It took place this morning in the Vatican. Click here for the text from the Vatican’s website.
Despite his many writings, scholarly expertise and long service to the Church as Prefect of Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, there’s still much of an unknown quality surrounding Pope Benedict XVI.
In the last two weeks, three reputable commentators made some informed guesses about what to expect from the new pontiff.
The National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen wrote a piece for The Spectator (U.K.) entitled “The Pope won’t back Bush” (no longer available on-line to non-subscribers). Although he takes issue with the way The Spectator’s editors presented the article in his most recent column, Allen tells us that Pope Benedict is not a conservative, especially when it comes to economic questions. Here’s a quote:
Recent popes have also been among the sternest critics of the international economic order that the United States and Great Britain have had a significant role in creating. Some right-wing Catholic intellectuals, aiming to reconcile free-market logic with Catholic teaching, have tried to bring the popes along, without much to show for the effort. Though papal statements on economic matters have occasionally been slippery enough to give spin doctors hope, at the end of the day papal social teaching is much closer to democratic socialism than to Adam Smith.
Papal biographer George Weigel penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times addressing some of the challenges Pope Benedict will face on the governance front, i.e. reform of the Roman Curia and appointment of bishops:
More than a few of the cardinals who rallied to support him in one of the shortest conclaves in modern history did so because they believed Ratzinger, having spent more than two decades in the Curia, would know what was broken and would fix it.
That may yet come. The pope is a careful, prudent man, not given to impulsive action or premature decisions. At the same time, it was precisely because he was not a product of the current Curial system, but rather a scholar who had to struggle to get things accomplished within it, that his supporters expected him to bring to the papacy a well-developed sense of where changes, even dramatic ones, need to be made in both structure and personnel. Those supporters are waiting, now a little anxiously, for serious change to be implemented.
Then there is the question of the appointment of bishops — and the volatile but unavoidable question of whether the church ought not devise criteria and processes for removing bishops who are manifestly incapable of leadership. Whether Benedict XVI undertakes a far-reaching reform of the Catholic Church’s Roman bureaucracy or not — and my bet remains that he will, although perhaps slowly — his papacy will be judged in no small part on his shrewdness in choosing bishops and his courage in facing questions of episcopal failure. With half a dozen major appointments coming in the next three years in the United States alone, the stakes are very high.
Finally, Fr. Jospeh Fessio, a student and long-time associate of Cardinal Ratzinger, was interviewed for one hour by Hugh Hewitt. The transcript is availabe here. Fr. Fessio draws attention to where Benedict want to draw our attention: Jesus Christ, and he even compares home schooling to monastic life:
[H]e’s been clear what his papacy is supposed to do. And number one was fidelity to Jesus Christ, that we must serve Jesus. He’s our Lord. He’s our master. Everything else is secondary, which was beautiful for him to say that. Secondly, he wanted to work on conjunction with, with the prayers and support of all his fellow bishops and cardinals. Thirdly, that he wanted to help the Catholic Church go into the future by understanding properly the II Vatican Council, which was all the bishops in the world getting together to try and chart a course. But then, when he came to the content, he said the very first thing we have to do, and make sure we do well, is to praise and worship and adore the Lord in a proper way. If we do that, then everything else will follow from that.
[...]You don’t, nor do I, have much control in this country, or the world, or even the city we live in. But we have control over our own hearts, and our own loves, and our own lives, and our families. And I think we just have to follow the Lord and wait on His call.
[...H]ome schools are the monasteries of the new dark ages. That is…and you non-Catholic Christians have a lot more of them than we Catholics do, but we’ve got a lot. And I think that is where families are having children. They’re passing on the faith to their children. They’re giving them wisdom and the knowledge of our culture.
All in all, a lot of engaging commentary on Pope Benedict. And much anticipation in Rome over what comes next.
On Jan. 6, Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, will introduce author George Weigel at the Calvin College January Series in Grand Rapids, Mich. Weigel’s topic will be “Revolutionary Papacies: John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and the Future of the Catholic Church.” You may also listen to the program live (Friday, Jan. 6 @ 12:30pm EST) through this link on the Calvin site.
The separation of church and state–that slippery topic–was dealt with recently with simplicity by the Holy Father. In speaking to the US Ambassador to the Vatican regarding ethics in politics, he said:
“The disturbing spread of social disorder, war, injustice and violence in our world can ultimately be countered only by renewed appreciation and respect for the universal moral law whose principles derive from the Creator himself.”
For the state to counter social ills, it must understand that societal problems are not primarily policy-oriented problems, simply a matter of the wrong combination of legislative forces. The problem is a problem in the human heart, a disconnect between the sinful creation and the holy Creator, that can be treated (if not cured) by acting in accordance to the Creator’s moral law.
In today’s Times of London, William Rees-Mogg writes about the Vatican and its apparent rejection of intelligent design.
Rees-Mogg also makes this provocative claim about Pope Benedict and some possible surprises from this new pontificate:
His critics had expected him to be more conservative than his predecessor. I tended to share this expectation myself, but refrained from expressing it because new leaders always surprise one; they move in directions no one had previously foreseen. We should have been more conscious of differences between the national traditions of the Catholic Church in Poland and in Germany. The Polish Church, which trained John-Paul II, had always combined conservative theology with support for the national claims to liberty. The German Church has always been challenged by the modernism of German theology.
In the 16th century Germany was the region where the Reformation happened. German theologians on the Roman Catholic side had to understand the arguments of the Reformers if they were to reply to them. In the 18th century Germans were fully exposed to the French Enlightenment. In the 19th century they were exposed to German philosophers such as Hegel, and to the challenge of German biblical scholarship. Modernism itself in the late 19th century had a great influence on German Catholic opinion.
Anyone who has spent some time around theology or philosophy faculties in Rome can attest to this influence, but it hasn’t always been a positive one for the Church. (I’ve met Heideggerian priests!)
It should make for an exciting first encyclical, which some media reports say will be published December 8.
The Verona-based Van Thuan Observatory has recently launched its website, reports the Zenit news service. The Observatory’s namesake, the late Cardinal Van Thuan, was the recipient of the the Acton Institute Faith and Freedom Award in 2002 (read the details in our new 15 Year Report).
On first glance, I think this resource has a long way to go. The ‘sources and documents’ page links you to only two documents. I don’t quite know how to repond to assemblies like this. It seems to me that if one wanted to dive into Catholic social thought, all the major encyclicals and other documents are on-line already at the Vatican (i.e. Centesimus Annus, Rerum Novarum, and many others).
However, hopefully sites such as this will serve as a starting points for many, leading them back to the source documents.
“A tolerance which allows God as a private opinion but which excludes him from public life, from the reality of the world and our lives, is not tolerance but hypocrisy,” the pope said in the homily he gave at a three-week-long synod’s opening mass in St Peter’s Basilica. “When man makes himself the only master of the world and master of himself, justice cannot exist. Then, arbitrariness, power and interests rule.”
Is there a columnist anywhere in the world more in line with Pope John Paul II’s social teachings than Mark Steyn?
All the more amazing as he regularly writes for the extremely secularist British press!
Then, in today’s Daily Telegraph, he writes about the importance, indeed the centraility, of human culture over nature, even in light of the devastation brought on by hurricane Katrina.
If you aren’t a regular visitor of SteynOnline, you should be.
There have been countless analyses of Pope Benedict’s recent trip to World Youth Day in Cologne. But when it comes to looking at what the Pope actually says and does, no one compares to Sandro Magister, who writes for the Italian publication L’Espresso.
Check out his latest post, “After Cologne: The Remarkable Lesson of Professor Ratzinger” here. It concludes with links to the texts of the Pope’s speeches, all of which are worth reading.
Unlike most other journalists, Magister focuses on what the Pope wants us to focus on: the Eucharist and Jesus Christ as the Truth. And he does it without any ironic smart-quotes or snide asides.
Must reading for those who want to keep up with Vatican happenings.
The case is open. Today marks the first day the canonization of John Paul II is officially underway. (Read BBC’s account.) To those for whom the procedures of the Catholic Church in matters such as these seem alien, I point to the lucid explanation of the Reverend Giuseppe D’Alonzo (the man in charge of verifying the claims of John Paul’s miracles):
Asked what he thought about making John Paul II a saint, the Rev D’Alonzo replied that it was not for him to decide, only to "verify the truth".
Of the many things that have deepened my faith, one is certainly the Catholic Church’s comfort in recognizing the miraculous. Fr. D’Alonzo’s statement is precisely what I mean. His job is not to conjure fantastic stories, but to acknowledge the supernatural that was always before our eyes, here on this earth, in the person of a frail, aged, international superstar.