Month: April 2006

Pope Benedict XVI on ‘Church and State’

The relationship between church and state and their proper jurisdictions have figured heavily in the remarks of Pope Benedict in the first year of his pontificate, as well as in his very first encyclical Deus Caritas Est. The Holy Father has advocated “a healthy secularism of the state,” yet he has defended the legitimate role of religion in the moral and cultural development of the nation and the Church’s role as a voice of moral conscience, reminding the state of its obligations to the common good.

Writing in his former capacity as Cardinal, the Pope has stated “the Christian is always Someone who seeks to maintain the state in the sense that he or she does the positive, the good, that holds states together.” At the same time, in a lesson rooted in his childhood experience of National Socialism, he has commented on the dangers of a totalitarian state — a state which presumes itself to be “the whole of human existence [and] the whole of human hope,” insisting that “the first service that Christian faith performs for politics is that it liberates men and women from the irrationality of the political myths that are the real threat of our time.”

What follows is a brief compilation of some of our Holy Father’s remarks on this pertinent issue:

Pope Benedict and Alexis de Tocqueville

A Tocquevillian in the Vatican, by Dr. Samuel Gregg.* According to Dr. Gregg, the publication of Deus Caritas Est reveals not only the influence of St. Augustine upon Benedict, but that of the nineteenth-century French social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville:

Upon being inducted into the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques of the Institut de France in 1992, then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked that Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America has always made a strong impression on me.”

Describing Tocqueville as “le grand penseur politique,” the context of these remarks was Ratzinger’s insistence that free societies cannot sustain themselves, as Tocqueville observed, without widespread adherence to “des convictions éthiques communes.” Ratzinger then underlined Tocqueville’s appreciation of Protestant Christianity’s role in providing these underpinnings in the United States. In more recent years, Ratzinger expressed admiration for the manner in which church-state relations were arranged in America, using words suggesting he had absorbed Tocqueville’s insights into this matter.

What has this to do with Deus Caritas Est? The answer is that Benedict XVI has taken to heart Tocqueville’s warnings about “soft-despotism.”

* * *

Recently added to the archives of Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club we find two earlier writings of Cardinal Ratzinger:

  • Biblical Aspects of the Question of Faith and Politics A homily that was delivered on 26 November 1981 in the course of a service for Catholic members of the Bundestag in the church of St. Wynfrith (Boniface) in Bonn. (LewRockwell.com):

    Christian faith has destroyed the myth of the divine state, the myth of the state as paradise and a society without domination. In its place it has put the objectivity of reason. But this does not mean that it has produced a value-free objectivity, the objectivity of statistics and a certain kind of sociology. To the true objectivity of men and women belongs humanity, and to humanity belongs God. To genuine human reason belongs the morality that is fed by God’s commandments. This morality is not some private affair; it has public significance. Without the good of being and doing good there can be no good politics. What the persecuted Church laid down for the Christian as the core of its political ethos must also be the core of any active Christian politics; it is only when good is done and recognized as good that a good human social existence can thrive. To bring to public acceptance as valid the standing of morality, the standing of God’s commandments, must be the core of responsible political activity.

  • Why Church and State Must Be Separate excerpt from “Theology and the Church’s Political Stance” in Church, Ecumenism and Politics (NY, Crossroads, 1987). Ratzinger notes that “the origin and the permanent foundation of the Western idea of freedom” lies in the “separation of the authority of the state and sacral authority”:

    From now on there were two societies related to each other but not identical with each other, neither of which had this character of totality. The state is no longer itself the bearer of a religious authority that reaches into the ultimate depths of conscience, but for its moral basis refers beyond itself to another community. This community in its turn, the Church, understands itself as a final moral authority which however depends on voluntary adherence and is entitled only to spiritual but not to civil penalties, precisely because it does not have the status the state has of being accepted by all as something given in advance.

    Thus each of these communities is circumscribed in its radius, and on the balance of this relation depends freedom. . . .

    Benedict goes on to suggest something which might be brought to bear on the recent attempt to establish constitutional democracy in the Middle East and the necessity of preserving the Christian foundations of Europe:

    The modern idea of freedom is thus a legitimate product of the Christian environment; it could not have developed anywhere else. Indeed, one must add that it cannot be separated from this Christian environment and transplanted into any other system, as is shown very clearly today in the renaissance of Islam; the attempt to graft on to Islamic societies what are termed western standards cut loose from their Christian foundations misunderstands the internal logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which these western standards belong, and hence this attempt was condemned to fail in this form. The construction of society in Islam is theocratic, and therefore monist and not dualist; dualism, which is the precondition for freedom, presupposes for its part the logic of the Christian thing. In practice this means that it is only where the duality of Church and state, of the sacral and the political authority, remains maintained in some form or another that the fundamental pre-condition exists for freedom.

    Where the Church itself becomes the state freedom becomes lost. But also when the Church is done away with as a public and publicly relevant authority, then too freedom is extinguished, because there the state once again claims completely for itself the justification of morality; in the profane post-Christian world it does not admittedly do this in the form of a sacral authority but as an ideological authority – that means that the state becomes the party, and since there can no longer be any other authority of the same rank it once again becomes total itself. The ideological state is totalitarian; it must become ideological if it is not balanced by a free but publicly recognized authority of conscience. When this kind of duality does not exist the totalitarian system is unavoidable.

* * *

Some Remarks in the First Year of Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontificate

  • Back in September 17, 2005, Zenit News Service published an article on Benedict XVI on Religion and Public Life, which included his June 2005 remarks to Italian President Carlo Ciampi on church-state relations.
  • On October 17, 2005, in a letter to the president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera (with whom he co-authored Without Roots: Europe, Relativism, Christianity, Islam), Pope Benedict expressed his support for a “healthy secularity of the state” — or that which guarantees “to each citizen the right to live his own religious faith with genuine freedom, including in the public realm” and includes “a commitment to guarantee to all, individuals and groups, respect for the exigencies of the common good, [and] the possibility to live and to express one own religious convictions.”

    The full text of the letter can be found here.

  • On November 19, 2005, Benedict XVI conveyed the Catholic Church’s respect for civil authority:

    Benedict XVI explained to the bishops of the Czech Republic that in her work of evangelization, the Church doesn’t seek to meddle in the sphere of public authority.

    “The Christian community is a grouping of people with their own rules, a living body that, in Jesus, exists in the world to bear witness to the strength of the Gospel,” the Holy Father told the bishops in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

    “It is, therefore, a group of brothers and sisters who have no goals of power or selfish interest, but who joyfully live the charity of God, which is Love,” he added.

    “In such a context, the state should have no difficulty in recognizing in the Church a counterpart that in no way prejudices its own function at the service of citizens.”


Dr. Samuel Gregg is Director of Research at the Acton Institute and an Adjunct Professor at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family within the Pontifical Lateran University. He is author of several books on Catholic social doctrine including Challenging the Modern World: Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II and the Development of Catholic Social Teaching (2003) and On Ordered Liberty (2003), a critique of ‘the liberal tradition’ in its many forms.

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Jeffrey Hart, the Republican Party and the Pro-Life Movement

I gave up blogging (mostly) for Lent, so hopefully my readers will understand if, out of curiousity and interest, I resume blogging on topics others have long since discussed. =)

In “The Jeffrey Hart Debate – American Conservatism at a Crossroads?” (Religion and Liberty April 22, 2006), I revisit a somewhat heated intramural debate among American conservatives sparked by Jeffrey Hart’s essay “The Burke Habit: Prudence, skepticism and ‘unbought grace'” (Wall Street Journal Dec. 25, 2005), with responses by Jonah Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review, Roger Kimball of The New Criterion; Fr. Gerry Murray (St. Vincent de Paul, NYC), and Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus and Jody Bottum of First Things, touching on (among other things) the Republican Party’s relationship to the pro-life movement.

Pope Benedict Roundup – Easter 2006, a Birthday and a One Year Anniversary

An occasional roundup of news, articles and commentary on Pope Benedict XVI

On April 16, 2006, Pope Benedict celebrated Easter services in Rome, marking the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

  • From the Vatican website, a recap of Holy Week 2006 — including the Holy Saturday homily of Pope Benedict XVI, in which he discusses the question: “Of what exactly does this “rising” consist? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and the whole of history?”

    The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an “I” closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. . . . His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God, a “being taken up” into God, and hence it could not in reality be taken away from him. Out of love, he could allow himself to be killed, but precisely by doing so he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death. . . . His death was an act of love. At the Last Supper he anticipated death and transformed it into self-giving. His existential communion with God was concretely an existential communion with God’s love, and this love is the real power against death, it is stronger than death. The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of “dying and becoming”. It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.

    Benedict described the Resurrection as “a qualitative leap in the history of ‘evolution’ and of life in general,” pointing the way toward a new life in Christ that is already “continuously permeating this world of ours, transforming it and drawing it to itself.”

    This event manifests itself in the sacrament of Baptism, which is more than an act of “ecclesial socialization,” of receiving people into the Church.”It is also more than a simple washing, more than a kind of purification and beautification of the soul,” said Benedict: “It is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life”:

    But what then happens with us? Paul answers: You have become one in Christ (cf. Gal 3:28). Not just one thing, but one, one only, one single new subject. This liberation of our “I” from its isolation, this finding oneself in a new subject means finding oneself within the vastness of God and being drawn into a life which has now moved out of the context of “dying and becoming”. The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one another’s hands, and we become one single subject, not just one thing. I, but no longer I: this is the formula of Christian life rooted in Baptism, the formula of the Resurrection within time. I, but no longer I: if we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a programme opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and possession.

  • At morning Mass in St Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI returned to the ancient rite of the Resurrexit, used by Popes since the 1100s but only recently (and sporadically) restored; the ritual reinforces Peter’s role as witness of the resurrection. [– “Benedict, Witness of the Resurrection”, Rocco Palmo, Whispers in the Loggia]
  • Pictures from Rome, Good Friday 2006, courtesy of American Papist.

  • Also from the Vatican website is Pope Benedict’s Urbi Et Orbi Message [“to the city of Rome and the world”], in which the Holy Father reiterated his call to peace with specific attention to Darfur, Iraq, Israel and Palestine — with respect to the latter, he affirmed both Israel’s just right to exist in peace and expressed wishes that the international community would assist the Palestinian people . . . to build their future, moving towards the constitution of a state that is truly their own.”

    Also, in a somewhat veiled statement that might allude to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power (and persistent threats made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Israel and Britain), the Holy Father also drew attention to “international crises linked to nuclear power”:

    . . . may an honourable solution be found for all parties, through serious and honest negotiations, and may the leaders of nations and of International Organizations be strengthened in their will to achieve peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures and religions, in order to remove the threat of terrorism.

    Benedict closed his message with a call to all nations to attend to that which is (or ought to be) the sum of every life:

    May the Risen Lord grant that the strength of his life, peace and freedom be experienced everywhere. Today the words with which the Angel reassured the frightened hearts of the women on Easter morning are addressed to all: “Do not be afraid! … He is not here; he is risen (Mt 28:5-6)”. Jesus is risen, and he gives us peace; he himself is peace. For this reason the Church repeats insistently: “Christ is risen – Christós anésti.” Let the people of the third millennium not be afraid to open their hearts to him. His Gospel totally quenches the thirst for peace and happiness that is found in every human heart. Christ is now alive and he walks with us. What an immense mystery of love! Christus resurrexit, quia Deus caritas est! Alleluia!

  • The Risen SON: Easter Sunday – a timely quote from Ratzinger’s Behold, The Pierced One, courtesy of the blog Eagle & Elephant; also, from pazdziernik, an excerpt from God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life on Tearing of the Temple Veil, from a talk at the Chrism Mass April 2,1980 in Munich.
  • The Pope’s Easter, by Daniel Henninger. Wall Street Journal April 14, 2006. The WSJ editor reflects on the Holy Father’s stance against “the excesses of secularization and radical Islam.”:

    If we still hold that the news reflects reality, we would be led to believe that Christians enter these final three days of Holy Week preoccupied with whether to credit the new Gospel of Judas that the hallowed National Geographic Society delivered unto the world this month, and whether to attend the imminent film version of “The Da Vinci Code,”. . . My guess is that on this Easter Pope Benedict XVI, the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, feels he has larger fish to fry.

Happy Birthday, Pope Benedict XVI!

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006 also marked the 79th Birthday of our Holy Father.

The Pontificate of Benedict XVI – 1st Year Anniversary

Also this week, the media turned its attention to the one-year anniversary of the Holy Father’s pontificate, providing the opportunity for many a “talking head” and respective “men in Rome” to, er, do a little pontificating themselves.

  • John Allen, Jr.: “The Last 12 Months” of Benedict XVI “Word from Rome” National Catholic Reporter March 31, 2006. As Allen wisely notes,

    Benedict is a supple thinker, and unpacking his approach on any given question requires nuance. Because his points of departure are the 2,000-year tradition of the church, coupled with his own judgments about the character of people under consideration, rather than the ideological categories of secular politics, his decisions will sometimes strike the outside world as surprising and out of character. Nor has his direction over the first year been entirely uniform, as if one can generalize from a single document or papal act to explain everything else.

    All this, however, constitutes an “insider” perspective, crafted from the point of view of devotees of the papacy and of Vatican politics. Generally speaking, that’s not what secular media outlets are after. What they want to know is, in the “biggest picture” sense possible, what are the most striking or surprising aspects of Benedict XVI’s first year, and what do they teach us about where things are going?

    It is in response to the latter inquiry that Mr. Allen directs his attention, organizing his reflections under five headings: “What Hasn’t Happened” (a draconian crackdown on heresy along the lines of The Inquisition – “one would hear a great flushing sound across the Catholic world as all the dissidents and liberals were washed out of the system”); “Who’s Paying Attention?” (“Papal aficionados”, yes; “average Catholics”, no); The Dictatorship of Relativism:(“The beating heart of his pontificate can be expressed in three core concepts: truth, freedom and love. Truth, as the pope sees it, is the doorway a human person must walk through in order to be really free, meaning free to realize one’s full human potential; and love is both the ultimate aim of freedom, and the motive for which the church talks about truth and freedom in the first place; Tough Love (with Islam, that is — “Benedict XVI clearly wants good relations with Islam . . . yet he will not purse that relationship at the expense of what he considers to be the truth”); Benedict the Teacher (“Benedict is shaping up as a great teacher . . . [with] a remarkable capacity to express complex theological ideas with clarity and simplicity”).

    Reaction to Allen’s column from the ecumenical blog Mere Comments.

  • Vatican vetter: The Benedict XVI File, in his own words Kansas City Star April 15, 2006. Bill Tammeus also interviewed John Allen Jr., in which the journalist repeated some of his earlier appraisal as well as some observations about the state of the Catholic Church in America:

    I think sociologically there is no Catholic Church in the United States. What you have are multiple Catholicisms. And the question really facing Benedict, as far as the American church is concerned, is how do you bring those tribes into conversation”

    and interreligious relations

    “Benedict clearly is committed to continuing the dialogue with other religions. On the other hand, I would say that Islam is actually one of the few areas of contrasts between Benedict and John Paul”

    and — on a sadly comical-but-true note, the prospects of schism:

    The schism in the Catholic left is a multiphase process. First there’s an internal schism, where you just walk around cursing people and (ticked) off at authority, even though you’re going to church on Sunday.

    Then you self-select to be in a “progressive” parish, therefore reinforcing you in that choice, and you become even more alienated. Then what a lot of these people do is to spin off into another religious community, like becoming an Episcopalian.

    The Catholic right, when it goes into schism, it announces it. It finds a bishop.

  • Faithful to the core, by Stephen Crittenden. The Australian April 15, 2006. According to Crittenden,

    “Benedict appears to have slammed on the brakes and even to be swerving off in a different direction entirely from his predecessor. . . . Anybody who thinks Benedict is a continuation of John Paul II is completely wrong. The former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is a proper conservative. John Paul was neither a liberal nor a conservative but a revolutionary. And somehow, despite the biggest crowds and the biggest funeral in history, he has left the church exhausted and prostrate.

    Crittenden sticks to the same tortured hermeneutic of his February 2006 reading of Deus Caritas Est, proposing that Benedict is in part cleaning up the “damage” of Pope John Paul II’s heavy-handed enforcement of the Church’s moral teachings (see (Stephen Crittenden, Charles Curran, Rocco Palmo on ‘Deus Caritas Est’ Against The Grain February 2, 2006). As he did then, Crittenden again proposes that in Benedict’s penning of Deus Caritas Est, “that soft splash you just heard at the back of the boat was Theology of the Body being tossed overboard, when just 12 months ago it was the focus of an entire Catholic academic industry.”

    Crittenden goes on to speculate that Benedict’s election was the result of a “deal” brokered with the progressive bloc “that [Benedict] would undertake to rule from the centre in a renewed spirit of collegiality with his brother bishops . . . In short, that he would bring to a close the age of Karol Wojtyla and an end to revolutionary Catholicism,” — a deal reflected in Benedict’s cracking down on ecumenical movements close to his predecessor (ex. the Neo-Catechumenical Way). Crittenden suggests that Benedict’s commitment to collegiality and unity will inevitably bring him into conflict with “the U.S. Catholic Right”:

    The Wojtyla papacy thrived on . . . division, and the American Catholic Right supplied the venom and neurosis. John Paul II was their definite champion and they were able to zoom off to Rome to get whatever they wanted, especially in the later years. They always considered Ratzinger to be one of their supporters and they cheered at his election. But it is by no means certain that his view of the church and the world is the same as theirs.

  • Challenging Crittenden’s portrayal on B16’s pontificate as one inherently in conflict with his predecessor is Edward Stourton, who evaluates Ratzinger’s career as Prefect, “John Paul’s trump card” The Tablet January 4, 2006:

    John Paul made the most significant appointment of his pontificate in late November 1981, as political storm clouds were gathering in Poland. The rapport established between Karol Wojtyla and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during the conclaves of 1978 had flourished following John Paul’s election, and in early 1980 we find the then Archbishop of Munich expressing admiration for the new pope’s championship of traditional Catholic teaching.

    It was not, he explained during a radio interview, within the pope’s power to change what had been handed down to him: “It is the pope’s duty”, he said, “to preserve the faith intact for our time, and to criticise the ills of Western society.”

    According to Stourton, John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger

    “came to know one another’s minds very well indeed; for more than 20 years the two men would meet each Friday in private to discuss the CDF’s work, and there were regular Thursday lunches at which the conversation ranged more widely over a variety of topics in a freewheeling manner.”

    One may wonder if a Prefect who collaborated so closely with his Pope would, in the words of Crittenden, “bring to a close the age of Karol Wojtyla”? — While we can certainly expect differences in their approach, I don’t believe it will be a radical de-emphasization of orthodoxy (and obedience to the Magisterium) that Crittenden and co. anticipate, nor a wholesale abandonment of John Paul II’s catechesis in theology of the body.

  • Likewise, it would appear that Ernesto Cardenal begs to differ as well. The 81 year old former Sandinista Minister of Culture (and ex-priest) gave two talks in Austria, in which he issued the warning:

    Pope Benedict XVI is continuing the course of his predecessor, who already was a disaster for the Church and turned back the clock 100 years. The current Pope was the main force behind the pontifical politics of his predecessor. I think, he will be the same, or even worse.

    (Via “Look what the cat dragged in” The Cafeteria Is Closed March 17, 2006).

  • Behind the throne of the iPod pope, by John Cornwell. The Sunday Times April 16, 2006. Cornwell examines “the ultra-orthodox Bavarian theologian, known for two decades as ‘God’s rottweiler’ and once a member of the Hitler Youth . . . [who] rallied his brother cardinals to choose him at the conclave,” pauses to mention papal right-hand Msgr. Ganswein’s stint at an Opus Dei university (“the self-flagellating extreme conservative Catholic group“), gives a shout-out to Rocco Palmo (“for a taste of Georg-fever and pin-up pics“), adopts Crittenden’s thank-God-he-hasn’t-booted-the-liberals approach with a jab at Fr. Neuhaus (“an influential and vociferous hardline Catholic conservative . . . who pontificates like an alternative pope from the pages of First Things“); notes the “expansive girths” of Benedict’s “kitchen cabinet” (Angelo Scola, William Levada and Christoph Schonborn — “like Caesar, Benedict does not favour ‘lean and hungry’ prelates about him“), chastises Benedict for failing to meet the call of his own encyclical (“despite Benedict’s almsgiving rhetoric he has gone silent on the issue“) but ends with cautious praise for his inclusive approach (“by concentrating on unconditional love in his first encyclical, he appears to be invoking an image of the church as a big tent with room for all perspectives“). Yick.
  • Of course, when it comes to acerbic commentary about the Pope, Cornwell has some competition. Amy Welborn posts evaluations of Benedict XVI’s pontificate from Hans Kung and Charles Curran, with appropriate responses from the Commentariat. From the Swiss theologian,

    “Benedict must choose between an eventual retreat to the pre-modern, pre-Reformation world of the Middle Ages, or a forward-looking long view which will take the Church into the post-modern universe that the rest of the world entered for quite some time.”

    God help us all if Kung’s wish is granted. A reader of Open Book responds:

    The thing about Kung and Curran (and this would apply to hundreds of other “thinkers”) is the absolute predictability of what they are going to say. I mean, not only the substance, but the almost word-for-word nature of what is produced. This was especially striking about Kung’s “effort.” The man is crowding 80 (!) and he’s happy to put out this standing still vs. moving forward vs. return to pre-Reformatiion days garbage. “Und I am tired today [he’s addressing his secretary] zo, lizzen, just rrrrelease article number 4 to ze press, okay, Helga?”

  • Blessings all round from the iPod Pope, by “leading Catholic writer” Peter Stanford. The Guardian April 16, 2006.

    At this point I have to say every appraisal of Benedict’s pontificate by the Mainstream Media (with the exception of John Allen, Jr.) seems to me a repetitive copy of its neighbor: as before, Benedict’s “inclusivity” is heralded, and used as a bludgeon against “the divisive policies on matters of personal and sexual morality” by John Paul II and conservative / traditionalist Catholics (Fr. Neuhaus, again).

    Stanford coos(?) over Benedict’s fashion sense (“the hem . . . hovered somewhere just below his knee, exposing his dainty feet in white plimsolls and making him look more like a mincing Hercule Poirot than Supreme Roman Pontiff”) and Msgr. Ganswein (“Known to Vatican colleagues at ‘Don Georgio’, to the Italian media as ‘the Black Forest Adonis'”) . . . and finally gets around to pondering “but does this new style papacy have any substance?” — he questions some of “the monsignori [in] the bars and restaurants that surround the Vatican” and concludes:

    “There remains undisturbed that fundamental antipathy to change in Catholicism, a reluctance at the highest level to tailor the ideals it preaches for human behaviour with a corresponding understanding that individuals’ lives usually fall short of moral perfection.”

    “Is there any substance to the papacy”? — How about reading some of Benedict’s writings? For starters, he could review the recently compiled collection of B16’s World Youth Day addresses (God’s Revolution Ignatius Press, 2006).

    Suffice to say there’s little here that differentiates The Guardian‘s take on Benedict’s pontificate from that of Crittenden, Cornwell and Crossan. Although, between Stanford and Cornwell, I have to wonder if “iPod Pope” was purely coincidental? plagiarization? collaboration? — Or maybe they got it from Rocco.

  • Writing for USA Today, Eric J. Lyman believes “Benedict’s appeal moves beyond ‘caricature'”, confounding the stereotypes of both the right and the left and inviting a new type of “fan base”:

    Benedict’s popularity differs from that of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who was accorded almost rock star status by the legions of banner-waving young fans who turned out to see him. By contrast, Benedict’s admirers seem to be older, quieter and more introspective.

    “I loved John Paul and I love Benedict, but the personality of each man appeals to different sides of the faithful,” says Carlo Angelo Sanzio, 43, a worker at a coffee bar who says he has attended most of the Sunday Masses at the Vatican over the past 10 years. “The people here now are less likely to shout and cheer (than those who came to see John Paul) and are more likely to pray and reflect. My friends say you would come to experience John Paul, and you come to listen to and learn from Benedict.”

    People have been coming to listen to Benedict in large numbers. The crowd at the pope’s Easter celebration Sunday — held under clear skies and in cool temperatures — was an estimated 100,000, according to the Carabinieri, one of the police units that provide security at Vatican events. Even Benedict’s routine Sunday Masses attract crowds of about 25,000 in good weather, which is similar to the numbers that came to see John Paul before he became ill in the final years of his life. . . .

    “To the extent that the pope’s popularity can be judged by straight numbers, the numbers have been growing,” police Sgt. Antonio Caldaroni says.

    Benedict’s meeting with Hans Kung is mentioned, but without the typical fawning adulation accorded to the latter; likewise, congrats to Lyman for contrasting JPII with B16 without succumbing to the urge to lambast John Paul II’s Catholic teaching on sexuality.

  • Benedict’s surprising first year, by Kieron Wood. Sunday Business Post (Ireland). April 16, 2006.
  • One year on, Pope Benedict confounds critics, by Philip Puella. Boston Globe April 17, 2006.
  • Assessing Benedict XVI’s First Year, Zenit News Service interviews Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican-watcher for the newspaper Il Giornale, and author of Benedict XVI, Custodian of the Faith.

  • Religion & Ethics Newsweekly: One-Year Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI – PBS Television’s March 22, 2006 interview with (who else, but) John Allen Jr. [Extended version here].

In Other News

  • On April 3, 2006, Benedict celebrated the first anniversary mass for Pope John Paul II, and in a homily recalled the great faith and witness of his predecessor:

    It was faith, of course, that was at the root of this total offering of himself. In the Second Reading that we have just heard, St Peter too uses the image of the gold tested by fire and applies it to faith (cf. I Pt 1: 7). In fact, in life’s difficulties it is especially the quality of the faith of each one of us that is tried and tested: its firmness, its purity, its consistency with life. Well, the late Pontiff, whom God had endowed with multiple human and spiritual gifts, in passing through the crucible of apostolic labours and sickness, appeared more and more as a “rock” of faith.

    To those who had the opportunity to be close to him, that firm and forthright faith was almost tangible. If it impressed the circle of his collaborators, it did not fail during his long Pontificate to spread its beneficial influence throughout the Church in a crescendo that reached its highest point in the last months and days of his life.

    It was a convinced, strong and authentic faith – free of the fears and compromises that have infected the hearts of so many people -, thanks partly to his many Apostolic Pilgrimages in every part of the world, and especially thanks to that last “journey”, his agony and his death.

  • April 2006 saw the english publication of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope Benedict XVI presented back in June 2005. Amy Welborn gives her first impressions of the Compendium:

    The interest and the yes, dare we say excitement, are totally justified. It is strikingly organic and deeply rooted. It is totally focused on the task at hand: communicating the fundamentals of the Catholic faith in a way that is completely accessible, comfortably confident. There is an ease about it, clarity and simplicty that is the essence of good teaching.

    Jimmy Akin gives his first thoughts as well, illustrating its merits with some comparisons of the Compedium and the original Catechism‘s treatment of the doctrine of original sin.

    See also A Catechism for the Culture of the Image, by Sandro Magister (L’Espresso May 7, 2005).

  • Consistory 2006 Summary complete list of American Papist [blog] posts on the 2006 consistory. March 2006. (See also the listing of 15 new cardinals created by Pope Benedict Vatican Information Service. March 24, 2006.

    On March 24, 2006, Pope Benedict reminded the Cardinals of their calling:

    May the scarlet that you now wear always express the caritas Christi, inspiring you to a passionate love for Christ, for his Church and for all humanity. You now have an additional motive to seek to rekindle in yourselves those same sentiments that led the incarnate Son of God to pour out his blood in atonement for the sins of the whole world. I am counting on you, venerable Brothers, I am counting on the entire College into which you are being incorporated, to proclaim to the world that “Deus caritas est”

  • On March 15, 2006, Pope Benedict initiated a new round of Wednesday catechesis, focusing on the relationship between Christ and His Church. Via Amy Welborn. The text of the Holy Father’s Wednesday audiences are available at the Vatican website.
  • Reorganization begins in Roman Curia Catholic World News. March 11, 2006. Benedict XVI made his first major changes in the organization of the Roman Curia, with two mergers of existing pontifical councils. According to Catholic World News:

    The Pontifical Council for Migrants and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace have been temporarily merged into one unit, to be headed by Cardinal Renato Martino.

    Similarly the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue has been temporarily merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture, with Cardinal Paul Poupard, the current head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, to head the combined effort.

    With the mergers, two top positions in the Roman Curia are eliminated. Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, who had been president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who had been president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, had already received a new assignment in February as apostolic nuncio to Egypt.

    Rorate Caeli relays some speculation from the European press on motives behind a promotion:

    Both Korazym and Andrea Tornielli in today’s edition of Il Giornale remind their readers that Fitzgerald was the highest authority in that scandalous interreligious meeting in Fatima, in 2003, whose star was none other than Jacques Dupuis, SJ, highly praised by Fitzgerald at the time as the man who had provided the “theological basis” for interreligious dialogue. Dupuis, as is well remembered, was condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2001) and was the most important individual theologian who forced the same Congregation to issue one of the most important documents of the previous pontificate, the declaration Dominus Iesus (2000). Il Foglio also regards this as the overwhelming motive for the promotion of Fitzgerald.

  • T.S. O’Rama of Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor expresses his gratitude for a Pope:

    Personally, we “have a history” – I read his books seven or eight years ago and in his very familiarity it was like the ascension of a family member to the throne of St. Peter. A father became the Holy Father.

    He seemed to me the realist to Pope John Paul II’s dreamliness and his frankness allowed me to trust. He wasn’t afraid to be controversial in that Age Before Controversy, the era before blogs and polarization. 🙂

    But the primary appeal is that he is a Scripture scholar and that is charismatic in and of itself since Scripture = Christ = charisma. Scott Hahn’s ministry prepared the ground for American Catholics to appreciate Pope Benedict, giving us a craving for the experience of scripture and catechesis that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, is uniquely gifted to satisfy.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger, Biblical Exegesis, and the Church, by Stephen Hand (Traditional Catholic Reflections & Reports – TCRNews.com):

    On January 27, 1988, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dropped something of a large bomb on the neo-modernist Biblical establishment. The Cardinal, theoretically the second most powerful man in the Church, delivered the Erasmus lecture for that year in New York City (1) , sponsored by the Rockford Institute Center on Religion & Society [directed in the 1980’s by Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus], entitled Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today. Needless to say, any lecture given by the head of what was formerly known as The Holy Office and which promised to be examining and critiquing the very “foundations” of modern exegesis (which today is completely identified with the so-called historical-critical method) was bound to raise eyebrows and cause no little commotion.

    The Cardinal did not disappoint. Surrounded by both friends and foes (including the American exegete Raymond Brown) the Cardinal delivered the most trenchant critique of the erring philosophical and theological presuppositions which lay behind the historical-critical method since the early days of the Pontifical Biblical Institute founded by Pope Leo XIII. . . .

    The full text of the address “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations
    and Approaches of Exegesis Today”
    is available online, courtesy of the site Christendom Awake.

  • Responding to the case of a man in Afghanistan facing the death penalty for convertion to Christianity, retired diplomat Peter Laurie delivered a blistering broadside against “right wing fundamentalism” of all stripes (Nation News April 2, 2006). One of the targets of his criticism was none other than Cardinal Ratzinger, for having defended fundamentalism as “eminently reasonable” in his homily to the college of cardinals in his famous homily a year before.

    In If you’re going to call Pope Benedict a “fundamentalist”…, Carl Olson of Insight Scoop demonstrates the value of understanding what you’re talking about.

And on a lighter note . . .

  • Cambio. Guy Sylvester (Shouts in the Piazza) discusses “a time honored tradition of the Vatican”:

    Namely, getting the Pope to exchange the zuchetto on his head for the one you have presented to him. This used to be a frequent occurrence at Papal audiences. In fact, in the days of Pope Pius XII (of happy memory) some zuchetti barely stayed on his head for a few seconds before being switched again with yet another being held up by an enthusiastic member of the faithful.

    Eventually, the custom waned and for much of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II hopeful zuchettos-switchers were politely told no. . . .

    A friend of Sylvester’s managed to celebrate the tradition, with the assistance of Mons. Ganswein and a photograph to document the occasion.

  • “He looks like the nicest guy you’d never want to get on the wrong side of.” – The Many Faces of Benedict XVI Shrine of the Holy Whapping April 16, 2006.

  • In honor of the World Youth Day planning meetings being held in Rome this week, Pope Benedict decided to opt for a more contemporary hair style . . . — PPOTD! (Papist-Picture-of-the-Day) American Papist April 5, 2006.

Holy Week 2006: Resources & Further Lenten Reflections


Painting courtesy of Daniel Mitsui: Arwork for Passiontide reflection

Regular blogging will resume after Easter. Please pray for Jeremy Hand, Dave Morrison, and the repose of the soul of Thomas Yoshiro Blosser. God bless.

First Anniversary of Pope John Paul II – 1920-2005

God our Father, you reward all who believe in you. May your servant, John Paul II, our Pope, vicar of Peter, and shepherd of your Church, who faithfully administered the mysteries of your forgiveness and love on earth, rejoice with you for ever in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– Roman Missal.