Month: March 2003

food for thought (from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

In his writings while in prison, Bonhoeffer once remarked that even the Christian must live today quasi Deus non daretur — as if there were no God. He must not involve God in the perplexities of his everyday life, but must assume responsibility for himself for the course of that life. Personally I would prefer to state this thought in exactly the opposite way: in practice, even one for whom the existence of God, the world of faith, has grown dim, should live today quasi Deus esset — as if God really exists. He should live subject to the reality of truth, which is not our creation, but our mistress. He should live under the standard of justice, which is not just a product of our own minds, but the norm by which we ourselves are measured. He should live subject to the love that awaits us and that loves even us. He should live under the challenge of eternity. In fact, one who consciously lets himself be formed by this concept will see that it is the only way by which the human race can be saved. God — and he alone — is our salvation. . . . And one who — even if perhaps at first only hesitantly — entrusts himself to this difficult yet inescapable as if, who lives as if there were a God, will become ever more aware that this as if is the only reality. He will percieve its justification, its inner strength. And he will know profoundly and indelibly why Christianity is still necessary today as the genuinely good news by which we are redeemed.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
From Co-Workers of the Truth
(Ignatius Press, 1992)

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In his writings while in prison, Bonhoeffer once remarked that even the Christian must live today quasi Deus non daretur — as if there were no God. He must not involve God in the perplexities of his everyday life, but must assume responsibility for himself for the course of that life. Personally I would prefer to state this thought in exactly the opposite way: in practice, even one for whom the existence of God, the world of faith, has grown dim, should live today quasi Deus esset — as if God really exists. He should live subject to the reality of truth, which is not our creation, but our mistress. He should live under the standard of justice, which is not just a product of our own minds, but the norm by which we ourselves are measured. He should live subject to the love that awaits us and that loves even us. He should live under the challenge of eternity. In fact, one who consciously lets himself be formed by this concept will see that it is the only way by which the human race can be saved. God — and he alone — is our salvation. . . . And one who — even if perhaps at first only hesitantly — entrusts himself to this difficult yet inescapable as if, who lives as if there were a God, will become ever more aware that this as if is the only reality. He will percieve its justification, its inner strength. And he will know profoundly and indelibly why Christianity is still necessary today as the genuinely good news by which we are redeemed.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
From Co-Workers of the Truth
(Ignatius Press, 1992)

Recently I purchased Co-Workers of the Truth, an anthology of daily meditations by Cardinal Ratzinger, much of it derived from German texts and unpublished homilies from the 1970’s-80’s.

Powerful reading to begin the morning with. Here is an excerpt that has stuck with me for a while now:

I am always moved by those reports fron concentration camps and Russian prisons, where men were without the Eucharist for weeks and months at a time and did not look to themselves to provide it, but celebrated a Eucharist of desire. In such a Eucharist of desire, they were made ready in a new way for the Lord’s gift and received it anew whenever a priest was able to find somewhere a piece of bread and a little wine. It is in this frame of mind and with appropriate humility and patience that we should approach the question of intercommunion. Where unity does not exist, it is not for us to act as though it does exist. The Eucharist is never a means at our disposal; it is the gift of the Lord, the central mystery of the Church herself, which we cannot use as we will. Intercommunion is not a gesture of personal friendship, but of insisting on the unity of the one Church and of waiting humbly until God himself confers it. Instead of experimenting and robbing the mystery of its greatness and demeaning it to the status of a means in our hands, we, too, should learn to celebrate the Eucharist of desire, and, united in prayer and hope, to find unity with the Lord in a new way.

— Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Eucharistie – Mitt der Kirche, pp. 30ff.]

“When all is said and done, there are only two philosophies in life. One is first the feast, then the hangover; the other, first the fast and then the feast. Deferred joys purchased by sacrifices are always sweetest and most enduring.”

— Fulton J. Sheen

How much of a pacifist is the Pope?

  • Wall Street Journal editor William McGurn addresses characterizations of the Holy Father as a pacifist in a recent editorial (War No More?: How much of a pacifist is the pope?), and questions whether the Vatican’s current opposition to the war in Iraq reflects “not simply a disagreement over Iraq but a strain in John Paul’s thinking that sits uncomfortably with 1,500 years of Catholic teaching on the legitimate use to force”.

    Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, has stated that the classic just-war teaching of the Church may be headed the way of the death penalty, namely, that nations have recourse to alternatives to war that “make it all but impossible to justify in practice.” Such revisions to just-war doctrine, says McGurn, provokes further questions: “Namely, how President Bush can be held in breach of moral criteria that (a) are in the process of being radically revised and (b) really can’t be met anyhow.”

    Archbishop Martino characterized the American response to Iraq as replying with “bombs to a people that has been asking for bread for the last 12 years.” The Vatican role, by contrast, would be to play the “the Good Samaritan who kneels to tend the wounds of an injured, weak nation.”

    Which begs a question: If the biblical Good Samaritan had arrived on the scene a little earlier and stumbled on the robbers instead of their victim, what would have been his obligation?

  • Weekly news analysis from Zenit.org focuses on the issue of civilian casualties and moral principles, noting what has been readily apparent from the beginning: the sharp and increasing contrast between the efforts of the United States to minimize civilian casualties and the deplorable actions of Iraqi troops (using women & children as human shields, locating military sites next to (or in) schools & hospitals, etc.).

    Also demonstrating Iraqi’s notable lack of concern for civilian welfare are reports of Iraqi militia firing on fleeing civilians or those which imply a potential use of chemical weapons by Iraqi troops (which is sure to have an inevitable damage on civilian bystanders).

  • “How do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you realize those you were defending in fact did not want your defense and wanted something completely different from you and from the world?” — Thanks to Bill Cork for linking to the detailed testimony of Assyrian Christian minister Ken Joseph, Jr. — the “human shield” who changed his mind whom I referred to in an earlier post.
  • Finally, in what demonstrates the necessity of reading multiple sources of information on this conflict, a recent CNN story on alleged resurgence of Iraqi nationalism seems to be challenged by the following report from Essam Al-Ghalib, war correspondent for arabnews.com:

    When we finally made it to Safwan, Iraq, what we saw was utter chaos. Iraqi men, women and children were playing it up for the TV cameras, chanting: “With our blood, with our souls, we will die for you Saddam.”

    I took a young Iraqi man, 19, away from the cameras and asked him why they were all chanting that particular slogan, especially when humanitarian aid trucks marked with the insignia of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society, were distributing some much-needed food.

    His answer shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.

    He said: “There are people from Baath here reporting everything that goes on. There are cameras here recording our faces. If the Americans were to withdraw and everything were to return to the way it was before, we want to make sure that we survive the massacre that would follow as Baath go house to house killing anyone who voiced opposition to Saddam. In public, we always pledge our allegiance to Saddam, but in our hearts we feel something else.”

    Different versions of that very quote, but with a common theme, I would come to hear several times over the next three days I spent in Iraq. The people of Iraq are terrified of Saddam Hussein.

    “Terrified of Saddam Hussein”
    Sunday, March 30, 2003.

food for thought (from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)

Recently I purchased Co-Workers of the Truth, an anthology of daily meditations by Cardinal Ratzinger, much of it derived from German texts and unpublished homilies from the 1970’s-80’s.

Powerful reading to begin the morning with. Here is an excerpt that has stuck with me for a while now:

I am always moved by those reports fron concentration camps and Russian prisons, where men were without the Eucharist for weeks and months at a time and did not look to themselves to provide it, but celebrated a Eucharist of desire. In such a Eucharist of desire, they were made ready in a new way for the Lord’s gift and received it anew whenever a priest was able to find somewhere a piece of bread and a little wine. It is in this frame of mind and with appropriate humility and patience that we should approach the question of intercommunion. Where unity does not exist, it is not for us to act as though it does exist. The Eucharist is never a means at our disposal; it is the gift of the Lord, the central mystery of the Church herself, which we cannot use as we will. Intercommunion is not a gesture of personal friendship, but of insisting on the unity of the one Church and of waiting humbly until God himself confers it. Instead of experimenting and robbing the mystery of its greatness and demeaning it to the status of a means in our hands, we, too, should learn to celebrate the Eucharist of desire, and, united in prayer and hope, to find unity with the Lord in a new way.

— Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [Eucharistie – Mitt der Kirche, pp. 30ff.]

William McGurn: How much of a pacifist IS the Pope?

Wall Street Journal editor William McGurn addresses characterizations of the Holy Father as a pacifist in a recent editorial (War No More?: How much of a pacifist is the pope?), and questions whether the Vatican’s current opposition to the war in Iraq reflects “not simply a disagreement over Iraq but a strain in John Paul’s thinking that sits uncomfortably with 1,500 years of Catholic teaching on the legitimate use to force”.

Archbishop Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, has stated that the classic just-war teaching of the Church may be headed the way of the death penalty, namely, that nations have recourse to alternatives to war that “make it all but impossible to justify in practice.” Such revisions to just-war doctrine, says McGurn, provokes further questions: “Namely, how President Bush can be held in breach of moral criteria that (a) are in the process of being radically revised and (b) really can’t be met anyhow.”

Archbishop Martino characterized the American response to Iraq as replying with “bombs to a people that has been asking for bread for the last 12 years.” The Vatican role, by contrast, would be to play the “the Good Samaritan who kneels to tend the wounds of an injured, weak nation.”

Which begs a question: If the biblical Good Samaritan had arrived on the scene a little earlier and stumbled on the robbers instead of their victim, what would have been his obligation?