- The First Three Months of Benedict XVI: New Pope, New Style, by Sandro Magister. www.chiesa July 25, 2005, offering an appraisal of the Holy Father's pontificate thus far, with attention to those who criticize him as "an enemy of modernity" as well as the Father's ability to "captivate the crowd" in a new way:The same masses of the faithful that applauded the gestures or striking phrases of pope Karol Wojtyla, while almost completely missing what it was that he was talking about, are doing the opposite with the new pope. They follow Ratzinger's homilies word for word, from beginning to end, with an attentiveness that astonishes the experts. Verifying this takes nothing more than mingling among the crowds in attendance at a Mass celebrated by the pope.
The new pope's style is sober in terms of his contact with the masses. His symbolic expressiveness comes entirely from the liturgy, which he celebrates with a great sense of authority. But apart from the Masses, catecheses, and blessings, Benedict XVI is a minimalist. "The pope must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word," he said when taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on May 7. And he keeps to this standard even in regard to public gestures. He does very little of his own. He wants the faithful to pay attention to what is essential, which is not his own person but Jesus Christ alive and present in the sacraments of the Church.
- Via Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex -- what a great name for a blog! -- comes Benedict XVI, Vatican II and Modernity July 24, 2005. A Zenit interview with Tracey Rowland, dean and permanent fellow of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family - Melbourne and author of "Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (Routledge, 2003), on the Holy Father's role in the Second Vatican Council ("I don't think that the Council changed his views so much as his views shaped the Council") and the Church's role and its relationship to "the world":Contrary to popular perceptions, his Augustinian spirituality does not mean that he is against the world or that he believes that Catholics should crawl into ghettos.
What it does mean is that he is no Pelagian. He doesn't think that with sufficient education the New Jerusalem can be built on earth. Civics education alone, lectures on human rights, exhortations about 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 world. This was the conclusion of his fellow peritus Henri de Lubac, and Benedict has made some very strong statements against the pretensions of a mere secular humanism.
Moreover, while he is not advocating a retreat from the world, he has exhorted Catholics to rediscover with evangelical seriousness the courage of nonconformism in the face of the social trends of the affluent world.
He has said that we ought to have the courage to rise 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 world.
(Here is Part II of the interview with Dr. Rowland).
- There are some affinities between Rowland's perception of Benedict and that of Fr. Komonchak's sketch of Pope Benedict's Augistinian, or Bonoventurian, perspective (The Church in Crisis: Pope Benedict's Theological Vision, Commonweal June 3, 2005 / Volume CXXXII, Number 11).
According to Komonchak:"Much has been made of his experience of student unrest at the University of Tübingen in 1968. Many see that experience as the best explanation of the apparent intellectual about-face that turned the young progressive theologian of the Second Vatican Council into the poster-child of conservative reaction in theology and in church politics. There is something to this, and Joseph Ratzinger was not the only European intellectual to have been deeply affected by the excesses of the fascists of the left at the time. (We all know the definition of a neoconservative: a liberal who's been mugged.)
But overemphasizing that Tübingen experience may lead one to overlook the deeper continuity in the new pope's basic theological approach and vision. . . .
Komonchak describes Benedict's perspective as a "Bonaventuran" theological vision, presenting "the Christian message as the only truly liberating force" over and against "contemporary philosophy or the human and natural sciences," sharply critical of post-Vatican II theology which had "lost its critical distance and has become a handmaiden of the various forms of positivism":. . . In Ratzinger's writings, there are very few positive references to intellectual developments outside the church; they almost always appear as antithetical to the specifically Christian. There are no cultural or social pierres d'attente. Instead, dichotomies abound, contrasts between the Christian notions of truth, freedom, nature and those current in Western culture. The faith must be presented as countercultural, as an appeal to nonconformity. It can appeal to the widespread sense of disillusion to what modernity has promised but been unable to deliver. It will make its appeal by presenting the Christian vision in its synthetic totality as a comprehensive structure of meaning that at nearly every point breaks with the taken-for-granted attitudes, strategies, and habits of contemporary culture. The gospel will save us, not philosophy, not science, and not scientific theology. The great model for this enterprise is the effort to preach the gospel in the alien world of antiquity and to construct the vision of Christian wisdom manifest in the great ages of faith before philosophy, science, and technology separated themselves into autonomous areas of reflection and activity.
One can tell where this is headed. In the latter part of his article, Komonchak portrays then-Cardinal Ratzinger's role as Prefect of the CDF as one in staunch opposition to and suppression of "theological pluralism", academic freedom and a progressive "dialogue with the world." In a condescending reproach, he expresses the hope that with his ascension to the chair of Peter he might "recognize that the necessary proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ will include moments for listening . . . to others -- of different minds and different approaches -- within the household of the faith."
Thankfully, a well-deserved and substantial critique of Fr. Komonchak's article is penned by Jamie Blosser at Ad Limina Apostolorum, budding patristics scholar at Catholic University of America and himself an "inveterate Augustinian."
- On the eve of the feast of St. Benedict (July 11, 2005); Pope Benedict devoted his weekly Angelus address to his namesake, St. Benedict of Norcia (480-547):. . . here is a particular aspect of his spirituality, which today I would particularly like to underline. Benedict did not found a monastic institution oriented primarily to the evangelization of barbarian peoples, as other great missionary monks of the time, but indicated to his followers that the fundamental, and even more, the sole objective of existence is the search for God: "Quaerere Deum."
He knew, however, that when the believer enters into a profound relationship with God he cannot be content with living in a mediocre way, with a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity. In this light, one understands better the expression that Benedict took from St. Cyprian and that is summarized in his Rule (IV, 21) -- the monks' program of life: "Nihil amori Christi praeponere." "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ."
Holiness consists in this valid proposal for every Christian that has become a true pastoral imperative in our time, in which one perceives the need to anchor life and history in solid spiritual references.
A Sublime and perfect model of sanctity is Mary Most Holy, who lived in constant and profound communion with Christ. Let us invoke her intercession, together with that of St. Benedict, so that the Lord will multiply also in our time men and women who, through an enlightened faith, witnessed in life, will be in this new millennium salt of the earth and light of the world.
- Friend on High Gulfshore Life interviews Fr. Joseph Fessio on his friendship with Pope Benedict XVI, among other things:Q: Are people overreacting to his conservative stance?
A: I think some of the hostility [among Catholics] is projection. He has to tell people, "You can support women's reproductive rights if you want, but you can't be a Catholic in good standing." They get angry, and they project that anger back on him. He's not an angry man; he's serene. But he's serenely proclaiming controversial truths.
Q: Will there be any changes?
A: We have a creed, and that's not going to change. John Paul II knew he couldn't change the teachings -- he didn't want to -- so he changed the location. His travel was big news, but what he said was old news.
Q: How will he surprise people?
A: With the depth and richness and clarity of his intellect. The man is phenomenal -- and part of that is his capacity to listen.
(Via Curt Jester).
- From David Major Jones' la nouvelle théologie blog comes an excerpt from interview with Henri De Lubac (30 Giorni July 1985), in which the famous theologian offered his impressions on "the ['very public'] manner in which Cardinal Ratzinger conducts the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
- No Prophet In His Own Land: Reflections on Benedict XVI, Crisis July 4, 2005. Alice von Hildebrand reflects on what she believes is the largely cool reception Germany has given to the election of one of their own:One would have hoped that their response would mirror that of the Polish people when Karol Wojtyla became John Paul II, if only for purely nationalistic reasons. Nothing of the sort happened: "No one is a prophet in his own country" sadly applies in this case. The cool response of many Germans, and the outspoken antagonism of others, speak volumes for the state of Catholicism in the country that gave us Luther. . . .
According to Hildebrand, it was the Cardinal's post-1960's disillusionment with post-VII liberalism that led to his unpopularity among Germans:As His Eminence relates in his autobiography, Milestones (Ignatius, 1997), after Vatican II, he became conscious of the poison contained in some innovative theological ideas that were spreading like wildfire. Once in Bamberg in 1966, he gave a talk in which he articulated his concerns. Afterward, Julius Cardinal Döpfner expressed "his surprise at the conservative streak he thought he detected." Was he not recanting positions he had previously defended?
Having perceived the dead alleys into which some of the theses he'd previously endorsed were leading, the still-young theologian didn't hesitate to change course. From this moment on, his popularity declined.
She mentions as well then-Cardinal's clashes with prominent liberals Bishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz and Bishop Walter Kasper of Rottenberg-Stuttgart on various pastoral issues.
Mrs. Hildebrand goes on to praise the Holy Father for "accepting the cross of the papacy" and his courage in the face of the attacks that are sure to follow, recalling his Christlike patience in dealing with protestors at a 1988 talk in New York city (at the invitation of then-Lutheran Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus). She closes with a reflection on his choice of name and his views on the liturgy: "This is the pontiff whom the Holy Ghost has inspired weak and imperfect men to give us as the representative of Christ on this earth. A Te Deum and a Magnificat are called for."
- Reading Ratzinger. Amy Welborn reviews "the second long piece on Roman Catholicism that the New Yorker has run in recent months." The article itself is not available online, but judging by her comments it's probably not worth purchasing the magazine. Ah, well -- at least they made the effort. As Amy says, "What other secular magazine is attempting to take this moment seriously?"
- Chris Young designed this bumper sticker for his dad, and then had it printed in volume due to the popular response it received. If you'd like to get one for World Youth Day -- one of the many enjoyable traditions is the giving of gifts to pilgrims from other countries -- you can order them here. Price is $3.95 each (with postage of $1.50 for 1-2; $3.50 for 3-10; $5.50 for 11-20; etc.).
- It's summertime . . . meaning vacation . . . and here's Pope Benedict On the Value of Vacation: "Days in Which More Time Can Be Dedicated to Prayer" Zenit. Address before praying the midday Angelus with some 6,000 people gathered in the Alpine village of Les Combes, Italy. July 17, 2005. (Photographs from Benedict's vacation in Italy can be found on the Ratzinger Forum -- leave it to the fans to find the best)
- Amy Welborn (Open Book) blogs on the Pope Benedict's trip to Val Grisanche in the alpine region of Valle d'Aosta in northwest Italy, with photographs and excerpts from a meeting with journalists in which the Holy Father gave his opinion on the 7/7 London bombings.
- Planning on traveling to Europe yourself? Deutsche Welle reports that the Holy Father's native land has become something of a tourist spot, with the help of an Italian guidebook to Benedict's favorite haunts:Not content with providing guided tours of his current address, an Italian entrepreneur based in Germany has copied the business ideas of her Vatican-based cousins by compiling a guidebook to the pope's Bavaria.
Now with the help of the 152-page book "The Bavaria of Joseph Ratzinger; a practical guide to the origins of Benedict XVI", papal devotees can plan their vacations in the southern German state around the places where the pope lived, the churches where he celebrated Mass and his favorite places to eat.
The book, which also contains essential information such as where the young Joseph Ratzinger first raised a bierstein of Weizen, goes on sale this week in Italian bookstores."It's a different way to get to know this holy man, for Catholics and non-Catholics," Jeanne Perego, the Italian author, told reporters.
Back in April Deutsche Welle reported on Ratzinger's birthplace, the "sleepy village" of Marktl am Inn, now coping with the flood of tourists, journalists and pilgrims. The Charlotte Observer also reports on the increasing trend of Following in the pontiff's footsteps (July 24, 2003).
- "The Pope and the Pussycats", by Sandy Robins. MSNBC July 13, 2005:After weeks of speculation, the cat is out of the bag -- Pope Benedict XVI loves felines. It turns out that the pope is the proud owner of Chico, a black-and-white domestic short hair that lives at the pope's home in the Bavarian town of Tübingen, Germany.
Agnes Heindl, long-time housekeeper to the pope's brother, Father Georg Ratzinger, who lives in nearby Regensburg, told MSNBC.com that Chico is currently being looked after by the caretaker of the pope's private residence [due to regulations against pets in Vatican apartments].
Cat lovers rejoiced in the election of Pope Benedict. According to Vatican officials, the Holy Father's email address "has been swamped with messages from animal lovers asking for blessings and his prayers. Even in Rome his love for cats was well known:According to local news reports, the pope used to walk the streets of Borgo Pio, his former Roman neighborhood just east of the Vatican, where neighbors likened him to Dr. Dolittle with a Pied Piper charm. Stray cats would run to him when they saw him coming and he used to prepare food for them daily on special plates.
See the rest of the lengthy article for a look at the favorite pets of past popes and the "special place" felines have in the hearts of Italians.
- Getting our vote for the fluffiest reporting on the Holy Father to date: Pope may be turning into an icon . . . of fashion, by Martin Penner. Sunday Times July 16, 2005.
- Finally, why would Pope Benedict XVI's secretary Father Georg Ganswein send an Irish journalist living in Moscow a bottle of Old Bushmills Irish Whiskey and the note "His Holiness Remembers the Bet"? -- FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF. A truly delightful story and a testimony to the Holy Father's good humor.
Update: The downside to the internet - rumors travel fast. The upside: readers kind enough to engage in fact-checking. Etienne relays the following:Here ist the answer the German news agency send to me after contacting the Vatican about the story:
"Wie unsere Nachfrage beim Vatikan ergab, ist die Geschichte leider frei erfunden. Der in der Meldung genannte Sekretär des Papstes, Georg Gänswein, verwies darauf, dass der Papst strikter Alkohol-Abstinenzler sei. Er wäre also niemals eine Wette um Alkohol eingegangen, auch nicht als Kardinal."
I think a translation is not necessary. The story was denied by Fr. Georg Gänswein.