"How to Understand Pope Benedict" (in under 1000 words)
I have not previously been aware of the religious news site Religious Intelligence, but it seems a good source of info (such as the fact that the Pope has accepted the request of Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner not be elevated to the episcopate in the view of his comments on Hurricane Katrina).
Cathnews promoted this short entry by Paul Richardson on the site, entitled "Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury", and I am glad they did. It is only incidentally about Rowan Williams, and actually focuses on Pope Benedict XVI - and I must say, for a very short article, it is a good introduction to "How to Understand Pope Benedict".
He gets it exactly right in this paragraph:
Benedict has no sympathy for Holocaust denial, but it is not an excommunicable offence and the olive branch to the traditionalists is aimed a healing a division in the Catholic Church opened up by Vatican II. Whether it succeeds depends on whether the traditionalists accept the teaching of the Council.
And this one:
As a new collection of essays, Blind Spot: Why Journalists Don’t Get Religion makes clear, time and again the media go wrong because they insist on interpreting religious stories in their own secular terms. Typical was the British press coverage of the Pope’s Christmas address to the Curia which included some remarkable reflections on his trip to Australia and a discussion of environmental issues but was reported to British readers as an attack on homosexuality. There was reference to ‘gender theory’ but homosexuality itself was not actually mentioned.That might be a good collection of essays to check out.
He is also surely right on Benedict and interreligious dialogue:
This is a pope who has said ‘inter-religious dialogue, in the strict sense of the term, is not possible’, though by this he does not seem to rule out all dialogue whatsoever (just that aimed at securing theological agreement) or practical co-operation.I think that explains Benedict's concern well. He is not against talking about theological issues to help us understand one another and ourselves better, but "dialogue" in the specific sense of a discussion oriented toward achieving agreement is surely not what the Catholic Church has in mind with regard to our conversations with other religions. Nor, it must be admitted, do Jews and Muslims and Buddhists etc have any such desire either.
Richardson makes a comment that should be heard loud and clear by the writers of the afore-blogged petition re Vatican II:
On one issue Catholics should put their minds at rest. Benedict is not seeking to reverse Vatican II. Much debate has focussed on what he meant by speaking of a ‘hermeneutic of reform’ rather than a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ in interpreting the Council.Finally, I must express my full agreement with this comment:
What he appears to mean is that while the Council changed the way the church responded to developments in modern culture their was no change in underlying principles. It is worth remembering that at the time of the Council, no less a figure that Henri de Lubac pointed to Fr Ratzinger as the best guide to what was actually going on.
Part of the trouble with Pope Benedict is that he thinks in centuries. His mind is less on the immediate reactions his policies will provoke than where they will leave the church in the distant future.That is, on the one hand, "the trouble" with Benedict, but on the other hand, thank God it is so. If the Church, like our democratic states, were run by leaders who governed only for fixed terms of office and whose re-election depended upon the popularity of their policies, we would get the same result in the Church that we have in our states: ie. governments who cannot see beyond the next election, and whose policies are not formulated in terms of "centuries" but in terms of the next morning's newspaper headlines.
None of us want that. Long live the Pope (especially THIS Pope)!