Month: August 2007

Pope Benedict XVI: Grace Under Fire

The Pope is scheduled to visit the U.N. in New York City next year. From the blog of the New York Times, a post recalling When Ratzinger Last Visited New York:

The A.P. reported that on Jan. 26, 1988, “several prominent rabbis refused to attend a meeting with Ratzinger because he maintains that Judaism finds its fulfillment in Christianity.” The following day, gay demonstrators, angered by Cardinal Ratzinger’s contention that homosexuality is a “moral disorder,” heckled him during his talk at the Saint Peter’s Church, a Lutheran congregation in Midtown.

The demonstrators — some shouting “He’s no man of God,” “inquisitor” and “Nazi” — interrupted a talk by Cardinal Ratzinger for about 10 minutes. The A.P. reported that Cardinal John J. O’Connor, the archbishop of New York at the time (he died in 2000), “sat somberly beside him during the disruption at the presentation.” Six demonstrators were arrested.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s talk, and a closed-door conference on Jan. 28, 1988, were organized by the Center on Religion and Society at the Rutherford Institute, a conservative legal foundation based in Charlottesville, Va.

It was actually Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus (at that time still a Lutheran pastor) who coordinated then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s visit to the United States. The text of Ratzinger’s address: Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today; the proceedings of the conference were published in Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: The Ratzinger Conference on Bible and Church. Eerdmans Pub Co (May 1989).

'Vatican Biggy'In an interview with, Fr. Neuhaus recalled Ratzinger’s encounter with obnoxious protestors intent on disrupting the Cardinal’s speech:

. . . Throughout, the cardinal was the very picture of tranquility. When he got a chance to speak he prefaced his lecture, which was on the subject of biblical interpretation, with a moving reflection on the 1968 student rebellion in Europe that helped him to understand more deeply the indispensability of civility in human relations.

On this and other occasions, it was obvious to me that his tranquility is rooted in a tried and tested faith. The next day the tabloid headlines blazoned, “Gays Protest Vatican Biggy.” He chuckled at his new title of Vatican Biggy.

From the perspective of a protestor, demonstrating typical liberal support for freedom of speech and the civil exchange of ideas:

… Ratzinger took the podium and began to speak. As soon as he finished his first sentence, a group of about eight people to the left of the crowd leaped to their feet and began chanting “Stop the Inquisition!” They chanted feverishly and loudly, their voices echoing throughout the building. The entire room was fixated on them. Activists suddenly appeared in the back of the church and began giving out fliers explaining the action. Two men on the other side of the room jumped up and, pointing at Ratzinger, began to scream, “Antichrist!” Another man jumped up, in one of the first few rows near the prelate, and yelled, “Nazi!” All over the church, angry people began to shout down the protestors who were near them; chaotic yelling matches broke out. . . .

Suddenly, I jumped up on one of the marble platforms and, looking down, I addressed the entire congregation in the loudest voice I could. My voice rang out as if it were amplified. I pointed at Ratzinger and shouted: “He is no man of God!” The shocked faces of the assembled Catholics turned to the back of the room to look at me as I continued: “He is no man of God — he is the Devil!”

In an article at the dawn of Benedict XVI’s pontificate, Alice von Hildebrand recalled the visit to New York as well (No Prophet In His Own Land: Reflections on Benedict XVI Crisis June 2005):

My Latin blood started boiling. Before I knew it, I got up and said at the top of my voice, “Shame on you!” The police were called and they forced the dissidents to leave the Church; they went outside and continued screaming. The cardinal stood quietly on the podium with a grieved but gentle expression on his face. I could not help but have the feeling that he was praying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Peace was finally reestablished, and once again, His Eminence proceeded with his text as if nothing had happened. He was clearly deeply recollected. But it was not the end of this ugly affair. After some ten minutes, other protesters seated in the back of the Church started spitting their gall once again and giving expression to their unholy rage. The same scenario was repeated; but this time, the police were nearby, and the speaker could complete his talk.

His attitude throughout was admirable—peaceful, calm, loving, no bitterness, no resentment. He accepted their insults and, in doing so, gave testimony to the teaching of Christ: Love those who hate you.

Let’s hope our Papa will receive a kinder, warmer welcome on his next visit to the Big Apple.


Poetic Justice.

The ultimate betrayal? Son of Nazi Embraces Judaism (Jewish World Review August 21, 2007):

Bernd Wollschlaeger has two stories to tell.

First, he’s a former officer in the Israel Defense Forces, a physician who developed expertise in biological warfare. He lives in Miramar, Florida, runs a family practice in North Miami Beach, has become a legislative leader of the American Medical Association and is active in local Jewish causes.

Now, at 49, he has decided to tell “my coming-out story.”

It is this: He was born the Christian son of a World War II German tank commander — a third-generation warrior who received Deutschland’s highest military honor, the Iron Cross, which was pinned on his uniform by Adolf Hitler himself. . . .

Good one. Here’s another from last year: Matthias Göring Goes Kosher (Der Spiegel May 10, 2006):

Mr. Göring is determined to discover the origin of the wine we’re drinking. The waiter, an old man with snow white hair and a dark blue kippa, toddles over and says: “It’s from a small vineyard near Haifa, Sir.” Göring leans back in his chair, satisfied. “Ah, Israeli wine,” he sighs, “Perfect.”

That’s Matthias Göring, not Hermann. Even so, it is very odd to be having lunch in a Jewish restaurant with a direct descendent of Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man. Matthias Göring, though, couldn’t be happier here. After 44 years of “despising Jews” and suffering the curse of his family name, the 49-year-old physiotherapist has become a full-on Israel lover. He wears a kippa, keeps kosher, celebrates Shabbat, is learning Hebrew and is even considering converting. His family thinks he has gone mad.

“They think I’ve got a screw loose,” grins the man who now works with the victims of suicide bombings. “But I know what has happened to me is completely and utterly real.”

Pope Benedict Roundup!

[Note: There was a lot of topics to cover from our last roundup in June 2007; if some are omitted, it is either due to a lapse on my part or — as in the case of Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics — a wish to make it the subject of an individual post. Enjoy.]
  • On June 16, Pope Benedict XVI received Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of New Justiniana and Cyprus. From the Vatican website, the English translations of Benedict and Chrysostomos II’s addresses to each other and their common declaration.
  • On June 17, Pope Benedict XVI visited Assisi on the anniversary of the conversion of St. Francis. From the Vatican website, links to translations of all five addresses, along with a photo gallery.

    In his homily during the Mass celebrated outside the Basilica of St. Francis, Pope Benedict recalls the interfaith / ecumenical gatherings initiated by his predecessor, and adds his own perspective on the interreligious dialogue:

    . . . I cannot forget in today’s context the initiative of John Paul II, my Predecessor of holy memory, who in 1986 wanted to gather here at a Prayer Meeting for Peace representatives of the Christian denominations and of the different world religions.

    It was a prophetic intuition and a moment of grace, as I said a few months ago in my Letter to the Bishop of this Town on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of that event. The choice of celebrating the meeting at Assisi was prompted precisely by the witness of Francis as a man of peace to whom so many people, even from other cultural and religious positions, look with sympathy.

    At the same time, the light of the “Poverello” on that initiative was a guarantee of Christian authenticity, since his life and message are so visibly based on Christ’s choice to reject a priori any temptation of religious indifferentism which would have nothing to do with authentic interreligious dialogue.

    The “spirit of Assisi”, which has continued to spread throughout the world since that event, counters the spirit of violence and the abuse of religion as a pretext for violence. Assisi tells us that faithfulness to one’s own religious conviction, and especially faithfulness to the Crucified and Risen Christ, is not expressed in violence and intolerance but in sincere respect for the other, in dialogue, in a proclamation that appeals to freedom and reason and in the commitment to peace and reconciliation.

    The failure to combine acceptance, dialogue and respect for all with the certainty of faith which every Christian, like the Saint of Assisi, is bound to foster, proclaiming Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life of man (cf. Jn 14: 6), the one Saviour of the World, can be neither an evangelical nor a Franciscan attitude.

    (Via Carl Olson, who also recommends on this subject Fr. Schall’s commentary on “The Spirit of Assisi: On Praying With Other Religions” (Ignatius Insight October 16, 2006).

  • On June 24, Pope Benedict gave the closing address to participants of the European Meeting of University Professors in Rome. Touching on themes from his Regensburg address, he pointed to several issues worthy of reflection: 1) “the need for a comprehensive study of the crisis of modernity” – countering the “false dichotomy” between theism and authentic humanism, divine law and human freedom. “The anthropocentrism which characterizes modernity can never be detached from an acknowledgment of the full truth about man, which includes his transcendent vocation”; 2) “the broadening of our understanding of rationality” – beyond the confinement of the “purely empirical,” fostering a cooperation between faith and reason; 3) the contributions of Christianity to humanism — “The question of man, and thus of modernity, challenges the Church to devise effective ways of proclaiming to contemporary culture the ‘realism’ of her faith in the saving work of Christ”:

    Knowledge can never be limited to the purely intellectual realm; it also includes a renewed ability to look at things in a way free of prejudices and preconceptions, and to allow ourselves to be “amazed” by reality, whose truth can be discovered by uniting understanding with love. Only the God who has a human face, revealed in Jesus Christ, can prevent us from truncating reality at the very moment when it demands ever new and more complex levels of understanding. The Church is conscious of her responsibility to offer this contribution to contemporary culture.

    Some amazing photography of Benedict’s visit to Assisi, taken by Benodette @ The Benedict Forum.

  • In June, Pope Benedict also visited the Vatican Library and Secret Archives, reminding the employees of their vocation:

    The Pontiff told the staff that on his 70th birthday, he asked Pope John Paul II for permission to “dedicate myself to study and research the interesting documents and finds you safeguard so carefully, real masterpieces that help us to follow the story of humanity and of Christianity.”

    “In his providential designs, the Lord had other plans for me,” Benedict XVI said, “and here I am today among you not as a passionate student of ancient texts, but as a pastor called to encourage the faithful to work together for the salvation of the world, each one carrying out God’s will where he has placed them.”

    At the end of his visit, the Pope exhorted the staff to consider their work “as a true mission to be carried out with passion and patience, gentleness and in the spirit of faith […] aware that the Gospel message is passed on through your coherent Christian testimony.”

    Here is the full text of Benedict’s address to the staff of the Vatican Library.

    According to Zenit, The Vatican Library was founded in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V and houses 1,600,000 ancient and modern books; 8,300 printed documents, including 65 parchments; 150,000 manuscript codes and archive papers; 300,000 coins and medals; and some 20,000 works of art.

  • Benedict XVI has re-established that a two-thirds majority will always be required for the election of a Pope. The Holy Father decreed the norm in a June 11 “motu proprio” written in Latin. It was published today by L’Osservatore Romano and is effective immediately. (Zenit News June 26, 2007).
  • On June 28, speaking at vespers celebration held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict celebrated the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul:

    [F]rom the outset, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul to have been inseparable, even if each had a different mission to accomplish.

    Peter professed his faith in Christ first; Paul obtained as a gift the ability to deepen its riches. Peter founded the first community of Christians who came from the Chosen People; Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. With different charisms they worked for one and the same cause: the building of Christ’s Church.

    and dedicated the Jubilee year of June 2008-June 2009 to Paul the Apostle in celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of the saint’s birth. From Zenit, here is Father Sassi, superior general of the Society of St. Paul, on the question: “What would St. Paul do if he were alive today?”

  • July 7th, Pope Benedict issued the long-anticipated motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, announcing new norms that will allow the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962 to be used as an extraordinary form of the liturgical celebration. In an interview with Zenit, the Wanderer‘s Father John Zuhlsdorf provides an analysis of the document and its implications.

    A further list of recommended resources and links to discussion can be found here; for ongoing chronicles of the reaction to the document, see

  • On July 15th, Pope Benedict expressed his gratitude to God (and his hosts) for being able to enjoy the mountains of Northern Italy, where he vacationed until the 21st. Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, confirmed that Benedict XVI was chiefly occupied with working on the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth.

    At a July 18 press conference, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone elaborated on the Pope’s vacation habits:

    “The Pope is playing the piano a lot but he is also working. He has a great capacity to write a lot. He is writing the second part of his book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ and a new encyclical with a social theme — I don’t know when it will be published — and other things.

    “He is a volcano of creativity. He is working on things like the message for World Youth Day 2008 and other things ‘in pectore.’ And he is drawing out and elaborating further themes he has already written about.”

    And in the Italian daily Il Giornale, Benedict’s secretary Msgr. George Ganswein decribed the glowing reception given to the Pope by the residents of the Veneto region:

    The Holy Father, “was surprised, even overwhelmed” by “so much affection, kindness and love,” from the people he encountered on his vacation, but “he has learned this affectionate language very well,” Monsignor Georg Gänswein told the Italian daily Il Giornale.

    “At the beginning, I have shared this observation,” Monsignor Gänswein said. “Afterward, I have been able to see how the Pope has learned this affectionate language very well, responding with simple and humble, but very eloquent, gestures.

    “And the people immediately realize that the Pope is not looking for applause and does not want to call attention to himself, but instead, only wants to guide the faithful to Christ. This is the authentic objective of the Pope’s reactions. And the hearts of the people have understood this very well.”

  • Benedict devoted his July 22 Angelus to the spectre of war, issuing a renewed plea for peace among nations:

    If men lived in peace with God and with each other, the earth would truly resemble a “paradise.” Unfortunately, sin ruined this divine project, generating divisions and bringing death into the world. This is why men cede to the temptations of the evil one and make war against each other. The result is that in this stupendous “garden” that is the world, there open up circles of hell.

    War, with the mourning and destruction it brings, has always been rightly considered a calamity that contrasts with God’s plan. He created everything for existence and, in particular, wants to make a family of the human race. . . .

    Benedict recalled the letter of his predecessor, Benedict XV’s “Nota Alle Potenze Belligeranti” (Note to the Warring Powers), calling for an end to the “useless bloodbath” of the First World War.

    Benedict XV’s “Nota” did not limit itself to condemning war; it indicated, at a juridical level, the ways to construct an equitable and durable peace: the moral force of law, balanced and regulated disarmament, arbitration in disputes, freedom on the seas, the reciprocal remission of war debts, the restitution of occupied territories, fair negotiations to resolve problems.

    The Holy See’s proposal was oriented toward the future of Europe and of the world, according to a project that was Christian in inspiration but able to be shared by all because it was founded on the law of nations. It is the same program that the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II followed in their memorable speeches at the United Nations, repeating in the name of the Church: “No more war!”

  • On July 24, 2007, Pope Benedict took part in another question-and-answer session with priests from the dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso, Italy.

    The questions were on topics including the education and Catholic formation of youth, the priest shortage, divorce and remarriage, immigration into Europe, evangelism, burdens facing priests and educators, sports, and the Vatican II Council.

    The Vatican has the English translation of the exchanges. Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea) links to some earlier translations from the PapaRatzinger Forum. The tenth question was made the subject of a column by Sandro Magister: All Against All: The Postconciliar Period Recounted by Ratzinger, Theologian and Pope, responding to a priest who expressed his disappointment that so many hopes and dreams by those who participated in the Second Vatican Council had been dashed.

In Other News . . .

  • Benedict XVI is moving the Church away from religion, in the modern sense of the term, and toward a deeper understanding of Christianity, according to Augustinian scholar John Peter Kenney, professor of Religious Studies at St. Michael’s College, in Vermont. Zenit interviewed Kenney on the Augustinian influences in Benedict’s pontificate (Zenit News, June 19, 2007):

    Religion is a category of modernity, usually understood to mean either individually authenticated spiritual experiences or else a particular type of collective ideology based on socially defined values.

    To think of Christianity in such terms is to drift toward the relativism that Pope Benedict has so famously decried. Hence Benedict XVI has insisted that personal spiritual experiences can only become meaningful within the shared context of a lived theology. And the collective life of the Church is far more than a form of social or political association. Christianity is not an ideology.

    These modern representations of religion can constitute a reduction of Christianity to psychological, sociological and political categories and can result in a denial of its claims to transcendent truth.

    Benedict XVI has a masterful grasp of all these reductionist tendencies and he has pushed back hard in order to restore recognition of the richness and depth of Christianity.

  • Dr D. Vincent Twomey, SVD, congratulates his former doctoral supervisor on his election to the papacy. Courtesy: Fotografiafelici

    Zenit interviews Father Twomey, retired professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick’s College, in Maynooth, and author of Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age:

    Q: What do you think are the most defining characteristics of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI?

    Father Twomey: The most defining formal characteristics of his writings are originality, clarity and a superb literary style that is not easy to render in translation.

    Ratzinger is more than a world-class scholar and academic: He is an original thinker.

    He has the Midas touch, in the positive sense that whatever he touches, he turns to gold, in other words, whatever subject he examines, he has something new and exciting to say about it, be it the dogmas of the Church or a mosaic in an ancient Roman church or bioethics. And he writes with amazing clarity.

    With regard to his style, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne is reported as commenting that Ratzinger is the Mozart of theology — he writes masterpieces effortlessly.

    With regard to its content, as Ratzinger once said himself, “God is the real central theme of my endeavors.”

    There is hardly an area of theology — dogma, moral, political life, bioethics, liturgy, exegesis, music, art — that he has not examined in-depth. And everything he examines, he does so from God’s viewpoint, as it were, namely trying to discover what light revelation — Scripture and Tradition — can shine on a particular issue.

    Twomey also addressed Ratzinger’s “courage to be imperfect,” as indicated by the unfinished state of his published works:

    Basic to his whole attitude to life and to theology is the assumption that only God is perfect, that human effort is always imperfect. . . .

    We cannot know everything, least of all God and his design for man. I have described his writings as “fragmentary.” Most of his writings are unfinished — like his classic book, “Introduction to Christianity,” and, more recently, his “Jesus of Nazareth.” And yet he has the courage to publish them in their unfinished state.

    This attitude gave Joseph Ratzinger that inner calm and detachment which the world is now experiencing in Benedict XVI. But it also is, perhaps, the secret of his gentle humor and wit.

    On Father Twomey’s long friendship with and appreciation of the Holy Father, see also:

  • For Benedict, environmental movement promises recovery of natural law tradition, by John Allen, Jr. Daily Journal, National Catholic Reporter July 27, 2007:

    One could say that summer 2007 is when the Vatican decided to go green. First came an announcement in June that more than 1,000 photovoltaic panels will be installed atop the Paul VI Audience Hall, allowing the building to utilize solar energy for light, heating and cooling. A month later, the Vatican became the first state in Europe to go completely carbon-neutral, signing an agreement with a Hungarian firm to reforest a sufficiently large swath of Hungary’s Bükk National Park to offset its annual CO2 emissions.

    To some, these may seem curiously cutting edge moves from a pope whose recent decisions to revive the pre-Vatican II Mass and to reaffirm claims that Catholicism is the lone true church have cemented his reputation as the ultimate “retro” figure. He sometimes brings to mind the famous quip that rolling back the clock is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if it’s keeping bad time.

    So what gives?

  • Benedict’s Gifts and ‘Gaffes’ National Catholic Register August 12-18, 2007 Issue:

    The media is a double-edged sword: It can lift you up, and it can knock you down. Last year, headlines and commentators expressed surprise at the gifts the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI had brought to the Church. Now, their praise has been replaced by finger-pointing at the “gaffes” of the same Holy Father.

    The problem: There’s not that much difference between those gifts and those gaffes. . . .

  • Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth is one of the best-selling books in France. In the current list published by the magazine L’Express, the book is at No. 5. It was released on June 7 and has remained on the bestsellerlist for 7 weeks.
  • “Miracles are very hard to come by in Britain” – or so says Pope Benedict, to English prime minister Tony Blair during their meeting this past June. American Papist has the details.
  • 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 Susan Nowlin, a good friend of George and Laura Bush, discovered his craft and began helping him sell the carvings, known as Moses Sticks. […]

    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 at all 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.

  • The Ratzinger Effect: more money, more pilgrims – and lots more Latin July 7, 2007:

    Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani, head of economic affairs at the Holy See, said that the “remarkable increase” in both donations and numbers of pilgrims showed that there was “a symbiosis, a mutual sympathy between this Pope and Christian people everywhere”.

    Presenting the Holy See’s annual budget yesterday, Cardinal Sebastiani noted that not only had it closed last year with a surplus of €2.4 million, partly thanks to diocesan donations, there had also been a “huge jump” in “Peter’s Pence”, the annual church collections given directly to the Pope to use for charity, from $60 million (£30 million) in 2005 to $102 million. “The days when people talked of papal bankruptcy are past,” said Marco Tosatti, Vatican correspondent of La Stampa. . . .

    Record numbers attend Benedict’s weekly audiences, and seven million people a year now visit St Peter’s, a rise of 20 per cent. Similar increases are recorded for pilgrimages to Catholic shrines at Assisi, Lourdes, Fatima in Portugal and Madonna di Guadalupe in Mexico. “This is a Ratzinger phenomenon,” reported La Repubblica.

  • Bonaventure & Benedict July 15, 2007. dotCommonweal [blog]:

    Today, tucked into the celebration of “the weekly Easter,” the Dies Domini, the Church also commemorates, with the entire Franciscan family, St. Bonaventure, theologian and pastor.

    In 1959 the young professor, Joseph Ratzinger, published a significant study: The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure. This second thesis, or Habilitationschrift, is required for the aspirant to hold a chair in a German university.

    In his 1969 “Foreword to the American Edition,” Ratzinger writes of his findings . . . READ MORE

  • “A Day in the Life of the Pope” – stills from a documentary, with shots from inside the rather modest Papal apartment, study and chapel. (Courtesy of the The Pope Benedict XVI Forum).
  • Interview with Msgr. Georg Gaenswein Sueddeutsche Zeitung July 26, 2007 (kindly translated from German by Gerald Augustinus of Closed Cafeteria ). The interviewer, Peter Seewald, is the co-author of several book-length interviews with Cardinal Ratzinger – Salt of the Earth and God and the World. On the state of the Pope’s health:

    PS: When he was a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wanted to retire, stating he was exhausted.

    MG: With his election as Pope something happened that he neither strived for nor wanted. But I am convinced that, as he by and by surrendered to God’s will, the grace of the office in his person and his actions has shown effect and still is. . . .

    On his own service to the Holy Father:

    PS: The son of a blacksmith from a 450 people village in the Black Forest who now travels with the Holy Father in a helicopter and shares the concerns of the global Church (Weltkirche) – does one ask oneself: Why me? What does God want from me?

    MG: I asked myself this very question, and not just once. It is a task that you cannot plan. In promising the Holy Father fidelity and obedience, I tried to answer that question. In that, I see a message from God, to face this task without reservations.

    On the unfortunate caricatures of him by the tabloids and the ogling of adoring fans:

    PS: You’re probably the first Papal secretary in history that’s also in the spotlight next to the Pontifex: People Magazine swoons over the “Sunnyboy in the cassock”, the Swiss Weltwoche calls you the “most handsome man in a soutane”. Donatella Versace dedicated a fashion line to you. Does this image as a “ladykiller” (ie someone who looks like one) bother you ?

    MG: It didn’t make me blush, but it irritated me a bit. It doesn’t hurt and it was flattering, and it’s no sin. I’d never been confronted like this with my “shell”. Then I noticed that it was largely an expression of sympathy – a bonus, not a malus; I can handle that well. But, I don’t want that people don’t just look at me but also acknowledge the substance.

    It’s a lengthy (and, as it progresses, substantial) interview, so read on.

    Also, from Benodette @ Benedict Forum, translation of another interview with Msgr. Ganswein in

    . . . [Jesus of Nazareth] is enjoying a great success in Germany too. Have you read it already?

    Yes, for the second time. It is a spiritual legacy of a man who has grappled with Jesus throughout his whole life as a priest, as a professor, as archbishop and Cardinal Prefect, and now as Pope. He draws upon the sum of his life, and sets down a confession [of faith]. Readers will be much encouraged and strengthened in their faith by this book.

    The Regensburg speech was the speech with the greatest worldwide echo. Some Muslims reacted indignantly. Since this experience do you look at the papal speeches beforehand?

    Naturally, the Pope takes reactions to his speeches into account, and ponders, separates the wheat from the chaff. But he doesn’t let himself be hemmed in, because someone doesn’t agree with this or that statement or heavily criticizes it. Many who remain silent, who do not announce themselves with public bluster, are grateful for his clear, trailblazing words.

    Are other departments of the Catholic Curia involved with papal pronouncements?

    The Pope usually writes speeches, homilies and lengthy texts himself. When necessary, individual components are provided or suggestions are compiled. But he is the architect of the text. . . .

  • From the Benedict Forum, news of a German biography of Benedict’s brother, Georg Ratzinger:

    A biography of Monsignor Georg Ratzinger is to be published later this month by Herder-Verlag. The author is 56 year old journalist Anton Zuber who lives near Heilbronn.

    Oberpfalznetz -The Pope will be given the book by his brother on 16 August at Castelgandolfo. It will be generally available on 25 August. The book is titles Georg Ratzinger and the Regensburg Domspatzen. The book will concentrate on Georg Ratzinger’s life as a musician. The book has 256 pages and will be sold at 19.90 Euro.

    From the German wires:

    German news wires – People have always had an interest in those who are close to a Pope. Stanislaw Dziwisz, now Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, has published a book about his years with Pope John Paul II which reveals something of how close their relationship was.

    Never before, however, has a book been dedicated to the life of a Pope’s brother. Today, at Castelgandolfo, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger presented the first copy of his biography to his bother the Pope. Written by the journalist Anton Zuber, and published by Herder, the book is focused on his years as Master of the Regensburg Domspatzen, which achieved world-wide celebrity under his leadership between 1964 and 1994.

    Anton Zuber spent many hours in conversation with Georg Ratzinger for the biography. The book also covers Monsignor Ratzinger’s shocked reaction to the result of the conclave, his childhood and youth, his career as a musician, his time in the war (he was wounded in Italy), his captivity as a POW, his ordination and his first Mass. He also speaks of his small brother, with whom he and his sister Maria would play, their respect for their industrious mother and firm but fair father. He recalled the tale of his brother’s tears over a teddy bear which disappeared from the shop window across the street, only to turn up under their Christmas tree.

  • Pope set to declare income tax evasion ‘socially unjust’, by Richard Owen. Times [UK] August 11, 2007:

    Pope Benedict XVI is working on a doctrinal pronouncement that will condemn tax evasion as “socially unjust”, according to Vatican sources.

    In his second encyclical – the most authoritative statement a pope can issue – the pontiff will denounce the use of “tax havens” and offshore bank accounts by wealthy individuals, since this reduces tax revenues for the benefit of society as a whole.

    It will focus on humanity’s social and economic problems in an era of globalisation. Pope Benedict intends to argue for a world trade and economic system “regulated in such a way as to avoid further injustice and discrimination”, Ignazio Ingrao, a Vatican watcher, said yesterday.

    The encyclical, drafted during his recent holiday in the mountains of northern Italy, takes its cue from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), issued 40 years ago. In it the pontiff focused on “those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance and are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilisation”. He called on the West to promote an equitable world economic system based on social justice rather than profit.

    Adds Rick Garnett (Mirror of Justice): “I hope this document attends carefully to the non-trivial challenge of defining ‘tax evasion.'” At this point, we can only speculate.

On a Lighter Note . . .

New Books by Pope Benedict XVI / Joseph Ratzinger

As Pope Benedict XVI
The Apostles (Our Sunday Visitor, July 2007):

In this fascinating and inspirational journey with the friends of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI demonstrates a profound, unbreakable continuity–built upon the foundation of the Apostles and alive in the succession of the Apostles—by which Christ is present today in His people and His church.

Let Pope Benedict be your guide as the distance of centuries is overcome and he reveals the impact of Christ s vision through the calling and works of the Apostles. Ignite your faith with this timeless connection between Jesus, His Apostles, the Church, and you.

Amy Welborn has edited an adult “study guide” to OSV’s The Apostles: a compilation Benedict’s Wednesday General Audiences:

A master catechist, the Holy Father’s inspirational words about the chosen disciples of Jesus are as clear as though he were sitting down and explaining it to you personally.

Because the book naturally lends itself to adult study, a study guide has been developed. There are twelve sessions, each with questions for study and questions for reflection, as well as opening and closing prayers.

It is available for purchase online at a modest fee, or you can download The Apostles study guide for free directly from Our Sunday Visitor’s website. [.pdf format]

An Invitation to Faith: An a to Z Primer on the Thought of Pope Benedict XVI Edited by Jean-michel Coulet. Ignatius Press (July 31, 2007).

From the publisher:

With strong words, Benedict XVI invites us to place God at the center of our lives. Thus, this book is a selection of key words from the teachings of the Holy Father since he began his Pontificate, presented in alphabetical order. Each key word leads to an inspiring and insightful meditation from the Pope on various important spiritual themes and topics. Benedict XVI invites us in these words to become daily actors in the real revolution that comes from God and is called Love.

This volume is a handy little primer on the thought of the beloved Pontiff in which the reader can pick out any key word or topic form the alphabetical order of meditations throughout the book to meditate and focus on.

Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church
Ignatius Press (November 2007).:

Based on Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly teaching on the relationship between Christ and the Church, this book tells the drama of Jesus’ first disciples — his Apostles and their associates — and how they spread Jesus’ message throughout the ancient world. Far from distorting the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, insists Pope Benedict, the early disciples remained faithful to it, even at the cost of their lives.

Beginning with the Twelve as the foundation of Jesus’ re-establishment of the Holy People of God, Pope Benedict examines the story of the early followers of Christ. He draws on Scripture and early tradition to consider such important figures as Peter, Andrew, James and John, and even Judas Iscariot. Benedict moves beyond the original Twelve to discuss Paul of Tarsus, the persecutor of Christianity who became one of Jesus’ greatest disciples. Also considered are Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, the wife and husband “team” of Priscilla and Aquila, and such key women figures as Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Phoebe.

The Blessing of Christmas: Meditations for the Season
Ignatius Press (October 31, 2007):

This lovely little book, profusely illustrated, is ideal for the Christmas and Advent season with its inspiring, profound, yet popular meditations on the blessings of the season by the current Pope. Taken from his sermons as well as his writings, these beautiful meditations by the acclaimed spiritual teacher, writer and now Pontiff, give his usual fresh insights into the deeper meaning of this most wondrous event, and show the Pope to be a man who knows how to address both the mind and the heart.

As Joseph Ratzinger

[One beneficial thing (among many) about Benedict XVI being the pope — we can expect new editions of his works as Cardinal Ratzinger, some of which are currently out of print.]

New Outpourings of the Spirit, by Joseph Ratzinger. Ignatius Press (October 2007):

The volume consists of two fundamental texts by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on the ecclesial movements and new communities within the Church since the Second Vatican Council. These writings are particularly meaningful with regard to the intense spiritual journey which the ecclesial movements and the new communities are experiencing in view of their meeting with Pope Benedict XVI on Pentecost 2006.

These writings are a precious guide for the entire Church, leaders and laity alike, who are invited to welcome the new “outpourings of the Spirit”. The first part of the book presents in an articulate and exhaustive way the theological vision of the Pope on these ecclesial movements and the new communities. It is his talk titled Church Movements and their Place in Theology which he gave at the beginning of the World Congress of the Ecclesial Movements in Rome in Ma, 1998. It combines extraordinary theological depth with a warm pastoral tone.

The second part of the book is very different from the first, but complements the first part. It contains the dialogue of Cardinal Ratzinger with a large group of Bishops from all continents, convened together for a seminar on the topic, The Ecclesial Movements in the Pastoral Concern of the Bishops held in Rome in 1999.This dialogue format was very favorably received by the Bishops, and it is quite wide-ranging, touching on topics such as the relation between the old and the new charisms, the institutional dimension and the charismatic dimension of the Church, and the Church’s mission in a non-Christian society and more.

Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life [2nd Edition]
by Joseph Ratzinger. Catholic University of America Press; 2 edition (October 7, 2007):

Originally published in English in 1988, Joseph Ratzinger’s Eschatology remains internationally recognized as a leading text on the “last things”–heaven and hell, purgatory and judgment, death and the immortality of the soul. This highly anticipated second edition includes a new preface by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI and a supplement to the bibliography by theologian Peter A. Casarella.

Eschatology presents a balanced perspective of the doctrine at the center of Christian belief–the Church’s faith in eternal life. Recognizing the task of contemporary eschatology as “to marry perspectives, so that person and community, present and future, are seen in their unity,” Joseph Ratzinger brings together recent emphasis on the theology of hope for the future with the more traditional elements of the doctrine. His book has proven to be as timeless as it is timely.

Seek That Which Is Above: Meditations Through the Year [Reprint]
Ignatius Press (September 30, 2007):

In this beautifully illustrated book, Cardinal Ratzinger gives us meditations on various Liturgical Seasons and Feasts throughout the year, as well as other interesting spiritual and secular themes. These profound and inspiring thoughts bring his broad theological experience as well as his wide literary interests to his people. Here is a shepherd nourishing spiritually the faithful addressed to his care.

Themes the Cardinal covers include Advent, Candlemas, Mardi Gras, Easter, Corpus Christi, Marian Devotion, Vacation & Rest, Peace and Creation.

Ratzinger / Benedict Scholarship

Joseph Ratzinger – Life in the Church and Living Theology: Fundamentals of Ecclesiology
by Maximilian Heinrich Heim. (Ignatius Press, October 2007). 500pp.

This is a major work on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, by a highly regarded German theologian, priest and writer. Since his election to the Papacy, Ratzinger’s theology, and in particular his ecclesiology (theology of the Church), has been in the limelight of theological and ecumenical discussions.

This important work studies in detail Ratzinger’s ecclesiology in the light of Vatican II, against the ongoing debate about what Vatican II really meant to say about the life of the Church, its liturgy, its worship, its doctrine, its pastoral mission, and more. Has his theology of the Church changed since Vatican II, or has it continued to develop consistently? Is the Catholic Church one church among many churches? Is she the object of hope or a historical reality?

Ratzinger the theologian figures centrally in this investigation, not as the former Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but as a thinker and as a writer.

Expected in 2008

Ratzinger’s Faith, by Tracey Rowland. Oxford University Press (March 6, 2008):

general introduction to the theology of Pope Benedict XVI, including his approach to issues in moral and political theology, ecclesiology, liturgy, interpretations of the of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and the theology of history. Tracey Rowland also addresses the question of Pope Benedict’s place in the constellation of contemporary Catholic theologians. It has become a commonplace observation that Pope Benedict has been influenced by the thought of St Augustine, in contrast to many of his predecessors in the papacy who were much more strongly influenced by St Thomas Aquinas. Rowland therefore asks in what way Benedict is an Augustinian, and how this marked difference in theological perspective may play out in the coming years. Her book includes an extensive thematic bibliography, which will be valuable for students.

Dean and Associate Professor of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology of the John Paul II Institute, Melbourne, Australia, and Member of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham.

St. Blog’s Parish Just War Debate #10293382799

  • Bloodshed and Soldiers (“Thou Shalt Not Kill”) Vox Nova August 19, 2007:

    American soldiers, though often courageous and self-sacrificial, fight with weapons of futility: swords. Why? Because they are being led by faithless princes who have no understanding of the power of God. . . .

    It is time we took seriously what our God has done, what our God has commanded, what power he has granted us to defeat evil and sin in not only our world, but our hearts. Violence is counterproductive, and death finds its source not in God, but in Satan. Satan deals death (a murderer from the beginning), and those who deal in death work for him. Good men serve Satan unknowingly, and are unknowingly led to spiritual and bodily ruin.

    Christians must sometimes go to war. We must sometimes use force against our enemies. But this must never mean picking up the sword and killing. Once we do so, we have already lost.

  • Can Christians Kill? For the Greater Glory August 19, 2007:

    Pacifism has always been in the Church. Individuals will always feel compelled to leave jobs that call for killing, as Nate has done. These individuals clearly show an appreciation for the great value of human life. However banning all killing does not protect human life. The Church recognizes that there are situations in which killing is required to establish peace & protect life. This is why she has no problem canonizing soldier saints and proclaiming just war theory.

    The fight between good & evil is a fight in which we are called to participate. We participate in this fight knowing that we must play in it but that ultimate victory comes through Christ. Sometimes that fighting requires a death in order to lessen the number of dead. But through the love of Christ, the wound of death can be healed and the situation made anew.

Pope Benedict Recognizes 100th Anniversary of Scouting

On July 5, 2007, Pope Benedict recognized the 100th anniversary of Scouting:

“For one century, through play, action, adventure, contact with nature, life as a team and in service to others, you offer an integral formation to anyone who joins the Scouts,” said the Holy Father in his letter written in French.

He continued: “Inspired by the Gospels, scouting is not only a place for authentic human growth, but also a place of strong Christian values and true moral and spiritual growth, as with any authentic way of holiness.

“The sense of responsibility that permeates Scout education leads to a life of charity and the desire to serve one’s neighbor, in the image of Christ the servant, based on the grace offered by Christ, in a special way through the sacraments of the Eucharist and forgiveness.”

The Pontiff encouraged the brotherhood of the Scouts, “which is a part of its original ideal and makes up, above all for young generations — a witness of that which is the body of Christ, within which, according to the image of St. Paul, all are called to fulfill a mission wherever they are, to rejoice in another’s progress and to support their brothers in times of difficulty.”

The full text of the papal letter on Scouting can be found here.

Scouting is a worldwide youth movement founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, Lieutenant General in the British Army. (Here is an interview with Lord Powell on the origins of Scouting Listener magazine, 1937).

According to the Boy Scouts of America on Scouting for Catholic Youth:

[the Catholic Church] is one of the most extensive users of the BSA program. There are more than 330,000 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers in more than 9,600 packs, troops, and crews under Catholic auspices, and an equal number of youth members in other Scouting units. Scouting is used in about one-third of the parishes in the United States.

Some of the best memories from my teenage years are from my time in scouting. My brothers and I were part of Troop 234, Hickory, NC.

Elvis: "There is a bigger King . . ."

A selection of posts from St. Blog’s and across the net commemorating the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s passing (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977):

  • Fr. Nicholas Schofield (Roman Miscellany) recalls “Five Catholic Facts About Elvis”.
  • “The King is Dead, Long Live the King”, by Jay Anderson. Pro Ecclesia
  • New York Times‘ Peter Guralnick asks: How Did Elvis Get Turned Into a Racist? — challenging a common (but sadly mistaken) assumption of the African-American community. (See also Elvis & Racism, a detailed exploration by Christopher Blank @ Elvis Australia).
  • Thinking About ElvisPowerline writes about Elvis’ charity to soldiers returning from service in Vietnam, and his letter of appreciation for (and subsequent meeting with) President Nixon to express “concern for our country. The Drug Culture, The Hippie Elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I Love it. Sir I can and will be of any Service that I can to help the country out.” From a memo detailing Elvis’ meeting with the President [.pdf format]:

    Presley indicated to the President in a very emotionial mamner that he was “on your side.” Presley kept repeating that he wanted to be helpful, that he wanted to restore some respect for the flag, which was being lost. He mentioned he was just a poor boy from Tennessee who had gotten a lot from his country, which in some way he wanted to repay.

Live in Hawaii – Elvis performing “An American Trilogy”:

Elvis died when I was three years old, and my music tastes leaning to the harder and more extreme side, it was not until later that I learned to appreciate his contributions to the world of music and Elvis Presley, the man himself.

From 2003 — a re-post:

Senior pastor of the Bruderhof and social critic Johann Christoph Arnold devoted a recent column on “Remembering the King” recently. No, not that King, but rather Elvis Presley. It might strike some as strange for a writer from a countercultural Christian community like the Bruderhof to be covering a mainstream cultural icon like Elvis (much less a blog devoted to Cardinal Ratzinger), but Christoph Arnold reminds all of us to look beneath the surface:

“Good” Christians often self-righteously dismiss celebrities because they are turned off by the glamour, fame, and excess that surround them. How many remember that behind the frenzied publicity and the scandals cooked up by tabloids is a vulnerable person with emotions—a real person with a heart—and not just a two-dimensional cardboard cutout?

Back in March [of 2003], PBS television ran the documentary He Touched Me – The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley. Featuring plenty of live footage and interviews with close friends and gospel quartets that backed him up, it chronicles Elvis Presley’s spiritual roots in Southern gospel music and aspects of his life that are seldom publicized — like the fact that he insisted on singing “Peace in the Valley” during one of his appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show (some say it was to “tone down” his rebel image; the documentary claims it was on behalf of his mother), or that after concert performances he would invite his friends to join him in literally all night gospel singalongs.

Shortly thereafter I picked up a copy of “Amazing Grace”, a collection of Elvis’ religious performances (spanning a variety of genres — soul, country, rock, gospel), and I was hooked. The world will remember Elvis Presley for his rock and roll, but from all accounts it appears that there was nothing he enjoyed more than singing gospel. As Gospel Music Association President Frank Breeden recalls:

“After the shows he would routinely sing with the gospel quartets that were used as his backgrounders . . . It was the gospel music that he turned to for inspiration and consolation. He was a person who appeared to be in conflict; he was not doing what he loved for a living … he had a career that had just taken him captive.” 2

Or as Cheryl Thurber writes of the “Million Dollar Quartet” (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash & Elvis Presley) — the recording session at Sam Philips’ Sun Studios in Memphis:

. . . When those rising stars of rock ‘n’ roll sang together the songs they chose to sing were largely gospel songs. It was the shared repertoire that they all knew. They sang other songs as well, such as current rock ‘n’ roll and recent and older country hits, but they seemed to sing more complete versions of the gospel songs. With gospel songs they knew all the words, not just snatches of the choruses. . . . It is clear when listening to the session that Elvis was the dominant force that day — he was the one who started the singing of each song. It is also evident that he enjoyed the singing. This was Elvis having fun. 3

Of course, there are many who — not without reason — see Elvis Presley as the harbinger of moral decay and the corruption of America’s youth. (Fr. Jerry Pokarsky, for example, uses Elvis as a convenient metaphor for the narcissistic character of abuses in the post-Vatican II mass). 4 And by no means should one applaud every star(let)’s excursions into spirituality (I expect Christoph Arnold would have a much different reaction to Madonna’s dalliance with watered-down Kabbalah). But for all of his flaws, and the nature of his tragic demise, there is something about Elvis Presley which Christoph Arnold finds praiseworthy:

Here was a unique individual struggling to find his true identity. I am certain that it was through this struggle that God gave him the humor, humility, and kindness that endeared him to millions of people. These traits were even more important than his music . . .

Elvis knew his shortcomings. He was an ordinary guy who battled all the normal temptations. But he also had a vision, as expressed in a comment he made to a reporter:

“I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God. I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world.”

In other words, for him, relationships were much more important than the glitter, fame, and money he is mostly known for.

I’ll close this little tangent with a quote I found — from an account of one fan’s encounter with Elvis (or rather, a close call with his limo). It may or may not be true, but it’s something I can easily envision coming from Presley:

“I know you consider me your king, but I am not worth dying for, there is a bigger King who is God whom you should be preparing yourself for.”

1. Remembering The King: The Soul behind the Celebrity, by Johann Christoph Arnold.
2. Gospel Music and Elvis: Inspiration & Consolation, by Helyn Trickey. August 26, 2002.
3. Elvis & Gospel Music, by Cheryl Thurber. REJOICE! The Gospel Music Magazine. (1988).
4. Elvis Sightings in the Roman Rite, Catholic World Report January 2002.