in a very public way as Prefect of the
for the Doctrine of the Divine Faith. He was also extremely respected
by those who disagreed with him. So, while there was much suspense
the conclave, now that the choice has been made, it almost seems like
was a necessity. Despite the fact that there were cardinals with
qualifications, there really was no one that had his depth of knowledge
and experience, including experience with the Curial offices of the
Critics have said that Benedict XVI is “backward
instead of “forward looking” and that he is at heart opposed to the
Second Vatican Council. How would you respond to that charge?
Father Fessio: Every Pope, and every
must be both backward-looking and forward-looking. The truths of the
Church are God’s message entrusted to fallible human beings by God
through his Son Jesus Christ. Our task is to receive that message and
it, appropriate it, explain it, defend it and then pass it on intact.
Paul II did that. Cardinal Ratzinger did that, as Prefect of the
for the Doctrine of the Faith, and I have no doubt that Pope Benedict
will do the same. As for the Vatican Council, Pope Benedict was a
peritus or advisor for the Council and was very influential at the
he’s one of its architects. And he made it very clear in his first
statement as pope the day after he was elected that he fully supports
Second Vatican Council. He says powerfully: “I too declare, as I start
in the service that is proper to the successor to Peter, wish to affirm
with force my decided will to pursue to the commitment to enact
Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful
with the millennia-old tradition of the Church [duorum milium
This is a statement typical of Cardinal Ratzinger. He affirms in
terms that he is a pope of the Council. But he also says that he is
to pursue its implementation. The implication is that the Council has
been or at least has not been fully implemented yet. Further, he
he will implement the Council in continuity with the tradition. A clear
statement that he does not read the Council as a break with tradition
as an extension of tradition.
To those wondering about the spiritual life of
new pope, do you have any insights? Does he have any particular
to Mary, any other saints?
Father Fessio: The Cardinal was born on Holy
and was brought by his parents to the parish church and baptized at the
Easter Vigil Mass. So he was born both naturally and supernaturally in
the midst of the great Paschal Mystery of the Church. I’ve heard him
very candidly that his life has been liturgical from the beginning;
he always feels nourished by the celebration of the Mass and the
of the Divine Office. He admired his fellow theologian von Balthasar
promoting kniende Theologie (kneeling theology) and his works could not
have been produced by a man who was not a man of deep personal prayer.
His devotions are Catholic devotions, to the saints, but particularly
St. Joseph his patron, and of course to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Do you know what his favorite foods are? What
his favorite music?
Father Fessio: I don’t know what his favorite
are but Mozart is his favorite composer. While he leads a simple life,
he’s a Bavarian who enjoys a good meal, and he does love to listen to
music. He also plays the piano.
Do you have any personal stories about the new
you can share with us?
Father Fessio: There are many stories I could
but let one suffice. He was asked by a very skeptical and agnostic
Peter Seewald for a book-length interview. The cardinal, generous as
agreed to this and made himself available to answer all his questions,
even the most hostile ones. After that experience – the results of
were published as The Salt of the Earth – Peter Seewald became a
Later he did another book-length interview which became God and the
The man sarcastically called God’s rotweiler or the panzer kardinal is
a man who in real life can touch the hearts of the most hardened
He has given his life and all his gifts to the service of the Lord and
the Church. And when he speaks he speaks with a power that comes from
him but that works marvelously through him.