« Random Bloggage | Main | A few things »

May 17, 2007



I don't envy anyone who has the task of reviewing a major work by Joseph Ratzinger. Somewhere, I think it is in "The Four Loves," C.S. Lewis takes issue with something that St. Augustine once wrote but before doing so C.S. Lewis bows before the master by making clear that it is only with trepidation and great caution that one criticizes someone as great as St. Augustine. Any sane journalist must adopt the same trepidation and great caution with someone of the stature of Joseph Ratzinger. The distance between the average journalist and Joseph Ratzinger is far greater than the distance between C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine. Personally I think Amy's "three previous books" rule is too low a bar. I think it would be interesting to read a review by N.T. Wright or E.P Sanders or Harold Bloom.

james englert

Wright, Sanders or Bloom would be great. A fun parlour game might involve guessing which writers the various publications will actually choose to do the review:

The New York Review of Books will choose Garry Wills over Eamon Duffy.

The NY Times Sunday Book Review will tap John Dominic Crossan; Maureen Dowd will do a special daily NYT review, dateline Rome.

New Yorker -- not Gopnick or Jane Malcom this time. Probably Updike.

The New Republic -- Leon Wieseltier or Daniel Goldhagen, and it will be 10 or 20 pages long, mostly not about the book itself though.

Commentary -- Jacob Neusner? (one can hope)


Just in the first couple of chapters, I got plenty of food for thought. His loving interest in the Gospel and Jesus, and in how everything (especially the historical circumstances) fits together to tell us important truths... He doesn't dumb anything down, and yet he makes his points simple and easy to understand.

Oh, it's such good stuff, but that's as we've come to expect. What a blessing that he can fit this magnum opus in, as well as being pope.


And let's not forget Vanity Fair - Hitch, of course!


I'm itching to read this book. I'm itching to read this book with Lutheran friends, who, it sounds, will be pleasantly surprised at the Christocentric views of the Pope.

As for the hubris of a journalist reviewing a work like this, Occam's razor suffices: If you're not a practicing, orthodox Catholic, the Pope is just another theologian / leader of a Christian denomination. The religion editor of "Newsweek" needs to review the book by the world's largest "denomination" but doesn't necessarily do so from a position that he's the world's *leading* anything, or that her views on his latest book aren't valid. This is the same journalist, I'd assume, who would review a new book by Rick Warren, Katharine Jefferts Schori or Bill Hybels when it arrived; just part of a day's work. I'm not defending her (it sounds) bizarre article, but simply to explain how such a thing gets written. Frankly, reporters usually aren't thorough experts on the subjects they cover, so they have to go into every article/project with a certain amount of hubris so they don't become immobilized by all the possible criticisms that can result from looking less-than-expert in print in front of millions of readers. If I imagined the mere thousands who read articles I write for my daily paper picking them apart, I'd never be able to type a word. I'm thankful I don't have to review a book by the successor to Peter! :)

Joseph R. Wilson

The foreward alone is worth the price of the book. It provides a clear method of reading and understanding Scripture that may be helpful to anyone, like me, who was confused by a Catholic "higher education."

Jeff Miller

I wonder if I too can get a job at the NY Sun as a book reviewer on subjects I know nothing about about.

I am almost finished with the Pope's wonderful book and I seriously wonder if the reviewer received the same book I am reading. Though in the long run it doesn't matter because this review will be forgotten within a couple of days and the Pope's book will be read and re-read long into the foreseeable future.

tony c

I hear ya, Amy, about the clue-lessness of the press in dealing w/ Benedict's book. But we know it's to be expected.

The funny thing is the NYSun author thinks the pope is changing his mind. The author is mistaken. The pope is actually addressing the questions and human longings that lead to a liberation theology or a Matthew Fox. The author assumed that since the Church speaks against liberation theology it's against justice or people incarnate. Or that being anti-Fox makes you opposed to understanding what a cosmic divine liturgy really is.

Those of us who've read Benedict before know that he always addresses the popular beliefs and conditions of mankind that lead to heresy. He has an eye for where good intents trail off into bad practice. But he understands the heart, I think. And that's what makes him a good pastor. Maybe some reviewers and readers will be moved to think.

I wonder what the press would think of '68's Introduction to Christianity. Ratzinger is talking about questions raised by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin! Like, whoa, man. The pope, like, thinks about stuff.

jim klas

read chesterton on secular critics


It's not quite a full-length review of the book, but check this out anyway:


Lawrence Cunningham

Readers may be interested in this bit of background to the risible article by Ms Miller. The person who is acknowledged as helping with the article called me a few weeks before this article apeared doing "research." She wanted the names of famous books on Jesus and a description of their contents beginning with Reimarus. When I told her gently that the history of the "higher" criticism was a tad complicated she soldiered on asking about Schweitzer (the only name she seemes to know) and then, jumping ahead nearly a century, something about the Jesus Seminar. When I told her about some sources she might consult she said that she was on "deadline." Not to put too fine a point on it: she did not have a clue. Lesson to be learned: read these articles in the popular press with a shovel full of salt.As for the Miller piece itself: patronizing and snarky about sums it up. Oh, how I miss the days when Ken Woodward (Notre Dame - Class of 57) wrote on religion.

Samuel J. Howard

The New York Sun is an excellent newspaper, except when it's covering Catholic matters.

Mark P. Shea

Shea's Iron Law of Media-Reported Benedictine "Growth" is once again scientifically confirmed!


If people can read the Gospels and still object to calling God "Father", well - let's just say complete misrepresentations of Benedict's book put him in good company.

I think he hints at whose review he's anxiously awaiting in the title.

The comments to this entry are closed.