Monday, October 31, 2011
But I as I participate in all the revelry, I will not forget the call to memory. I will remember the saints who have gone before me and will allow their witness to inspire me to better living. I will also remember the dead and say prayers of thanksgiving for them and our past communion together. I hope you will too. On a day like this, remember these prayers, and allow them to lead you to deeper levels of "right-remembering":
From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
- Traditional Scottish Prayer
Eve of All Saints Prayer
All-Powerful and Ever-Living God,
Today we rejoice
in the holy men and women
of every time and place
May their prayers
bring us your forgiveness and love
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.-From the Liturgy of the Hours
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Prof. Rowland is Dean and Permanent Fellow at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne). She is the author of many books and articles. Some of her books include: Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (Routledge Radical Orthodoxy), Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, and Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides For The Perplexed).
1.) Most everyone knows that Joseph Ratzinger is the current Pope Benedict XVI…but can you give us a quick biography? He was born in the Bavarian town of
In 1939 he entered the minor seminary of Saint Michael in Traunstein, a boarding school for boys who were thought to be candidates for the priesthood. In 1943 at the age of 16 he was called up for military service and spent the last two years of the war in various military appointments, first at an anti-aircraft battery near Munich, then as an infantryman on the Hungarian border and finally as an American prisoner-of-war near Ulm. He has written that he never fired a single shot during this period of military service and he actually deserted the army before being taken prisoner by the Americans. He narrowly escaped execution for desertion by SS officers who allowed him safe passage because they believed him to be wounded. At the time he was wearing one of his arms in a sling.
After the war he entered the seminary in Freising and in 1947 he began his theological studies at the
On the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 1951 he was ordained a priest, along with his brother Georg. His doctoral dissertation, defended in 1953, was titled “The People and the House of God in Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church”.
In his thirties he attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as a Peritus (expert theological advisor) to Cardinal Frings of
In 1981 he was called to
He is scholarly and musical. Like Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar he loves Mozart.
He also likes cats. There has been a book written for the under 5’s by his cat
2.) What are some of Benedict’s most notable theological ideas? Social ideas?
He likes to remind people that Truth is a Person and thus that it is the personal encounter with Christ which is the most important thing about being a Christian. He is also fond of saying that ‘truth and love are the twin pillars of all reality’. He is therefore interested in the integration of the affective and cognitive dimensions of the person and the place of the theological virtues (faith, hope and love) in the spiritual life. He is also interested in beauty, liturgy and ecclesiology.
3.) Who were some of his major theological and ecclesiological influences? Does he continue their thought or break away from them?
In his younger years the most important people for his intellectual formation were his doctoral supervisor Gottlieb Söhngen, John Henry Newman, St Augustine, St Bonaventure, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, Romano Guardini (a professor of theology in Munich), the German philosopher Josef Pieper and the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac. Later on he came to know Hans Urs von Balthasar and was the host of von Balthasar’s 80th birthday party and he also delivered the homily at von Balthasar’s funeral. During the Second Vatican Council he worked quite closely with Karl Rahner.
At the time of the Council Ratzinger was one of a large number of young theologians who were frustrated with the version of neo-scholasticism which dominated the Roman theology academies in the pre-Conciliar era. His opposition was not to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas as such, but to what had been made of the Thomist tradition by scholars in the centuries after his death, in particular to what had been made of it by the Spanish scholastics of the post-Tridentine era. One might say that his number 1 villain was the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suárez (1548-1617). He almost failed his habilitationsschrift examination because of his opposition to Suárez who at that time was a trusted authority.
By 1970 however the coalition that had fought for theological renewal at the Council was internally divided. Ratzinger and Rahner went in different directions. Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar founded the journal Communio which fostered what Benedict XVI now calls a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ for interpreting the documents of the Second Vatican Council, while Rahner and others in his circle continued to write for the journal Concilium and to argue that Vatican II represented a more dramatic rupture with the past, in Rahner’s judgment, a rupture comparable to that within the nascent Christian community after the Council of Jerusalem in the first century AD.
The English author Philip Trower in his Turmoil and Truth suggested that Concilium and Communio have since become ‘the two poles towards which theologians tend to gravitate according to the catholicity or uncatholicity of their ideas, conducting a theological star wars over the heads of the faithful’. I think the bit about a theological star wars is a brilliant metaphor. I have often wondered what most Catholics would think if they had any idea of the battles that have gone on and continue to be waged over the true meaning of Vatican II. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza recently told a group of seminarians from Los Angeles that “Yours will probably be the first generation that will correctly interpret the Second Vatican Council, not according to the "spirit" of the Council, which has brought so much disorientation to the Church, but according to what the Conciliar Event really said, in its texts to the Church and to the world”. He added that “there is no Vatican II different from the one that produced the texts we have in our possession today! It is in those texts that we find the will of God for his Church and it is to them that we must refer, accompanied by two thousand years of Tradition and Christian life”.
The most significant of the Communio scholars to have attended the Second Vatican Council as a theological adviser (after Ratzinger himself) was the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac who was associated with the ressourcement project (a project of translating the works of the Church fathers into contemporary languages, particularly French). De Lubac caused an earthquake in the pre-Conciliar theological establishment by arguing that the works of Francisco Suárez and others in the post-Tridentine era of Thomist commentary represented a distortion of classical Thomism. He was accused of promoting a nouvelle théologie, a charge he always denied. Ratzinger was introduced to the works of de Lubac when he was seminarian and he has since written that he ‘cannot even begin to say how much I owe to my encounter with them [Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar]’.
4.) Specifically, how does Benedict fit in with the nouvelle théologie? Are there other movements or schools of thought that one could associate with him?
Benedict fits into the nouvelle théologie group in so far as he was influenced by de Lubac and von Balthasar. He also fits in, in the sense that his earliest works were heavily Augustinian, thus, his own attempt at ressourcement. He follows the nouvelle théologie style of sifting through the patristic works for insights into contemporary pastoral problems, rather than starting with a scholastic edifice and trying to examine a contemporary pastoral problem from the point of view of some doctrinal principle within the edifice. This is not to say that he totally ignores scholastic insights, he doesn’t, but he never gives any sense of working within a tight theoretical ‘system’. One of his former doctoral students, Vincent Twomey has written:
His methodology is to take as his starting point contemporary developments in society and culture, and then he listens to the solutions offered by his fellow theologians before turning to a critical examination of Scripture and Tradition for pointers to a solution. He finally attempts a systematic answer by presenting the topic in the context of theology as a whole. As a consequence of this approach his academic output is fragmentary – it is filled with brilliant insights into almost every subject of theology and yet it is not a fixed system.
Most significantly, it is clear in articles like his commentary on the treatment of human dignity in Gaudium et spes that he accepted de Lubac’s opposition to extrinsicist accounts of the grace-nature relationship. In other words, or better, in his own words, Ratzinger suggests that ambiguity arose in the interpretation of this particular Conciliar document because it did not offer a ‘radical enough rejection of a doctrine of man divided into philosophy and theology’ – ‘the text was still based on a schematic representation of nature and the supernatural viewed far too much as merely juxtaposed’. It took at its starting point ‘the fiction that it is possible to construct a rational philosophical picture of man intelligible to all and on which all men of goodwill can agree, the actual Christian doctrines being added to this as a sort of crowning conclusion’. The Christian part of the puzzle of the human person was presented as a special ‘take’ on anthropology which ‘others ought not to make a bone of contention but which at bottom can be ignored’. This, in a nutshell, was de Lubac’s charge against where the Suárezian interpretation of Aquinas ends. Ratzinger complained that Gaudium et spes prompted the question: ‘why exactly the reasonable and perfectly free human being described in the first articles [of the document] should suddenly be burdened with the story of Christ?’ Instead of it being emphasised that the Incarnation is a radical irruption in human history, an event which changes everything, one can get the impression from Gaudium et spes that belief in the Incarnation is a kind of Christian gloss on an otherwise secular humanist canvass. It is for this reason that he and John Paul II have emphasised that GS should be interpreted through the very Christocentric lens of paragraph 22 – a paragraph which seems to have been taken word for word from de Lubac’s book Catholicism. This particular paragraph is like a solvent for all forms of secularism.
In all the above senses Ratzinger is very much in line with the so-called nouvelle théologie types, though he would probably prefer the word ressourcement.
There are also many points of convergence between the theology of Ratzinger/Benedict XVI and themes to be found in the Radical Orthodox scholarship. This is because the RO scholars are also influenced by de Lubac and have a very similar reading of where things went wrong in the post-Tridentine era. For both the “RO” types and the Communio types the expression “baroque scholasticism” carries strong negative connotations. The RO scholars, like the Communio scholars, do not regard themselves as promoting a particular theological system. Again there is no ‘system’ but more a mutual sensibility, in particular a mutual interest in understanding the causes of secularism. There is also a common assessment that the metaphysical foundations of the Liberal tradition are toxic to Christianity. The RO scholars represent a broad range of different ecclesial traditions all the way from Baptists to Roman Catholics, so obviously Ratzinger would differ with the non-RC RO scholars on matters of ecclesiology. There are also clear differences over matters of the theological significance of gender with some (though not all) RO scholars.
5.) What has Benedict done to secure (or leave) the legacy of Pope John Paul II?
The papacy of John Paul II was strong on the ‘life and love’ issues, that is, the defense of the sanctity of human life and of the institution of marriage. He believed that the western world is currently at a cross-road – it could move in the direction of a culture of death which treats human life as a commodity or mere biological product - or it could rediscover the Incarnation and move in the direction of a civilization of love. Benedict is totally is agreement with John Paul II’s judgments on these matters. In particular he is totally at one with the notion that the western world needs to reopen its doors to Christ. I don’t believe that there have been any U-turns in policy or theological judgment or historical analysis.
What there has perhaps been is an attempt to focus on problems on other fronts, in particular the ecumenical front and the liturgical front. John Paul II didn’t spend much time trying to fix liturgical abuses, but Benedict has given the area of liturgical reform a lot of attention. He is also doing his best to fix various schisms – everything from the Anglican schism of 1570 to the Lefebvrist schism of 1988.
One of Benedict’s intellectual gifts is a deep knowledge of European history. He is thus understanding of the cultural sensitivities of Anglicans and Lefebrvists. One cannot approach schisms head-on with arguments about dogma. One needs to understand the historical conditions in which the intellectual arguments arose. One needs to be able to at least empathize with those who took the anti-Catholic position. For example, it is easy to regard Henry VIII with contempt. He was like Toad of Toad-Hall on a very bad day. His grandmother, the saintly Lady Margaret Beaufort, feared that his power and arrogance would be his undoing, and she was right. He will go down in history as that English king who had two of his wives beheaded and sent his childhood friend, Sir Thomas More, to the gallows for a crime he knew he did not commit. But, on the other hand, for political reasons he was forced to marry the widow of his older brother when he was merely 17 years old. It was a pope who gave him permission to marry his brother’s widow and this placed the papacy in a difficult position when Henry wanted an annulment.
When it comes to the Lefebrvists it is true that they can be incredibly narrow minded and neurotic. I have had the honour of being condemned on their websites as a dangerous liberal theologian. But on their behalf I would say that prior to the Second Vatican Council the French had a very high Catholic culture. It was something of which they could be proud. Theirs really was the highest Christian culture in the world if one considers their art, poetry, literature, music and general social practices. When it comes to the acquisition of cultural capital there really was nothing better for a girl than to have been educated by French nuns. One can still find vestiges of it in the great Benedictine monasteries and the villages that surround them. The French Catholics also paid with their blood at the time of the Revolution. The British historian Simon Schama has described the republican suppression of the Vendee as the first example of genocide in modern history. Some estimates of the revolutionaries’ death toll are as high as 1 million. Given this it is not surprising that a significant proportion of the French Catholic population was deeply indignant when in the 1960s, after the Council, clerical leaders were going out of their way to affirm the values of the Revolution and to destroy the solemn liturgical traditions and embrace contemporary pop culture. Anyone who has read The Dialogues of the Carmelites by George Bernanos, based on the true story of the martyrdom of the Carmelite nuns from the monastery of Compiègne, will readily appreciate how daft it would be to try and wipe this heroism from the French historical memory. One doesn’t have to be an unreconstructed absolute monarchist to realize that it is extremely dangerous, indeed pastorally foolish, to disregard the spiritual power of martyrdoms. Cardinal Heenan understood this when he told Paul VI that he couldn’t possibly ban the Tridentine Rite of the Mass in the United Kingdom when the last people who tried to stamp it out were henchmen of Elizabeth I and Catholics went to the scaffold because they had done nothing more offensive than attend what we now call a Tridentine Mass.
This is all to say that I think that when dealing with schisms one really has to address the historical memories, not just the doctrinal formulae, and I think that Benedict XVI with his interest in European history is very well placed to do that.
6.) Benedict and Hans Kung have an interesting history. I have often thought a good research project might be called “Ratzinger and Kung: What Happened?” What is your understanding about how/why these contemporaries parted ways?
There is a saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I think that at the time of the Council the young Ratzinger and the young Küng were both critical of the pre-Conciliar theological establishment, and thus this establishment was a common enemy – but they had different solutions to the problem and these became more obvious as the 1960s worn on. By 1970 at the Concilium Congress in
it was clear that the Conciliar periti who had opposed the manualist scholasticism had different alternatives they wanted to pursue. Brussels
7.) Is there anything in his theology than can revolutionize or change the Catholic church?
Obviously he believes that he is the guardian of a sacred tradition that it is his duty to protect, not to change. I am not anticipating any revolutionary changes, merely attempts to offer sound teaching in areas of confusion and lots of work on the ecumenical front to heal the wounds within Christianity. It is hard to take on militant secularism when the Christian community is itself so internally divided. There are some jobs like administrative reform which require administrators to effect, but jobs like healing schisms best fall to urbane intellectuals with a love of history, and that is the type of person he is.
8.) Do you see Benedict as a good example of an ecumenical theologian and church leader?
Yes. He always goes back to Scripture for guidance and he is strongly Christocentric. I know plenty of non-Catholic theologians who read him and wish that they could claim him for their own community. I imagine that he could sit down with Karl Barth (were Barth still alive) and have a long conversation about Mozart followed by an equally long conversation about Christology. Between the two I am certain that they could untangle a lot of theological knots.
Ratzinger’s most significant ecumenical achievement as Cardinal was to broker the deal on the Joint Declaration on Justification with the Lutheran World Federation. Bishop George Anderson, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, publicly acknowledged that it was Ratzinger who ‘untied the knots’ when it looked as though the negotiations were going to falter with officials from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. Ratzinger got the agreement back on track by organising a meeting at his brother’s house in
An insight into how he went about it may be gleaned from his General Audience Address on the Doctrine of Justification delivered in 2008. His central message in the address was that Luther’s justification by faith alone is true if it is not opposed to faith in charity. He stated that Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. He concluded that in the Letter to the Galatians in which St. Paul primarily developed his teaching on justification, St. Paul spoke of a faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14).
9.) Has he made any strides in unifying East and West? What is your opinion about his offer to Anglican priests? Do you see any openings for Benedict to engage other Protestant churches?
He is highly regarded by leaders of the Eastern churches. He invited Patriarch Bartholomew I to the Synod on the Word held in
in 2008 and Bartholomew described the gesture as ‘an important step towards restoration to full Communion”. Archbishop Alfeyev of the Russian Orthodox Church has also established the St Gregory Nazianzus Foundation to support Christian values across Rome Europe, which includes working with Catholic groups. However the primacy of the See of Rome remains an issue, so too do issues about primacy within the Orthodox world itself. In other words, the Orthodox are themselves splintered into different factions over questions such as the nature and ambit of the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It is hard for Benedict to reach any kind of doctrinal agreement when the Orthodox are themselves internally splintered.
The offer to Anglican clergy is a concrete example of his principle that we should be working towards the restoration of Communion with whole Christian communities, not just individual converts who come in two by two like animals on Noah’s ark. He says that the ecumenical process is one of acquiring unity within diversity, not structural reintegration. In an address delivered in
he stated that ecumenism ‘does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline’. Thus, the Anglicans are welcome to enter with their own liturgical books, spirituality and disciplines. They have signed onto the doctrinal principles enumerated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church but (within the bounds of general orthodoxy) they are not required to follow any particular theological school. Cologne
The Anglicans are a test case. If the Anglican Ordinariate works then I believe many other Protestant groups will be eager to follow with a similar canonical deal. I think that a number of Lutheran communities will be at the head of the queue. However so much depends on how ordinary Catholics and above all how members of the Catholic hierarchy treat the members of the Ordinariate. If they are not made to feel welcome or if they are treated like second class Catholics, this could set back ecumenical efforts for decades, even centuries.
10.) What do you think about his handling of the priest abuse scandal?
As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the burden of dealing with the moral failures of priests was not his responsibility. He was the doctrinal watch-dog, the person before whom priests had to appear if they suddenly started teaching that there were 4 people in the God-head, or that Christ was not really divine etc. He was in charge of dealing with what one might call the intellectual problems (which is not to suggest that the two are always separate, in fact they often go together).
As Pope he has had to endure the public humiliation that all Catholics are feeling and as the pope he has had to make numerous public apologies. I don’t see that he could have done anything more. The Catholic Church is not like the British public service, where, if a department official makes a mess of some project, the Minister resigns as a matter of honour. The calls for his resignation around the time of his state visit to the
were cheap publicity stunts by people hostile to all that for which he stands. The Catholic Church is not a company, he is not a CEO, nor is he a Prime Minister. United Kingdom
11.) If I wanted to read Pope Benedict, where should I begin and how should I proceed?
I think this entirely depends on your own interests. His Introduction to Christianity was an international best-seller, translated into 17 languages. But it isn’t actually very introductory. For those without any philosophical education I think I would start with his Jesus of Nazareth books where he reflects on the person of Christ as he is presented in the Scriptures. The Ignatius Press collection of essays entitled God’s Word deals with his ideas on scripture, tradition and the apostolic succession, and the work Europe: Today and Tomorrow gives a good introduction to his approach to political philosophy.
When it comes to secondary literature I would recommend The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI: The Christocentric Shift by Emery de Gaál from the Archdiocese of Chicago.
12.) Why is his work important for you as a theologian?
One of the reviewers for my first Ratzinger book wrote that ‘Ratzinger represents a balanced diet, integrating Revelation, Tradition, history, intellect and heart. His approach supersedes the faddish selective diets of his theological contemporaries and recent predecessors who were fixated on one or other of these elements at the expense of the balance’. I thought this really nailed it.
Ratzinger understands that history is important, that one cannot ignore Heidegger, he also understands that the Romantics are important and that one cannot ignore Nietzsche, and he also understands that one cannot dismiss Heidegger and Nietzsche with neat little syllogisms. Catholic theologians need to engage the human heart as well as the intellect. Liturgy and spirituality are as important as dogmatic theology and all are inter-related.
13.) Has reading Benedict been formative for your faith and Christian practice?
Yes. In the 1980s when I was an undergraduate it was hard to find good academic mentors. But Joseph Fessio started up Ignatius Press and began to publish English translations of the works of Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger, and so I started to read everything that Ignatius Press produced and that way I was able to access the best of the European theological material. Many young Catholic scholars of my generation did exactly this. By the time of his election in 2005 there was a thriving Ratzinger Fan Club website selling everything from Ratzinger’s books to coffee mugs bearing the image of a German shepherd. No other cardinal in the world had this kind of following, but no other cardinal had spoken so frankly or written so many books about the post-Conciliar intellectual crisis. I think he has been a source of hope and inspiration for many.
The last piece of work I completed was on Benedict’s notion of a hermeneutic of continuity within the liturgical context and this will be published as part of a collection of essays on the general hermeneutic of continuity theme in 2012.
Tracey, thank you! Many blessings on your work.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
1.) Babette's Feast (wanna understand the power of the Eucharist/Commuion? Watch this!)
2.) Dirt! The Movie (Fall in love with dirt)
3.) Fast Food Nation
4.) King Corn (An indictment of American culture and midwest living)
5.) Food Inc. (wanna be convinced to buy organic meat?)
6.) Beer Wars (the story behind the beer industry)
7.) Blood Into Wine
|The Feast from Babette's Feast|
9.) Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution
10.) Julie and Julia (this movie made me hungry...the best parts are about Julia Child, not Julie Powell)
12.) Chocolat (Pagan...but demonstrates the grace of sweets)
13.) The Big Night
14.) Eat Drink Man Woman
*Some are feature films and others are documentaries...they are in no particular order, but enjoy. What do you think? What food movies should people of faith be imbibing?