Month: April 2005

Greg Mockeridge, I. Shawn McElhinney on "Legitimate Diversity of Opinion"

The late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said that not even one hundred people hate the Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Catholic Church is. Undoubtedly, the actions of Catholics themselves have helped create many of these misconceptions. One way such a misunderstanding can be created is to distort the difference between doctrinal imperatives and disciplinary requirements with that of prudential judgments. Those Catholics who make such distortions often ascribe magisterial status to their own opinions and cast aspersions on the fidelity of those who express contrary views. It doesn’t matter whether or not those contrary views are well within the diversity of opinion enjoyed by loyal Catholics. Some of the most common issues where this kind of misunderstanding is perpetrated are waging a just war, application of the death penalty, and economic justice. . . .

Thus begins a “must-read” guest-editorial by Greg Mockeridge, with additional commentary by I. Shawn McElhinney at Rerum Novarum, about which I’d like to express a few thoughts.

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The point of Greg’s debate is a simple one, a matter of common sense, but lost on some parties to such a degree that it bears reiterating:

One may have legitimate differences of opinion over the war in Iraq, the application of capital punishment, and various economic policies.

One may also marshal the support of the Holy Father’s encyclicals and the vast body of Catholic tradition in the defense of one’s position on these matters. A good illustration here being the ongoing debate between what David L. Jones describes as “Whig Thomists & Augustinian Thomists” over the compatibility of Catholic Christianity with “the American experiment,” or liberal democracy. (The focus of RFC-affiliate website The Church & the Liberal Tradition).

But so long as the Church has not spoken authoritatively on these matters — so long as these issues, however controversial they may be, remain in the area of prudential judgement, about which one may have a “legitimate diversity of opinion” — one may indeed respectfully disagree with a fellow Catholic, or priest, or Bishop, or even the Pope for that matter — and yet remain squarely within the bounds of Catholic orthodoxy.

  • It was for this reason that I challenged the Zwicks for their hatchet job on Michael Novak, Fr. Neuhaus and Cardinal Avery Dulles in the pages of the Houston Catholic Worker (Against The Grain August 19, 2003); and likewise countered the suggestion of a reader that I “follow Ratzinger’s lead” with respect to the war in Iraq and my interest in “the neocons” (Against The Grain Nov. 18, 2003).
  • It was for this reason that Russel Shaw, even as he himself opposed the war in Iraq, defended the right of his fellow Catholics to disagree with the Holy See on the matter — without being unjustly tarred with the label of “dissenter” (Iraq, Weigel and the Pope Catholic Exchange, March 31, 2003):

    Given the limits of human knowledge, even prudential judgments by prudent people can be mistaken. In the present instance, the pope and Catholics who differed with him – conscientious and informed people like Novak, Weigel and Hudson – based their stands on an assessment of likely consequences of different courses of action. Since the assessments of what was more or less likely to happen in the future were different, so were the conclusions about what course of action to take.

    To disagree with the pope in this manner is not dissent. It’s not as if Pope John Paul II had taught a definitive moral principle (e.g., direct attacks on noncombatants are ruled out) which the disagreeing Catholics rejected. They agreed with the principle. They disagreed about something contingent and by no means certain: what the future outcome of complex, competing scenarios was likely to be.

  • It was for this reason that Archbishop John Meyers recognized the right of Catholics to disagree over the war, while pointing out other fundamental moral issues which do not allow for differences (“Pro-choice candidates and church teaching” Wall Street Journal Sept. 17, 2004):

    . . . Consider, for example, the war in Iraq. Although Pope John Paul II pleaded for an alternative to the use of military force to meet the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, he did not bind the conscience of Catholics to agree with his judgment on the matter, nor did he say that it would be morally wrong for Catholic soldiers to participate in the war. In line with the teaching of the catechism on “just war,” he recognized that a final judgment of prudence as to the necessity of military force rests with statesmen, not with ecclesiastical leaders. Catholics may, in good conscience, support the use of force in Iraq or oppose it.
  • And, it was for this reason that our Holy Father, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarified the areas of “legitimate diversity of opinion” in addressing the proper conditions for the reception of communion (“Worthiness To Receive Commmunion: General Principles paragraph 3).

Greg’s editorial, and I. Shawn McElhinney’s commentary, address the excessive speech and grave distortions of one particular member of our online Catholic community, Stephen Hand of TCRNews, who appears “unable or unwilling to engage in any substantive discussion” on these issues, forgoing “passionate, intelligent and charitable dialogue and debate” to instead engage in deliberate misrepresentation and calumnious attacks of a nature that mimic the very ‘radtrads’ he had so deftly criticized in the past. As Greg observes:

. . . he dogmatized his opinions on these issues to the extent of maligning those who hold different views within legitimate Catholic parameters, while those same individuals have gladly extended to him the same courtesy that he has so viciously tried to deny them.

I would note here that Stephen Hand is one who I have offered qualified praised in years past, and whom I regard as a friend and comrade in this loose-knit online Catholic community.

And, as friends are sometimes called to correct each other with respect and charity, I trust that Stephen will give due consideration to the concerns expressed by Greg and I. Shawn McElhinney at Rerum Novarum.

As Stephen said himself in TCRNews’ Mission Statement:

“We are partisan to the Church’s Magisterium alone and respect truth wherever it is found. With the Church, and subject to her correction, we seek to transcend the old polarities of right and left, whether political or theological, knowing that the Church both conserves and develops in time. In point of fact there are no “conservatives,” “liberals,” or “traditionalists,” there are only those who obey the living magisterium of the Church, which alone may interpret the scriptures and the Church’s tradition—and, alas, those who do not.

It is true that where the Church has ruled formally and authoritatively, she brooks no dissent. (Incidentally, this was the point raised by Catholic Answers in its recognition of “non-negotiable” moral issues (Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics) which should be taken into consideration when voting for a presidential candidate).

But, as Greg points out, there are other indeed issues for which the Catechism and the Holy Father allow for legitimate differences of opinion. Like it or not, the issues mentioned by Greg — capital punishment, the war in Iraq and the WOT, and economics — fall within this area. And in such cases we best be cautious in our posts — lest we assert our own interpretations as if they were on par with, and carried the weight of, the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium.


Pope Benedict XVI and the Jews

With great affection I also greet all those who have been reborn in the sacrament of Baptism but are not yet in full communion with us; and you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God’s irrevocable promises.

Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Mass Homily April 24, 2005.* * *While the harpies of the press and disgruntled remnants of heterodox factions are doing their best to fan the flames of controversy over the Cardinal’s brief stint in the Hitler Youth — rather a non-issue after a careful review of the facts — a few people have actually raised the genuine inquiry: what does Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, actually think about the Jewish people?

Over the course of his life, as a Catholic theologian as well as in his formal capacity as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Father has written on the Church’s relationship to the Jewish people. Following is, to the best of my memory, an overview of the ‘highlights’. (To those for whom much of this is a recap of earlier discussions, my apologies).

‘Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations’ (1998)

Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations Communio 25, no. 1 (1998): 29-41. [.pdf format]; HTML Version. Produced for a session of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Paris, this essay was published in Communio and was republished in Many Religions, One Covenant. The piece is chiefly devoted to the matter of interreligious dialogue and various approaches to the world’s religions — such as the sublimination of theistic religions into a transcendental, mystical model; the pragmatic approach, which prioritizes orthopracy over dogma and “interminable wrangling over truth” — pointing out their strengths and deficiencies. In the latter part of the essay, Cardinal Ratzinger notes that beyond the superficial opposition of the “Old” to “New” Testament, “the primal fact is that through Christ Israel’s Bible came to the non-Jews and became their Bible,” bringing Jews and Gentiles together. Furthermore:

“Even if Israel cannot join Christians in seeing Jesus as the Son of God,it is not altogether impossible for Israel to recognize him as the servant of God who brings the light of his God to the nations.” The converse is also true: even if Christians wish that Israel might one day recognize Christ as the Son of God and that the fissure that still divides them might thereby be closed, they ought to acknowledge the decree of God, who has obviously entrusted Israel with a distinctive mission in the “time of the Gentiles.” The Fathers define this mission in the following way: the Jews must remain as the first proprietors of Holy Scripture with respect to us, in order to establish a testimony to the world. But what is the tenor of this testimony? . . . I think we could say that two things are essential to Israel’s faith. The first is the Torah, commitment to God’s will, and thus the establishment of his dominion, his kingdom, in this world. The second is the prospect of hope, the expectation of the Messiah — the expectation, indeed, the certainty, that God himself will enter into this history and create justice, which we can only approximate very imperfectly. The three dimensions of time are thus connected: obedience to God’s will bears on an already spoken word that now exists in history and at each new moment has to be made present again in obedience. This obedience, which makes present a bit of God’s justice in time, is oriented toward a future when God will gather up the fragments of time and usher them as a whole into his justice.

Christianity does not give up this basic configuration. The trinity of faith, hope, and love corresponds in a certain respect to the three dimensions of time: the obedience of faith takes the word that comes from eternity and is spoken in history and transforms it into love, into presence, and in this way opens the door to hope. It is characteristic of the Christian faith that all three dimensions are contained and sustained in the figure of Christ, who also introduces them into eternity. In him, time and eternity exist together, and the infinite gulf between God and man is bridged. For Christ is the one who came to us without therefore ceasing to be with the Father; he is present in the believing community, and yet at the same time is still the one who is coming. The Church too awaits the Messiah. She already knows him, yet he has still to reveal his glory. Obedience and promise belong together for the Christian faith, too. For Christians, Christ is the present Sinai, the living Torah that lays its obligations on us, that bindingly commands us, but that in so doing draws us into the broad space of love and its inexhaustible possibilities. In this way, Christ guarantees hope in the God who does not let history sink into a meaningless past, but rather sustains it and brings it to its goal. It likewise follows from this that the figure of Christ simultaneously unites and divides Israel and the Church: it is not in our power to overcome this division, but it keeps us together on the way to what is coming and for this reason must not become an enmity.

“Reconciling Gospel & Torah: The Catechism” (1994)

“Reconciling Gospel & Torah: The Catechism”. This essay was originally written for a Jewish-Christian encounter in Jerusalem in February 1994 and was republished in various forms, including the first section of Many Religions, One Covenant. Ratzinger asks the question: “Can Christian faith, left in its inner power and dignity, not only tolerate Judaism but accept it in its historic mission? Or can it not? Can there be true reconciliation without abandoning the faith, or is reconciliation tied to such abandonment?” — framing his answer in light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches:

The mission of Jesus consists in leading the histories of the nations in the community of the history of Abraham, in the history of Israel. His mission is unification, reconciliation, as the Letter to the Ephesians (2:18-22) will then present it. The history of Israel should become the history of all, Abraham’s sonship become extended to the ‘many.’ This course of events has two aspects to it: The nations can enter into the community of the promises of Israel in entering into the community of the one God who now becomes and must become the way of all because there is only one God and because his will is therefore truth for all. Conversely, this means that all nations, without the abolishment of the special mission of Israel, become brothers and receivers of the promises of the chosen people; they become people of God with Israel through adherence to the will of God and through acceptance of the Davidic kingdom.

During the course of this essay Ratzinger takes a stand against the “superficial polemics” of anti-Jewish biblical hermeneutics, objecting to “crass contrasts [which] have become a cliché in modern and liberal descriptions where Pharisees and priests are portrayed as the representatives of a hardened legalism, as representatives of the eternal law of the establishment presided over by religious and political authorities who hinder freedom and live from the oppression of others.”

“Where the conflict between Jesus and the Judaism of his time is presented in a superficial, polemical way,” says Ratzinger, “a concept of liberation is derived which can understand the Torah only as a slavery to external rites and observances.” Such an antinomian portrayal of Jesus are in no way part of the Catechism, whose presentation of Judaism is derived from St. Matthew and presents “a deep unity between the good news of Jesus and the message of Sinai.”

Citing paragraph # 1968 of the Catechism, Ratzinger goes on to say:

his view of a deep unity between the good news of Jesus and the message of Sinai is again summarized in the reference to a statement of the New Testament which is not only common to the synoptic tradition but also has a central character in the Johannine and Pauline writings: The whole law, including the prophets, depends on the twofold yet one commandment of love of God and love of neighbor (Catechism, 1970; Mt. 7:20; 22:34-40; Mk. 12:38-43; Lk. 10:25-28; Jn. 13:34; Rom. 13:8-10). For the nations, being assumed into the children of Abraham is concretely realized in entering into the will of God, in which moral commandment and profession of the oneness of God are indivisible, as this becomes clear especially in St. Mark’s version of this tradition in which the double commandment is expressly linked to the “Sch’ma Israel,” to the yes to the one and only God. Man’s way is prescribed for him he is to measure himself according to the standard of God and according to his own human perfection. At the same time, the ontological depth of these statements comes to the fore. By saying yes to the double commandment man lives up to the call of his nature to be the image of God that was willed by the Creator and is realized as such in loving with the love of God.

In the third part of this essay, Cardinal Ratzinger discusses Jesus’ encounter with the Jewish authorities, exploring the mysterious way in which he fundamentally reinterprets and transforms the Torah, opening up the covenant to the Gentiles in a process which culminated in his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. I won’t go into further details, but suffice to say it’s a good read. According to the Cardinal, Jesus’ death on the cross

cannot simply be viewed as an accident which actually could have been avoided nor as the sin of Israel with which Israel becomes eternally stained in contrast to the pagans for whom the cross signifies redemption. In the New Testament there are not two effects of the cross: a damning one and a saving one, but only a single effect, which is saving and reconciling.

I expect that Christian and Jewish readers will be sharply divided in their reactions to this portion — the former intrigued by Ratzinger’s line of thought; the latter finding themselves in disagreement. Nevertheless, it is my hope that Jewish readers will at the very least appreciate the Cardinal’s rebuke of anti-Judaism and his reminder that: “Jesus did not act as a liberal reformer recommending and himself presenting a more understanding interpretation of the law. In Jesus’ exchange with the Jewish authorities of his time, we are not dealing with a confrontation between a liberal reformer and an ossified traditionalist hierarchy. Such a view, though common, fundamentally misunderstands the conflict of the New Testament and does justice neither to Jesus nor to Israel.”

The Cardinal closes with a reiteration of the Catechism‘s rejection of the charge of deicide and collective Jewish guilt, teaching that “Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan” (599) and that “All sinners were the authors of Christ’s passion.”

. . . the blood of Jesus speaks another – a better and stronger – language than the blood of Abel, than the blood of all those killed unjustly in the world. It does not cry for punishment but is itself atonement, reconciliation. Already as a child – even though I naturally knew nothing of all things the catechism summarizes – I could not understand how some people wanted to derive a condemnation of Jews from the death of Jesus because the following thought had penetrated my soul as something profoundly consoling: Jesus’ blood raises no calls for retaliation but calls all to reconciliation. It has become, as the “Letter to the Hebrews” shows, itself a permanent Day of Atonement of God.

‘Reconciling Gospel & Torah’ is an interesting essay — one which I found to be conciliatory in spirit and refreshing in its rebuke of “superficial polemics” against the Jews and caricatures of the Jewish law which are found in liberal theology as well as some traditionalist camps.

Dominus Iesus (August, 2000)

Dominus Iesus, or “Declaration on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church” was chiefly intended as a corrective measure to theological excesses and erroneous positions adopted in the course of ecumenical/interreligious dialogue, as well as were found in theologies of “religious pluralism.” As such, it was not really intended to address the issue of the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people. Nevertheless, some Jews did take offense at its reiteration of standard Christian doctrine concerning the centrality of Christ and his Church in the salvation of mankind, their protests bolstered in part by the press, enough to warrant commentary by Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, who offered both an apology for any misunderstanding that might have occured as well as a defense of Cardinal Ratzinger and the intent of the document:

Some Jewish readers tend to think that the Church’s attitude towards Jews and Judaism is a sub-category of its attitude towards world religions in general. Yet, such a presumption is a mistake, and so is the presumption that [Dominus Iesus] represents “a backward step in a concerted attempt to overturn the [in this case Catholic-Jewish] dialogue of recent decades” . . .

[Dominus Iesus] does not affect Catholic-Jewish relations in a negative way. Because of its purpose, it does not deal with the question of the theology of Catholic-Jewish relations, proclaimed by Nostra Aetate, and of subsequent Church teaching. What the document tries to “correct” is another category, namely the attempts by some Christian theologians to find a kind of “universal theology” of interreligious relations, which, in some cases, has led to indifferentism, relativism and syncretism. Against such theories we, as Jews and Christians, are on the same side, sitting in the same boat; we have to fight, to argue and to bear witness together. Our common self-understanding is at stake.

Rabbi David Berger of the Rabbinical Council for America, on the other hand, took issue with Cardinal Kasper’s interpretation that Jews “are entirely excluded from the purview of its controversial assertions,” and offered his own qualified support of the “supercessionism” of Cardinal Ratzinger (On Dominus Iesus and the Jews May 1, 2001 — further commentary: “To Evangelize – Or Not to Evangelize?” Against the Grain March 21, 2005).

The Heritage of Abraham: The Gift of Christmas (December, 2000)

The Heritage of Abraham: The Gift of Christmas, published in L’Osservatore Romano December 29, 2000, is one of my favorite writings by our Holy Father on the Jewish people — in that it clearly demonstrates his alignment with the thought of his close friend and predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and the Second Vatican Council, in speaking of a “new vision of Jewish-Christian relations”:

We know that every act of giving birth is difficult. Certainly, from the very beginning, relations between the infant Church and Israel were often marked by conflict. The Church was considered by her own mother to be a degenerate daughter, while Christians considered their mother to be blind and obstinate. Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.

Perhaps it is precisely because of this latest tragedy that a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel has been born: a sincere willingness to overcome every kind of anti-Judaism, and to initiate a constructive dialogue based on knowledge of each other, and on reconciliation. If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people, the people of Israel, to whom belong “the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5), and this not only in the past, but still today, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). In the same way, let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge.

The Jewish People & Their Sacred Scriptures (May, 2001)

The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible was published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on May 4, 2001. In the wake of the Shoah, it dealt with the pertient questions of whether Christians “can still claim in good conscience to be the legitimate heirs of Israel’s Bible . . . and propose a Christian interpretation of the Bible,” also addressing the issue of scriptural passages in the New Testament deemed “anti-semitic”. Although the document reaffirmed the unity of the Old & New Testaments and Christian reading of the Jewish scriptures, it did include a positive treatment of the Jews, as indicated in Cardinal Ratzinger’s proposal that:

what ought to emerge now is a new respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. On this subject, the Document says two things. First it declares that “the Jewish reading of the Bible is a possible one, in continuity with the Jewish Scriptures of the Second Temple period, a reading analogous to the Christian reading, which developed in parallel fashion” (no. 22). It adds that Christians can learn a great deal from a Jewish exegesis practised for more than 2000 years; in return, Christians may hope that Jews can profit from Christian exegetical research (ibid.). I think this analysis will prove useful for the pursuit of Judeo-Christian dialogue, as well as for the interior formation of Christian consciousness.

Likewise, the document caused something of a stir in the Jewish press by its recognition that:

What has already been accomplished in Christ must yet be accomplished in us and in the world. The definitive fulfilment will be at the end with the resurrection of the dead, a new heaven and a new earth. Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith. Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us. (paragraph 5.)

See also:

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This will not be last we have heard from Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on the subject of our elder brothers and sisters in the faith. We can rest assured that, contrary to the fear-mongering accusations of some critics, as well as honest concerns of others, our Holy Father will carry on the friendship between the Church and Israel that was maintained to such an excellent degree by Pope John Paul II.

Further reading:

John Allen Jr.’s Turnabout

A stirring edition of “Word from Rome” by the National Catholic Reporter‘s John Allen, Jr., contains his reflections on the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the funeral of Pope John Paul II, as well as the following personal confession:

Six years ago, I wrote a biography of the man who is now pope titled Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith. In the intervening period, I have learned a few things about the universal Catholic church and how things look from different perspectives. If I were to write the book again today, I’m sure it would be more balanced, better informed, and less prone to veer off into judgment ahead of sober analysis.

This, I want to stress, is not a Johnny-come-lately conclusion motivated by the fact that the subject of the book has now become the pope. In a lecture delivered at the Catholic University of America as part of the Common Ground series, on June 25, 2004, I said the following about the book:

    “My ‘conversion’ to dialogue originated in a sort of ‘bottoming out.’ It came with the publication of my biography of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued by Continuum in 2000 and titled The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith. The first major review appeared in Commonweal, authored by another of my distinguished predecessors in this lecture series, Fr. Joseph Komonchak. It was not, let me be candid, a positive review. Fr. Komonchak pointed out a number of shortcomings and a few errors, but the line that truly stung came when he accused me of “Manichean journalism.” He meant that I was locked in a dualistic mentality in which Ratzinger was consistently wrong and his critics consistently right. I was initially crushed, then furious. I re-read the book with Fr. Komonchak’s criticism in mind, however, and reached the sobering conclusion that he was correct. The book – which I modestly believe is not without its merits – is nevertheless too often written in a “good guys and bad guys” style that vilifies the cardinal. It took Fr. Komonchak pointing this out, publicly and bluntly, for me to ask myself, ‘Is this the kind of journalist I want to be’? My answer was no, and I hope that in the years since I have come to appreciate more of those shades of gray that Fr. Komonchak rightly insists are always part of the story.

After Ratzinger’s election as Benedict XVI was announced, I had hoped to have the opportunity to write a new preface for the book contextualizing some of the views it expresses. Unfortunately, the publisher in the United States, for reasons that I suppose are fairly obvious, had already begun reprinting the book without consulting me. Hence it is probably already appearing in bookstores, without any new material from me.

I can’t do anything about that, although the British publishers were kind enough to ask me to write a new preface, which I have already done, so at least the damage will be limited in the U.K.

What is under my control, however, is a new book for Doubleday (a Random House imprint), which I hope will be a more balanced and mature account of both Ratzinger’s views and the politics that made him pope. It has been in the works for some time and I hope it will be worthy of the enormity of the story, and the trust of those who elect to read it.

I was among those to recieve a copy of John Allen Jr.’s biography, in exchange for the opportunity to try my hand at writing a book review. Despite it’s obvious liberal bias (which I took for granted, given his working for the National Catholic (Dis)torter), I was rather gentle in my response. In retrospect, I think the reason I didn’t come down so hard was that, even in his introduction, I could detect a change of tone in the author, a softening towards the Cardinal that would take his more liberal readers by suprise:

Allen’s judgements about Ratzinger’s character are not what one would expect coming from a ‘progressive’ Catholic journalist for the National Catholic Reporter: Allen believes Ratzinger “is not the vengeful, power-obsessed old man who lurks like a bogyman in the imaginations of the Catholic left”. On the several occasions Allen has met Ratzinger, he has found him to be “charming, with a shy personal style and an active wit”, possessing “a calm, peaceful spirit and the remarkable ability to listen”. With regard to Ratzinger’s thought, Allen finds that his “arguments are more than ex post facto rationalizations for exercises of authority” and speaks of “a deep, logical consistency to [his] vision”. Indeed, Allen is so impressed with Ratzinger that he exclaims “in the unlikely event I ever had access to Ratzinger as a personal confesser, I would not hesitate to open my heart to him, so convinced I am of the clarity of his insight, his integrity, and his commitment to the priesthood” — sentiments which might be denounced as treasonous or dismissed as insane by some on the Catholic left. . . .

And so the man comes around.

I’m very pleased to hear this, as I am sure many of his readers. I look forward to reading his new book on our Holy Father.

Benedict Says He Prayed Not to Be Elected

Benedict Says He Prayed Not to Be Elected, by Daniela Petroff. Assoc. Press. April 25, 2005:

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he had viewed the idea of being elected pope as a “guillotine,” and he prayed to God during the recent conclave to be spared selection but “evidently this time He didn’t listen to me.”

For the first time since his election, Benedict shed light on his feelings inside the conclave during an audience with fellow Germans.

Speaking in his native tongue, Benedict told the audience that at one point during the conclave, when it became clear he was garnering many votes, a fellow cardinal slipped him a note reminding him what he had preached before the conclave about Christ calling Peter to follow him even where he did not want to go.

Benedict, 78, said he had hoped to spend his last years living quietly and peacefully.

“As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that — in a manner of speaking the guillotine would fall on me — I started to feel quite dizzy,” a smiling Benedict said, clearly joking. “I thought that I had done my life’s work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, ‘Don’t do this to me.'”

He recalled saying to God in his prayers: “You have younger, better, more enthusiastic and energetic candidates.”

“Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me,” Benedict said. . . .

Thank God! =)

Pope Benedict XVI’s Inaugural Mass

  • Pope Benedict XVI’s Inaugural Mass Homily. Translation courtesy of

    Once again, we knew that we were not alone, we knew that we were surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God. And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How can I do this? How will I be able to do it? All of you, my dear friends, have just invoked the entire host of Saints, represented by some of the great names in the history of God’s dealings with mankind. In this way, I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone. All the Saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me. And your prayers, my dear friends, your indulgence, your love, your faith and your hope accompany me.

    Indeed, the communion of Saints consists not only of the great men and women who went before us and whose names we know. All of us belong to the communion of Saints, we who have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we who draw life from the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood, through which he transforms us and makes us like himself. Yes, the Church is alive – this is the wonderful experience of these days. During those sad days of the Pope’s illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future. The Church is alive and we are seeing it: we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised his followers. The Church is alive – she is alive because Christ is alive, because he is truly risen. In the suffering that we saw on the Holy Father’s face in those days of Easter, we contemplated the mystery of Christ’s Passion and we touched his wounds. But throughout these days we have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One. We have been able to experience the joy that he promised, after a brief period of darkness, as the fruit of his resurrection. . . .

  • “Inaugural Mass Full of New Symbolic Gestures”. Zenit News Service:

    One of the most significant novelties took place at the beginning of the Mass on Sunday with a visit to the grottoes underneath St. Peter’s Basilica to pay homage at the tomb of the first Pope, St. Peter.

    Monsignor Valenziano explained that Benedict XVI had in mind to underline that he “was not elected successor of John Paul II, but of Peter.”

    The Holy Father, accompanied by the Eastern patriarchs, went down from the Altar of the Confession to the first Pope’s sepulcher. At that moment, two deacons collected the two symbols that would later be imposed on the Pope: the Fisherman’s Ring and the pallium, which had been laid by the tomb throughout the night.

    “I leave from where the apostle arrived,” Benedict XVI said before processing to St. Peter’s Square.

    The liturgist of the St. Anselm Pontifical Liturgical Institute explained that in the past, popes were sometimes crowned in the Sistine Chapel, while others were crowned in the basilica.

    However, Benedict XVI began his pontificate solemnly in St. Peter’s Square “because it is the place of Peter’s martyrdom,” he explained, and not for logistical reasons.

  • Fr. Tucker @ Dappled Things notices Pope Benedict’s Pallium.
  • John Betts’ has a great picture of seminarians reacting to Pope Benedict’s speech.
  • Domenico Bettinelli notices something about the Popemobile and wonders if he’s making a statement.
  • For those who couldn’t make it to Rome, EWTN has an excellent Solemn Mass of Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Amy Welborn has a roundup of speculation on The Pope’s Red Shoes.

  • Thoughts on Pope Benedict’s Inaugural Mass Homily by Apolonio Latar III.

Getting to know Pope Benedict XVI . . .

  • “Groundswell Swept Ratzinger Into Office”, by Sebastian Rotella, et al. Los Angeles Times April 21, 2005.

    “When the majority of 77 or 78 was reached, there was a gasp,” Murphy-O’Connor said. “Everyone clapped. He had his head down. He must have said a prayer. I didn’t see his face. He must have been aware this could happen, but when it does, it is a very special moment.”

    After the traditional burning of ballots and the pope’s triumphant balcony appearance Tuesday, Benedict XVI invited the cardinals back to a hasty celebratory dinner. Caught off-guard, 20 nuns at the cardinals’ Vatican residence improvised a repast of soup, beans, cold cuts, ice cream and Champagne.

  • Surprise! New Pope takes a walk through Rome CWNews. April 20, 2005:

    The newly elected Pope, clothed completely in the distinctive white vestments of the papacy, caught onlookers by surprise when he chose to travel on foot, walking the few hundred yards to the apartment in the Citta Leonina where he had lived for years. When the news spread that the Pontiff was walking through the city, hundreds of people quickly gathered, and he spent some time in front of the apartment building, greeting the people and blessing young children. Italian police and Vatican security officials did their best to control the crowd, preserving some breathing room for the Pontiff.
  • Pope Benedict & Judaism, a survey of two articles in the Jewish Press by Domenico Bettinelli confirms that the election of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne does, in fact, bode well for the people of Israel.

    Light in a New Dark Age: Pope Benedict XVI — The Man and the Mission, by George Weigel. Wall Street Journal April 21, 2005:

    As with the program, so with the man: He is a Benedict in the depths of his interior life and in his intellectual accomplishment. Benedict XVI has an encyclopedic knowledge of two millennia of theology, and indeed of the cultural history of the West. He is more the shy, monastic scholar than the ebullient public personality of his predecessor; yet he has shown an impressive capacity for a different type of public “presence” in his brilliantly simple homily at John Paul II’s funeral and in his first appearance as pope. He has known hardship: He knows the modern temptations of totalitarianism (paganism wedded to technology) from inside the Third Reich; he has been betrayed by former students (like the splenetic Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff) and former colleagues (like Hans Kung, a man of far less scholarly accomplishment and infinitely less charity). His critics say he is dour and pessimistic. Yet I take it as an iron law of human personality that a man is known by his musical preferences; and Benedict XVI is a Mozart man, who knows that Mozart is what the angels play when they perform for the sheer joy of it. Indeed, and notwithstanding the cartoon Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope is a man of Christian happiness who has long asked why, in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, summoned to be a “new Pentecost” for the Catholic Church, so much of the joy has gone out of Catholicism. Over some 17 years of conversation with him, I have come to know him as a man who likes to laugh, and who can laugh because he is convinced that the human drama is, in the final analysis, a divine comedy.
  • Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum – the author of the blog Mystery Achievement registers his impressions of the Holy Father:

    He is a man of sincere and profound Christian holiness who both demands it from himself, and will demand it from us, the Catholic faithful. The interview footage in which he acknowledged the sins of Catholics, and the “mea culpas” of the past Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross drove this home to me. And in the section of his pre-election homily to the College of Cardinals where he both contrasted doctrinal steadfastness with relativism, and enumerated some of the bitter fruits of the latter, he subtly but clearly said, in effect, that doctrinal faithfulness and holiness are of a piece.
  • Rome’s Radical Conservative, by Michael Novak. New York Times April 20, 2005:

    One of Cardinal Ratzinger’s central, and most misunderstood, notions is his conception of liberty, and he is very jealous in thinking deeply about it, pointing often to Tocqueville. He is a strong foe of socialism, statism and authoritarianism, but he also worries that democracy, despite its great promise, is exceedingly vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority, to “the new soft despotism” of the all-mothering state, and to the common belief that liberty means doing whatever you please. Following Lord Acton and James Madison, Cardinal Ratzinger has written of the need of humans to practice self-government over their passions in private life.

    He also fears that Europe, especially, is abandoning the search for objective truth and sliding into pure subjectivism. That is how the Nazis arose, he believes, and the Leninists. When all opinions are considered subjective, no moral ground remains for protesting against lies and injustices.

  • The Acton Institute’s Robert Sirico on the True Liberalism of Benedict XVI:

    We have already heard a thousand times or more that the new Pope is a conservative. As counterintuitive as this may sound, I believe that insofar as the new papacy has implications for economics and politics, it is in the direction of a humane and unifying liberalism. I speak not of liberalism as we know it now, which is bound up with state management and democratic relativism, but liberalism of an older variety that placed it hopes in society, faith, and freedom.

    Also from the Acton Institute: Alejandro Chaufen on Benedict XVI and Freedom”: “Given Ratzinger’s sharp focus on doctrine, many have seen only one side of this man: the protector of the faith, the leader of a new “inquisition.” Few have focused on his rich analyses of freedom. . . .”

  • The Real Ratzinger: The Lover of Lovers, by Anthony & Marta Valle. Inside the Vatican: ” To the world he is many things; to us he is th priest who celebrated our wedding Mass in St. Peter’ Basilica on June 24, 2004, a short 10 months before h became Pope Benedict XVI . . .”
  • Not a transitional pope: Benedict may surprise, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter April 29, 2005.
  • In German town, Benedict XVI known for love of cats, conversation by Matthew Schofield, Knight Ridder Newspapers. April 21, 2005. A great profile of the Pope with comments from his brother, George. As a fellow cat-lover, I am heartily pleased to learn of our new Pope’s preferences for feline companions:

    “I went with him once,” said Konrad Baumgartner, the head of the theology department at Regensburg University. “Afterwards, he went into the old cemetery behind the church.

    “It was full of cats, and when he went out, they all ran to him. They knew him and loved him. He stood there, petting some and talking to them, for quite a long time. He visited the cats whenever he visited the church. His love for cats is quite famous.”

  • Oswald Sobrino on The Importance of the name Benedict in light of his conversations with Peter Seewald in God and the World.
  • ‘A Beautiful Personality’: The Pontificate of Benedict XVI Begins Interview with Father Augustine Di Noia. National Catholic Register May 1-8, 2005:

    He has a beautiful personality and when that begins to shine through and becomes evident, people will love him. One hundred percent of the staff in the office — including the ushers — are absolutely ecstatic.

    He is a kind, extremely humble and extraordinary human being. He’s also a fun man with a good sense of humor — we’ll miss him. He’s the whole package — he’s holy and knows how the Church works and how to run the Church.

    And on a similar note: ‘People Will Love Him’, Newsweek interviews Fr. Di Noia. April 19, 2005.

  • The Real Benedict XVI: Reports Reveal Warmth and Openness. April 23, 2005:

    When he first came to Rome in 1981 to take up his post as prefect of the congregation he did not even take possession of the apartment that would normally be his by right, as it was occupied by an elderly cardinal, whom he did not wish to disturb. The apartment in which Cardinal Ratzinger has remained in all these years in Rome, is not one as large or well-appointed as would normally correspond to his post, and is adorned with secondhand furniture. It is also located on the other side of St. Peter’s Square from his office, instead of being in the same building. . . .

    In the afternoons the future Pope would often go out for a walk along the streets near his apartment and would stop to greet the shopkeepers along the Borgo Pio. Mario, a fruit-seller, recalled how once the cardinal asked him which apples to buy to best prepare a strudel. And electrician Angelo Mosca spoke of the time he had gone to the cardinal’s apartment to fix a problem, and how he had remained in a relaxed conversation with him for an hour, “just as if we were old friends.”

For decades, the world has only known Cardinal Ratzinger through his capacity as the ‘doctrinal enforcer’ — an difficult, thankless but unfortunately necessary assignment, which he accepted from Pope John Paul II and fulfilled to the best of his abilities.

Suffice to say not many in the world have actually encountered Joseph Ratzinger the pastor, the teacher, the theologian, save for those who have encountered him through his writings or had the opportunity to meet the man himself and work with him.

Now that he is has been installed, we will be blessed to know Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic Church.

With reference to the grumblings of dissent, a parting thought from Disputations (“First Fruits can be Sour”): “Why the hate and venom for a pope who, as pope, hasn’t actually done anything yet?” and concludes:

If people hate Pope Benedict XVI because they hate where he draws his lines, and if he draws his lines around the Catholic faith, then they hate the Pope because he is Catholic. In other words, they hate the Catholic faith.

I regard this as a good fruit of Pope Benedict’s papacy — or, if you like, of the cardinal electors making the safe and easy choice. The masks are coming off, the indirection and equivocation are slipping away. People will continue out of habit to speak of “the Vatican” as the focus of their hatred and derision, but I expect it to become increasingly apparent to everyone that it is the Church herself — note, herself, the Bride of Christ, not itself, the old foreign men in dresses — that people hate and deride.

Here & There . . .

“Ratzinger Fan Club” in the news:

  • Rome won’t be rebuilt in a day, by Owen Dudley Edwards. Sunday Herald April 23, 2005:

    “PUTTING the smackdown on heresy since 1981!” howls the Ratzinger Fan Club, advertising its T-shirt on the website to which internet searchers for data on the new Pope are automatically referred. It doesn’t need a papal pronouncement to tell Catholics that this celebration of a theology of hatred, anger and zeal for injury is wholly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Methinks Mr. Edwards underestimates the humorous side of the RFC and its satirical intent.

  • Area boy’s gift made cardinal laugh, by Shane Anthony. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 19, 2005. Interview with Chris Haenel, a fellow ‘member’ of the RFC, who met the Cardinal and presented him with a shirt during an October 2003 visit to Rome by Una Voce:

    Chris, then a freshman at Duchesne High School in St. Charles, already had studied Ratzinger and papal politics. He said he liked Ratzinger’s conservative stands on moral issues. He gave Ratzinger a T-shirt he bought from an online fan club.

    On the front, it read “The Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club. Putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981.” Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and combating heresy was part of his job.

    Ratzinger laughed at the shirt, Chris said, but said he couldn’t keep it because he couldn’t be his own fan. When he flipped over the shirt to find a quote attributed to him – “Truth is not determined by a majority vote” – he laughed again and said, “That’s true. That’s true.” Chris still has the shirt.

  • Pope’s Website Crashes, Agençe France-Presse. April 20, 2005. A case of mistaken identity, as I believe was up and running.

And on other topics . . .