Monday, February 18, 2013

The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

This post will be updated regularly in the days and weeks to come as we compile reflections on the pontificate and legacy of our beloved Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Pope Benedict's papacy in photos Pope Benedict XVI was elected pope in April 2005. Here's a look back at the last eight years of his papacy. Pam Cohen, National Catholic Reporter

  • Pope Benedict leaves behind legacy full of ups and downs, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter. 2/11/13. "Benedict's decision also means the debate over his legacy is now officially open, and as with all things, it's likely to draw widely different verdicts depending on who's performing the evaluation," says Allen. As he himself concludes: "In the end, the first draft of history perhaps boils down to this: Benedict XVI was a magnificent public intellectual, a mixed bag as CEO, withdrawn as a statesman, and a church leader whose "politics of identity" cheered some and horrified others."

  • Jeffrey Tucker on Pope Benedict XVI’s Musical Legacy (Crisis 2/12/13):
    One of the many lasting legacies of the papacy of Benedict XVI concerns liturgical music. Enormous progress has been made in his papacy. Incredibly this progress has happened without new legislation, new restrictions, new mandates, or firm-handed attempts to impose discipline on musicians and artists. The change has happened through the means that Benedict XVI has always preferred: he has led through example and through the inspiration provided by his homilies and writings.

  • The Radical Return to Ratzinger, by Sean Fitzpatrick (Crisis 2/12/13):
    [Pope Benedict XVI will be] remembered by Catholics as radical in the truest sense of the word, whose time at the Petrine helm was devoted to a return to tradition to affect reform. Today, to be a traditionalist is a stigma for being stuck in the past. But Benedict XVI rejoiced in the past and drove it down deep, like a plow, to cultivate the arid areas of the vineyard. ...

    Nothing this Pope did (until now) was really what can be called new and exciting. Everything he did, though, was old and exciting. Pope Benedict was a radical pope because he clung to the roots of the Faith—and this was his genius, which is so commonly and mistakenly branded as “closed-mindedness.” It is only an open mind, however, that can take in the relevance of this world, the world that was, and the World to come.

    There is the modern radicalism of change, and then there is the ancient radicalism of holding the line. Benedict embodied the latter, a style which is not in vogue. The only things fashionable about Benedict XVI were his red shoes.

  • A Figure of Impossibility (Catholic World Report 2/16/13). For Carl Olson, "The pontificate of Benedict XVI has been a short, bracing, and often surprising journey in discipleship."

  • Why I came to love Benedict, by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter 2/12/13):
    I confess that on the day of his election in 2005, I was worried. On Feb. 28, he will abdicate the office in which he has surprised many of us. The next day, when we go to Mass and the priest does not mention him in the canon, I will miss the reference to "Benedict, our pope." I will miss it long after there is a successor. My dread in 2005 was misplaced. I have come not only to love this pope, but to let his teachings challenge and change me. I am a better Catholic today, and a happier person, because of him. In some of his writings, I felt he was speaking directly to me. Benedict walks into whatever time is left to him and into the historical annals as a good man and a fine pope who directed the church in important ways to remember that what really, really matters in the life of faith is not any ambitious program of human accomplishment, but the ongoing need of Catholics to surrender themselves to the will and the mercy of God. The Christocentric focus of the council has been the focus of Raztinger's entire theological life and the defining characteristic of his papacy. He has sought to impart that vision to the rest of us. Shame on us is we did not notice. Blessings on him for making the attempt.
  • Andreas Widmer on what's missing from the conversation on Pope Benedict's resignation (Huffington Post 2/12/13):
    Every papacy has a "theme" or an "aim." John Paul II's pontificate was focused on realigning the implementation of Vatican II and combating communism and materialism. By contrast Benedict's aim, I believe, was to bring the Church to the doorsteps of what Catholic theologian and thought leader George Weigel calls the next chapter in Church history: Evangelical Catholicism. In order to achieve this goal, Benedict needed to finish the implementation of Vatican II and set the stage for this new chapter in Church life.

    Benedict and John Paul II represent two equally valid examples of executing the Petrine ministry, two different but effective approaches to leadership. In very general terms, John Paul was a philosopher who explained the Faith as an answer to the philosophical challenges from Ockham, Descartes, Kant, and Marx. Benedict XVI is the theologian who explains the Faith in very clear and liner terms, encouraging us to read the Bible again as God's ongoing Divine revelation rather than as a historical novel or ancient myth. As popes, they both lead the Church faithfully and effectively. John Paul in a sense started the project that Benedict would bring to completion.

  • The Weigh-In: Joseph Ratzinger’s Lasting Legacy as the ‘Scholar Pope’, by Don Briel. University of St. Thomas, Minnesota:
    As expected, he placed a strong emphasis on addressing the amnesia of European culture about its Christian roots, and in remarkably sophisticated presentations in London, Paris, Berlin and Rome he reminded secular governments about the essential role of faith in modern democratic assumptions and insisted that faith could not be reduced to a private principle and excluded from civic life. He forged unexpected relations with atheistic and agnostic public intellectuals like Marcello Pera and Jürgen Habermas, who testified to the dangers to the common good and to the human person in certain instrumental political developments in modern culture. As pope, his emphasis on the role of faith in the modern world led Ratzinger to a number of interreligious and ecumenical gestures despite his refusal to accept a lowest common denominator approach to interreligious dialogue.

    In the end, the insight of the scholar pope that the new evangelization must proceed not on the grounds of disputation but in the invitation to love, Deus Caritas Est, shaped a new understanding of the vitality of orthodoxy, not as a safe middle between the extremes of traditionalists and progressives but as a vital alternative to their frozen fascination with political accounts of the Church.

  • Blogging at Mirror of Justice, John Breen conveys his appreciation for Pope Benedict's theological scholarship:
    More than his encyclicals, I think that as pope Benedict will be remembered for his sermons in a way not unlike Pope St. Leo the Great. He is an extraordinary homilist.

    I also think he will be remembered for his theological writings prior to becoming pope. Joseph Ratzinger has a special talent as a thinker and writer for explaining complex theological ideas in a way that makes them understandable to modern men and women for whom talk of religious faith has become problematic. A great deal of contemporary theological writing seems to veer towards the drivel of a new age mysticism and syncretism or the dry prose of an engineering manual, or the latest party platform, providing little if any connection to the Living God of history – the God of Israel, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ. In his writings, Ratzinger has consistently mined the depths of scripture and the theological concepts of the great Catholic tradition (especially the Fathers) while connecting both to philosophy and contemporary thought in a way that provides new insights, all the while keeping the person of Jesus and our relationship with Him foremost in the minds of readers.

    In terms of the nearly 1.2 billion people who make up the Catholic Church world-wide, only a tiny fraction were fortunate to be Joseph Ratzinger's graduate students. But through his writings and sermons, many have been given the opportunity to be his pupils, to be students in the Ratzinger seminar on faith and life.

  • Ratzinger, the Jewish People and Israel: Faithful to the trail blazed by Wojtyla, by Lisa Palmieri Billig. ("The Vatican Insider" La Stampa 2/14/13). "The curtain falling prematurely on Benedict XVIth’s papacy brings to mind the evolution of his relations with the Jewish People and Israel."

  • Marco Tosatti ("The Vatican Insider", La Stampa) challenges the dismissal of Benedict's reign as "a transitional papacy". 2/13/2012.

  • John Milbank on The erotic politics of Benedict XVI ACB Religion and Ethics 2/13/13:
    To put it bluntly: in his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI boldly declared that not only is the Catholic Church not opposed to sexual love, to the contrary it alone truly understands it and fully promotes it. In an epoch-making fashion, a Pope declared that the literal sense of the Song of Songs - in other words, its first intended meaning - is indeed what the naive reader would take it to be. The mystical meaning arises now only through a proper acceptance of the worth of this literal meaning; while, at the same time, the depth of the latter is lost if it is not read also allegorically - that is, as pointing to the mystical marriage between Christ and the Church.

  • Neither progressive nor conservative: The Romanticism of Benedict XVI, by Adrian Pabst. ABC Religion and Ethics 2/15/13:
    What often goes unnoticed is that, behind the facile categorisation of progressive versus reactionary, there lies a much more fundamental contest about the future direction of the Catholic Church, and indeed a struggle for the soul of global Christendom. The authentic Catholic Christian tradition that Benedict has sought to uphold has been under mounting attack from both "conservative" and "liberal" forces, whose apparent opposition barely conceals their deep complicity.

  • Pope Benedict XVI: God's Rottweiler or the Church's German shepherd?, by Tracey Rowland. ABC Religion and Ethics 2/12/13. The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI brings to an end the era of the governance of the Church by members of the Vatican II generation.

  • The challenge of Pope Benedict XVI - can it be heard in these Christophobic times?, by George Weigel. ABC Religion and Ethics. 2/12/13:
    Benedict XVI, like John Paul II before him, relentlessly invited us to meet the Risen Lord in the Scripture, the sacraments and prayer, and to make friendship with him the centre of our lives. We are being invited to think of ourselves as evangelists, and to measure the truth of our lives by the way in which we give expression to the human decency and solidarity that flows from friendship with Christ the Lord. We are being invited, through the New Evangelisation, to make our distinctive, Catholic contribution to the renewal, and perhaps the saving, of Western civilisation, which is beset from within by the corrosive forces of the dictatorship of relativism and from without by the passions of jihadist Islam.

    Through the witness of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, we have been invited to have the courage to be Catholic.

  • A Rabbi Remembers Pope Benedict, by David Novak. First Things 2/12/13.

  • Pope Benedict: An Anabaptist Appreciation, by Johann Christoph Arnold. First Things 2/11.13.

  • Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Benedict Orthodox Christian Network 2/11/13.
  • Mother who cooked for Pope recalls his paternal care Catholic News Agency. 2/18/13.

  • Benedict XVI, the Great Augustinian, by Timothy George. First Things "On The Square" 2/19/13.

  • Jesuit expert calls Benedict 'great reformer' on sex abuse, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter 2/16/13. Interview with Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, the academic vice-rector of the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome and head of its Institute of Psychology:
    Now that Benedict XVI is stepping down, how do you evaluate his legacy on the sexual abuse scandals?

    Based on what I know personally, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he was the first person, and the most determined person, to take on what he called the ‘open wound’ in the body of the church, meaning the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. He came to know about a number of cases, and the intensity of the wounds inflicted on victims. He became aware of what priests had done to minors, and to vulnerable adults. As a result, he became more and more convinced that it has to be tackled, and at various levels he started to deal with it – the canonical level, the ecclesial, and the personal.

    Benedict XVI is the first pope who has met with and listened to abuse victims, who has apologized, and who has written about the problem both in his letter to Irish bishops and in the book Light of the World.

    One very important step was to concentrate all the legal and administrative procedures at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Another was to appoint a very intelligent, practical and dedicated man as Promoter of Justice.

  • Benedict’s Coming Revolution Over State-Funded Catholic Charity, by Christopher Manion. Crisis 2/18/13.

  • Benedict’s Intellectual Mentors and Students, by Tracey Rowland. Crisis 2/19/13.

  • Benedict XVI: A (Brief) Theological Appreciation, by Thomas G. Guarino, professor of systematic theology at Seton Hall University and co-chair of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. "On The Square" First Things 2/19/13.

  • The Pope and the Philistines, by Tracey Rowland. Catholic World Report 2/18/13. "Benedict XVI’s papacy has been one of imagination and urbanity hampered by bureaucracy."

  • Pope Benedict saw Jews, Muslims as allies in defending belief in God, by Cindy Wooden. Catholic News Service. 2/18/13.

  • The voice behind the famous “Habemus Papam” phrase "The Vatican Insider" La Stampa 2/19/13. Cardinal Tauran, Proto-Deacon of the College of Cardinals who will announce the name of the newly-elected Pope, shares his thoughts on Benedict XVI's papacy and the one that is to come.

  • Muslim religious leaders express esteem for Benedict XVI after old misunderstandings, by Giacomo Galeazzi. "The Vatican Insider" La Stampa 2/20/13. The138 Muslim wise men who wrote a letter to Benedict XVI in 2007 in response to a controversial speech he gave in Regensburg are now calling his resignation a "last act to serve as a good example."

  • As pope, Benedict worked to promote understanding of Vatican II, by Francis X. Rocca. Catholic News Service. 2/20/13.

  • Has Benedict XVI reshaped his legacy?, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter 2/28/13: "it would seem that the way in which Benedict is stepping off the stage may be reframing his legacy – not in the sense of resolving debates over his papacy, but perhaps providing a more generous optic for assessing the pope."

  • Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI Communio thanks His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, for his service to the Church, providing links to all the articles written by Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI over the years (Ratzinger was co-founder of the theological journal).

  • Post-Vatican II or Post-John Paul and Benedict?, by Vincent J. Miller (America 2/28/13): "As Benedict XVI’s pontificate comes to an end, we should pause to reflect on what this punctuation means for the Church. What era are we living in? Our answer to this question is important because it frames our approach to the opportunities, challenges and indeed crises we face as a Church."

  • The Holy Father's Hidden Heroism, by John Roselle, S.J. America 2/26/13:
    In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius sought to help people answer the “Call of the King,” to live under “the Standard of Christ” even to the point of rejection and to follow God’s Spirit that sends us to do everything for God’s greater glory. We would do well to contemplate the life of Joseph Ratzinger as we pray for him in his remaining life of prayer and penance. His was not the cool release of power, the act of a noble politician like the Roman dictator Cincinnatus. It is what Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles calls “the act of a saint.” Joseph Ratzinger is proceeding in obedience to the One who was nailed to a tree, accepting with and in Him a strange humiliation. Surely he recalls that the first Bishop of Rome was publicly hung upside-down. Many have suggested that Pope Benedict’s was a failed mission. The circumstances of his time in the papacy were not ideal; many goals eluded him. Yet let us remember another Man who at the end of his life was judged a failure. And no servant is greater than his Master.

  • Putting the Pope in His Place, by Kenneth D. Whitehead. Crisis 2/25/13:
    Some of these reactions [to Benedict's resignation] exhibit not just a lack of sympathy or true understanding of what the Church and the faith are all about, but even a seemingly willful determination not to allow oneself to be influenced by what the actual facts of the case might be, meanwhile exhibiting a lofty dissatisfaction with the alleged failure of the pope (and the Church) to “get with the program” of today’s secular liberal world.

  • Thoughts on the retirement of the Professor Pope, by John Lutheran. The Canadian Lutheran 2/28/13:
    Before making the acquaintance of Joseph Ratzinger, Seewald was one of the millions of contemporary Germans who had drifted away from the church; he now attributes his return to the faith in no small measure to the quiet and thoughtful witness of his interviewee. The famous Reformed theologian Karl Barth once bitingly remarked that he knew of no one who had come to “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13) through the work of Rudolf Bultmann, a radical New Testament scholar who considered the Gospels as works that belong to the category of “myth.” The fact that many will join Seewald in coming to a different conclusion concerning the ministry of Joseph Ratzinger constitutes perhaps the highest compliment one could make to the retiring Bishop of Rome.

    A deep divide now exists among the theologians of all Western confessions between those who profess the truth of revelation and those who do not. If Joseph Ratzinger is not the “dean” of the worldwide guild of theologians who belong in the first camp, I don’t know who else could be nominated for the honorific position.

  • Reflecting on Pope Benedict's Papacy, by Francis Rooney, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican fro 2005 to 2008.

  • The Legacy of Benedict XVI, by George Weigel. First Things "On the Square" 04/20/13.

  • Benedict XVI, the Great Augustinian, by Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford and co-chair of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. First Things "On the Square" 04/19/13.

  • Benedict's Enduring Legacy: His Love for Beauty, by Michael J. Ortiz. Crisis 04/13/13.

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