Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI Roundup!

  • The Cardinal's years at Tübingen were a formative experience in his life and thought, but were underreported by the maintstream press during profiles of the Holy Father -- writing for the American Spectator, Mark Gauvreau answers the question: What Made Benedict Conservative?:

    It took me a month to answer that question. According to the media, Tübingen is the German university where, in 1968, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the future Pope Benedict XVI -- became a conservative. He did so, according to media accounts, because of left-wing student protests in 1968, when Ratzinger was a professor.

    Is that true? That a brilliant and deeply reflective theologian and priest simply freaked out over some student protests and became orthodox? Perhaps, but if so the more compelling question the media ignored is, if the protests changed Ratzinger, what exactly about them did it? . . .

    According to Judge, the answer came in the analysis of a phrase from Salt of the Earth, which was used by John Allen Jr. in his 2001 biography of Cardinal Ratzinger:

    Despite the obfuscations of Time, Newsweek, et al., I was finally getting the story. But there was still an omission -- Ratzinger's colleague talked about the cry "Cursed be Jesus!" Where did it come from? Here Allen was no help. He quotes Ratzinger, explaining that Tübingen showed him "an instrumentalization by ideologies that were tyrannical, brutal, and cruel. That experience made it clear to me that the abuse of faith had to be resisted precisely if one wanted to uphold the will of the council. . . . I did see how real tyranny was exercised, even in brutal forms -- anyone who wanted to remain a progressive in this context had to give up his integrity." But who cursed Jesus?

    Finally, finally I found the answer, in Salt of the Earth, a book-length interview with Ratzinger himself. The book includes the full text of the quote used above by Allen. It's very instructive first to reread the above quote used by Allen. At the end of it is the line, "I did see how real tyranny was exercised, even in brutal forms -- anyone who wanted to remain a progressive in this context had to give up his integrity."

    I hit paydirt in the material that had been elliptically clipped out by Allen. For between the phrase ending "brutal forms" and the line "anyone who wanted to remain a progressive" is some very, very crucial information. The ellipses in fact omits a paragraph in which Ratzinger cites the memoir of his Protestant colleague Wolfgang Beyerhaus, who was also at Tübingen. Beyerhaus recalled the lines on the flyer, but also the title of the flyer: "Jesus the Lord -- Partisan Kasemann." Kasemann is a German colloquialism meaning "nonsense, rubish, balderdash." The students -- those noisy harmless mice in Garry Wills's recollection -- were cursing the name of Christ. It was professor and Ratzinger colleague Ulrich Wickert who implored the young Marxists not to curse the name of Jesus, all to no avail. Ratzinger: "It never got quite so bad in the Union of Catholic theology students, but the basic current, which surged powerfully into it as well, was the same. So I knew what was at stake: anyone who wanted to remain a progressive in this context had to give up his integrity."

    Update A discerning reader disputes Gauvreau's central point:

    Mark Gauvreau Judge's central point is a misinterpretation of Ratzingers memories in Salt on Earth: A students paper was overwritten: "Jesus the Lord -- partisan Käsemann" Judge explains Kasemann is a German colloquialism meaning "nonsense, rubish, balderdash." This is nonsense . . . Käsemann is the name of the well known protestant theologian Ernst Käsemann and means nothing else in German. (I am German)

    John Allen, Jr. is likewise vindicated by a reading of this profile in How the 60's Changed Ratzinger:

    Tübingen became the intellectual Mecca of the radicals, however, mostly because Ernst Bloch was there. Widely seen as the father of the 1968 student movement, Bloch's Marxist analysis of Christianity and social change provided much of the intellectual architecture for the radicals, and he personally offered support for their protests. At one point, radicals spray-painted "Ernst Bloch University" over the Tübingen sign on the campus's old assembly hall. In Milestones, Ratzinger testily acknowledges Bloch's influence, saying in passing that Bloch "made Heidegger contemptible for being petty bourgeois."

    Bloch was echoed by Moltmann, who developed the idea of Christian support for social revolution in his "theology of hope" (Moltmann's language reflects the influence of Bloch's masterwork, Principle of Hope). The Tübingen New Testament exegete Ernst Käsemann likewise lent his support to students who charged that the church had too often participated in the capitalist exploitation of the poor; and traditional theology frequently served the purpose of propping up the system. Käsemann, though no radical, had a keen sense of political responsibility; his daughter Elisabeth had been murdered on account of her political activity by the military junta in Argentina.

    For Ratzinger, all this was simply too much. Frustrated that the theology faculties were emerging as the ideological center of the protest movement, Ratzinger joined forces with two Protestant colleagues, Ulrich Wickert and Wolfgang Beyerhaus, to "bear witness to our common faith in the living God and in Christ, the incarnate word," which the three men believed was under threat. Ratzinger found himself in conflict with many of his colleagues. "I did not want to be always forced into the contra position," he said, and thus he abandoned Tübingen, a height that most theologians can only dream of attaining, after only three years.

    Much appreciation to my reader and I stand corrected.

    Update! From the Spectator (7/12/05), Mark Gauvreau Judge [to a reader who referred him to this post]:

    The writer is correct. While researching the piece I called a German friend, asked her the meaning of "Kasemann" then asked her to look it up for me in a German dictionary, which she had handy. In German, kase means 1) cheese and 2) balderdash, codswallop. She deduced that "Kasemann" mean a cheesehead, fool, etc. Kasemann is in a fact a theologian. I stand corrected -- in fact, I stand guilty of kase.

    Mystery solved. =)

  • Katie Grant found herself an unplanned attendee of the feast of Corpus Christi and describes how she was Blown clean away by a brush with Benedict ( June 6, 2005):

    Lots of pieces of the jigsaw got into the wrong place. Nuns got a rosary going, to which people bellowed their responses while talking on their mobiles. The police chewed gum, making no attempt to impose order or to rescue unwitting passers-by swept into the throng, never to escape. I couldn't help remarking to myself, with the cynicism of the detached observer, that all this bedlam and plastic piety was not at all British.

    Then, quietly, the door of St John Lateran opened and something extraordinary happened. As the tops of the halberds carried by the Swiss Guard swam into view, every bit of cynicism and detachment deserted me. I found myself breathless. . . .

    Ms. Grant concludes "Pope Benedict XVI may not be blessed with the charisma of his predecessor, but my goodness, he still packs an Almighty punch!" -- a touching eyewitness account. Credit goes to the Ratzinger Forum for the link.

  • Oswald Sobrino gives his review of Dr. Robert Moynihan's Let God's Light Shine Forth : The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI (Doubleday, June 2005), posting some choice excerpts.

    See also Benedict on the revival of Latin as a liturgical language.

  • Pope presents summary of catechism, urges memorizing Latin prayers, by Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service. June 28, 2005. One of many news reports on the presentation of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a 200-page condensed summary of the Catechism published with the intention of "giving Catholics and non-Catholics easy access to the basic and essential tenets of the Catholic faith." (Via William Bloomfeld @ "Thoughts from the Right").

  • On the Compendium, see also Sandro Magister's A Catechism for the Culture of the Image, on the inclusion of fourteen sacred images in the new text:

    . . . As the pope has explained, the images are not there purely for the sake of illustration. They are an integral part of the new catechism.

    They are to be reproduced in all the translations of the "Compendium." And each time they are to be placed in the same position with respect to the text. Each of the images is accompanied by a detailed commentary, with extensive citations from the Bible and the Fathers of the Church. . . .

    The use of these images in catechesis is very near to the heart of Joseph Ratzinger. In the introduction to the "Compendium," dated March 20, 2005, he wrote:

    "Images are also a preaching of the Gospel. Artists in every age have offered the principal facts of the mystery of salvation to the contemplation and wonder of believers by presenting them in the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty. It is an indication of how today more than ever, in a culture of images, a sacred image can express much more than what can be said in words, and be an extremely effective and dynamic way of communicating the Gospel message."

  • It is well known that some of the Holy Father's personal judgements on certain issues have been a source of division between the Papacy and orthodox American Catholics . . . no, I'm not talking about the war in Iraq: here is a far graver issue with potential for division on an international scale: Pope Benedict Opposes Harry Potter Novels, LifeSiteNews. June 27, 2005:

    As the sixth issue of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - is about to be released, the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to his elevation to the Pontificate, had denounced the wildly popular series has resurfaced. In 2003, a month after the English press throughout the world falsely proclaimed that Pope John Paul II approved of Harry Potter, the man who was to become his successor sent a letter to a Catholic German critic of Harry Potter outlining his agreement with her opposition to Rowling's offerings. . . .

    Paging Mark Shea, Amy Welborn and Michelle Arnold (the latter recommending John Granger's Looking for God in Harry Potter).

    Update: Michelle Arnold responds to my page with a good analysis of the matter. Enjoy!

  • Christianity Today briefly notes that Church Attendance in Germany Experiences Huge Growth after Pope Benedict Elected Cardinan Lehman of Mainz one of the many clergy reporting that "in the period from May to June more people returned to his diocese than in the whole of 2004."

  • I may have blogged this before, but May 2005 Issue of the Italian Catholic periodical 30 Giorni ("30 Days") has The testimonies of twenty-one cardinals on the new Pope (divided into two parts -- here's the second).

    Also from the May 2005 issue: Signs of spiritual friendship: Community of spirit in Saint Benedict, Don Luigi Giussani and Pope Benedict XVI, by Don Giacomo Tantardini.

  • Ignatius Press' blog Insight Scoop has the goods on Pope Benedict's new book On the Way To Jesus Christ, due in October 2005. You can read the entire press release here. Ignatius Press -- the primary publisher of the Pope's books in English -- is releasing a total of four new books by Pope Benedict XVI this year.

  • "Catholicity and Unity Go Together", Homily for Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. June 29, 2005.

  • New York Times: "POPE BENEDICT WARM FUZZY TEDDY BEAR" . . . well, almost. On July 5, the Times' Ian Fisher ran a story with the headline: "Pope softens image with less talk of sin".

  • Fr. Richard McBrien makes a case against John Paul’s canonization fast track. Writing "from the land of Bishop Gumbleton and make-it-up-as-you-go liturgies," Rick Lugari @ Unam Sanctum responds with some critical remarks about the nature of McBrien's dissent.

  • This past Tuesday it was also disclosed that the Holy Father would visit a Jewish synagogue in Cologne:

    Speaking on Vatican Radio, [Cologne Archbishop Joachim Meisner] said he was pleased that "a German pope would be coming to visit the Synagogue of Cologne".

    The Vatican has confirmed Benedict's August 18-21 trip to Cologne, where he will attend World Youth Day celebrations, but is not expected to publish a detailed itinerary until a few days before the departure date.

    Archbishop Meisner's comment was the most official indication yet that Benedict will indeed be visiting the oldest synagogue north of the Alps, as had been speculated.

    According to the Associated Press, the visit will be an occasion for the Pope to practice his Hebrew:

    German-born Pope Benedict XVI will say prayers in Hebrew when he visits the synagogue in Cologne, Germany, that was destroyed by the Nazis, a cardinal organizing the trip said Tuesday.

    Jewish representatives invited the pope to visit while he is in Germany in August for the Roman Catholic Church's World Youth Day and Benedict replied, '"I will come,"' said Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner.

    The visit will include a prayer service in which the psalms will be "prayed," the cardinal said. "We have learned them in Hebrew."

    In doing so, Pope Benedict XVI will carry out the intentions of the beloved Pope John Paul II, who expressed the desire to visit the Jews in Cologne.