May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!--Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Truth About the Pope—and Why It Matters | An Interview with Dr. Tracey Rowland

Winston Elliott, Tracey Rowland, Barbara Elliott
| Ignatius Insight | October 15, 2010

Tracey Rowland is Dean and Associate Professor of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology at the John Paul II Institute (Melbourne), a member of the Centre for Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham and a member of the editorial board of the English language edition of Communio, founded, among others, by Joseph Ratzinger. She is the author of Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (2003), Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Benedict XVI (2008), and, most recently, Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (2010). She recently took time from her busy schedule to discuss the work and thought of Joseph Ratinger/Pope Benedict XVI.

Ignatius Insight: You've now written two books about the theology and thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. If you had to describe his theology and thought to someone who knew little or nothing about the topic, what would you say?

Dr. Rowland: I would say that he is interested in the relationship between God and the human person and in particular the role of love and reason in this relationship. He wants people to understand that while there is something called Christian morality, Christianity is not just another option on the menu of ethical codes. It is about a personal relationship with the Trinity, and without that the ethical code can seem incomprehensible and oppressive.

Ignatius Insight: What misunderstandings or misrepresentations of Benedict's thinking do you find most bothersome or in need of correction?

Dr. Rowland: Unfortunately many people, in particular journalists, can only think in dialectical categories like: left-wing, right-wing, progressive, conservative. They never ask questions like: conserve what? or progress toward what? It is very difficult to present Ratzinger's ideas in sound-bites without doing violence to the nuances.

There is, for example, a sense in which it may well be right to classify Ratzinger as a progressive in 1964 and a conservative today but what changed is not the actual theological beliefs held by Ratzinger, but the historical and theological contexts. In 1964 to be progressive meant wanting to introduce some flexibility into a theological framework which had become ossified and dry. It meant being critical of Su‡rezian Thomism. Today, being progressive means being in favour of contraceptives, women priests, homosexual "marriage" and Marty Haugen.

As Cardinal Francis George has often written, it is not a case of being left wing or right wing, but being for Christ. In some social contexts that will look right wing, in others, left-wing, but these terms and labels are not the standard, and nor are they stable.

Ignatius Insight: Who were some of the essential intellectual and theological influences—both ancient and contemporary—on the young Ratzinger?

Dr. Rowland: Among the Patristic theologians, St Augustine was clearly the most influential, among the medieval theologians it was St. Bonaventure, and thereafter there were a number of significant nineteenth century influences associated with the Tübingen School, such as Adam Mšhler, and there was also the influence of Blessed John Henry Newman. Among twentieth scholars, the key influences were: Romano Guardini, Josef Pieper, Martin Buber, Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Karl Rahner was also someone with whom he collaborated at the Council and probably by whom he was to some degree mentored at the Council, but as Avery Dulles observed, Ratzinger grew to understand that he and Rahner lived on different theological planets: whereas Rahner found revelation and salvation primarily in the inward movements of the human spirit, Ratzinger finds them in historical events attested by Scripture and the Fathers.

Ignatius Insight: Rupert Shortt, in a recent review of Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed, wrote that "Professor Ratzinger's volte-face [in the late 1960s] was matched by what struck many observers as a shift in his character. An earlier openness was supplanted by intolerance and gloom. The psychological element, wholly overlooked by Rowland, is revealing." Shortt obviously believes that Ratzinger's theology and perspective changed dramatically and suddenly some forty year ago. Is there evidence for that argument? And why is the debate over this topic so important?

Dr. Rowland: First, let me say that my book was published in the Guide for the Perplexed series which the publishers market as an 'upper level introduction to the thought of those writers readers can find especially challenging'. Concentrating on what it is that makes the subject difficult to grasp, these books explain and explore key themes and ideas. In other words, the book was not written as a biography, nor was there ever any brief from the publisher to delve into the psychological drives of the subject. The brief was to present an account of Ratzinger's thought for theology students trying to get a grip on its essential contours, with special reference to his contributions to the discipline of theology. Accordingly, the dominant theme of the book was how Ratzinger has dealt with what in Principles of Catholic Theology (1982) he called the severest crisis in Catholic theology in the twentieth century, namely, 'understanding the mediation of history in the realm of ontology'. Most of the material presented relates to that problematic.

That said, I think that just as there are at least two fundamentally different approaches to the documents of Vatican II, the 'hermeneutic of rupture' and the 'hermeneutic of reform' or continuity, there is an analogous division of interpretation over Ratzinger himself. What everyone agrees upon is that Ratzinger is an intellectual. No one tries to argue that he has been infected with peasant piety herding cows in the Bavarian alps as some tried to dismiss Wojtyła as a Carpathian peasant. The line becomes, this fellow was one of the most gifted clerics of his generation, open to new ideas and progressively oriented, but then in 1968 he found students demonstrating outside his lecture theatre and claiming that Christ was a sado-masochist. He then, so this narrative goes, had something like a breakdown from which he has never recuperated, and since that time he has been a neurotic conservative. This way one can acknowledge his talent but dismiss his substantive judgments on the grounds that they are the result of emotional fragility rather than intellectual rigour.

Read the rest on Ignatius Insight

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cardinal Ratzinger was no Liberal--Tracey Rowland

Joseph Ratzinger attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) when he was in his mid-30s as a peritus,  or expert theological advisor, to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne. 

He was one of a number of young European theologians present who were frustrated by the rigidity of the pre-Conciliar theological establishment. 

Seminarians were taught with manuals containing summaries of Catholic doctrine dredged largely from 17th century commentaries on the works of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).   In the 1940s, this ‘manualist Thomism’ came under fire for being dry, narrow, ossified and not in all ways consistent with the classical Thomism it claimed to champion. 

Among the leading periti there was an almost universal belief that this theological diet was inadequate for dealing with the problems of the late 20th century. 

There had been two world wars, an economic depression and an unusually large number of psychopaths in positions of authority. 

People were emotionally wounded and in the midst of so much evil they doubted the existence of a personal God who cared about them.  The works of the existentialist philosophers spoke more directly to the grief and anxiety of the post-war generations than a framework built from Aristotelian categories and Latin maxims.  Accordingly, the periti set off on a course of renewing the intellectual life of the Church with reference to the perceived pastoral needs of ‘modern man’. Differences soon emerged, however, over the intellectual material to be put at the service of this renewal. After the Council many of the periti, Ratzinger included, were contributors to the journal Concilium. 

However, by the fifth Concilium Congress held in Brussels in 1970, it was obvious that there were sharp divisions among members of the editorial board and that there was no common line among the former periti on how the Conciliar documents were to be interpreted. 

Some were treating 1965 as a theological Year 0.  Everything that went before, including the papacy, was up for review.

In 1972, Ratzinger, with a group of friends including the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss blue-blood polymath, founded an alternative journal named Communio. 
Whereas Concilium authors tended to approach the documents of the Council with what Ratzinger called a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’, making every pre-Conciliar belief and practice questionable, the Communio authors offered a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gratuity in the Market by Stratford Caldecott

I am taking the liberty of sharing a post by Stratford Caldecott from his excellent site The Economy Project.  Enjoy.


Gratuity in the Market

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict tells us that “if the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well. Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function” (35). That trust has today been severely undermined. He adds that “in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity” (36). So what do we make of the market, and of the Pope's warning?

There is a kind of flow, or exchange, making the world go round. This is the flow of self-gift, sometimes called love. It is what creates the world, and keeps it going. But it is reflected or echoed within creation in many different ways, and as far as human organization is concerned it is reflected in two main ways. There are two ways in which to exchange or share tangible goods: it may be done either as a gift, or as a transaction. In a transaction – corresponding to contract-style relationships in law involving commodities – one thing is given in return for another. This may be a kind of barter, where I give you my sheep in return for your goats, or it may involve money. Money was invented for situations where I don’t happen to want your goats, or anything else that you have at the moment, but I might want something later. We establish currency as a medium of exchange. Money is therefore a symbol of the spirit of love within the market: it connects everything together and enables it to flow. That explains why it can so easily become a false god.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jesus Christ: Revelation of the Trinity--Cardinal Marc Ouellet

The following is an excerpt from Cardinal Marc Ouellet's talk on Jesus Christ: Revelation of the Trinity presented at the May 27 session of Nothing More Beautiful which originally appeared in the Western Catholic Reporter:

What a wonderful idea to place a series of Christian meditations under the theme, "Nothing more beautiful"!

Even if people can have different ideas about what is most beautiful, we are all stirred by beauty. I remember how I admired the beauty of the Rocky Mountains when I was assigned here to Edmonton. What an incredible journey from Jasper to Banff - it rivals Switzerland! Those who visited the area during the Winter Olympics must have delighted in it.

There is natural beauty, the beauty of a landscape and there is also the beauty of a feat of sports, the beauty of a countenance or of a personal relation that is dear to us. An event can be beautiful, as can a love, or even a sacrifice that we admire. In my diocese, an unmarried woman adopted 30 severely handicapped children, quite a unique family, for which she cares with a love and a respect that elicits everyone's admiration.

Our world easily doubts truth, it is tempted, too, to despair in the goodness of being, but it is still sensitive to beauty. How many artists suffer in ways that can at times lead them to the verge of personal shipwreck, but the beauty that fascinates them also saves them from drowning. The beautiful opens the heart to another dimension, like a window onto the infinite.

Christian faith has been taught with passion because its mysteries are true and good for the human being, but have we explored the path of the Beautiful so as to propose it to our contemporaries?

You invite us to take up this challenge once again in this series of conferences inspired by Pope Benedict's inaugural homily: "There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him."

As I listen to Pope Benedict preach and read his writings, I often catch myself saying, "How beautiful it is! For he knows how to show the beauty of Christ, who is the human face of God, a God who is love and who calls us to love. . . . Is there anything more beautiful?"

Without being pretentious, I would like to speak to you of God's beauty, as this appears in the face of Jesus Christ. God is the Creator, he is the author of all the infinitely variegated forms of beauty. What must be the beauty of the one who, like an inexhaustible poet, scatters so much beauty through the universe: "How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth" (Psalm 8.2).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Battle of Britain--Will Catholicism or atheism prevail? (CWR)

By George Neumayr | October 2010

In World War II, Great Britain survived an atheistic assault from outside the country. Today’s “Battle of Britain” comes from an atheistic assault inside it. British culture is crumpling under the growing weight of a fervent secularism that appears religious and an exhausted state religion that appears secular. The once-claimed sturdy Anglican bridge between Christianity and the modern world has largely collapsed, leaving those thrashing around down below it to swim from the Thames to the Tiber or drown.

The Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, to be sure, has her own problems, but, as Pope Benedict’s historic September visit to Britain suggested, the country’s future could end up looking like its distant Catholic past. Pope Benedict stepped into the battle for that future not as a triumphant warrior but as a humble witness to the truth and grace contained in Christ’s Church.

The tone of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain was set even before he got there. Asked by a reporter on the flight over what he could do to make Catholicism appear more “attractive” and “credible” to secularists and atheists in Britain, the Pope responded by challenging the premise of the question. He noted that a Catholicism which thought in those superficial terms would become just one more dangerous ideology and power grab in a world that needs fidelity to Christ:
One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already  be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The Church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths, the great powers of love and of reconciliation that appeared in this figure and that come always from the presence of Jesus Christ. In this sense, the Church does not seek to be attractive, but rather to make herself transparent for Jesus Christ. And in the measure in which the Church is not for herself, as a strong and powerful body in the world, that wishes to have power, but simply is herself the voice of Another, she becomes truly transparent to the great figure of Jesus Christ and the great truths that he has brought to humanity…
Read the rest at Catholic World Report

The Influence of John Henry Newman on Benedict XVI By Tracey Rowland

Later today {9/16/10, ed.}, Pope Benedict XVI begins his Apostolic Journey to the United Kingdom, the main purpose of which is the beatification of John Henry Newman on Sunday, 19 September. But few English speakers seem to realise the extent to which Newman influenced German Catholic thought in the first half of the twentieth century, and particularly the theology of Joseph Ratzinger.

The Munich-based Jesuit, Erich Przywara (1889-1972), editor of the theology journal Stimmen der Zeit, had developed an interest in Newman as early as the 1920s and had encouraged Edith Stein (now St Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross) to translate Newman's pre-conversion letters and his Idea of a University into German.

The cultural critic Theodor Haecker, who had converted to Catholicism in 1921, had also translated works of Newman into German and is one of those specifically cited by Ratzinger as a popular author for seminarians of his time.

Haecker is also credited with introducing Sophie Scholl, martyr of the White Rose movement, and others in her circle to the works of Newman. During the Advent of 1943, Haecker quoted from his translation of Newman's Advent sermon on the Antichrist (Tract 83) to members of the anti-Nazi student group.

We were made for Love

I ask each of you…to look into your own heart. Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give. After all, we were made for love. This is what the Bible means when it says that we are made in the image and likeness of God: we were made to know the God of love, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to find our supreme fulfillment in that divine love that knows no beginning or end.--Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rights-in-relation: need for an anthropology (from The Economy Project)

I am taking the liberty of sharing a short post by Stratford Caldecott from his excellent site The Economy Project.  Enjoy.

Rights-in-relation: need for an anthropology

Cardinal Angelo Scola, speaking in Venice recently, discussed the phenomenon of the expansion of the notion of 'rights' in the context of modern political discourse without any agreed philosophy underpinning them.
We are faced with a paradox: a hitherto unprecedented circulation and expansion of rights in tandem with a degree of vagueness about their content... Looked at from one side, any catalogue of rights has formidable economic and social implications, but in truth it is itself the product of a certain view of man which is always I-in-relation. To recover the true face of rights it is indispensable to engage with their anthropological and social dimensions: an objective on which the various sciences and disciplines converge, each with its own specificity but in a perspective which increasingly requires a transdisciplinary dimension.
It seems to me that the Cardinal is getting at the following. Human rights can only be based on (a) the inherent or intrinsic value of the person, existing in relation to God, cosmos, environment, and fellow human beings, and (b) the actual needs (rather than wants) of that person in that situation if he is not just to survive but to flourish. This requires that we know at least roughly what a human being is and what causes him to flourish - in other words, we need an adequate anthropology. Without that, we are whistling in the dark.