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April 07, 2007



Good commentary, Amy. Thanks. I felt the same trepidation when I saw these links up on the CL blog today. I agree that the New Yorker piece is a hack job, which is unfortunate because there are some interesting avenues Kramer starts down, but then she grossly and inaccurately summarizes the Pope and proceeds to kick over the straw man.

I knew my cringe was justified when I read (in the New Yorker piece):
"It is well known Benedict wants to transform the Church of Rome, which is not to say he wants to make it more responsive to the realities of modern life as it is lived by Catholic women in the West, or by Catholic homosexuals, or even in the millions of desperately poor Catholic families in the Third World who are still waiting for some merciful dispensation on the use of contraception".

There is so much wrong with this sentence on so many levels that my mind almost short-circuits at the response. You are so accurate in briefly citing how foreign the axiom "OBEY THE RULES AND BE A GOOD CATHOLIC" is to the the thought not only of Pope Benedict XVI, but also from Cardinal Ratzinger. Instead, we get this, from number one of Deus Caritas Est: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life' (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel's faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth."


I agree with most of Amy's comments. I felt however that the article did not fairly and accurately present the Pope's analysis of the relation between faith and reason. As I read it, the article leaves the reader with the (false) impression that the Pope values faith over reason and thereby implies that the Pope also believes there is a conflict between faith and reason. No doubt the author thinks such a conflict exists. The Pope, however, does not. His writings cogently explain how reason depends on faith in a meaningful, intelligent order; how the Christian understanding of God affirms belief in such an order and thereby effected a historic merging of Greek rationality and faith in a living, personal God; and how reason, when detached from faith in a God-created order that is meaningful, cuts itself off at its root. In short, the Pope does value faith but the faith he values is a faith that includes faith in reason. This does not come through in the article.


"...it should be clear that speaking of Jesus is not a pietistic sideline."

Right on.

The headline sums up the shallow historical vision of the piece: "The Anti-Secularist." The article's vision reaches forward and backward about five years (at most) in each direction. It operates on the assumption that "modernity" is a unique space-time event only tangentially related to all that has gone before it, and assumes that whatever comes after will be either related to what's going on now or so different as not to be worth speculating about.

Ratzinger's historical vision on the other hand surveys about as much as one human being's can of the richness that has preceded our particular moment, all the way back to Abraham and even Adam, with plenty of contemplative time spent gazing upon what was wrought by Mozart and Michaelangelo. His future vision ends in the Second Coming of Christ, the Judgment, and the Eternity that will follow.

As you've said, Amy, he's pro-Christ, and the secular writers who have pushed Christ aside as the animating force of Western and even world history cannot apprehend that folks like Ratzinger/BXVI see the world in terms of Christ and not Christ in terms of the world.

The darkness contends against the light, but cannot comprehend it. Secularism is a darkness that thinks itself the light.


Have you seen the birthday present from Time yet?

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