Month: June 2007

Q: What do do about Catholic junk mail?

Practical question, readers. I’m doing a fair bit of spring cleaning. I’m curious about what y’all to do with

  • Catholic solicitory (“junk”) email — as in, the dozens of letters one receives monthly from this or that Catholic ministry, religious order, monastery, convent, seminary, lobbying group, magazine, etc. in the interest of soliciting funds.

    Q: In addition to other avenues for charity (weekly collection at Mass; Bishop’s annual appeal, et al.) one can only give so much. What do you typically do with such mail and if you respond at all, what is your rationale for discerning which plea to heed?

  • Catholic solicitary email containing religious medals or, more often, rosaries, etc. — usually accompanied by the request for a donation in response to said gift. I’m not inclined to throw rosaries away (or any other religious artifact of that nature). I have thought about giving them away but am not sure what kind of impression that would have. Most Catholics I know already have rosaries of their own, and presumably are recipients of such “gifts” and solicitations as well. I have 2-3 rosaries of personal value; I really don’t need twenty more.

    Q: If you find yourself inunduated with an abundance of such items, what do you do with them?


Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

Unlike most Catholic bloggers it seems that I have not yet finished Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth. My progress is hampered by the fact that I’m currently plodding my way through a pile of library books that are beyond the point of extension, and I hope to knock them out by the end of the month.

However, as one blogger has already joshed me about the lack of attention paid to the Pope’s new book (I’m partially comforted by the fact that Amy Welborn has confessed she’s just starting as well), I figure that my tardiness won’t preclude me from rounding up some news and reviews and commentary by those who are expressing their thoughts.

Consider this the ‘anchor’ post for this topic, meaning that if I run across any more pertinent links they will be updated here. — Christopher

  • Last month, Zenit News Service reported Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth has sold more than 1.5 million copies, the statistic referring to the Italian, Slovenian, Greek, Polish and various English editions. According to Zenit “There are 42 editors worldwide who have agreements to publish “Jesus of Nazareth,” and 30 translations are in the works.”
  • Pope’s new book addresses key concerns for this pontificate: Christ is key” – John Allen Jr. notes with amusement the varied attempts by the press to make sense of the Pope’s book:

    . . . The first wave of stories focused on comments in the book about Africa and capitalism, even though they amount to asides in a 448-page treatise on the Gospels. Other stories styled the book as a rebuke to The Da Vinci Code. (That red herring was encouraged by an indirect allusion to Dan Brown’s potboiler from Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna in a Vatican news conference.) Still others seemed charmed by the fact that the pope wrote that because his book is not a magisterial act, “everyone is free to contradict me.” Beyond those angles, there was little interest in follow-up, in large part because a pope discussing Jesus strikes most people as the ultimate in “dog bites man” developments — that is, the most normal thing in the world.

    By the time anyone had actually read all 448 pages of Jesus of Nazareth, the moment for further analysis had already passed. Passed, that is, everywhere but here, where papal analysis never goes out of fashion. . . .

    and comes to his own conclusions about the Pope’s motivation:

    What seems clear is that the motive for the book is also emerging as the core doctrinal concern of this pontificate: Christology. Put in a nutshell, Benedict’s thesis in Jesus of Nazareth is that there can be no humane social order or true moral progress apart from a right relationship with God; try as it might, a world organized etsi Deus non daretur, “as if God does not exist,” will be dysfunctional and ultimately inhumane. Jesus Christ, Benedict insists, is “the sign of God for human beings.” Presenting humanity with the proper teaching about Jesus is, therefore, according to Benedict, the highest form of public service the church has to offer.

  • A Portrait of Faith, by Lisa Miller. Newsweek May 21, 2007. With Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI fights back against ‘the dictatorship of relativism’ by showing the world his vision of the definitive truth of Christ. (Most amusing sentence: “Liberal Catholics worry that, in spite of assurances to the contrary, Benedict is writing an ‘official’ biography, and they have cause for concern.”)
  • Theme of papal book may also be hallmark of his papacy, panelists say, by Nancy Frazier O’Brien (Catholic News Service), covering a panel discussion with Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and Vatican analysts George Weigel and John Allen, at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington on May 15, 2007.
  • From Michael Dubriel (Annunciations):

    A few months ago someone asked me what book I would recommend that they give to their adult children who no longer practiced the faith, without hesitation I named this book as the one. At the time I had only read some excerpts available online from Germany and Italy. It was an act of faith then, now that I have the book I know that my recommendation was justified.

  • “A Pope’s Love of Writing”, by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza. National Post, (Canada) May 17, 2007.
  • Jesus of Nazareth: Review by Jeff Miller aka. The Curt Jester May 18, 2007: “. . . The chapter on the Our Father prayer is worth the price of the book alone. This is not just an academic exegesis of the Our Father prayer line-by-line, but a deep meditation into this prayer. Often we can repeat a prayer so often that it looses its freshness and his meditation on this prayer can shock us back into reality of what the prayer that Jesus gave us really means and indicates.”
  • Over at Catholic Analysis, Oswald Sobrino is periodically blogging a series of commenaries on Jesus of Nazareth.
  • From the UK Times, a Jesus of Nazareth – Review by Geza Vermes The Times (London). May 19, 2007.

    See also: Response to Geza Vermes by Carl Olson @ Ignatius Insight; Mark Brumley on The Goodness and Divinity of Jesus and another Response to Geza Vermes by MetaCatholic.

  • Benedict XVI on Jesus (Review), by Fr. Joseph O’Leary. Spirit of Vatican II May 25, 2007.
  • Reading Benedict on Jesus, by Lawrence S. Cunningham (Commonweal) May 25, 2007:

    I have just finished reading and it is with some trepidation that I post this message since the blogosphere is cluttered with reactions. It is not my intention to review the work but let me say that I did think it is a powerful book. Those who think it only a work of devotion are mistaken as are those who think his approach to the scriptures is retrograde or those who hail it as the greatest thing since the Summa. . . .

  • My Argument with the Pope, by Rabbi Jacob Neusner. Jerusalem Post May 29, 2007:

    In the Middle Ages rabbis were forced to engage with priests in disputations in the presence of kings and cardinals on which is the true religion, Judaism or Christianity. The outcome was predetermined. Christians won; they had the swords.

    But in the post-WW II era, disputations gave way to the conviction that the two religions say the same thing and the differences between them are dismissed as trivial. Now a new kind of disputation has begun, in which the truth of the two religions is subject to debate. That marks a return to the old disputations, with their intense seriousness about religious truth and their willingness to ask tough questions and engage with the answers.

    My book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, was one such contemporary exercise of disputation, and now, in 2007, the pope in his new book Jesus of Nazareth in detail has met the challenge point-by-point. Just imagine my amazement when I heard that a Christian reply is fully exposed in Pope Benedict XVI’s reply to A Rabbi Talks with Jesus in his Jesus of Nazareth Chapter Four, on the sermon on the Mount. . . .

    In 1993, then-Cardinal Ratzinger heralded Neusner’s book as “by far the most important book for the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade.”. Time magazine recently profiled Rabbi Neusner (The Pope’s Favorite Rabbi, by David Van Biema. May 24, 2007).

  • Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI, by Joel Gillespie. June 12, 2007:

    Every so often a book comes along that deeply moves and inspires me as a person, and as a Christian. I can never know when this will happen. Many books disappoint, and many surprise.

    I am right in the middle of one of those amazing books. It is “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration” by Joseph Ratzinger, otherwise known as Pope Benedict XVI.

    OK, I am an evangelical Protestant pastor. How can I speak such of a book by the Roman Catholic Pope of all people? . . .

  • Christ First, Last and Always, by George Weigel. “The Catholic Difference” June 13, 2007:

    Time and again, whether he’s writing about the temptations, the parables, the Lord’s Prayer, or the miracles of Jesus’ public ministry, Pope Benedict’s method of reading the Gospels puts the edge back on stories and messages often dulled by familiarity. Reading the New Testament through the eyes of Joseph Ratzinger in Jesus of Nazareth thus becomes a way to read the Gospels afresh — and to be reminded that, whether the New York Times thinks it’s “news” or not, the proclamation of Jesus Christ is what the Church is for.

  • Franz Michel Willam, the Theologian the Pope Has Rescued from Oblivion, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa. – Author in 1932 of a famous life of Christ, he had been forgotten by everyone. Benedict XVI cites him in “Jesus of Nazareth,” and an Austrian scholar explains why. (Based on unpublished correspondence between the two).
  • The Face of God: What Benedict’s Jesus Offers, by Peter Steinfels. Commonweal August 17, 2007 / Volume CXXXIV, Number 14.
  • God Made Visible: On the Foreword to Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. Ignatius Insight June 18, 2007.
  • “God Is The Issue” | The Temptation in the Desert and the Kingdoms of This World, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. Ignatius Insight June 29, 2007.
  • Related: The Pope’s Jesus: Gerd Lüdemann and Benedict XVI – Review of Das Jesusbild des Papstes: Über Joseph Ratzingers kühnen Umgang mit den Quellen (Springe: zu Klampen Verlag, 2007), 157 pp.:

    Just months after Benedict XVI released Jesus of Nazareth, the New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann has produced this spirited book-length critique of “the Pope’s Jesus.” Lüdemann writes both as a post-Christian who is deeply sceptical about the claims of church doctrine, and as a rigorous advocate of the historical-critical method. A central contrast between Benedict and Lüdemann thus lies in their respective attitudes towards the biblical texts: while Benedict approaches the texts with basic trust and theological commitment, Lüdemann insists that it is “a blind alley” to privilege these texts and to assume that they are historically or theologically trustworthy (p. 23). . . .

    (See also: Ben Myers on Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth August 10, 2007).

Acton University 2007 Live Audio

  • Acton University describes itself as “a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics.”

    The American Papist attended the 2007 Acton University conference this year. For those not as lucky (like moi), the Acton blog has kindly made available the lectures in mp3 format:

    Listen to Stephen Haessle on “Basic Principles of Catholic Social Teaching”; Dr. Jay Richards on “A Proper Christian Approach to the Environment”; “Pope Benedict XVI and His Vision for Europe”, by Dr. Samuel Gregg; “Market Economics and the Family,” by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, and more . . .

  • Also, E. Calvin Beisner posts a massive Environmental Stewardship News Round-Up to the Acton blog. Lots of stories to read, and judging by the subjects I’m sure will send the comments flying. Check it out. =)

Update 6/30/07 Acton University 2007 Audio Links – Here are all of the audio links conveniently posted together on one page.

Pope Benedict Roundup

Pope Benedict in the News

During his May 23, 2007 general audience, Pope Benedict reflected on the highlights of his trip to Brazil, recalling especially his “meeting with the young people, hope not only of the future, but a vital force for the Church and society of today,” the canonization of Friar Anthony of St Anne Galvãoand, the first native-born Saint of Brazil, and the culmination of the visit, “the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops’ Conferences in the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.”
In his general audience, Benedict also took the opportunity to correct the record on colonization of Latin America”. John Allen, Jr. reports:

In apparent response to criticism of his May 13 speech in Brazil in which the pope asserted Christianity was not an “imposition of a foreign culture” on indigenous peoples of the New World, Benedict XVI today acknowledged “the shadows that accompanied the evangelization of the Latin American continent.”

The pope said “the sufferings and the injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous populations, who often saw their fundamental human rights trampled upon,” cannot be forgotten.

Last Sunday, in an address to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Aparecida, Brazil, for their Fifth General Conference, Benedict argued that Christianity was not imposed upon native peoples, but rather it was the fulfillment to which their religious experience pointed.

“The Utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward,” Benedict said in Aparecida.”Indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past.”

Afterwards, spokespersons for indigenous groups complained that the pope appeared to be denying the troubled history of European colonization. . . .

Benedict clarified his position on the subject as follows:

Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompany the work of evangelization of the Latin American Continent: it is not possible, in fact, to forget the suffering and the injustice inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon.

But the obligation to recall such unjustifiable crimes – crimes, however, already condemned at the time by missionaries like Bartolomé de Las Casas and by theologians like Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca – must not prevent noting with gratitude the wonderful works accomplished by divine grace among those populations in the course of these centuries.

The Gospel has thus become on the Continent the supporting element of a dynamic synthesis which, with various facets and according to the different nations, nonetheless expresses the identity of the Latin American People.

Today, in the age of globalization, this Catholic identity is still present as the most adequate response, provided that it is animated by a serious spiritual formation and by the principles of the social doctrine of the Church.

  • On April 27, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Benedict will visit the United Nations:

    Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the Holy Father has accepted the invitation that was extended to him by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, who met with the Pope at the Vatican on April 18.

    For now “there is no date or program” for the Pope’s trip, Father Lombardi said.

  • On May 29th, 2007, Pope Benedict stressed the call to evangelization to which all Christians are beckoned, urging that every baptized person must become active in the Church’s missionary activity:

    This appeal was made in the Pope’s message for the 81st World Mission Day, which will be celebrated on Oct. 21 with the theme: “All the Churches for All the World.”

    In the text, the Holy Father “invites local Churches on all continents to a joint awareness of the urgent need to relaunch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time.” [. . .]

    “Faced with an increasingly secularized culture, which seems to be penetrating Western societies more and more, in light of the crisis of the family, the lack of vocations and a progressively aging clergy,” the Pope explained, these ancient Churches “run the risk of closing in on themselves, of looking to the future with reduced hope and of lessening their missionary efforts.”

    “Yet this is precisely the moment to open trustingly to the providence of God, who never abandons his people and who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, guides them towards the accomplishment of his eternal plan of salvation,” the Holy Father said.

  • Continuing his reflections on the early fathers of the Christian Church, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the teachings of Tertullian:

    He started the use of theology in Latin. His work brought decisive benefits which it would be unforgivable to underestimate. His influence covered different areas: linguistically, from the use of language and the recovery of classical culture, to singling out a common “Christian soul” in the world and in the formulation of new proposals of human coexistence. . . .

    His apologetic writings are above all the most famous. They manifest two key intentions: to refute the grave accusations that pagans directed against the new religion; and, more propositional and missionary, to proclaim the Gospel message in dialogue with the culture of the time.

    His writings are important as they also show the practical trends in the Christian community regarding Mary Most Holy, the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Matrimony and Reconciliation, Petrine primacy, prayer…. In a special way, in those times of persecution when Christians seemed to be a lost minority, the Apologist exhorted them to hope, which in his treatises is not simply a virtue in itself, but something that involves every aspect of Christian existence. . . .

    In his famous affirmation according to which our soul “is naturally Christian” (Apologeticus 17: 6), Tertullian evokes the perennial continuity between authentic human values and Christian ones. Also in his other reflection borrowed directly from the Gospel, according to which “the Christian cannot hate, not even his enemies” (cf. Apologeticus 37), is found the unavoidable moral resolve, the choice of faith which proposes “non-violence” as the rule of life. Indeed, no one can escape the dramatic aptness of this teaching, also in light of the heated debate on religions.

  • In an interview with the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Vatican Secretary of State Cardianal Tarcisio Bertone addressed some controversial issues that occupied the press during Benedict XVI’s trip to Brazil Zenit News Service. June 4, 2007:

    Cardinal Bertone: There is nothing scandalous in the fact that the Pontiff’s press conference was transcribed in a slightly different version from the original. Even the texts of the Wednesday audiences are sometimes published after an accurate revision.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church, too, in its definitive edition, the “editio typica” of 1997, differs in many points from the first edition published in 1992. Those who read the recent document on limbo of the International Theological Commission can see that the “editio typica” of an encyclical — in this instance, Pope John Paul II’s “Evangelium Vitae” — presents a different and more precise formulation on a certain point than the version that was originally published.

    Q: What can you say about the excommunication of legislators who have approved abortion?

    Cardinal Bertone: It seems clear to me that the Pope recalled that it is the responsibility of individual bishops to decide whether and when to excommunicate, that it is a penalty foreseen in the Code of Canon Law, and in this case it is a matter of “ferendae sententiae” [a non-automatic excommunication].

    Q: And in regard to the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero? Why does the published text not mention the fact that the Pope said he has no doubts that Archbishop Romero merits beatification?

    Cardinal Bertone: It is evident that the Pope wants to be very respectful of the work of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the prefect of which was also present on the Pope’s flight.

    Q: After this experience, do you think it is likely that there will be other press conferences with the Pope?

    Cardinal Bertone: That is for the Pope to decide. But everyone knows that Cardinal Ratzinger never had any fear of the press and he always kindly offered answers to journalists who stopped him on the street.

  • On June 6, 2007, A man leaped over security barricades after the general audience and briefly held on to the popemobile before security guards restrained him.:

    he Pope, in fact, did not seem to notice the activity, as everything happened behind his back as he greeted the people.

    The Vatican later clarified that the 27-year-old man, of German nationality, suffers from a mental disability and was not trying to harm the Holy Father, but just wanted to attract attention.

    The episode lasted only a few seconds, . . .

    The offender was hospitalized at the Vatican’s request to “undergo mandatory treatment in a specialized and protected center.”

    Liveleak has video footage of the incident, and Father Z has a good post on the new security problems faced by Pope Benedict’s popularity (Things are Hopping in Rome What Does Prayer Really Say June 6, 2007). See also Cool under pressure: Papal guards handle many pilgrims discreetly, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. June 7, 2007, on the variety of papal security from Italian police agents to the Vatican’s Swiss Guard to Vatican gendarme corps and even sharpshooters positioned from Vatican rooftops. As one might expect, “the biggest problem facing the pope’s ‘guardian angels’ is distinguishing a real threat from a pilgrim’s overexuberance.”


Writings and Commentary about Pope Benedict XVI

  • His Own Pope Yet?, by David Gibson. New York Times April 23, 2007:

    By and large, the pontiff’s approach has worked. Liberal Catholics were so relieved that Benedict was not issuing daily bulls of excommunication that they took a kind word as a hopeful omen. Indeed, the loudest complaints about Benedict’s record have come from his erstwhile allies on the right who are miffed that he has not cracked down hard and fast on those they consider dissenters.

    But the Catholic right ought to have more patience, just as the Catholic left — and everyone else — might want to pay closer attention. The reality is that during these two years, even as he has preached the boundless grace of Christian charity, Benedict has also made it clear that divine love does not allow for compromise on matters of truth as the pope sees it, and that he will not brook anything that smacks of change in church teachings or traditions. Nor is he a caretaker pope who is willing to stand pat.

    Commonweal‘s J. Peter Nixon disputes Gibson’s conclusion that “Benedict is a more conservative pope than his public image suggests”.

  • Charity and Justice in the Relations among People and Nations: The Encyclical Deus Caritas Est of Pope Benedict XVI, by J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. Undersecretary, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences / XIII Plenary Session 27 April 2007.
  • The Pope and the Pop Star”, by Sean Curnyn. First Things “On The Square” May 10, 2007:

    On Saturday, September 27, 1997, during the Twenty-third Eucharistic Congress and as part of pope John Paul II’s pastoral visit to Bologna, there took place an outdoor event attended by some 300,000 people, featuring musical performances by Bob Dylan, in addition to certain Italian pop-musicians. As recounted in his recent book of memoirs, John Paul II, My Beloved Predecessor, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had serious misgivings about having the pope literally and figuratively share a platform with these popular musicians, and with Bob Dylan in particular. . . .

  • Papal youth appeal is about the message as well as the man, by Colleen Carroll Campbell. May 17, 2007:

    . . . it was the sort of pointed, politically incorrect address that makes many pundits cringe. American and European newspaper journalists covering the event reminded their readers that young people may applaud Benedict, but they do not actually pay attention to what he says. The proof in nearly every report was the same: an obligatory quote from a teenage critic who disagrees with Benedict about condom distribution or pre-marital sex.

    Benedict’s critics have plenty of company. But it seems odd that journalists attending papal youth rallies that attract tens of thousands of cheering young people regularly quote only disgruntled teenagers in their reports. If the pope is a bore and young people find his message irrelevant, why do so many of them flock to hear it? . . .

    Benedict has won that admiration not in spite of his message but because of it. While many leaders today regard the young as bundles of hormones incapable of sacrifice or self-restraint, Benedict views them as souls longing for goodness and God. He tells them that the restlessness they feel — the persistent longing that no amount of money, power, or pleasure can seem to satisfy — is not a curse. It is a reminder that they were created for more than the consumption of goods and satisfaction of appetites. You were created for love, Benedict tells them, the kind of love that finds its fulfillment in service to others.

    Benedict’s message is as demanding as John Paul’s was, and many young people struggle to put it into practice. Yet they are listening.

  • The Pope on Conscience, Reason Washington Times May 20, 2007. A brief review of On Conscience and The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion (with Jurgen Habermas).
  • The Pope’s Communications Paradox, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter May 27, 2007:

    This post-Brazil contretemps offers the latest confirmation that as a public figure, Benedict XVI has two qualities which often work at cross-purposes.

    Benedict XVI hadn’t even stepped off the papal plane at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Monday, ending his May 9-13 Brazilian swing, when controversy from the trip caught up with him. Spokespersons for Brazil’s indigenous populations were incensed by comments the pope made in Aparecida late Sunday afternoon, asserting that the arrival of Christianity did not amount to “the imposition of a foreign culture” upon the native peoples of the New World. To the natives, that seemed a nasty bit of historical revisionism.

    On the one hand, Benedict is an exceptionally lucid communicator. He’s a gifted logician, so his conclusions flow naturally from his premises. Moreover, he’s able to synthesize complex ideas in easy-to-understand formula, so you don’t need a degree in theology to get his point. Yet Benedict can also be remarkably tone-deaf to how his pronouncements may sound to people who don’t share his intellectual and cultural premises. . . .

  • “The Best Hypothesis”: The Humble Proposal of the Church of Ratzinger and Ruini, by Sandro Magister. http://www.Chiesa May 21, 2007. “The same day on which, in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Benedict XVI addressed the key discourse of his trip to the bishops of that nation, in Italy his cardinal vicar Camillo Ruini was laying down the guidelines for a positive encounter of Christianity with the dominant traits of contemporary culture. The day was May 11. And the two discourses, by the pope and by his vicar, in spite of their great geographic distance were in reality very close.”
  • Papal patience causes chafing among some Vatican bureaucrats, media”, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. June 11, 2007:

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) — More than two years into his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has proven to be a very patient decision-maker — so patient that even some of his Vatican bureaucrats are chafing a little.

    “There are all these decisions that you thought were already made, and then nothing happens,” one Roman Curia official said in early June.

    The examples abound:

    — The pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics, announced in January, has yet to appear.

    — The papal document widening use of the Tridentine Mass, reportedly ready since last fall, is still awaiting publication.

    — A consistory to name new cardinals, expected in June by most Vatican officials, has apparently been put off until the fall.

    — A slew of key appointments, including the replacement of several Roman Curia heads who are past retirement age, keep getting deferred.

    — The streamlining of Vatican communications agencies, rumored to have been one of the pope’s priorities following his election in 2005, still has not happened.

    Why are things taking so long? The main reason, according to those inside the Curia, is that the pope believes some of these questions call for consultation and fine-tuning, rather than snap decisions.

  • The Courage To Be Imperfect – Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait) Ignatius Insight:

    . . . While at Tubingen, one student asked another to identify the difference between Professor Ratzinger and another equally famous theologian. The reply was: Ratzinger also finds time to play the piano. He is as open to beauty as he is to truth. He lives outside himself. He is not preoccupied with his own self. Put simply, he does not take himself too seriously.

    The other anecdote is personal. Once he asked me gently about the progress of my thesis. It was about time, as I had been working on it for some seven years. I told him that I thought there was still some work to be done. He turned to me with those piercing but kindly eyes, saying with a smile: “Nur Mut zur Lücke” (Have the courage to leave some gaps). In other words, be courageous enough to be imperfect.

    On reflection, this is one of the keys to Ratzinger’s character (and also to his theology; in particular his theology of politics): his acceptance that everything we do is imperfect, that all knowledge is limited, no matter how brilliant or well read one may be. It never bothered him that in a course of lectures he rarely covered the actual content of the course. His most famous book, Introduction to Christianity, is incomplete. [8] Ratzinger knows in his heart and soul that God alone is perfect and that all human attempts at perfection (such as political utopias) end in disaster.

    The only perfection open to us is that advocated by Jesus in the Gospel: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), he who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). Love of God and love of neighbor: that is the secret of Pope Benedict XVI, and that will be the core of his universal teaching.

  • Forthcoming: The Apostles (Our Sunday Visitor, August 2007). A compilation of Benedict’s general audiences’ talks on the apostles.

Scholarly Articles

  • The subject of the Volume 2, 2006 issue of Letter and Spirit is “The Authority of Mystery: The Word of God and the People of God”, in which Dr. Scott Hahn has an article on The Authority of Mystery: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.” (See link for ordering info).
  • Via Carl Olson @ Insight Scoop): The May/June 2007 issue of Saint Austin Review (StAR) focuses on “The Spirit of the Liturgy,” and features articles by several Ignatius Press authors, including Fr. Thomas M. Kocik, author of The Reform of the Reform?, Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, author of Turning Towards the Lord, Alcuin Reid, author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy, and, of course, Joseph Pearce, who is co-editor of StAR with Robert Asch.

    Two of the articles are available for download, including “A Juggler on a Tightrope: Benedict XVI and the ‘Tridentine’ Question”, by Fr. Kocik. [.pdf format].

Francis Beckwith’s Return to Rome

On May 5, Dr. Francis Beckwith, president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) announced that he had been received back into the Catholic Church (his home until age 14); his wife and family following him. The announcement was greeted with celebration among Catholics and consternation among Evangelicals, in fact prompting his resignation from the society.

Following are some links to articles and discussion around the ‘net (compiled chiefly with the help of Carl Olson @ Ignatius Insight, a fellow convert who has been following this story closely).

  • My Return to the Catholic Church Right Reason:

    During the last week of March 2007, after much prayer, counsel and consideration, my wife and I decided to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. My wife, a baptized Presbyterian, is going through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This will culminate with her receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. For me, because I had received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all before the age of 14, I need only go to confession, request forgiveness for my sins, ask to be received back into the Church, and receive absolution. . . .

  • Q&A with Dr. Francis Beckwith Christianity Today, Interview with David Neth. May 9, 2007.
  • He Could No Longer Explain Why He Wasn’t Catholic Interview with Tim Drake. National Catholic Register June 3-9, 2007.

  • Answering The Call To Full Communion, Interview with Carl Olson. Ignatius Insight June 5, 2007.


Related Reading

Bush meets Benedict

Bush and Benedict: First Meeting, by Andrea Kirk Assaf. Inside the Vatican June 10, 2007. Detailed account of the meeting between the Holy Father and President George W. Bush. (By all accounts I think the meeting was more cordial and friendly than the papal tongue-lashing some folks had anticipated).

Rocco Palmo reports that “Benedict’s gift to the commander-in-chief was even more precious, and message-packed: a rare first edition of the autobiography of John Carroll of Baltimore, the founding bishop of American Catholicism.” Nice.

Background Reading:


Gift or Gaffe?: Why Bush Gave Benedict a Walking Stick, by Wayne Laugesen. National Catholic Register June 24-30, 2007 Issue — on the carved walking stick that President Bush presented the Pope on the occasion of his first visit, inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The gift was regarded as a laughingstock by liberal critics; the Register tells a different story:

The stick was designed and carved by Roosevelt Wilkerson, a man who lived on the streets of Dallas with his wife until a good friend of George and Laura Bush discovered his craft and began helping him sell the carvings, known as Moses Sticks. […]

Nowlin met Wilkerson in 1997 at a craft class at her church, First Presbyterian of Dallas, and later decided she wanted to buy one of his sticks. She asked around, and ended up tracking Wilkerson down by shouting his name in a rough area of southeast Dallas.

Nowlin and Wilkerson struck up a friendship, and she agreed to try selling the sticks. They devised a plan in which Wilkerson would carve sticks, Nowlin would sell them for $75 each, and proceeds would help Wilkerson and his wife rent an efficiency apartment and get off the street.

The first stick Nowlin bought was given to her pastor. Subsequently, she gave a stick to then-Gov. Bush because she knew he cared about the homeless and the poor — and the Ten Commandments. Greeting Nowlin for a luncheon at the governor’s mansion, Laura Bush told her that Gov. Bush considered his Moses Stick “the greatest gift ever.” […]

In preparing for the Vatican visit, Bush contacted Nowlin about acquiring a stick so the White House protocol office could review it as a possible gift for Pope Benedict XVI.
Wilkerson and his wife haven’t been homeless for most of the past 10 years because of the Moses Sticks, but Nowlin says it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes, sales have been slow.

“I needed to sell at least seven sticks a month, if they were to stay off the street,” Nowlin said. “When orders were slow, Roosevelt and I would pray. We would just pray and pray and pray and the orders would come in.”

As a result of the president’s gift to the Pope, Nowlin said she and Wilkerson can’t keep up. She has raised the price of the sticks to $100, but says she could probably charge $1,000 or more and still have a backlog of orders.

The Register reports that the Holy Father did not appear phased by the President’s gift of a walking stick, nor is down-home Texan manner of referring to him as “Sir.” Neither should we, I suppose.

A New Member on Vox Nova

Looks like some combox criticism from readers of this blog — elaborated upon in a full-blown post by Michael Denton — has resulted in the advent of a new contributor to Vox Nova. “Alexham” introduces himself as:

. . . a front-page blogger over at RedState, which is, arguably, the most influential conservative blog around (along with NRO’s ‘The Corner”). I have been an active member of the Republican Party and the Federalist Society for over fourteen years. I subscribe to only two magazines/journals: First Things and Crisis. I was a Calvinist Southern Baptist for several years before joining the Catholic Church in 2003 (and we all know that converts are nothing but trouble, right? 🙂 ). If I had to choose a politician who best encapsulates my political views, it would either be Sam Brownback or Rick Santorum. My (modern-day) intellectual heroes/mentors, in addition to the Holy Father, are: Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, Judge Robert Bork, Father Richard J. Neuhaus, Michael Novak, Professor Hadley Arkes, Professor Robert P. George, George Weigel, and pretty much every person Damon Linker went after in his book. In sum, I am a staunch theocon. And while there is much more that I could mention in this regard, I think the foregoing should give y’all a general idea of my worldview.

All of that having been said, I am not a knee-jerk Republican. I often find myself in disagreement with the GOP and/or conservative base on issues like: immigration, the death penalty, habeas corpus, torture, the need for military intervention in Darfur, flag burning (an act I find repulsive, but nevertheless understand to be a protected form of political dissent under the First Amendment), to name just a few. I am also the only conservative I know who doesn’t watch or particularly care for the television program “24.” I am more of a Stephen Colbert kinda guy, and that makes many of my GOP buddies deeply suspicious of me. 🙂

Well, as far as the preferring Stephen Colbert to 24, make that two. (I happen to think 24 jumped the shark a couple seasons ago, probably after Jack Bauer discovered there never was a problem he couldn’t solve through torture and the fictional-United States being on the receiving end of several presidential coups, a presidential assassination and a smorgasboard of WMD attacks (including not one but mmultiple nuclear detonations) — at this point, FOX is scraping the bottom of the barrel for plot-lines).

Anyway, a hearty welcome to Alexam. I commend Michael Joseph for inviting him. I look forward to what I hope will be an airing of diverse (yet Catholic) perspectives.