- The usual line of criticism is that it's The Church that's preoccupied with sex, or "the pelvic issues." Not so, according to John Allen Jr.:Earlier this week, headlines in the American press reported that Pope Benedict XVI had attacked gay marriage. Though the statement fell into the "Dog Bites Man" category of utterly predictable news, it nevertheless illustrates how any pronouncement by an official of the Catholic church on a sexual topic will draw attention.
One point perhaps worth noting: In his 48,978 words of teaching as of June 9, Benedict XVI had used the word "sex" exactly once, while the word "Africa," mostly in the context of an appeal for attention to the problems of Africa, appeared 11 times. It's no mystery which has been given greater prominence in the international press. . . .
From the news coverage, one could get the impression that Pope Benedict's statement was primarily "about" gay marriage, since that's all that was quoted. In fact, the line above was one sentence in a 3,000-word speech delivered at a convention on the family for the diocese of Rome. The broader theme was the Christian concept of the family.
- At audience, pope speaks on mobile phone, dons fire chief's helmet, by Cindy Wooden. (Catholic News Service June 15, 2005):A middle-aged man in a wheelchair, who was among dozens of people led up to the pope at the end of the audience, handed Pope Benedict a mobile phone and asked him to talk. The pope did so. . . .
[Italian News Agency] ANSA later interviewed the cell phone owner, Emilio Testa, and the 44-year-old nun with cancer, Sister Maria Cristina, a member of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist in Angri, Italy.
"When I heard his voice I could not believe it was Pope Ratzinger," the nun said. "I thought it was a dream, but instead it was real.
"He asked me how I was, he told me to stay calm and that he would pray for me," she said. "The most surprising thing was that he remembered my name. He kept calling me Sister Maria Cristina, almost like we already knew each other."
Testa told ANSA: "I knew how badly Sister Maria Cristina wanted to see the pope, but her health would not permit it. So when I saw the pontiff, I did not think twice. I got close, kissed his hand and, without pausing, asked him to pray for Sister Maria Cristina and perhaps say hello to her on the phone.
"The pontiff immediately said 'yes,' took my cell phone and, smiling, began to speak to her," Testa said.
"When it was all over, I started bawling like a baby. I realized that something extraordinary had just happened," he said. "I was happy because I knew that with that call Sister Maria Cristina's heart filled with joy."
- In Search of Freedom; Against Reason Fallen Ill and Religion Abused, on the 60th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy. It was initially published in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and was translated from the German by Jeffrey Craig Miller. Logos Vol. 4, Issue 2 (Spring 2005). The Holy Father addresses on a number of pertinent issues: "the breakdown of the sustaining power of law" and the rise of terrorism ("in order that force in the defense of law and right shall not be itself do wrong, it must subject itself to stringent measures. It must pay heed to the causes of terror, which so often has its source in standing injustice"); the relationship of Islam and the West ("what is it, the West? And what is Islam? Both are multi-layered worlds with great internal differences - worlds that, in many ways, also intersect. In this respect, the crude antithesis West-Islam, does not apply"), political order ("Christian belief - following in the way of Jesus - has negated the idea of political theocracy. It has - to express it in modern terms - produced the worldliness of states, wherein Christians along with the adherents of other convictions live together in peace"). As usual, a very provocative essay and one worth discussing at length. I'll probably return to it in a later post but wanted to note it for the benefit of my readers.
- Benedict XVI less conservative, more pastoral than expected: New pontiff warms to papacy, by Ann Rodgers. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 13, 2005.
- A friend noted recently in his email:Apropos of the compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in an interview in the April 2003 issue of 30 Giorni magazine, the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said that in some circles "there is a certain opposition to any attempt to 'crystallize' a doctrine in words, in the name of flexibility."
"The post-conciliar catechetical movement accentuated the anthropological aspect of the question and believed that, if a catechism is too doctrinal, it would be an impediment to the necessary dialogue with the man of today," the future Benedict XVI noted.
"We are convinced of the contrary," he said. "To dialogue well, it is necessary to know what we must talk about. It is necessary to know the essence of our faith. For this reason, today a catechism is more necessary than ever."
As a veteran fighter of the liberal catechetical establishment in Australia, to hear words like that are music to one's ears. For so long the conventional wisdom here has been "Don't teach the kids doctrine, but good Christian living". Yeah, but orthopraxis proceeds from orthodoxy. How wonderful that the man who uttered the highlighted words is now the pope, and shared our concerns.
- A new book by Cardinal Ratzinger entitled The Europe of Benedict: In the Crisis of Cultures was published this past week in Italy, according to Catholic World News ("Pope's new book affirms Europe's Christian roots" June 22, 2005). The book was introduced in Rome on June 21, at a press conference chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for the Rome diocese, who discussed the themes of the book:Cardinal Ruini, in introducing the book, told reporters that Pope discussed "the fundamental points of European culture in relation to Christianity," adding that the faith remains a dominant formative influence on European society.
The ties between Europe and the faith, the cardinal continued, "today are at risk of being broken, not by accident" but through the influence of an aggressive secularism. Cardinal Ruini spoke of an ideology which believes that "God does not exist, or at least doees not have to be accepted, and thus no reference to Him can be made in public life."
The Italian prelate added that in the book, Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger appeals to lay Catholics to combat the spread of that ideology, and to "orient their lives as if God exists.
The three speeches contained in the Pope's new book are "What it Means to Believe," delivered in 1992 at Bassano del Grappa, Italy; a talk on "The Right to Life in Europe," delivered at a pro-life conference in 1997; and a speech on "The Crisis of Cultures," delivered on April 1 of this year-- the eve of the death of Pope John Paul II at Subiacco, where St. Benedict founded his first monastery in the 6th century, as Cardinal Ratzinger received the "St. Benedict for Europe" prize.
Catholic News reports that "shortly after his election, the Pope assigned all the rights to his works to the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana" -- I'm curious as to how this affects the Pope's relationship with Ignatius Press, which was the authorized translator / publisher of the Holy Father's books in English?
- On the subject of books, Zenit News Service interviewed Ave Maria University's Father Matthew Lamb, discussing Joseph Ratzinger's "Primer on Ecclesiology": Called to Communion -- Part I ; Part 2. June 23/24, 2005.
- Finally, for all the clubbers out there, Jamie McMorrin gives us Pope Benedict XVI: The Dance Mix - "a re-mix of the announcement from that glorious day when our Holy Father ascended the throne of Peter." =)