- Pope Benedict has “issued a rare decree curbing the autonomy of [Franciscan] monks,” guarding the tomb of St. Francis in the central Umbria region, according to the New York Times (Nov. 22, 2005):
The decree . . . put the monks under control of three people — the local bishop, a Vatican cardinal, and the head of the Italian bishops conference.
The move marked the first attempt by Benedict to discipline a religious order and revoked another decree issued by Pope Paul VI in 1969 which gave the Assisi monks wide-ranging autonomy. . . .
In the past decades, the monks of Assisi, which is one of the holiest and most visited sites in all Christendom, have been associated with leftist political parties and leftist causes.
The annual Easter season peace march organised by the Assisi monks is frequented by leftist leaders and often boycotted by centre-right politicians.
They have also hosted highly controversial figures such as former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, Italian communist party leaders and Oscar-winning actor-director Roberto Benigni, a life-long leftist.
(Writing from Rome, LifeSiteNews’ John Jalsevac provides a detailed report on Benedict’s latest decision:
Almost simultaneous with the announcement that the basilicas were to again answer to the bishop, Benedict announced the appointment of Archbishop Dominico Sorrentino as bishop of the diocese of Assisi. Although slipping by general notice amidst the furor over the controversy surrounding the Franciscan shrines, some commentators are speculating that the appointment of Sorrentino may be the most important development yet in Benedict’s papacy. . . .
Pope Benedict Enforcing Traditional Rules and Orthodoxy LifeSiteNews.com Nov. 24, 2005. See also John Allen, Jr. on the transfer of Sorrentino.
- “The bishops have come to realize that every time they meet Benedict XVI, alone or as a group, they must be ready for anything: accolades, rebukes, surprises,” says Sandro Magister (“The Italians Pass, the Austrians Flunk, the Brazilians… The Bishops under Examination” http://www.Chiesa Nov. 18, 2005). Among those on the receiving end of criticism from the Pope were the Austrian bishops who were read “the riot act”:
“As you well know, the confession of the faith is one of the bishop’s primary duties. ‘I did not draw back’, St. Paul says in Miletus to the pastors of the Church of Ephesus, ‘from the task of proclaiming to you the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27). It is true that we bishops must act with discretion. Nevertheless, this prudence must not prevent us from presenting the Word of God in all its clarity, including those things that are heard less willingly or that consistently provoke reactions of protest and derision. You, dear brothers in the episcopacy, know this well: there are some topics relating to the truth of the faith, and above all to moral doctrine, which are not present in the catechesis and preaching of your dioceses to a sufficient extent, and which sometimes, for example in pastoral outreach to youth in the parishes or groups, are either not confronted at all or are not addressed in the clear sense understood by the Church. Thanks be to God, it is not like this everywhere. Perhaps those who are responsible for the proclamation [of the Gospel] are afraid that people may draw back if they speak too clearly. However, experience in general demonstrates that it is precisely the opposite that happens. Don’t deceive yourselves! Catholic teaching offered in an incomplete manner is a contradiction of itself and cannot be fruitful in the long term. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God goes hand in hand with the demand for conversion and with the love that encourages, that knows the way, that teaches that with the grace of God even that which seemed impossible becomes possible. Think of how, little by little, religious instruction, catechesis on various levels, and preaching can be improved, deepened, and, so to speak, completed! Please, make zealous use of the ‘Compendium’ and the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’! Have the priests and catechists adopt these tools, have them explained in the parishes, have them used in families as important reading material! Amid the uncertainty of this period of history and this society, offer to men the certainty of the fullness of the Church‘s faith! The clarity and the beauty of the Catholic faith are what make man’s life shine, even today! This is especially the case when it is presented by enthusiastic and exciting witnesses.”
Any thoughts on the report card for the American bishops?
- On October 25, 2005 Cardinal Dulles lectured on “Pope Benedict XVI [as] Interpreter of Vatican II”. The full text of the lecture is not yet available online, but we’ll let you know as soon as we locate it.
- Back in September my father blogged the first part of a discussion on Michael S. Rose’ series “The Man Who Was Ratzinger” in New Oxford Review (September 2005) — see “Pope Benedict & Church Bureaucracy”, Musings of a Pertinacious Papist Sept. 16, 2005. This past week he discusses part two, on Pope Benedict’s view of bishops, generating a lively discussion.
- Michael Rose himself has recently penned Benedict XVI: The Man Who Was Ratzinger (Spence Publishing, Oct. 2005), which adheres more closely to the “Vatican Enforcer” motif of John Allen’s earlier biography:
Perhaps the most imposing intellectual ever to assume the papacy, Ratzinger has been recognized as a world-class theologian since the time of Vatican II. In two decades as the chief guardian of Catholic doctrine, he addressed every controversy facing the Church: clerical sex abuse, feminism, religious pluralism, sexual revolution and the culture of death, secularism, and militant Islam. This uncommonly rich record, Rose argues, promises a new Counterreformation, purifying and reorienting the Catholic Church.
Rose reveals that Cardinal Ratzinger, unquestionably John Paul II’s closest collaborator, was privately critical of certain ecumenical, liturgical, and administrative policies of the late pope. While Benedict will undoubtedly follow John Paul’s fundamental path, Rose predicts some critical departures that could enable this supposedly “polarizing” figure to become a powerful unifying force, reviving the Church and reawakening the West’s Christian identity in its moment of crisis.
- Remember Pope Benedict’s meeting with Hans Kung? — Apparently he is not the only dissident theologian to have made friendly overtures to former Prefect of the CDF. Professor Richard McBrien — presently serving as “consultant” to the cinematized version of The Da Vinci Code — gave a positive assessment of the pontiff’s first months:
“I have observed little or nothing from my vantage point that would trouble me or other reform-minded Catholics,” McBrien said. . . .
“Benedict is open and secure,” McBrien said in assessment of the 78-year-old pontiff. “He’s not afraid of discussion. The initial signs are encouraging.”
Although McBrien said no drastic changes in Catholic doctrine were imminent, the new pope was already doing his best to maintain the legacy of goodwill and interdenominationalism that his predecessor had begun.
(Source: “ND prof says new pope more open to discussion”, by Catherine LaFrance. LaPorte Herald- Argus Nov. 14, 2005. (Of course, as Stephen wonders: Why does anyone give two cents what McBrien thinks of the pope?”
- On October 28, 2005, Pope Benedict commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate by expressing his [Commitment] to Advancing Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Zenit. October 28, 2005:
“The Jewish-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed, while preaching and catechesis must be committed to ensuring that our mutual relations are presented in the light of the principles set forth by the council,” wrote the Pope.
“As we look to the future, I express my hope that both in theological dialogue and in everyday contacts and collaboration, Christians and Jews will offer an ever more compelling shared witness to the one God and his commandments, the sanctity of life, the promotion of human dignity, the rights of the family and the need to build a world of justice, reconciliation and peace for future generations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Father Franz Schmidberger, apparently the “right hand man” of Bernard Fellay and member of the traditionalist schismatic organization Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), chastised the Holy Father for his dialogue and fraternization with other religions, urging him to abstain from “false systems” and convert them instead (Ultra-traditionalist says pope should convert Jews Reuters, Nov. 19, 2005).
- Catholic Exchange published the Catechetical Dialogue that took place October 15, 2005, between some children who were preparing to celebrate their First Holy Communion and Pope Benedict XVI.
- L’Osservatore Romano has published its very own gallery of “The most beautiful photos of the Pope”:
The gallery includes a picture of the Holy Father looking out on the lake of Castel Gandolfo from the balcony of the papal summer residence. Another shows him imparting an apostolic blessing during his first appearance as Pope on April 19. And still another shows him, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, embracing Pope John Paul II.
There are photos of particular events, including one taken Nov. 2 while the Holy Father was praying in the Vatican Grottoes for the deceased Popes; another on Oct. 23 while presiding over the closure of the Synod of Bishops and of the Year of the Eucharist; and one taken Oct. 5 during a celebration with children who made their first Communion.
According to the website, prints are available from the “L’Osservatore Romano” Photographic Service.
- Back in June, Jacqueline Bassell discussed the wave of “instant-books” that appeared on the shelves soon after the whisp of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel. Michael Walsh reviews the latest wave of the “Benedict biography” cottage industry (“Only One Wry Eye on Benedict XVI” The Tablet October 29, 2005). The books in question:
– In the Vineyard of the Lord: The Life, Faith and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, by Marco Bardazzi. Rizzoli (May 31, 2005)
– We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, by Matthew E Bunson. (Our Sunday Visitor, May 19, 2005)
– Pope Benedict XVI : His Life and Mission, by Stephen Mansfield. Tarcher (July 21, 2005)
– Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith, by Rupert Shortt. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (October 24, 2005).
– Labourer in the Vineyard: a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI, by Greg Watts. Lion Publishing Plc (October 15, 2005).
Judging by the reviews I’m reading, the various and sundry introductions to the Holy Father that spontaneously appeared in the weeks following the conclave pale in comparison to George Weigel’s God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (the rival being John Allen Jr.’s The Rise of Benedict XVI).
Justin Nickelsen (Ressourcement – Restoration in Catholic Theology) posts his reflections on Weigel’s book, and in keeping with his blog directs our attention to Ratzinger’s early years as a ressourcement theologian, his participation in the Second Vatican Council and the co-founding of Communio.
As Justin noted, Weigel’s book follows the same scheme as the rest (“1. the last days of John Paul II with some commentary on his pontificate and coverage of the funeral; 2. the election of a new pope; 3. a short biography of Joseph Ratzinger with predictions for the future”), and with the exception of John Allen Jr’s factually-educational but ultimately-flawed-due-to-liberal-prejudice attempt The Vatican Enforcer, we have yet to see a full-fledged papal biography on the scale of JPII’s Witness to Hope. Someday . . .
- – In the Vineyard of the Lord: The Life, Faith and Teachings of Joseph Ratzinger, by Marco Bardazzi. Rizzoli (May 31, 2005)
- Say it isn’t so! — Deutsche-Welle reports that the Prada Pope Causes “Cassock War”:
The stylish Benedict has angered many in the holy city by allegedly switching allegiances from the company which has made papal robes for over 200 years to a tailor who has only been in business for a tenth of that time.
In what is being called the “cassock wars,” both tailors are said to be squaring up for a dispute over the papal contract in a bid to win the pope’s favor. Annibale Gammarelli, of the eponymous firm of outfitters who have been making papal cassocks since 1792, is locked in a struggle with Mancinelli, a small shop that has been operating for a mere 20 years.
This is what passes for news?