BOOKS BY AND ON BENEDICT

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Books about Benedict
00Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:44 PM
Here is a Thanksgiving Day translation of a book review of Peter
Seewald's new Benedict book, from the Passauer Newue Presse.




“He is not a Superstar Pope”
by Karl Birkenseer

As someone who knows Benedict [“Benedikt-kenner” - the literal English translation conveys more beyond what is actually meant –I suppose “Benedict student” may carry the sense better], Peter Seewald can hardly be surpassed.

The journalist from Passau, who has been a longtime Munich resident, co-authored two books with Joseph Ratzinger in the 90s. These books have become classics of religious literature – “Salt of the Earth” (1996) and “God and the World” (2000). Earlier this year, shortly after the Conclave, he was co-author and co-publisher (along with the newspaper BILD and its publishing house) of “The German Pope” [a well-illustrated book to introduce Ratzinger better to the general public].

Now that he has come up with another book on the subject, “Benedict: A Close-Up Portrait,” one may well ask whether, in the meantime, everything has not been said that needs to be said about this memorable year of two Popes and its main protagonists.

But Peter Seewald has nevertheless succeeded in filling up gaps in the story we know so far. Although his new book also contains the most important facts about Joseph Ratzinger’s biography, and although he recounts here, as in other books about Benedict, the dramatic days around the Conclave, Seewald elaborates a significant close-up look at Benedict XVI which is missing from other competing biographies.

When, for instance, Seewald describes the Pope’s physical appearance, he figuratively pokes an elbow into him: “Ratzinger always considered the importance of having a certain kind of figure. One cannot imagine him as someone with a prominent paunch and the silhouette of a cigar as some cardinals have.”

Again and again, Seewald remarks on the remarkable youthfulness of this 78-year-old Pope: “The man from Marktl looks younger and more dynamic daily. Almost boyish! Especially when his skull cap is a little off-kilter and a shock of hair sticks out like Pinocchio!”

But for Peter Seewald such details are not simply mere outward signs – they point to the core of his personality: “Ratzinger is different. He is not the Superstar Pope, not a larger-than-life Mr. Holiness, but 'der kleine Joseph' [the little Joseph]. A man without affectations or theatrics. Simple but unshakeable. He does not hide anything, but he will never do what is spectacular, only what is important.”

Doubtless, the author writes as a first-rank enthusiast who trusts Benedict to take the reins of the “Perestroika of the Catholic Church” – in a sort of “general clean-up in preparation for a fresh start.”

His enthusiasm shows most strongly when he describes what he felt upon hearing the name of the new Pope announced at St. Peter’s Square that April 19: “waves of happiness, as one very very rarely experiences – perhaps at the birth of one’s own children, something similar.”

Enthusiasm, yes, but not from a distance. (By coincidence, Seewald’s mother comes from the Bavarian district of Ratzing!) However, the book is full of ironic and even self-ironic observations. For instance, he recounts a Ratzinger family legend that “Joseph already saw himself as a bishop when he was only a little boy sitting with his naked bottom atop his potty.”

Such wily humor brings balance to a book that is otherwise marked by great seriousness, as when Seewald considers Ratzinger’s now-famous phrase “the dictatorship of relativism” as a prophetic gesture, “a bell toll [Glockenschlag] to mark the third century.”

To all the other merits of this book, add the fact that Seewald opens his archives and allows the reader to eavesdrop 0n(more of the) long conversations that he had with the famed theologian. (His account of) Eugen Drewermann’s hate tirade against Ratzinger (“I thought that was just downright wicked”) is as informative as when he recounts Eugen Biser’s noble dictum that Ratzinger has managed to bring about what hardly anyone expected of him: namely, a rediscovery of the Catholic Church.”

---------------------------------------------------------
There's a companion article, which is an interview with Seewald about the book, but I'll reserve that for later today.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, November 24, 2005 4:52 PM
Peter Seewald's New Benedict Biography
Sorry - I did something wrong and my previous post came out jumbled. I hope this corects my error and that Ratzigirl will erase the wrong post!

Here is a Thanksgiving Day translation of a book review of Peter Seewald's new Benedict book, from the Passauer Neue Presse.


“He is not a Superstar Pope”
by Karl Birkenseer

As someone who knows Benedict [“Benedikt-kenner” - the literal English translation conveys more beyond what is actually meant –I suppose “Benedict student” may carry the sense better], Peter Seewald can hardly be surpassed.

The journalist from Passau, who has been a longtime Munich resident, co-authored two books with Joseph Ratzinger in the 90s. These books have become classics of religious literature – “Salt of the Earth” (1996) and “God and the World” (2000). Earlier this year, shortly after the Conclave, he was co-author and co-publisher (along with the newspaper BILD and its publishing house) of “The German Pope” [a well-illustrated book to introduce Ratzinger better to the general public].

Now that he has come up with another book on the subject, “Benedict: A Close-Up Portrait,” one may well ask whether, in the meantime, everything has not been said that needs to be said about this memorable year of two Popes and its main protagonists.

But Peter Seewald has nevertheless succeeded in filling up gaps in the story we know so far. Although his new book also contains the most important facts about Joseph Ratzinger’s biography, and although he recounts here, as in other books about Benedict, the dramatic days around the Conclave, Seewald elaborates a significant close-up look at Benedict XVI which is missing from other competing biographies.

When, for instance, Seewald describes the Pope’s physical appearance, he figuratively pokes an elbow into him: “Ratzinger always considered the importance of having a certain kind of figure. One cannot imagine him as someone with a prominent paunch and the silhouette of a cigar as some cardinals have.”

Again and again, Seewald remarks on the remarkable youthfulness of this 78-year-old Pope: “The man from Marktl looks younger and more dynamic daily. Almost boyish! Especially when his skull cap is a little off-kilter and a shock of hair sticks out like Pinocchio!”

But for Peter Seewald such details are not simply mere outward signs – they point to the core of his personality: “Ratzinger is different. He is not the Superstar Pope, not a larger-than-life Mr. Holiness, but 'der kleine Joseph' [the little Joseph]. A man without affectations or theatrics. Simple but unshakeable. He does not hide anything, but he will never do what is spectacular, only what is important.”

Doubtless, the author writes as a first-rank enthusiast who trusts Benedict to take the reins of the “Perestroika of the Catholic Church” – in a sort of “general clean-up in preparation for a fresh start.”

His enthusiasm shows most strongly when he describes what he felt upon hearing the name of the new Pope announced at St. Peter’s Square that April 19: “waves of happiness, as one very very rarely experiences – perhaps at the birth of one’s own children, something similar.”

Enthusiasm, yes, but not from a distance. (By coincidence, Seewald’s mother comes from the Bavarian district of Ratzing!) However, the book is full of ironic and even self-ironic observations. For instance, he recounts a Ratzinger family legend that “Joseph already saw himself as a bishop when he was only a little boy sitting with his naked bottom atop his potty.”

Such wily humor brings balance to a book that is otherwise marked by great seriousness, as when Seewald considers Ratzinger’s now-famous phrase “the dictatorship of relativism” as a prophetic gesture, “a bell toll [Glockenschlag] to mark the third century.”

To all the other merits of this book, add the fact that Seewald opens his archives and allows the reader to eavesdrop 0n(more of the) long conversations that he had with the famed theologian. (His account of) Eugen Drewermann’s hate tirade against Ratzinger (“I thought that was just downright wicked”) is as informative as when he recounts Eugen Biser’s noble dictum that Ratzinger has managed to bring about what hardly anyone expected of him: namely, a rediscovery of the Catholic Church.”

---------------------------------------------------------
There's a companion article, which is an interview with Seewald about the book, but I'll reserve that for later today.




TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, November 24, 2005 10:19 PM
Interview with Peter Seewald
Here is the companion piece to Karl Birkenseer's book review posted above, likewise from the Passauer Neue Presse, 11/22/05.
The interview was conducted by Birkenseer himself.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Neither An Intimate nor An Authority"
Interview with Author and Papal Expert Peter Seewald

Mr. Seewald, you are considered the authority on Pope Benedict. Does this special nearness not involve also the danger of loss of perspective? [Distanzlosigkeit]
The danger exists. For instance, if one becomes awe-stricken or if one simply tells a lie out of a mistaken sense of loyalty. But I learned from Cardinal Ratzinger that one must always beware of one’s own tendency to prejudge, and that one must always go to the root of things. However, I am really not an intimate of the Pope, and not at all an authority on him either, although I have intensively researched the biography of the Holy Father and had the opportunity to know him better through several personal encounters. And I think that’s a basis for relying on what I write about him.

In 2006, many in Bavaria will experience a closer look at the Pope. Which place do you think the Pope should not fail to visit at that time?
Passau, of course, the bishop’s seat of his home diocese! No, seriously, I am sure that will not be possible. It is clear he cannot miss visiting Regensburg and Munich, two centers very much linked to his career. Personally I wish he will be able to visit Titmoning and Traunstein, two places that he has described as the “dreamland” of his childhood. An absolute must is Altoetting, the heart of Bavaria.

You yourself, in the pages of this paper, said a few days before the Conclave that Ratzinger would be elected Pope. Looking back now, what do you consider the most impressive moment in the first six months of Benedict’s Pontificate?
There are many. Starting with his appearance on the Loggia of St. Peter’s, when he introduced himself as “a simple worker in the vineyard of the Lord” – which, in my opinion, is the best characterization of his personality. Then in Bari, where one saw how the Italians so enthusiastically welcomed him as their own, and he showed himself as a true Fisher of Men, who can move hearts as well as minds. A high point was obviously
World Youth Day in Cologne among a million enthusiastic young people. No one had thought that he would be able to carry on his predecessor’s heritage with such brilliance. I found one particular statement terrific: “We [the Church] are not here to
claim any power, but to make the way free for Jesus Christ..”

There are dozens of Benedict books out there. What makes your newest book different?
Not only, I hope, is it exciting to read, and contains many heretofore unknown details of his biography. What is important is that I think the reader will also be able to learn something from this great man’s spiritual world and his faith, that the reader can make great use of in his own life.

benefan
00Friday, November 25, 2005 2:25 AM
This book looks like a keeper. I wonder how long till it comes out in English. I'd like to get the German Pope book too in English. Does anybody know if they are being translated yet? I am having enough trouble learning Italian. I don't want to injure myself by trying to learn German too.
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, November 26, 2005 4:34 AM
New - but in German again!
What we Anglophones are missing


Worueber der Papst lacht
(What makes the Pope laugh)

This is a blurb from Kath.Net, a German Catholic news service:

A new book reveals many anecdotes and all sorts of little-known things about Pope Benedict – A « must » for everyone who admires the Pope and enjoys funny anecdotes.


To the wider public, the German Pope is mostly known as a reserved and serious person. But whoever has known him also experiences the other side of his personality: his open-hearted, Bavarian-style and sometimes enigmatic humor.

Maximilian Graf von Duerckheim and Esther von Kroesigk have compiled unknown and unexpected anecdotes,insightful glimpses
all sort of little stories about the former Cardinal.

For instance, that Ratzinger, as a young student, used to call out in the mess hall, « Habemus Kartoffelmus!(We have potatoes)". Or how he came to be called « Goldmund ».

Let yourself be surprised by a whole new side to the Pontiff, who has said he is only a simple worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

------------------------------------------------------------
This is the second such book about Ratzi. A Munich author came out earlier with another book of anecdotes. I will try to get these through amazon.de, and maybe we can share some of the stories for the holidays.
benefan
00Saturday, November 26, 2005 5:20 AM
Teresa, if you get those books, you know you will have to do more than just "share some of the stories" with us. You know what a demanding and avid group of Papaholics we are.
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, November 27, 2005 4:07 PM
Ratzi anecdotes
I skipped one line from the blurb I posted the other day about the book of Ratzi anecdotes, because at the time, I had to find out from Kirsty on the German forum what a word meant that I was unfamiliar with and that does not appear in my large Duden (German dictionary). She has now explained it, and I will add the line.

"Did you know that the Cardinal, during particularly stressful periods at work, would secretly indulge by eating Hanuta?" Hanuta, Kirsty explains, is sort of like a wafer sandwich that has a chocolate-and-nuts filling. So Simone55, also in the German forum, remarks - "Well, I suppose, Ratzi should not only be called Goldmund [golden mouth - for his speaking prowess] but also Suessmaul[sweets 'gobbler' - Maul also meeans mouth but is a less refined term than Mund]."
gracelp
00Monday, November 28, 2005 10:38 PM
what a treasure of anecdotes and info here about our beloved Joseph [SM=g27836] [SM=g27836] ..he really loves sweets!
and oh id love to get that book by Peter seewald!! [SM=x40799]
gracelp
00Monday, November 28, 2005 10:39 PM
thanks! id love to get a copy of that book! [SM=g27811]
Dinabella
00Tuesday, November 29, 2005 11:21 AM
Peter Seewald's biography
It's a great book. It was a pleasure to read it. I couldn't stop until I've read the first 150 pages. I also love Peter Seewald's sense of humour. The way he describes some situations is hilarious [SM=x40799]
Go and get it ladies [SM=x40791]

TERESA BENEDETTA
00Tuesday, November 29, 2005 4:53 PM
NEW BOOKS IN ENGLISH
Thanks to Blostopher's latest Pope Benedict Round-up for the following leads:


Check it out on amazon.com, where there's a link to a reader review.
www.amazon.com/gp/product/1890626635/102-2780227-2316955?v=glance&n=283155&s=books&v=glance

And then, there's a 10/29 omnibus review of several recent B16 books in the British liberal Catholic Tablet, which devotes much time to the one book which presents a "not uncritical" look at Ratzinger's biography. The book is "Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith" by a British author, Rupert Shortt.
The link to the Tablet review is:
www.thetablet.co.uk/cgi-bin/book_review.cgi?past00259
LeticiaV
00Wednesday, November 30, 2005 4:42 AM
[Non registrato] Peter Seewald's biography

Is this new Peter Seewald's book about Papa, available in English ?
Anybody knows ?
Thanks !
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Wednesday, November 30, 2005 7:33 AM
English translation of new Seewald book
Not yet, unfortunately.
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, December 5, 2005 3:38 AM
RATZINGER GUIDE BOOK SELLS OUT!


Because the book is (yet again) not in English, I’m posting the following only for the record, and because we get a few morsels of information about Joseph Ratzinger’s early life:

The first Italian edition of “La Baviera di Joseph Ratzinger,” (Joseph Ratzinger’s Bavaria), a guidebook published last July, has been completely sold out. A second edition as well as a Polish edition are underway.

Jeanne Perego, who wrote it, is an Italian who has lived in the area of Bavaria where Joseph Ratzinger spent most of his life. She was therefore able to provide little-known facts about Joseph’s life from first-hand interviews with people who knew him. And so, for example, she describes the countryside through which the 6-year-old Joseph walked 8 kilometers to get to his piano lessons, or the Marian sanctuary in Altoetting where, as a boy, he reportedly thought of becoming a Benedictine monk.

For more information about the book (and a few more morsels) , see an article published by the English service of Deutsche-Welle,the German broadcasting service, last July. The link is
www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1646229,00.html
benefan
00Monday, December 5, 2005 5:18 AM
LINKS THAT DON'T

Teresa, let's discuss your links. I think I know why absolutely none of them connect. I suspect that when you rispondi, you then click on URL and paste the web address of the link in that box. That does not seem to work--ever. If you paste the entire web address directly into your messaggio and don't use the URL box, the link will work.

Voila. www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1646229,00.html
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, December 5, 2005 3:55 PM
FAULTY LINKS
Thanks, Benefan - I've been trying to figure out form the start here why most of the time I can't post a link properly! After your tip, I hope I won't fail again...
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, January 9, 2006 3:30 AM
THE MIND OF BENEDICT XVI
I have decided to include in this essays dealing with the thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI,
along with book reviews
.

A good article to start it off is this one by Father Vincent Twomey, who has written other
illuminating essays about Benedict. This is the link to it -

www.claremont.org/writings/crb/fall2005/twomey.html
but it may disappear soon, because I've had that happening to me before with Claremont,
so here it is in full, in case it is taken offline
.
--------------------------------------------------------------

The Mind of Benedict XVI
By D. Vincent Twomey, SVD
Posted December 23, 2005
This essay appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.



The publication of Dominus Iesus, in August 2000, caused worldwide outrage. The document — issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — affirmed the absolute claims of Christianity and the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the other religions. In his book, Truth and Tolerance (German, 2003; American, 2004), Cardinal Ratzinger offered a 284-page answer to the outrage. In the preface, he wrote: "As I looked through my lectures on [Christian belief and world religions] over the past decade, it emerged that these approaches amounted to something like a single whole — quite fragmentary and unfinished, of course, but, as a contribution to a major theme that affects us all, perhaps not entirely unhelpful." These sentiments reveal not only the dominant characteristic of the man — his humility and courage — but the nature of most of his writings.

Ratzinger is acutely conscious of the fragmentary nature of all he has written, but he makes a virtue out of this weakness, which is caused by the simple fact that he was called to sacrifice his preferred life as an academic to serve the Church, first as Archbishop of Munich, then as Prefect for the CDF, and now, of course, as Pope Benedict XVI. As he says in one of his most recent publications, Values in a Time of Upheaval: How to Survive the Challenges of the Future (German & American, 2005), "perhaps the unfinished character of these attempts can help to advance thinking about them." All his writings are contributions to an ongoing debate, first in his own discipline — theology — and later, as he became more a pastor than a scholar, in the public debate about the future of society and the Church's role in it. And despite their fragmentary nature, his writings do "amount to something like a single whole." Joseph Ratzinger is not simply a recognized scholar of the highest quality. He is an original thinker. The result is an inner consistency that marks all his writings, though each piece never fails to surprise with its freshness, originality, and depth.

Augustine or Modernity

From the beginning of his own studies, Ratzinger and his contemporaries in Munich tended to seek an alternative to Neo-Scholasticism, the dominant system of Catholic theology at the time. Neo-Scholasticism was an attempt in the 19th and early 20th centuries to recreate the philosophical and theological "system" of St. Thomas Aquinas. Ratzinger, instead, turned to the great thinkers of the early Church. For his doctoral thesis, he studied the Father of the Western Church —and of Western civilization — St. Augustine. His topic was Augustine's understanding of the Church and thus, by implication, his understanding of the State and the political significance of Christianity. His dissertation, People of God and God's House in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church (German, 1954), is a classic. It is also the root of much of his later theology.

His postdoctoral dissertation (Habilitationsschrift) was devoted to Thomas Aquinas's contemporary, St. Bonaventure, who was also very much in the Augustinian tradition. It is an analysis of the attempt by the great Franciscan theologian to come to terms with the new understanding of history conceived by the Abbot Joachim of Fiore. Eric Voegelin argued that the speculations of Joachim of Fiore are in large part the source of modernity; they helped replace the Augustinian concept of history that had formed Western Christendom. Ratzinger was not a confirmed Voegelinian — he quotes Voegelin in only one of his early writings — but it is interesting to see how the two men reached similar conclusions from quite different starting points.

In Augustine's view, history is transitory, and empires pass away; only the eternal Civitas Dei (the "citizenry of God," as Ratzinger translates it) lasts forever. Its sacramental expression is the Church, understood as humanity in the process of redemption. By contrast, Joachim proposed a radically new understanding of world history as a divine progression of three distinct eras, the last being the era of the Holy Spirit when all structures (Church and State) would give way to the perfect society of autonomous men moved only from within by the Spirit. This understanding of history amounts to what Voegelin called "the immanentization of the eschaton." It rests on the assumption that the end of history is immanent in history itself — the product of its own inner movement towards ever greater perfection, towards the kingdom of God on earth. This idea is at the root of what we mean today by "progress." It underpins, albeit in different ways, both radical socialism and liberal capitalism. And it has had a profound effect on political life, giving rise to both revolution and secularism.

Bonaventure, according to Ratzinger, failed in his critique of this progressive theology. But Ratzinger's study of Bonaventure alerted him to the philosophical and theological issues underlying contemporary political life. This is seen, in particular, in his later treatment of the radical forms of liberation theology, based on a Marxist notion of history with its roots in Joachim of Fiore.

Early Writings

It is difficult to give an overview of Ratzinger's publications considering their range, the fragmentary nature of most of them, and their sheer volume — some 86 books, 471 articles and prefaces, and 32 other contributions (according to the latest list compiled in February 2002), averaging about 30 (at times, very brief) entries a year in recent years, not counting official documents issued by his Congregation. What follows must be restricted to some of his more representative scholarly writings.

As a professional academic in Freising and Bonn, his early writings were devoted to the basic principles and presuppositions of theology. He stressed the affinity between reason and revelation (and so the Church's appreciation of philosophy as an ally in its enlightened critique of mythological religions). Reason for Ratzinger is our capacity for truth (and so for God). Like language, reason is at the same time both personal and communal, as indeed is revelation, the social dimension of which is found in the Church. His entire theological opus is rooted in Scripture, the ultimate but not the only norm of all theology. Although he judiciously uses the findings of modern critical scholarship, he goes beyond them in the spirit of the Church Fathers, whose interpretation of Scripture is based on the unity of the Old and New Testament (the latter being the fulfillment of the former) and the unfolding of Tradition under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The early period was greatly influenced by the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath. Ratzinger, a peritus or expert advisor to the Council, published several commentaries on texts issued by the Council as well as personal reflections on it and its aftermath. Dealing with the vexed question of the universal nature of salvation and the particular nature of the Church, which the Council had posed with renewed sharpness, he developed his understanding of salvation in terms of Stellvertretung (representation or substitution): just as the incarnate Word of God gave his life "for the many," so too individual Christians live not for themselves but for others, while the Church exists not for itself but for the rest of humanity. His major writings in this area include Revelation and Tradition (with Karl Rahner, 1965), The New People of God (German, 1969), and the Principles of Catholic Theology (German, 1982; American, 1987), perhaps his most important academic writing. He would later return to these early fundamental theological concerns in such books as The Nature and Mission of Theology (German, 1993; American, 1995) and Called to Communion (German & American, 1991).

Doctrine of the Faith

In his middle period (at Münster, Tübingen, and Regensburg), Ratzinger produced his most famous book: Introduction to Christianity (German, 1968, revised, 2000; American, 1969), translated into some 19 languages, including Arabic and Chinese. Originally a series of public lectures on the faith, which Ratzinger gave in the summer term of 1967 for students of all faculties of the University of Tübingen, it opens with a masterly attempt to situate the question of belief and its communal expression in the modern world before going on to comment on the contents of the Creed. It is one of his many purely theological tracts, which range in topic from creation to eschatology, from the interpretation of Scripture to the principles of fundamental theology, from ecumenism to catechetics and the subject closest to his heart: the Eucharist and the liturgy. These tracts are not simple affirmations of orthodoxy. He approaches every topic by way of the (often unspoken) questions posed by contemporary culture and the state of contemporary theological scholarship.

The most significant book of this middle period is perhaps his Eschatology — Death and Eternal Life (German, 1977), which is a systematically worked out textbook, the aim of which is to overcome the hijacking of eschatology for political purposes and recover its transcendent and personal dimensions. This period is also marked by his growing concern with developments in catechesis — the handing-on of the faith in schools and colleges — as reflected in a talk he gave in France, which caused quite a storm at the time: Mediating Faith and Sources of Faith (German, 1983). This concern prepared him for the day when, as Cardinal Prefect, he chaired the commission set up by Pope John Paul II to oversee the composition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one of the most significant achievements of the previous papacy.

As Cardinal Archbishop of Munich and then as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger continued to research and publish in academic journals as a private theologian - quite independent of his position as Prefect. These publications were sometimes part of his own homework in preparation for composing the official documents that carry his signature. His publications during this (his third or later) period included various sermons, reflections, and spiritual exercises. All are marked by a deep spirituality, simplicity of language, and beauty of expression, such as To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope and Love (German, 1989; American, 1991). His pastoral concern also produced some of his finest writings on the Eucharist and the liturgy, such as The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000), which he wrote during his vacation in Regensburg in the hope that it would give rise to a liturgical renewal like the one sparked by Romano Guardini's similarly titled book in 1918.

In this final period (before his election as Pope), his theological writings tend to be more and more determined by pastoral concerns and later by the various issues that called for an authoritative response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, such as liberation theology, developments in biotechnology, New Testament attitudes to the Jews, and, most recently, the relationship between Christianity and the world religions, one of the topics he had dealt with in his early formative period as an academic theologian. His mature reflections on the latter topic may be found in Truth and Tolerance, mentioned above.

Theology and Politics

Ratzinger's reflections on morality go back to his middle period (see, e.g., Principles of Moral Theology, German 1975), while his theology of politics can be traced back to his earliest research — his doctoral and post-doctoral theses — and to his first writings as an independent author, such as Christian Brotherhood (German, 1960) and The Unity of the Nations: A Vision of the Fathers of the Church (German, 1971). The latter is fascinating, among other things, for its insights into nationalism's potential evil when it becomes an absolute and its threat to the Church, as first perceived by Origen of Alexandria, the third-century founder of speculative theology. As Archbishop of Munich, Ratzinger's pastoral concerns gave rise to his mature theology of politics, early intimations of which can be found, for example, in the twelve sermons published under the title, Christian Faith and Europe (German, 1981).

A representative selection of his writings on the theology of politics (including an important essay on liberation theology) may be found in Church, Ecumenism, and Politics: New Essays in Ecclesiology (German, 1987; the English translation, 1988, is rather poor and there is even a large passage missing). He describes this collection as "essays in ecclesiology" — politics, like ecumenism, being but an aspect of his theology of the Church. His theology of politics combines a critique of modernity (understood as the attempt to create a perfect society by social engineering as justified by one or another political ideology) with an attempt to delineate the contribution of Christianity to a humane society and to modern democracy. Here conscience or personal moral responsibility plays a key role, as does the recognition (already found in the New Testament) that there is no place for a "political theology" (like liberation theology) and, related to this, that there is no unchanging template for politics (and so no justification for political ideology). Politics is the "art of the possible," the arena of practical reason (of prudence and justice), and so of compromise — albeit within moral parameters that are, in principle, non-negotiable (though today they are hardly recognized as such due to the dominance of rationalism and utilitarianism). Also significant for an appreciation of his political thought is the collection of talks published under the title Turning Point for Europe? (German, 1991; American, 1994) and, above all, Truth, Values, Power: Litmus Tests for a Pluralist Society (German, 1993), which contains his most important contribution to moral theology, namely his understanding of conscience.

In Values in a Time of Upheaval, Ratzinger discusses ways of recovering, in a world roiled by globalization and multiculturalism, a moral consensus that is both objective and universal. In it, he returns to the question of the relationship between faith and reason that was the subject of his inaugural lecture in Bonn in 1959 as a fledgling theologian. Now the topic emerges as an aspect of the challenges posed by the undermining of traditional means of orientation within all societies. Faith and reason, revelation and enlightenment, need each other in order to liberate the potential in each to confront, and help overcome, the dangers that threaten humanity.

Politics and Ethics

Ratzinger's contribution to political and ethical thought is less well known, despite the fact that he was made a member associé étranger in the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques of the Institut de France in 1992 in recognition of his writings and perhaps his public stances in these areas — he replaced the Soviet dissident nuclear physicist, Andrei Sakharov. For more than 40 years, Ratzinger has written extensively in response to social and political developments in Europe and the world. His latest book, The Europe of Benedict in the Crisis of Culture (Italian, 2005), is made up of three papers he read on various occasions dealing with this crisis.

A brief discussion of a chapter in Church, Ecumenism, Politics might suffice for a taste of Ratzinger's theology of politics. It is a classic expression of his thought in this area (despite the inadequate translation), and is entitled, "A Christian Orientation in a Pluralist Democracy?" The question mark is important.

Ratzinger is acutely aware that modern democracy cannot stand on its own but needs other moral resources to maintain itself. He looks at the pluralist democracies of Europe and notes their many weaknesses, particularly their tendency to expect too much from society. This attempt to create a new world that will finally, definitively, be a better world is the greatest threat to democracy itself. Behind this threat is the persistence of the Gnostic dream of establishing the Kingdom of God within history once and for all. "The longing for the absolute in history is the enemy of the good within it." The myth of the creation of a perfect society here on earth engenders revulsion against the imperfections of existing society and can engender anarchy, in the irrational hope that once the present corrupt society has been destroyed, a new and better world will emerge. This is the seedbed of most political terrorism.

Ratzinger distinguishes three interrelated aspects of the threat to democracy. The first is the assumption that perfect justice can be achieved simply by changing the economic, social, and legal structures of society. A "perfect society" of the future would supposedly be a society liberated from all kinds of exploitation and injustice by new structures (in other words, social engineering). In fact, it would "free" the members of society from the continual moral effort needed to achieve justice in society. Such a "liberation" would in effect amount to nothing less than the abdication of personal responsibility and personal freedom. It presupposes perfect tyranny. But "neither reason nor faith ever promises us that there will be a perfect world." To toy with the idea is to encourage a false "enthusiasm bent on anarchy." Today's pluralist democracy, for all its imperfections, allows a certain measure of justice to be achieved within clear limits, and some improvement is always possible. For democracy to continue to develop, it is urgently necessary to acquire again "the courage to accept imperfection" — and to learn to appreciate that human affairs are constantly endangered and so call for constant vigilance. Any moral appeal based on the promise of a perfect society in the future is in fact profoundly immoral — it encourages a flight from morality, from free, human, prudential decisions, toward some form of utopia.

The attempt to make morality with all its shortcomings superfluous by promoting the creation of a perfect society has another root. This is the one-sided concept of reason characteristic of modernity, what Vaclav Havel likewise calls impersonal reason. Anything that cannot be quantified, calculated, or verified by "scientific experimentation" is regarded as irrational, illogical. This amounts to the abolition of morality as such. Human decision-making is reduced to an attempt to balance the foreseen advantages or disadvantages of a proposed course of action. Morality becomes personal preference — and so "law has the ground cut from under its feet." If there is no such thing as objective morality, then the law can no longer be conceived as giving legal protection to that which is intrinsically good and forbidding what is intrinsically wrong; it becomes a mere means for preventing opposing interests from clashing with one another. When moral reason is conceived as basically irrational — merely a matter of subjective preference — law can no longer be referred to as a fundamental image of justice but becomes the mirror of the predominant view of the experts or majority opinion. Since views and opinions in society are subject to constant change — and indeed can be profoundly unjust — it is obvious that justice cannot be achieved in this way. Society and the state can only survive if we succeed in re-establishing a fundamental moral consensus in society.

The third threat to modern democracy embraces and extends the previous two. If people are convinced that all there is to life is what we experience here and now, discontentment and boredom can only increase, with the result that more and more people will look for some kind of escape in a search for "real life" elsewhere. Escapism and various forms of "dropping out" become endemic. "The loss of transcendence evokes the flight to utopia," Ratzinger states categorically. "I am convinced that the destruction of transcendence is the actual amputation of human beings from which all other sicknesses flow. Robbed of their real greatness they can only find escape in illusory hopes." One such illusory hope is the construction of a perfect society in the future, which Marx claimed could only come about if people first abandoned God.

Tendencies of Christianity

The modern state is an imperfect society, not only in the sense that its structures will necessarily be as imperfect as its members, but also in the sense that it needs a source outside itself in order to be able to survive and thrive. The question is: what source? Before recommending Christianity, Ratzinger engages in a self-criticism of Christianity as a historical entity and a political force. As a human phenomenon, Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican) is also subject to the ambiguity of the human condition. In the course of its history, it too has given rise to movements and social tendencies that have unhealthy implications for political life and that cannot be ignored. Ratzinger considers three such tendencies.

The first is to misunderstand Christian hope in either purely otherworldly terms or as something to be looked forward to here on earth. The first error encourages Christians to neglect life in society for the sake of the world beyond. The second is the Gnostic temptation to create the kingdom of God on earth. True Christian hope is the mean between these two extremes. It is the theological virtue that enables Christians to endure injustice patiently and to work unceasingly for justice in this world in anticipation of the Final Judgment beyond: "What you did to the least of these little ones," the Eternal Judge will tell us at the end of time, "you did to me."

The second unhappy Christian tendency is the rejection of justification based on human effort ("merit"), which means that human endeavor is considered to be of little consequence for salvation. The resulting notion of holiness based on grace alone, which is only granted to the "saved," permits no accommodation with those who are not "justified" or "saved." This in turn promotes a black-and-white picture of human society and rules out any compromise, with disastrous results. Since politics is the art of the possible, compromise is essential for political life.

The third tendency is really a danger inherent in the very nature of Christian monotheism, namely the Christian claim to truth, which has more than once led to political intolerance. There is but one God, who revealed himself in Christ. Consequently, Christianity could not fit into the Roman concept of tolerance based on polytheism. The Romans considered the various cults in the empire as religious clubs, each free to organize its own private laws and follow its own gods. But Christianity could not accept such a place in society, because it would reduce Christ to one god among many. Christian belief implied a claim to public recognition comparable to the State's. It also denied the State's claim to absolute obedience. Christianity has from its origins been the adversary of all forms of State totalitarianism. But the claim to ultimate truth can result — and has in the past resulted — in political intolerance once the Church itself becomes a political force. Theocracy is an inherent danger, meaning not simply rule by priests (that has been extremely rare), but the attempt to rule society according to explicit religious beliefs, as today in the case of Islam. Theocracy is thus inimical to the basic understanding of political life found in the New Testament. But it is an ever-present temptation.

The Central Question

The central question, as Ratzinger sees it, is: "How can Christianity become a positive force for the political world without [itself] being turned into a political instrument and without on the other hand grabbing the political world for itself?" His answer again is threefold.

First, from its origins in the life of Christ, Christianity on the whole has refused to see itself as a political entity. One of the three temptations faced by Christ at the beginning of his public ministry was to transform the kingdom of God into a political program. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus affirmed. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Caesar represents the State, the realm of political life, which is the realm of practical reason and human responsibility. According to Ratzinger, the New Testament recognizes an ethos or sphere of political responsibility but rejects a political theology, i.e., a political program to change the world on the basis of revelation. Thus all attempts to establish a perfect society (the kingdom of God on earth) are rejected by the New Testament. The New Testament rejection of justification by one's own effort is likewise a rejection of political theology, which would claim that a perfect society based on justice could be established by human effort alone. Perfect justice is, rather, the work of God in the hearts of those who respond to his love (grace). Justice in society cannot be achieved simply by changing the structures of society. It is, instead, the temporary result of continued imperfect efforts on the part of society's members. To accept this is to acknowledge the imperfection that characterizes our human condition and to accept the need to persevere in one's own moral effort. Such endurance in trying to do what is right, to find the right solution to the practical difficulties that arise from daily life in common, is made possible by grace and the promise of everlasting life and ultimate victory in Christ. "The courage to be reasonable, which is the courage to be imperfect, needs the Christian promise [i.e., the theological virtue of hope] to hold its own ground, to persevere."

Second, Christian faith awakens conscience and thus provides a necessary foundation for the ethos of society. Faith gives practical content and direction to practical reason. It provides the necessary coordinates for practical decision-making. The core of the crisis of modern civilization is the implosion of the profound moral consensus that once marked all the great traditions of humanity, despite their superficial differences. If there is nothing intrinsically right or wrong, conscience can be relegated to the private sphere and law can no longer be regulated by morality. Accordingly, the most urgent task for modern society is to recover morality's meaning and its centrality for society, which is constantly in need of inner renewal. A State can only survive and flourish to the extent that the greater number of its citizens are themselves trying to do what is right and avoid what is wrong— insofar as they are truly trying to act in accordance with their conscience and striving to become virtuous. Thus genuine moral formation, by which one learns how to exercise one's freedom, is essential for the possibility of establishing justice, peace, and order in society. Moreover, it is important to remember that the basic morals of modern Western society are the morals of Christianity, with its roots in Judaism and classical Greek thought. It is the residue of these that, filtered through the Enlightenment, gives modern democracy its internal ethical framework. When the Christian foundations are removed entirely, nothing holds together any more. Reason needs revelation, if it is to remain reasonable — if it is to recognize those limits which define us as human beings.

The final point touches on a most sensitive aspect of the interconnection between Christianity and modern pluralist democracy. Today few will deny Christianity the right to develop its values and way of life alongside other social groups. But this would confine Christianity to the private sphere, just one value system among other, equally valid ones. Not only does this contradict the Christian claim to truth and universal validity, it robs Christianity of its real value to the State, which is that it represents the truth that transcends the State and for that very reason enables the State to function as a human society guided by the conscience of its members.

Thus we have the dilemma. If the Church gives up its claim to universal truth and transcendence, it is unable to give to the State what it needs: the strength of perseverance in the search for what is good and just — as well as the source of its ultimate values. On the other hand, if the State embraces the Christian claim to truth, it can no longer remain pluralist, with the danger that the State loses its own specific identity and autonomy. Achieving a balance between the two sides of this dilemma is the prerequisite for the freedom of the Church and the freedom of the State. Whenever the balance is upset and one side dominates the other, both Church and State suffer the consequences. Christianity is the soil from which the modern State cannot be uprooted without decomposing. The State, Ratzinger insists, must accept that there is a stock of truth, which is not subject to a consensus but rather precedes every consensus and makes it possible for society to govern itself.

The State ought to show its indebtedness in various ways, including the recognition of the validity of the public symbols of Christianity — public feast days, church buildings and public processions, the Crucifix in schools, etc. Yet such public recognition can only be expected, adds Ratzinger, when Christians themselves are convinced of their faith's indispensability, because they are convinced of its ultimate truth.


Books by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned in this essay:


People of God and God's House in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church
Christian Brotherhood
Revelation and Tradition (with Karl Rahner)
Introduction to Christianity
The New People of God
The Unity of the Nations: A Vision of the Fathers of the Church
Principles of Moral Theology
Eschatology — Death and Eternal Life
Christian Faith and Europe
Principles of Catholic Theology
Mediating Faith and Sources of Faith
To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope and Love
Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today
Turning Point for Europe?
The Nature and Mission of Theology: Essays to Orient Theology in Today's Debates
Truth, Values, Power: Litmus Tests for a Pluralist Society
The Spirit of the Liturgy
Truth and Tolerance
Values in a Time of Upheaval: How to Survive the Challenges of the Future
The Europe of Benedict in the Crisis of Culture

benefan
00Sunday, February 12, 2006 8:22 PM
From the Washington Times

The new pope, without prejudice
February 12, 2006

BENEDICT XVI: THE MAN WHO WAS RATZINGER
By Michael S. Rose
Spence, $22.95, 192 pages
REVIEWED BY MARTIN SIEFF

It is doubtful if any other pontiff in modern times ascended to the papacy facing the number of hostile prejudices that Pope Benedict XVI did last year when he succeeded his longtime chief and friend Pope John Paul II, whom he served so well.

First, the personally shy, scholarly and retiring former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not the exceptional John Paul, the most charismatic and popular pope in at least half a millennium and one who directly interacted with more people than any other pontiff ever.

Nor could he match the extraordinary life odyssey of John Paul II. Anyone who steps into the shoes of a giant knows that he will be in for a rough ride.

Second, Benedict XVI is German -- and his elevation to the papacy was followed by truly ugly xenophobic outbursts in the British tabloid press. Conspiracy theorists who love to rave about the Church, about the direction of modern Europe or about Germany could therefore be expected to have a field day.

Third, as Cardinal Ratzinger, the new pope had labored for more than two decades in the thankless vineyard of being prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he assumed in 1981.

That meant he was the chief enforcer of John Paul II's efforts to defend the traditional theological positions of the Church against a wave of liberal intellectuals who wanted to dismantle them. It was all too easy therefore for such enemies to try and falsely stereotype him as a modern Torquemada.

Fourth, the new pope is an outspoken and courageous social conservative -- and is unabashedly proud of it. His unrelenting opposition to weakening the Church's moral stance against permitting abortion in particular was sure to outrage his liberal foes.

Michael Rose's deceptively slim but solidly researched, documented and robustly argued book coming hard on the heels of Benedict XVI's election to the Throne of St. Peter comes therefore as a rapid and welcome corrective to dispel so many hostile and wildly inaccurate and even contemptible cliches.

Like the religious leader it celebrates, this book does not indulge in any cheap sentimentality but is both substantive and admirable. Anyone looking for a colorful account, however sympathetic, of the life of the new pope will not find it here.

Mr. Rose concentrates rather on the vast and compendiously documented public record of the man -- the dominant conservative theologian and intellectual thinker in the Church of his generation. He makes a strong case for his contention that this pope indeed may be the most imposing intellectual ever to have been elected to the papacy.

However, the greatest value of Mr. Rose's book is in his documentation of where Benedict XVI's papacy will contrast with that of his legendary predecessor and where it may even prove to be far more substantive and long-lasting in its effects on the Church -- effects which, Mr. Rose argues, will be entirely beneficial. "There will be continuity in the papacy, but that continuity will likely come by way of translating the guiding lines of the Wojtyla pontificate into institutional reality," he writes.

Mr. Rose makes his case somewhat dryly. This book, like its subject, is intellectually demanding and austere. It eschews color, padding and length. But it amply rewards its readers with a careful, thorough documentation of the new pope's thoughts and positions on a host of major issues confronting the Church.

The record of the early months of the new pontiff's rule appears to support Mr. Rose's arguments.

Here is a pope who upholds the traditional theological positions of the Church, who remains determined to maintain celibacy for priests and who also continues his predecessor's passionate struggle against the horrors of abortion on demand.

Benedict XVI has shown his readiness to take clear and uncompromising positions on public policy issues of great controversy. He opposes the full entry of Turkey into the European Union but he also was critical of the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq.

Yet he has seen eye to eye with President Bush on moral issues. Within a few weeks of entering the papacy he became only the second pope in history to visit a Jewish synagogue. He has shown himself determined to clean the priesthood of pedophiles. His commitment to protecting the young and the innocent has been passionate and consistent.

Mr. Rose's conclusion therefore, appears compelling: "Without a doubt the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI will go down in history as one of tremendous significance. Whatever the Holy Father does is it is likely to carry weight for many decades to come."

Martin Sieff is national security correspondent for United Press International.

[Modificato da benefan 12/02/2006 20.26]

benefan
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 2:54 AM
DON'T BUY THIS BOOK!!!!

It's called, "A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future". Since the title mentions Benedict and sounds harmless, I'm afraid unwary readers might buy it. I was going to copy the review of the book here but both the reviewer (from the San Francisco Chronicle) and the book's author ("a Jesuit turned journalist") are vehemently anti-Papa. They accuse him of all the old stereotypes, including scheming to become pope, and they even make cutting remarks about his appearance. It is really sickening. For those with a strong stomach, the review is at:
sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/03/19/RVGU9GJAKP1.DTL&typ... It is so discouraging to see crap like this still being printed about Papa, and by a Jesuit no less. If I weren't in favor of freedom of press and freedom of speech, I'd be lighting a bonfire right now.

[Modificato da benefan 19/03/2006 2.59]

TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 3:49 AM
IGNORANT POPE-HATERS!
I had to look, and confronted the naked ugly face of willful ignorance and contemptuous prejudice in two men - the author and the reviewer - neither of whom, in the words of the reviewer "can hide his disgust for the Pope." Having made that very clear themselves, only those who share their most un-Christian attitude could conceivably be interested in or waste a cent on a hatchet job that doesn't hide it is one, and wields the axe against John Paul II as well.

This paragraph epitomizes the ignorance and prejudice that characterize both author and reviewer:

"If you believe Kaiser, Pope John Paul II was little more than Ratzinger's puppet, someone whose only use was to wave to the television-watching masses [and he thinks he can sell his book?]; Ratzinger, meanwhile, nefariously expanded his power over the Catholic Church even as he publicly expressed no interest in becoming the Vicar of Christ. It's a bold thesis, but Kaiser nails it [sez who?] by merely retelling the past. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the technical name for the office that carried out the Inquisition), for instance, Ratzinger put a clamp on the liberation theology movement in Latin America during the 1980s, a gesture that ensured that Latin American churches would once again embrace the rich and ignore the poor [sez who?]. And even as John Paul II made nice with other religions, Ratzinger undermined his boss in 2000 by publishing Dominus Iesus, a 2000 document that stated that "there is no salvation outside the Church."

On the last statement: a) how a Jesuit, or any priest for that matter, can even imply that a major doctrinal document like Dominus Iesus - which restates Catholic belief about Jesus Christ - could "undermine the Pope" is sheer misrepresentation of what the Magisterium is about; and b) to imply as the reviewer does that ecumenism is undermined when the Catholic Church restates its core doctrine is sheer ignorance as to what both ecumenism and Dominus Iesus are about. (Of course, this same nitwit states at the outset that he "finally" left the Catholic Church because Ratzinger became Pope! Fine pretext! - well, good for the Church!)
benefan
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 4:04 AM
TOO LATE

Oh, Teresa, I was just logging on to edit my post to specifically say, "Teresa, you especially, don't look at that book review", knowing that it would send your blood pressure through the roof, when I saw that you had already posted something on this thread. Too late, I realized. She's seen the article. Then I read the heading to your post, "Ignorant Pope-Haters". Oh yeah. She's seen the article.

By the way, why is it that so many Jesuits are critics of the pope? Aren't they supposed to be dedicated to being the pope's spiritual army so to speak?

[Modificato da benefan 19/03/2006 5.10]

Wulfrune
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 1:32 PM
The disgust these men feel about Benedict is nothing to the disgust that any true Catholic will feel about the book and the review.

The Catholic church is so full of 'malaise' it would turn us Episcopalian? Snort!!

It's amazing that these bozos still don't get it. The churches aren't emptying because of JP2 and B16 but because of the spirit of the age and the fact that a Church enfeebled by the abuses of the past 40 years is not able to speak clearly the gospel that society needs to hear.

My guess is that these two men are in late middle age and afflicted with a serious case of Vatican Flu. Poor dears, let's hope they get better, but since they won't take their B16 vitamins, things don't look good.

Avanti, sorelle! sursum corda!!
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 2:01 PM
BETRAYING ST. IGNATIUS
Ir just so happened there was a spirited discussion on The Cafeteria is Closed because a humble Jesuit wrote to say that only the bad Jesuits are being written about and what about all the good priests among them who do follow the Church as their founder did? Among 25 reactions, I think only one was not critical, if not scathing, of the bad Jesuits. I added my bit by giving them Benefan's link to say they could go to it if they wanted to add another one to their infernal line-up of traitors to Ignatius.

Someone had posted the saint's basic prayers - which obviously the renegade ones have stopped saying, otherwise they would not have the arrogance to think they can supplant the Magisterium! And what gives them this arrogance? The whole spirit of the ME-ME-ME society personified by the execrable liberals of which the bad Jesuits are signal examples. "Regardless of all other considerations, what I think is right, and only that is right." The pro-abortion House Democrats called it "primacy of conscience"! HAH!
benefan
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 2:12 PM
BETRAYING ST. IGNATIUS


I can see she's still upset.

TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 2:19 PM
Synchronicity is at work today. Re the Jesuits, John Allen's Word from Rome today excerpts an interview with Fr. Kolvenbach, the Jesuit S-G, who has interesting things to say about Ratzi at the CDF and dissenting priests! I am posting it in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT.
mag6nideum
00Sunday, March 19, 2006 6:27 PM
THAT book...
So, you've seen that review.... it came to me via Google-alerts on B16. I hesitated a while before posting the link on the RFC. Apart from the stuff implied about Papa, some of which we know by heart already,it is so hackneyed and false, I think the last sentence of the review sums up the kind of Church these people want. Jesus,the carpenter, has to be able "to drop in" at their idea of church. People who stress this side of the triune God - only the man-Jesus aspect - create the kind of religion that is the real reason for empty churches. Anyhow - I also wondered about the Jesuits who, during the Counter-Reformation, stood behind the popes and the Church like a rock.
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Wednesday, March 22, 2006 12:53 AM
REFLECTIONS TO LIVE BY
I will ask Ratzigirl to change the title of this rubric to 'BOOKS BY AND ON BENEDICT' because obviously, Papa is always going to have a new book coming out, or re-issues of his previous books, in addition to having books written about him -so we can have one thread to look at. Our English-section Table of Contents is now on two pages, and it would be nice to limit the current rubrics to the first page only, so browsers, especially newcomers, will not miss the more important contents. As you know, rubrics get relegated to the back if no one posts in them for some time, i.e., the more a thread gets new posts, the more likely it is to be kept up front.

The following entry is occasioned by the re-issue in Italy of a book of meditations by Papa - I have looked up his English bibliographies to see if there is an English edition but it looks like no. First, Discipula in the main forum posted about the Italian re-issue last week, then today, Beatrice posted on the French edition of the book, originally published in Germany in 1984 under the title "Gottes Glanz in Unserer Zeit: Meditationen zum Kirchenjahr" (God's Glory in our Time: Meditations on the Liturgical year).



The French edition is called "La gloire de Dieu aujourd'hui", which translates the German title. It is subtitled "Discover the thought of Benedict XVI" , and the blurb that is part of the cover design says: "The liturgical year allows us to review the history of salvation to the rhythm of Creation, while bringing order to our chaotic life. Artificial time gives rise to boredom...."

First, here is is Beatrice's post, in translation
:
I just found in what one usually calls a "major bookstore" a small book that appears to bre fresh off the press which identifies the author simply as Joseph Ratzinger.

The author himself (that is to say, our Holy Father) presents it, much better than I could, with the simplicity and extreme modesty that we have come to know).
[She then quotes the forewords to the original edition in 1984 and to its first French edition in 1996.]

In response to a friendly invitation from the editor to do this, I present within this little work some excerpts from homilies I delivered in Munich. These texts are essentially sermons and meditations on Easter, to which I have added some brief messages broadcast on radio throughout the year.

Some editing was done to elaborate on some of the texts. These texts allow looking in depth at the same idea by looking at it in different lights and making new correlations. But all that is said here only touch at the subjects given. I strongly hope that the incomplete or embryonic nature of these short texts will permit each reader to proceed by himself on the path of thought and action.

15 August 1984

During my years in Rome, Bavarian Radio has always invited me to offer a meditation at each high point of the liturgical year. It was also suggested that I comment on some great paintings found in many of the Roman churches. As my 70th birthday approaches, my brother has suggested that I put these texts together. Radio and television broadcasts being ephemeral by nature, a printed collection of the texts would allow my comments to be easily available [the French word used is “perenniser”, which means to make something lasting], at the same time offering an interior understanding of Christian feasts.

That is the background to this small volume. It is certainly not exempt from contingencies but it may help to make more perceptible the message of hope (in the Christian faith) and to learn anew this interior contemplation, of which we have a cruel lack because we are submerged by a daily flood of images and demands.

Rome 1996
________________________________________

Beatrice’s review:
I think that this book could well have been called “Recherche les choses d'En Haut"* ["Think of Higher Things" or "Look for Higher Things" is the closest translation I can give for the sense of it - a more idiomatic translation fails me at the moment] as he titles his original foreword.

*NB: It is also the title of the Italian edition, "Cercate le cose di Lassu".

Because alongside the religious meditations on the great feasts of the Catholic liturgy (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, All Saints Day), one also finds very accessible reflections (probably those transcribed from his Bavarian radio broadcasts) on daily life, pleasantly written in a lively
unostentatious style that is typical of him, such as one finds in his extemporaneous homilies.

Cardinal Ratzinger never spoke for the sake of speaking, that is to say, not to say anything meaningful, and he does not need any abstruse words to say what he wants to say. The thoughts he offers are dense with meaning, and meant to enrich the spirit while elevating our thoughts.

He talks of everything – of Carnival, of the World Cup in soccer, of death, vacations, churches which have closed down (which he sees as a warning sounded “before a civilization falls back to barbarism” as well as a sign of the Church’s surrender to “the law of our day…when everything has become merchandise, including us ourselves”).

Here is a sample, if I may call it that - a brief reflection on the cult of “vacations” in post-modern societies. I read it, and I am impressed all over at the author’s unbelievable ability to “communicate,” by the ability of this erudite theologian to make himself understood by all:

VACATIONS
Going on a quest

One of the most curious phenomena of our civilization is the reappearance of a nomadic dimension in society.

Evrey weekend, endless columns of cars leave the cities to return home again Sunday evening along the same route that is desperately clogged with traffic. And when vacation time begins, it looks like entire nations on the move.

The highway has become one of the places most frequented by men in the so-called developed nations, and the investments made in this respect indicate man's psychological disposition to be a tireless voyager. One cannot but ask “What is the reason for this behavior?”

Apparently, people don’t feel completely at home in their residences. Many stay out of the house as much as they can. It is as if they consider their residence an imprisonment within daily routine rather than a refuge which invites you to stay in.

One can be tempted to say that this escape on the highways is a revolt against the constraints of the world of work, indicating a pressing need for freedom, for a distant place, a place that is truly different, where it may be possible to rediscover oneself in creativity and liberty.

Something very deep in man and his nature is expressed through these regular human migrations in industrial societies. Man can no longer feel at home in his own residence, he is permeated by a restlessness to experience something more. He is looking for a freedom that goes beyond political freedoms and which will give him satisfaction.

Don’t we see in this the truth of the Biblical words describing man as a pilgrim in this world which is not going to be his only home? Don’t we see in this the ‘disquiet of the heart’ that St. Augustine speaks of, having perceived in himself this restless search, this something that seemed to be permanently in motion within him, until he finally became aware of the reason why nothing ever seemed to satisfy him?

For the contemporary nomad, the car may well seem to be an expression of freedom and his own availability (disponibilite), as expressed in the Greek roots of the word auto-mobile. It is why the car seems irreplaceable to him beyond its mere usefulness. But does the car really give him his “me” and his freedom, or does it imprison him in the bottleneck of those who go round and round in a void?

The habits linked to vacations can be an opportunity for self-reflection, to make us look for something greater than what we usually dare. To take us out of our daily routine in order to undertake a trip that is worthy of man. To start on a quest for the eternal, the face of God, and thus exceed all earthly frontiers. Why not think that it is precisely in that beyond, where we have access to our liberty and our true home?

----------------------------------------------------------------

Here is Discipula's post, translated:

This morning I went to the Catholic bookstore to pick up a book I ordered last week ("Journey to Easter"), when I saw a book in the display window I had not seen before.:


As mentioned above, the Italian edition is titled "Look for Higher Things" and subtitled "Reflections for all year".

She then quotes the blurb on the book jacket:

“In a world which is orienting itself more and more towards the material and the ephemeral, St. Paul’s call to the Corinthians resounds today in all its prophetic weight. To turn to that which is superior and great means to counteract the gravity which weighs us down materially which leads to ruin, in order to take back our own lives. It means, in short, to follow the Resurrected One, ascending together with him in the exercise of those valies which mark the true face of the mature Christian: love, purity, honesty, concord, peace, pardon, justice…”

This is from the introduction to a new edition of a book first published in Italy in 1986 in a series called “Christian Meditations.” The texts are a collection of various reflections and meditations written by Joseph Ratzinger when he was Archbishop of Munich.

The reflections take the reader through the course of the liturgical year, showing the origins of the feasts that we celebrate, explaining the reasons for the celebration and changes that have taken place over the centuries, so as to help the reader reflect on spirituality and the world around him.

The book also has meditations on various activities like vacations, sport, peace, nature. With his precise but simple style, Cardinal ratzinger helps us reflect on the fundamental but always current questions on the faith and on Christian life.

The texts are enriched by appropriate references to writers, artists, philosophers and historical events. These references and the back-and-forth between the lay world and the ecclesiastic world stimulate personal reflection on the topics discussed.
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[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 22/03/2006 3.56]

TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, March 30, 2006 2:54 PM
CHRISTIANITY AND THE CRISIS OF CULTURES
Here is the latest book by Joseph Ratzinger to be released in English:

The following blurb is taken from Ignatius Insight
www.ignatiusinsight.com/info/new_ip_books_1.asp

Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures
Joseph Ratzinger
Foreword by Marcello Pera


Written by Joseph Ratzinger shortly before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures looks at the growing conflict of cultures evident in the Western world. The West faces a deadly contradiction of its own making, he contends.

Terrorism is on the rise. Technological advances of the West, employed by people who have cut themselves off from the moral wisdom of the past, threaten to abolish man (as C.S. Lewis put it) - whether through genetic manipulation or physical annihilation.

In short, the West is at war - with itself. Its scientific outlook has brought material progress. The Enlightenment's appeal to reason has achieved a measure of freedom. But contrary to what many people suppose, both of these accomplishments depend on Judeo-Christian foundations, including the moral worldview that created Western culture.

More than anything else, argues Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, the important contributions of the West are threatened today by an exaggerated scientific outlook and by moral relativism - what Benedict XVI calls "the dictatorship of relativism" - in the name of freedom.

Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures is no mere tirade against the moral decline of the West. Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI challenges the West to return to its roots by finding a place for God in modern culture. He argues that both Christian culture and the Enlightenment formed the West, and that both hold the keys to human life and freedom as well as to domination and destruction.

Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI challenges non-believer and believer alike. "Both parties," he writes, "must reflect on their own selves and be ready to accept correction." He challenges secularized, unbelieving people to open themselves to God as the ground of true rationality and freedom. He calls on believers to "make God credible in this world by means of the enlightened faith they live."

Topics include:

• Reflections on the Cultures in Conflict Today
• The Significance and Limits of Today's Rationalistic Culture
• The Permanent Significance of the Christian Faith
• Why We Must Not Give Up the Fight
• The Law of the Jungle, the Rule of Law
• We Must Use Our Eyes!
• Faith and Everyday Life
• Can Agnosticism Be a Solution?
• The Natural Knowledge of God
• "Supernatural" Faith and Its Origins

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 30/03/2006 14.55]

TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, March 30, 2006 3:03 PM
RATZINGER ON TRUTH AND FAITH
Courtesy of Beatrice in the French section, here is some information about a book that came out in France shortly before the Pope's first encyclical was released last January,



Est-ce-que Dieu existe?
DIALOGUE SUR LA VÉRITÉ, LA FOI ET L'ATHÉISME

[Does God exist? - Dialog on Truth, Faith and Atheism]
Joseph Ratzinger-Paolo Flores d'Arçais
Manuels Payot. 183 p., 16 €.

The blurb from the book jacket reads, in translation -

In the present climate of respect and dialog between believers and non-beleivers, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the atheist Flores d’Arcais face squarely the great ethical, religious and political questions:
Is faith joined to reason or is it a rupture with reason?
Is it possible to live without religious faith?
Can one accuse the Age of Enlightenment of having been the origin of a destructive relativism?
Can Christian values be considered universal? They have their origins in nature and reason, and can they therefore be imposed on non-believers alike (for instance, in matters that concern abortion or more generally, bioethics)?
Can one admit that religion is capable of giving a sense to life without questioning its truth?

This work puts together a transcript of the public debate held at the Quirinal Thear in Rome on September 21, 2000, between Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, and Paolo Flores d’Arcais, professor of philosophy at the Universita della Sapienza in Rome; an essay by Flored d’Arcais; and “The truth of Christianity,” a lecture given by Cardinal Ratzinger at the Sorbonne in 1999.
----------------------------------------------------------------
On January 21, Henri Tincq, Vatican correspondent of the French newspaper Le Monde, came out with this review of the book, here in translation -

On the eve of the publication of Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, it is interesting to reread the public debate which pitted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in Rome on September 22, 2000, against the atheist philosopher Paolo Flores d’Arcais and the lecture on “Christianity and truth” that he delivered at the Sorbonne in November 1999.

This book is not in any case the condensation of the thoughts of a theologian who has become Pope, author of a considrable body of doctrinal work in his own right as well as by virtue of his former position as Prefect of a Roman congreagation. Nor should one read it as a review of the disputes that agitated the very long pontificate of John Paul II.

The disputatio Ratzinger-Flores d’Arcais deals with fundamental questions of faith, in which a firm rationalist thought is opposed to the teachings of the Church, and examines the relationship between the legacy of the Enlightenment and a particular religious morality.

Faith is not the enemy of reason. That is a traditional belief of the Church, systematized by St. Thomas, which Ratzinger opposes to Flores d’Arcais and which he comments on in his lecture at the Sorbonne, saying that in the modern era, faith and reason have been “separated” to the great misfortune not only of the church but also of our time and of humanity.

For Flores d’Arcais, the Church’s claim to conciliate faith and reson against all evidence (the “folly” of the Cross, St. Paul once said), to justify by “natural law” (which does not exist) its particular morality, to consider its “truth” as norm, has led it to exactions infamous in history (the crusades, the Inquisition, etc) and to rejection of philosophical, ethical and political pluralism.

For him, it is embodied in the John Paul II mystery: why did this Pope, who showed himself in Poland as one of the champions of anti-totalitarian thought yield to “totalitarian temptation” in his way of governing the Church, attributing to the Enlightenment the responsibility for the tragedies of the 20th century (rejection of God having led to the 'ruin' of man), affirming that an eternal moral law, attributed to a God-Creator, should impose itself on human laws which are the result of votes by fluctuating majorities?

For the future Pope, there is no mystery at all. His joust with Flores d’Arcais and his lecture at the Sorbonne allow him to deploy his concept of the “truth”: it should never be ‘imposed,” he says, while implicitly acknowledging mistakes by the Church.

Neither is it a question of restoring the Catholic states, of foisting religious laws on systems of civil authority. After having fought them, the Church acknowledges in part the legacy of the Enlightenment and ranges itself unequivocally on the side of democracy, human rights, and plurality of ideas, religions and parties.

But, as Joseph Ratzinger adds in one of his most brilliant theological syntheses, man cannot pass from “truth,” to head towards what he would call in 2005, on the eve of his election, the “dictatorship of relativism” - into a frenzy of individualism, of generalised skepticism, and at worse, barbarism.

According to him, human rights alone do not suffice to establish a society or laws or democracy. What would be man’s responsibility if not his own end and his own governance? Truth and faith, he concludes, are exigencies of human reason.

Therefore the separation between Christianity and rationalism today seems to him perilous. The strength of Christianity, he says, lies precisely in the ‘synthesis’ of reason, faith and love which it has realized since it beginnings and which Benedict XVI intends to restore today to overcome the double crisis, that of Christianity as well as that of rationalist laic thought. And that is precisely the theme of his first encyclical appropriately called Deus caritas est. God is love.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 30/03/2006 15.18]

TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, April 1, 2006 6:13 PM
THE FIRST OF THE FIRST-ANNIVERSARY BOOKS
Ratzi.lella in the main forum reports that she acquired this book yesterday, which is surely but the first of many books we may expect to see in the next few weeks to mark Papa's first year in office.



BENEDETTO XVI
Parola e Immagini
del I° anno di pontificato

[Words and Images
from the first year of his pontificate]
By Mons. Tommaso Stenico

The blurb on the book jacket reads, in translation:

150 evocative photos recall the first year of the Pontificate of the Successor of Peter whom the Holy Spirit has installed to lead the Church at the start of the Third Millennium. In addition, the book contains more than 60 reports, in the Pope's own words, of his teachings as Vicar of Christ.
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