Search this Topic:
Sep 12 16 1:32 PM
Retired Pope Benedict XVI reveals in a new set of interviews that he was among those who were dissatisfied with Pope Paul VI's 1968 teaching prohibiting Catholics from using artificial birth control.In a new book published in Italy Friday, the retired pontiff says that while he agreed with the conclusions Paul drew in the encyclical Humanae Vitae he had trouble with the argumentation."In the situation I was then in, and in the context of theological thinking in which I stood, Humanae Vitae was a difficult text for me," Benedict says in the book, to be published in the U.S. Nov. 3 by Bloomsbury under the title Last Testament: In His Own Words."It was certainly clear that what it said was essentially valid, but the reasoning, for us at that time, and for me too, was not satisfactory," Benedict states."I was looking for a comprehensive anthropological viewpoint," he continues. "In fact, it was [Pope] John Paul II who was to complement the natural-law viewpoint of the encyclical with a personalistic vision."The new book is based on conversations Benedict had with German journalist Peter Seewald, with whom he also published a book-length interview during his papacy. In his introduction to the volume, Seewald says the interviews were conducted "shortly before and after" Benedict's 2013 resignation and that the retired pope was given final approval over the text.Benedict's mention of his struggles with the 1968 encyclical letter is one of a number of revelations made in the new book, particularly regarding the retired pope's role in and later interpretation of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.In 1968, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger -- later a bishop, cardinal and then Pope Benedict -- was serving as chair of dogmatic theology at Germany's University of Tubingen. He had earlier served at the Council as aperitus, or theological advisor, to Cologne Cardinal Joseph Frings.At one point in the book, Benedict mentions writing a speech Frings was asked to give ahead of the Council in Genoa, Italy, in 1961, which was seen at the time as a progressive roadmap for church reform. Benedict describes recording audiotapes outlining theological arguments for Frings, then nearly blind, to listen to.Seewald inquires about the 1961 speech and Ratzinger's point of view during the Council, asking: "Which camp did you belong to at that time, the progressives?""Indeed, I would say so," the former pope replies. "At that time progressive did not mean that you were breaking out of the faith, but that you wanted to understand it better, and more accurately, how it lives from its origins."Benedict then says that perceptions of the Second Vatican Council changed over the decades."The bishops wanted to renew the faith, to deepen it," states the retired pontiff. "However, other forces were working with increasing strength, particularly journalists, who interpreted many things in a completely new way.""Eventually people asked, 'Yes, if the bishops are able to change everything, why can't we all do that?'" says Benedict. "The liturgy began to crumble, and slip into personal preferences.""In this respect one could soon see that what was originally desired was being driven in a different direction," he continues. "Since 1965 I have felt it to be a mission, to make clear what we genuinely wanted and what we did not want."Seewald then asks if Benedict has had "pangs of conscience" for his part arguing for church reform at the Council."Cardinal Frings later had intense pangs of conscience," the retired pope replies. "But he always had an awareness, that what we actually said and put forward was right, and also had to happen.""We handled things correctly, even if we certainly did not correctly assess the political consequences and the actual repercussions," he continues. "One thought too much of theological matters then, and did not reflect on how these things would come across.""In itself it was a moment in the Church, when you were simply waiting on something new, on a renewal, a renewal of the whole," states Benedict. "This was not to be something coming only forth from Rome, but a new encounter with the worldwide Church. In that respect the time was simply nigh."Earlier in the book, Benedict remembers his theological viewpoints as a young seminarian in the late 1940s and early 1950s."I wanted out of classical Thomism," the retired pope says, referring to schools of thought that stick strictly to the teachings of 13th century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas."We were forward thinking," Benedict states of himself and his classmates. "We wanted to renew theology from the ground-up, and thereby form the Church in newness and vitality.""At that time we all had a certain contempt for the nineteenth century; it was fashionable then," he continues. "We wanted a new era of piety, which formed itself from the liturgy, its sobriety and its greatness, which drew on the original sources -- and was new and contemporary precisely because of this."Benedict says that, initially at least, he preferred the fourth-century St. Augustine over St. Thomas."The personal struggle which Augustine expresses really spoke to me," says the retired pope. "Thomas' writings were textbooks, by and large, and impersonal somehow.""Augustine battles with himself, and indeed continues to do so after his conversion," he continues. "And that is what makes the subject compelling and beautiful."Seewald asks Benedict about a motto that appeared on the invitation to the first Mass celebrated by him after his priestly ordination: "We don't rule over your faith, we serve your joy."Benedict's response reads like it might have come from his successor, Pope Francis."As part of a contemporary understanding of the priesthood, not only were we conscious that clericalism is wrong and the priest is always a servant, but we also made great inward efforts not to put ourselves up on a high pedestal," states the former pontiff."I would not even have dared to introduce myself as 'the reverend,'" says Benedict. "To be aware that we are not lords, but rather servants, was for me something not only reassuring, but also personally important as the basis on which I could receive ordination at all.""The statement on the invitation expressed a central motivation for me," he continues. "This was a motive I found in various texts in the lessons and readings of Holy Scripture, and which expressed something very important to me."Speaking about an important lecture in 1957, Benedict shows a very decisive side.Describing his habilitation, an evaluated lecture made in European countries by academics seeking the ability to lecture publicly, the former pope says his failure "seemed inevitable" because one of his evaluators had a "less [than] amicable point of view" of him.While he passed the lecture, Benedict says that evaluator made marks all over his prepared text.Seewald asks if that text, with the markings, still exists."I burned it," Benedict replies, adding: "In the oven."Break with Kung, 'Dominus Iesus'Benedict also speaks of his relationships with the famed theologians of his era. He says the ones he appreciated most were French Jesuit Fr. Henri de Lubac and Swiss Jesuit Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar.Asked about his relationship with famous Swiss theologian Fr. Hans Kung, the former pope states: "His theological path just went someplace else, and he got increasingly radical.""I could not join in with this, I wasn't permitted to," Benedict continues."Why I was then identified by him as an enemy, I do not know."Seewald asks if Benedict at some point decided to "choose another side" from Kung on the theological debates of the time."I saw that theology was not the interpretation of the faith of the Catholic Church any more, but was devising how it could be and should be, on its own merits," Benedict replies. "For me that theology was incompatible with being a Catholic theologian."Later in the book, Seewald asks Benedict about his time serving as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II. He asks particularly about the congregation's year 2000 declaration Dominus Iesus, which attracted controversy by stating that Protestant churches were not "churches in the proper sense."Seewald asks if Benedict wrote the document by himself."I deliberately never wrote any of the documents of the office myself, so that my opinion does not surface, otherwise I would be attempting to disseminate and enforce my own private theology," the former pope replies."Such a document should be grown organically, from the soil of the relevant offices responsible," he continues. "Of course I was a co-worker, and did some critical redrafting, etc. But I didn't write any documents myself, including Dominus Iesus."Benedict also speaks about his work on the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church."More and more people asked themselves then: 'Does the Church still have a homogeneous set of doctrines?'" states the former pontiff. "They no longer knew what the Church actually believes.""There were some very strong tendencies, with really good people onside too, saying: a catechism cannot be produced any more," says Benedict. "I said: 'Either we still have something to say, in which case one must be able to describe it -- or we have nothing left to say.'""In this way I made myself a champion of the idea, with the conviction that we must be in a position to say what the Church believes and teaches today," he continues.Life under HitlerBenedict also speaks of his early life in Germany, and gives new details of how he and his family dealt with the Nazi regime in the 1930s and '40s. He mentions an uncle, Alois, who was a priest and was reported to local officials in 1936 as against the regime."It was really clear to us that a clergyman must be against the Nazis," says the former pope. "Our father was so against them you cannot imagine that anyone in the family would have supported them.""The atmosphere was oppressive overall," Benedict states. "We knew that in the long run the Church was supposed to disappear. There was no longer supposed to be any priesthood. That was clear to us: I have no future in this society.""The Nazi perspective was particularly dire for me personally, as sport was made a compulsory subject to finish school, and if you were not sporty you'd fail," he continues.Asked if he knew of the concentration camps, Benedict replies that his family knew of the Dachau camp in southern Germany. The former pope then explains that before the war his father would send fabrics that needed sewing to a firm in another town, which was owned by a Jew."When the Nazis confiscated it and the new owner advertised that everything would continue as before, [my father] said: 'No, I will not take up what one man has taken from another,'" says Benedict. "He never bought from this firm again."Benedict describes being forced into Reich labor service during the war, where he was assigned to help create a wall on the German-Hungarian border."I was a bad shoveller, to be sure," he states. "There were some capable ones, farm lads, who could do it properly. The Führer certainly didn't benefit from me."
Sep 12 16 4:27 PM
is an interview by Deutschlandfunk journalist Monika Dittrich with Austrian
Catholic theologian, Jesuit Andreas
Batlogg, the editor of the monthly cultural journal „Stimmen der Zeit“, on the
subject of Benedict’s „Last Conversations“ with Peter Seewald.
A white cassock, a zucchetto, a gold pectoral cross – the man on the book cover
looks like a pope, but isn’t a pope anymore, at least not a real one, but
rather a pope emeritus as he is known since stepping down as head of the
Catholic Church in February 2013 due to health reasons. At
that time he affirmed he would retire to the monastery and be obedient to his
successor Francis. So it may come as a surprise that he is now returning to the
spotlight with a book-length interview called «Last Conversations» which is
published today. Journalist Peter Seewald conducted this interview with
am on the phone with Andreas Batlogg in Munich. He is a Jesuit theologian like
Pope Francis and also the editor of the monthly journal «Stimmen der Zeit». As
a longtime specialist journalist he well knows his way around the Vatican. Good
morning Mr Batlogg.
morning Ms Dittrich.
The publishers took their time and withheld the review copies for journalists
for quite some time. It’s only yesterday that you were able to take a first glance
at the book. Did you find any sensations, buzz words or surprises
on the roughly 280 pages?
received the book yesterday. I waited for it all day and after not arriving by regular
mail it was finally delivered by courier in the evening. I read it attentively
and with interest and I didn’t see any sensations. But in my opinion this book
should not exist at all.
The publication is a rather delicate matter in itself. Is that why you think
the book shouldn’t exist?
Church is still working this out. As
of 28 February 2013 this pontificate was over, the papacy vacant. As I watched
that helicopter flight from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo again recently I was
truly moved once more. Benedict mentions this too in the book. Apparently his
voice cracks as he recounts these moments and he weeps as he recalls the bells
of St. Peter’s ringing. But when, as he did, you say you withdraw from public
life to pray for the Church, you don’t reappear to give interviews and make
Q. Do you think this book will
make Benedict something of a ‚second pope‘, ‚by-pope‘ or even anti-pope?
A. Well, these are clichés. He is neither a shadow pope
nor an anti-pope, all this is settled by canon law. He renounced the papacy out
of his own free will and his successor Pope Francis has indeed said that by
this move he has opened the door for other popes emeriti. But even this title
of ‘pope emeritus’ is still controversial. Is he an ex-pope? A former pope? A
Bishops retire, they resign their see, but popes are
elected. If you renounce the papacy, that’s it. This still has to be worked
out. Symbolism of language and other things matter too: Like seeing two men in
white as you mentioned, or the fact that he (Benedict) now re-emerges making comments.
Q. Benedict’s private secretary
Georg Gänswein is reported to have said there is a dual Petrine ministry with
an active and a contemplative Pope. Is this a view shared in Church circles,
even though it has been refuted?
nonsense. He said this at the Jesuit university in Rome, the Gregoriana. I
would simply say this in reply: On the return flight from Armenia Elisabeth
Piqué, the Argentine journalist of ‚La Nacion‘, asked Pope Francis if there
were two popes. He replied: „There is one Pope“. He compared it to having a grandfather in the house. But
there is only one Pope and this distinction by the Prefect of the Papal
Household is nonsense.
Q. It could be argued that, since
Benedict opened this window and paved the way for popes to retire, why shouldn’t
he be entitled to speak out, to write books and give interviews and thus maybe
even boost a culture of discussion within the Catholic Church?
A. Well, as I said, this is still to be worked out and of
course it is a new situation. Considering today’s life expectancy it’s very
well possible there will be more than one former pope in the future. Francis
was elected to the Papacy in old age too. And I’m sure he would immediately
retire if he was unwell physically or mentally. But in that case you do revert to private life. Now I
wouldn’t call it exactly rude, but commenting on your successor is kind of tactless
and in bad style. And by commenting on the Church in Germany he
Cardinal Marx, the chairman of
the German Bishops Conference, is remaining silent, and for good reason I
think. Coming from Benedict, who once was bishop of Munich and Freising and a
professor of theology for many years, these remarks about the Church in Germany
are simply inappropriate. You don’t make these in an interview.
Q. Can you describe why?
A. In my view, Benedict has remained true to himself: [In the book] I have come across
stereotypes and clichés that are familiar from the seventies. Something similar
occurred when he backed out of the Würzburg synod which was a large-scale
attempt to establish and incorporate the Second Vatican Council in Germany. He
once said «what matters is prophecy not bureaucracy». Now he’s telling Peter
Seewald there is this well-established and highly-paid Catholicism in Germany, this
trade union mentality among Church-employed Catholics, this unholy bureaucracy,
this abundance of wealth. Josef Ratzinger was part of this system too. You can
do a lot of good with this money. This is his theory of
detachment from worldliness – but I notice his bogeyman stereotypes which he
has kept for decades. Now that he is physically better than at the time of his
resignation he is bringing them up again. Frankly I think he is damaging
Q. Some observers have suggested
he might want to use this book to present his papacy in a more favourable
light. Do you think this at all plausible?
A. Well, I’d say the book is a mixture of autobiography
with a pinch of apologetics, and commentary of course. I think he really has an
honest self-perception. He acknowledges personal limits as well as mistakes and
gaffes during his tenure. The Williamson affair, the Regensburg address
or the butler affair, which was something of an irony of fate. It’s clear that
his insight into human nature was sometimes lacking and he didn’t always make
fortunate choices when selecting people. He admits to this weakness – for his
whole life. He depended on his advisers and he was certainly taken in by some of
You just said this book shouldn’t exist at all, so obviously you seem critical
of Benedict’s appearance and his book. What is the alternative for a former
Pope? Should he perhaps have left Rome for good?
course there was no precedent to go by and everything went very quickly. But
now, in he fourth year, people will perhaps start to wonder after this book how
things will or should be done in the future. What does a resignation from the
Papacy mean? It’s clear that a former pope cannot take part in the election of
his successor. But do you revert to your former name? Where will you live? In
this monastery at the Vatican? How will you be addressed? Holiness? Santità? Will you revert to being a
cardinal? Because of this experience [with Benedict] all this should now be addressed and sorted out. There
are historic examples where former popes really did disappear. It is not as if
Benedict had died. Of course he is entitled to his opinion, but the media hype
surrounding this book clearly shows also that stereotypes of a shadow pope or
anti-pope are very popular in such a situation.
This is also a new and exceptional situation for Francis, the reigning Pope.
How should he handle it?
Seewald stresses that the book would not have been published without Pope
Francis’s explicit approval which he gave unconditionally according to what
Seewald said in an interview. I don’t find this explanation very credible. I
think Pope Francis is very relaxed about it, as becomes evident in this image
of Benedict like a grandfather in my home who prays for me and who I’m in touch
with. Still, it’s clear that both men are completely different, shifting the
focus on matters. Nevertheless, things will settle down eventually.
Q. So it’s no competition for
A. I don’t think so.
Sep 13 16 3:12 AM
Bishops retire, they resign their see, but popes are elected. If you renounce the papacy, that’s it. This still has to be worked out. Symbolism of language and other things matter too: Like seeing two men in white as you mentioned, or the fact that he (Benedict) now re-emerges making comments.
Q. Benedict’s private secretary Georg Gänswein is reported to have said there is a dual Petrine ministry with an active and a contemplative Pope. Is this a view shared in Church circles, even though it has been refuted?
A. Utter nonsense. He said this at the Jesuit university in Rome, the Gregoriana. I would simply say this in reply: On the return flight from Armenia Elisabeth Piqué, the Argentine journalist of ‚La Nacion‘, asked Pope Francis if there were two popes. He replied: „There is one Pope“. He compared it to having a grandfather in the house. But there is only one Pope and this distinction by the Prefect of the Papal Household is nonsense.
Now I wouldn’t call it exactly rude, but commenting on your successor is kind of tactless and in bad style. And by commenting on the Church in Germany he does so.
Cardinal Marx, the chairman of the German Bishops Conference, is remaining silent, and for good reason I think. Coming from Benedict, who once was bishop of Munich and Freising and a professor of theology for many years, these remarks about the Church in Germany are simply inappropriate. You don’t make these in an interview.
He depended on his advisers and he was certainly taken in by some of them.
What does a resignation from the Papacy mean? It’s clear that a former pope cannot take part in the election of his successor. But do you revert to your former name? Where will you live? In this monastery at the Vatican? How will you be addressed? Holiness? Santità? Will you revert to being a cardinal? Because of this experience [with Benedict] all this should now be addressed and sorted out.
Of course he is entitled to his opinion, but the media hype surrounding this book clearly shows also that stereotypes of a shadow pope or anti-pope are very popular in such a situation.
Nevertheless, things will settle down eventually.
“He said he was retiring to a private life of prayer and reflection ... Why has that commitment changed? In whose interest is this? The whole thing strikes me as strange.”
Sep 13 16 3:35 AM
Sep 13 16 4:55 PM
Benedict XVI “never became so human” as he does in a new book interview he has given the German journalist Peter Seewald, a work which achieves a “final deconstruction” of how both friends and foes have seen him in the past.This is according to Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, in a Sept. 12 address at a launch of the book in Munich.Entitled Benedict XVI — Last Testament, the 200 or so pages of conversations were published in various languages last Friday and will be published in English in November. Seewald has previously interviewed Benedict for Salt of the Earth, God and the World, and Light of the World.Archbishop Gaenswein, who is also prefect of the Pontifical Household, drew particular attention to two key passages relating to Benedict’s resignation which he described as especially “illuminating” and “new knowledge.”The book, as Archbishop Gaenswein pointed out, tackles three key areas: “the roots of the reasons and motives” and the “exact circumstances of Benedict’s puzzling resignation”; his relationship with Pope Francis; and the German Pope’s “personal point of view” on the different “crises and ‘scandals’ of his papacy.”Regarding his resignation, Gaenswein states that the Pope Emeritus reiterates that “it was not an escape” and insists that “nobody” was demanding his resignation. “It was clear to me that I had to do it and that this was the right moment,” Benedict says in the book. “It was a complete surprise for everyone.”Benedict says he “knew: I can’t do it anymore” and saw that the time had come to “disengage from the large crowds of people and adjourn into this greater intimacy.” It was “not an inner flight from the demand of the faith, which leads the people to the cross,” he explains in the book. “The step is not a flight but another way to remain faithful to my ministry.”Asked if he ever regretted resigning, he replies: “No. No, no. I see that it was right every day” and that everything went even better than he had planned. For this reason, he said he couldn’t see himself as a failure. As to theories that some wanted him out and manoeuvred him to resign, the Pope emeritus replies curtly, “total nonsense!”.At the book launch, Archbishop Gaenswein said that what the Pope said next should be “taken to heart as new knowledge” about how he sees his resignation and his role as Pope emeritus. “The Pope is not super human,” Benedict says in the book. “If he resigns, he keeps the responsibilities in an inner sense but not the role. In this respect, the papacy lost nothing from its size, even if the humanity of the office emerges perhaps more clearly.”Stressing that he is “in contact daily” with Benedict XVI, Archbishop Gaenswein said he could only stress such comments to be “authentic.” He added that another passage about this same topic was also “somehow new and distinctive and especially illuminating.”He referred to when Benedict recounts his desertion as a conscripted member of the Nazi Youth in 1945 at the age of 17, and Benedict’s admitted astonishment that he just “decided to go home” despite the risk of being shot.Archbishop Gaenswein said when he read that, it felt like a “déjà vu” experience, a “hidden key” that helped explain his resignation. “He was so certain of this, like a sleepwalker against 1,000 aggressors, and in the summer of 2012, a second time, and calmly ‘decided to go home.’” Moving on to Pope Francis, the German prelate stressed in his presentation that Benedict had “absolutely not” expected Jorge Mario Bergoglio to become Pope, but was very glad he “spoke on one side with God and on the other side with the people.”Furthermore, Archbishop Gaenswein said Benedict speaks about seeing “no breach anywhere” between him and Francis — “new accents, yes, but no contradictions”, a man of “practical reform”. Benedict also sees Francis as correcting his own Petrine ministry by being someone “who is used to always being with people.” Perhaps, Benedict confesses, “I was actually not with the people enough.”He marveled at Benedict’s “astounding measure of self-criticism” coupled with “some self-irony”. He also recounted Benedict’s reflections on the Second Vatican Council, his completely non-political nature, and his weakness in judging character. And even he, it seems, was unaware that Benedict has had poor vision in his left eye since an eye operation in 1994. “He never made a fuss about it. The half-blind pope! Who knew?!”“Benedict XVI never became so human for many people like he does in this last book – in his great strengths and his miniscule weaknesses and disabilities,” Archbishop Gaenswein said. “In a certain sense, this book achieves in an unspectacular casual way a final deconstruction of his old image with friend and foe.”And like so many who know him well, he alluded to the striking innocence of the Pope Emeritus who “more than once in his answers” appears to be “as innocent as a child” with a “disarming meekness” — a child “who always wanted to go home ‘where it will be so lovely to be again, like it was at our home.”
Full text of Ganswein's talk:
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Exactly ten years ago today - at exactly this hour – Pope Benedict XVI gave the speech of the century in Regensburg at his old Alma Mater when he quoted a dialogue of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II and an educated Persian on Christianity, Islam, and the truth from 1391. Retrospectively, the speech seems prophetic to some today, although it also caused an initial uproar in the Islamic world for which the western journalists mocked him from then on as the “professor pope. (Did they really "mock" him? Or were they simply aghast that he made this reference in the political situation of the day - post 9/11?)Indeed today the Catholic Church still celebrates - as it did ten years ago - the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. It is a commemoration of the victory of the Christian armies of Europe in the battle of Vienna where she stopped the Ottoman takeover of the western world on September 12, 1683 during the Papacy of Pope Innocent XI. ( Is this a sensible and appropriate reference to make?)“On the Feast of Mary’s Name, summer says amen” one said in Catholic Germany, especially in the country, where I come from and grew up and where the 12th of September has also had a very practical juridical importance for a long time. It was the end of the harvest and as of today, the poor of the surrounding areas were therefore allowed to pick the remaining grain from the harvested fields.And perhaps this last aspect is an almost providential reason for this gathering, where I have the honor to introduce Peter Seewald’s book, Last Testament with Benedict XVI, whom I have served since 2003 as his private secretary and who after his resignation very personally revised this book. (So much for being silent and "hidden from the world" which Benedict never has been)Now an initial clarification may be helpful here. This Final Testament is not some aggressive “hard talk” in the style of the prominent BBC series, and Peter Seewald did not at all try to journalistically “grill” Benedict XVI as it is so delightfully called in the Anglo-Saxon media world today. Instead the book contains accounts of friendly conversations before and after the Pope’s resignation in an intensive inquiry of memories where two very different, though Bavarian souls through and through – I’m allowed to say that as someone who comes from the Black Forest – find common ground in inflection and heart. Peter Seewald already asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the big questions twenty years ago for Salt of the Earth and God and the World as well as Pope Benedict XVI for Light of the World eight years ago. Joining these significant conversations is a new volume of conversations with a selection of curious questions that Seewald himself still had. These questions were in a field that seemed to be already harvested. This field is the biography of Joseph “Benedict” Ratzinger where Seewald has been working for years but has clearly struggled to continue.Besides a variation of already known details about his life, the answers of the Papa Emeritus are therefore surprising due to a very distinct and new intimacy taking the reader with. There is also an almost blunt way of speech in this book - like if we would experience here something from the mouth of the retired Pope about the big mouth of his adversary, Hans Küng. (Is this an accurate translation?) Or, especially today here on the Munich Salvatorplatz, we would hear from the former Archbishop of Munich and Freising how he speaks without a filter of the “people of Munich and their little megalomania,” which according to his opinion they indeed “have.” Or where we suddenly unexpectedly read in another sequence of the premarital-born mother of Benedict XVI, whom they both discuss frankly.This casual tone provides this volume with an occasional almost enchanting fluency and mirth where it frequently says in brackets before Benedict’s answers: “Takes a deep breath,” “breaths deeply,” “grins,” “laughs,” “laughs out loud,” “laughs amusingly,” “laughs hard” or “the Pope roars with laughter” – for example, on Seewald’s question whether Joseph Ratzinger then in the time of the council really went “carousing” through Roman Trastevere with the Theological Commission.Thus, it touches us even more that we read once - on page 61 – unexpectedly in parentheses, “the Pope cries,” before the old man speaks out about that evening hour of February 28, 2013 when he hovered over the chimes of all the bells of Rome in the white helicopter and floated away to Castel Gandolfo towards the twilight of his life. Then, “I knew,” he said, that in that moment “of hovering over and hearing the bells of Rome ring at the same time, I knew then that I may give thanks and that the prevailing mood is gratitude. That has moved me very much.”On that flight, I sat next to him and was deeply shocked myself, as everyone knows who followed this send-off on the screen. And I know that he, as opposed to myself, did not cry at that moment, if I am allowed to disclose that here, and I myself still have the bells of Rome beneath us in my ear from that fateful flight before we landed at his beloved Castel Gandolfo where he said farewell one last time as the Pope on the balcony of the Papal palace with a “Buona sera” to the people on the square and to all the Catholics of the world.Yet I must honestly confess that at certain places in the reading, I could be moved to tears when I read in these accounts again and again what a passionate walker and hiker the old Pope was in his time. “I always walked well,” he said at a certain point. “I hiked a lot,” he said at another. I bear in mind - above all today - how the fervent hiker came to always take smaller steps from day to day. After the last several months, nobody had to show me the positive significance of his resignation from his extremely difficult office. Because I see it every day with my own eyes, what no book can explain to my mind.Does this volume depict a new image of Pope Benedict XVI the person to the readers?Here I may and must take myself out of course because I keep him, as I said, in mind every day, and on almost any day I could conduct new “last testaments” with him. Seewald’s anecdote-rich background conversations are for me just decoration. However, the public perception of Benedict XVI the person nevertheless will be enriched by many surprising and revealing facets – and indeed the good Bavarian “chatting” conversation tone. In more than one respect, this book supplements and corrects the acquaintance of many readers with the first pontificate of the third millennium in a casual, yet perhaps decisive way.Here in this book is firstly the nexus of roots of the reasons and motives and the exact circumstances of Benedict’s puzzling resignation. Secondly, his relationship to his successor, Francis. Thirdly, his personal point of view on the different crises and “scandals” of his papacy and not least, the profoundly human dimension of probably the last of the western Monarchs at the top of the Catholic Church. (Monarchs?) To him, power never meant anything, and he described the “happiest time” of his life as those twelve months or so after his ordination on June 29, 1951 when he worked for a year as a young parochial vicar at Sacred Blood Parish in Munich.So to begin with the first one:Peter Seewald never asked the Holy Father the well-known Quo vadis question – that legendary “where are you going?” question just as Christ asked Peter when the prince of the apostles and predecessor of all popes fled the burning capital, which the emperor Nero set on fire, across the Via Appia. Seewald also did not ask about that passage from Benedict’s inauguration homily on April 24, 2005, where the newly elected Pope asked the faithful to “Pray for me that I may not flee from the wolves!”Here we see why. The questions would never have fit anywhere. For the Papa emeritus makes it clear time and again: it was not an escape, Rome didn’t burn, no wolves howled under his window and his house was in good order when he gave the baton back into the hands of the College of Cardinals. (Is that so?)Or in his own words: “I am convinced that it was not fleeing, certainly not from practical pressure, which was not there. You can never leave if it is running away. You may never yield to coercion. You may not flee in the moment of the storm, but must withstand. You cannot step back if nobody demands it. And nobody has demanded it in my day. Nobody. It was clear to me that I had to do it and that this was the right moment. It was a complete surprise for everyone.”The doctor had told him he was no longer allowed to fly across the Atlantic. Because of the Football World Cup, the next World Youth Day was pushed up from 2014 to 2013. Otherwise he would have tried to hang on until 2014. “But I knew: I can’t do it anymore.” And all other “things were completely settled in February 2013.” He saw then that the time had come “to disengage from the large crowds of people and adjourn into this greater intimacy.” ( He resigned!)It was, he further says, “however not an inner flight from the demand of the faith, which leads the people to the cross. The step is not a flight but another way to remain faithful to my ministry.” (Waffle. He resigned!)Did he regret the resignation even for just a minute?The answer is vehement: “No. No, no. I see that it was right every day.” There was no aspect that he had not considered. If anything, everything only got better even than he could have planned! Hence this too: “I cannot see myself as a failure. I did my ministry for eight years.”And what about the many conspiracy theories - Seewald wanted to know - which never wanted to be silenced after his resignation. Extortion? Conspiracy? The Papa emeritus only had one answer to them, curtly answered, “Total nonsense!” – Truly, this remains to be learned from his actions and to be taken to heart as new knowledge: “The Pope is not super human. If he resigns, he keeps the responsibilities in an inner sense but not the role. In this respect, the papacy lost nothing from its size, even if the humanity of the office emerges perhaps more clearly.”As I said, since I stay in contact daily with Benedict XVI, all of these things were not new and I can only emphasizes it as authentic. Personally, I must however say that another passage appeared to me in this context somehow new and distinctive and especially illuminating, even if it appears in a totally other place in the book.“End of April, beginning of May 1945,” Seewald reminds him of a statement from the memories of Joseph Ratzinger from 1998, where it said, “I decided to go home.” That sounded terse. Joseph Ratzinger was 17 years old in 1945 and conscripted at one of the anti-aircraft sites in the vicinity of his home. “In reality, it was desertion,” Seewald reminded him, “which was punishable by death. Were you not aware of that?”His answer: “Looking back, I am astonished about that. I knew that guards were there and that one would be immediately shot and that it could only actually end badly. Why I still so unconcernedly went home, I can no longer explain the degree of naivety I had reached.But it ended well and not badly! And here, I must confess, a kind of Deja-vu experience befell upon me when I read this, yet in a inverse sense, which posed the question of whether in this defining life-saving experience of Joseph Ratzinger’s youth there is also a hidden key for which to be searched to explain his spectacular step at the end of life. He was so certain of this like a sleepwalker against 1000 aggressors and many good reasons in the summer of 2012 a second time and calmly “decided to go home.”Here I come to my second point. What did the global public learn about the relationship of Papa Emeritus (not Ratzinger;s choice of title, but consistently used by GG) to his successor, Francis?First: he had absolutely not envisaged Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires was “a big surprise.” He had no notion of his successor at all. As he saw after the election however – on the television in Castel Gandolfo – how the new pope “spoke on one side with God and on the other side with the people. I was really glad to see that. And happy.” And what did he say about Francis appearing on the Loggia all in white without the red Mozzetta, the traditional cape of the popes until then? “He did not want to have the Mozzetta. That did not concern me at all.” But “this aspect of warmth, of very personal affection, I have previously (of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires) not experienced as such. That was a surprise for me!”And is he satisfied with the papacy of Francis up to this point? He answered straightforwardly, “Yes, there is suddenly a new freshness in the Church, a new joy, a new charisma that addresses the people, which is something beautiful. Many are thankful that the new pope now approaches them in a new style. The pope is the pope, it doesn’t matter who it is.” With his manner, he has “absolutely no problem. On the contrary, I find it good, yes. “ To his own pontificate he sees “no breach anywhere.” He sees “new accents yes, but no contradictions. He is a man of practical reform. And that is the courage with which he addresses problems and searches for solutions.”And still more: in some respect he sees himself and his Petrine ministry through his successor as also corrected, as he openly acknowledged. For instance, “through the direct affection for the people. That is very important. He is definitely a man of reflection. And a thoughtful person, but at the same time someone who is used to always being with people. And perhaps I was actually not with the people enough.”One finds an astounding measure of self-criticism – flavored with some self- irony – within the memories that Peter Seewald recalls in him and also the capability of having almost child-like joy up to an old age. At the Council for example, in which he participated as a young and promising advisor of Cardinal Frings from Cologne, and about the reform of the Council in which he “now still delights,” he admitted however unconditionally: “We thought then overly theological and did not consider, what public image these things would have,” and there “were also many destructions and delusions.” In those days, he saw himself after all as a progressive. Others thought he was a free mason, who became “repeatedly denigrated.” Why? “Because I was just incapable or something. And naturally also heretical and so on.”Actually, he is also frequently astonished by himself, and his “naivety,” as he calls it, and about “the brazenness with which I then – at the time of the council – spoke,” who also now describes himself – answering Seewald’s unbelieving and surprised question – as a “true fan of John XXIII” and his “total unconventionality.”As Archbishop of Munich and Freising, he had stopped with the usual bicycle riding because he “dared to be not so unconventional.” He was never one who crawled to the bigwigs and bullied the underlings. He never crawled and crawled for nobody. On the contrary, in his almost proverbial innocence he often encouraged and protected his enemies and “non-friends” like perhaps Hans Küng or Cardinal Kasper as well. If he had resigned a week later, his Swabian Cardinal colleague – because he was soon approaching the age limit for a cardinal’s possible participation in the papal election – would not have been able to participate in the election! Indeed such thoughts, like all the tactical and strategic power games were foreign to him his whole life long. “Everyone knew that I did not do politics,” he once said, “and that inhibits enmity. You know that he is not dangerous.”Now he writes homilies for Sundays for four, five, sometimes eight or nine people in his “little monastery” even though he used to speak in front of thousands. It is all the same for him. The mocking language of the “professor pope” however was clearly more of a compliment to him than defamatory, perhaps from his inability to also think cynically. Because “I am really more of a professor- someone who ponders and considers intellectual things. I wanted to be a real professor for life.” That he was and still remained: a German university professor, who enjoyed imitating voices like Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Swiss German and wrote down all of his countless speeches and works until the end with pencil in a self developed ultra-shorthand handwriting in order to be able to keep up with the speed of his thoughts. And even in times of crises at night, he never let that rob him of his seven to eight hours of necessary sleep, not even his siesta, which he has been used to taking since 1963 – since his Roman Council years – as someone who above all enjoyed sitting at his desk very much and whose indispensable instrument to birthing his profound thoughts was a comfortable sofa. Quote: “I always need a sofa. And absolute quiet if possible.”“The political meaning” of his Regensburg speech and its international uproar was something, which he openly admits in this tranquility, that he simply “did not assess properly.” The great thinker and writer frequently had a great impact that was often unintended like a wunderkind.When he arrived in Rome on March 1, 1982 to take over as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he could hardly speak Italian and did not have time for an Italian language course. “I learned Italian only by conversation. That also continued to be my handicap of course.” As in the beginning, he reverted at the end – at his resignation address – to Latin, which he commands brilliantly even today.Frankly he admits with a certain caution and timidity that his ability to judge other people’s character is not his strength. He often “was very careful and cautious because,” as he says, “I have often experienced the limits of other people’s and my own judgment of other’s characters.” (!!!!)In September 1991, the non-smoker and non-drinker suffered a brain hemorrhage. “Now I can’t do it anymore,” he told John Paul II thereafter, who then categorically rejected his resignation. “’91 to ’93 were difficult, burdensome years,” he said laconically. In 1994, he had an embolism as well and after that, he had a yellow speck on his retina. Since then, he has seen very poorly with his left eye years before his election to become successor of Peter. He never made a fuss about it. The half-blind pope! Who knew?!Perhaps that is why Benedict XVI never became so human for many people like he does in this last book – in his great strengths and his miniscule weaknesses and disabilities. He never laughed so much in his other interview books. And never cried.I had to read the proofs often, and I kind of read the book once more one night at the end. (Oh yes! GG was closely involved in what was and was not revealed?) There were many pages that I had could have almost repeated from memory.Do we find perhaps his testament or a last correction of his testament in these last statements of Benedict XVI? Not really. His testament as Pope is found in the nine volumes of the Insegnamenti, which he bequeathed from his papacy above all in his books on Jesus that he “simply had to write because the Church is finished if we don’t know Jesus anymore.” And we find some testamentary insights in Salt of the Earth, God and the World, and Light of the World, which Peter Seewald wrote down.In a certain sense, this book achieves in an unspectacular casual way a final deconstruction of his old image with friend and foe. He does not admit anywhere that the interviewer puts him on a pedestal. He stubbornly balks at a draft of a monument of himself, and he is amused by every attempt of his own canonization during his lifetime that he in the kindest way as only he can, sabotages. Or - historically and critically said – he demythologizes himself again and again, even towards Peter Seewald.In these conversations’ realm of trust, Seewald questions him sometimes as curious as a child questions his grandfather. Of course, the very erudite cleric himself seems here more than once in his answers to be as innocent as a child, who sat for a long time on the papal throne puzzled and inscrutable. He was like a child of the Holy Spirit, who between two brilliant analyses could speak so naturally about how much he could delight in games “like ‘Parcheesi’ and such things,” when he for so long “needed a strong soul to digest all of the filth,” which came into his sight as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. As a big child of God with a disarming meekness, who was yearning like St. Augustine longed to attain ultimately in that “constant,” as it says in Psalm 105, “seek his face constantly” – and as a child who always wanted to go home “where it will be so lovely to be again like it was at our home.”But also as a subtle and quiet smiling man from a distant age, he reveals himself here from a “quasi prehistoric time,” as he himself half-ironically noted. Despite his superior and awakened intelligence and formation, he does not resemble, even from afar, a power-loving person who would love to be bigger than he really is or a scary high-inquisitor at all like he is often distortedly misrepresented by his “non-friends.”Personally, I must confess, the readings of this testament made me recall more than once the melancholic image from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince – if you allow me to borrow this from the French pilot and poet of the sky – and I myself have to laugh about this: a papal little prince in red shoes (in the shoes of the fisher!). From a distant star as a fallen messenger from heaven/the sky for our time, although I know from the upmost closeness probably better than anyone else that neither Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger nor Benedict XVI is by no means taken up in this poetic figure.That should be enough.I would like to conclude with the farming wisdom of the day from the beginning of this introduction, “On the Feast of Mary’s Name, summer says amen.”Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention(Archbishop Georg Gänswein, September 12, 2016)
Sep 14 16 4:18 PM
A trio of sympathetic books published since May hint at the effort to shape the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. While the portrayal emerging may appeal neither to those who’d hoped for the pope emeritus to reclaim traditionalism nor to those seeking a fuller embrace of the current pope, it might yet help consolidate support behind Francis while isolating the worst of the para-schismatic fringes.First to appear was Oltre la crisi della chiesa. Il pontificato di Benedetto XVI, by Fr. Robert Regoli, a church historian at the Gregorian University in Rome. The 512-page book, a scholarly history of Benedict’s pontificate, was launched at the Gregorian as part of a panel whose participants included Georg Gänswein—Benedict’s personal secretary—who also used the occasion to repeat his absurd theory of the double-papacy. Two weeks ago came Servitore di Dio e dell’umanità. La biografia di Benedetto XVI, a 522-page biography of Joseph Ratzinger by Elio Guerriero, editor of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Ratzinger’s works in Italian. Released by the most important publisher in Italy, it also features a preface by Pope Francis.Then last week came the much-anticipated, fourth book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, Last Conversations of Benedict XVI. Though an English-language version won’t be available until later this fall, I recently completed the German release. It will be of interest to anyone who wants a better understanding of the Vatican and the Catholic Church of these last few years, for three reasons.First is how the book tries to reframe Ratzinger’s thought in the context of twentieth-century Catholic tradition and situate it at the origins of the renewal of theology after World War II. Benedict recalls an article he published about the “signs of the times” in 1958—that is, even before John XXIII was elected and the expression became associated with Vatican II—and other works for which he was accused of heresy. There is a stark assessment of the immediate post-Vatican II period and a candid criticism of the theological method underlying Paul VI’s Humanae vitae, not surprising given Ratzinger’s relative lack of interest in the issue even after his election as pope. Nor is it surprising coming from a Catholic from Germany, where the diplomacy of John XXIII and Paul VI was viewed by many Catholics as too soft on Communism, as was Cardinal Agostino Casaroli’s Ostpolitik, of which Benedict says: “It was clearly a failure.”Benedict also defends his own pontificate in presenting the period from 2005 to 2013 as a time of attempting to strengthen the synodal elements within the Church; it is the only part of the book that addresses conciliarity and synodality, and it reads as untrue to anyone who witnessed that period, even if it serves indirectly as a (correct) judgment on the centralization tendencies of John Paul II. Benedict additionally defends his liturgical policies and liturgical style but clearly distances himself from liturgical ultra-traditionalists: “Communion on the tongue is not mandatory; I have always done both ways,” he says. He denies that Summorum pontificum, the motu proprio of July 7, 2007, introducing the extraordinary form of the Mass (pre-conciliar and in Latin), was intended to appease the Lefebvrites of the Society of St. Pius X.The second notable aspect of the book is how Benedict seeks to portray his involvement in international affairs and relationships with world leaders. For Cardinal Ratzinger, German philosopher Jürgen Habermas was a significant dialogue partner, but their relationship never became a friendship. While he has words of appreciation for President Barack Obama and Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, he strikingly expresses more interest in and admiration for Vladimir Putin and Putin’s concern for the future of Christianity: “Putin is a man in some way touched by the necessity of faith. He is a realist who sees Russia suffering because of the destruction of morality.” Yet Benedict also confesses that politics amounted to “the least interesting part” of his pontificate. He confesses as well that he did not consider the political significance of his speech in Regensburg in September 2006, especially the section on Islam.The third interesting (though not surprising) aspect of the book is the resentment and bitterness Benedict expresses toward Germany and the German Catholic Church. He does not rebut a criticism leveled by Seewald against one of his successors as archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, now a member of Francis’s council of nine cardinals. He recalls the difficult apostolic journey to Germany in 2010 (especially secularized Berlin), and he repeats once again his criticisms of the wealth and bureaucracy of the Catholic Church in Germany, the “Church tax,” and the current state of German theology. He talks about Germany in terms of a Church dominated by “the power of bureaucracy, over-intellectualization of faith, politicization and lack of vital dynamism.” It’s worth noting how Benedict cites the volunteer work behind the annual meeting of Italy’s Communion and Liberation movement to romantically draw a contrast to how the Catholic Church in Germany receives money from the state, when in fact Communion and Liberation itself also receives significant financial support. ( Benedict is surrounded by C&L domestics - four, to look after one retired old gentleman)Some prominent Catholics in Germany are responding to the book negatively. Andreas Batlogg SJ, editor of Munich-based Jesuit magazine Stimmen der Zeit, suggested in a radio interview it ought not have been published; he is not concerned about the content of the book, he said, but worries its publication risks presenting Benedict XVI as still “the pope.” He also sharply criticized Gänswein for fueling a para-schismatic mentality. Batlogg has a point: the semi-retirement of Pope Benedict XVI has become a highly public event and constant part of the Church news cycle, at least in the Rome-based and Rome-focused Catholic media. This is precisely why a canonical, liturgical, and cultural-symbolical definition of the “pope emeritus” role is needed. The cover of the book lists “Benedict XVI” as the author, with no mention of the fact that he is “pope emeritus.”The book also makes clear Benedict’s isolation from the curial and Vatican environment during his pontificate. He defends his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, but not wholeheartedly, and denies that he refused the advice of some cardinals (including Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, once a student of Professor Ratzinger and now a key advisor to Francis) to fire Bertone. There are few if any words of gratitude for other key players of his pontificate. Academics know there is no politics like academic politics, but even academics, when they retire, can find nice words for their colleagues.As to Francis: Benedict does have some nice words for his successor. Yet what he says about Francis seems framed as “theology versus Church bureaucracy”—thus reinforcing the idea that Benedict is the theologian and Francis the Church politician. Benedict’s statements on some issues seem attempts at repositioning himself, not quite vis-à-vis those who never liked him, but vis-à-vis those Catholic traditionalists who during the last decade tried to appropriate “the pope theologian” and make him more of a traditionalist than he actually was. Some of the statements Benedict makes in this book may cause nostalgic fans to feel orphaned a second time, after his decision to resign in February 2013. What he says about the theology of Vatican II and the liturgy may help break the anti-Francis alliance formed since the spring of 2013 by traditionalists à la Lefebvre and the so-called (and self-identified) Ratzingerian Catholics, theologians, and church officials. The silence of these factions in recent days is an indication of the consolidation of Francis’s authority.Benedict does not speak at all of the Bishops’ Synods of 2014 and 2015 or the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia. Those who were hoping for an intervention by the former pope in the debate on family and the divorced and remarried will be disappointed. If you are one of those traditionalists considering the “schism option” (formally or silently), don’t look to this book for support from Benedict XVI. He now describes himself as a rebel who has always enjoyed contradicting (“die Lust am Widerspruch”), and now he has contradicted, and distanced himself from, some of those he appointed and promoted during his thirty-one years in Rome before becoming “emeritus.”
Sep 17 16 6:32 AM
Benedict On the Rehab TrailBenedict is back. We've never seen a pope emeritus before; there is no code of conduct guideline so the retirement options are wide open. This rare example is looking more and more like a campaign to justify and redeem his reputation. In doing so, he has placed himself with Donald Trump in the circle of Vladimir Putin admirers.The Putin shout-out comes in a new book in Italian called "The Last Conversations of Benedict XVI," a collection of interviews conducted by Peter Seewald. Villanova professor Massimo Faggioli mentions the Putin reference in a "Commonweal" article about the highly biographical book (from the German edition pending its appearance in English). "Putin is a man in some way touched by the necessity of faith," Benedict is quoted as saying. "He is a realist who sees Russian suffering because of the destruction of morality."He has stepped out far from the shadows of a Vatican convent.The awkwardness of the transition from Benedict to Francis was largely muted by the assurance that the ex-pope would disappear into the recesses of the Vatican to lead a monkish existence away from public view. (But that never really happened, did it? Particularly with the celebrity secretary only too willing to present speeches or letters written by the retired Pope, organize and schedule "audiences" at the Monastery, and generally carry on in a manner that leads many to presume that he's acting as the "mouthpiece" of Padre Benedetto.) He would refrain from crashing Francis' sensational start and would rarely if ever be seen. Word was that he was too worn out to care about the limelight or invidious comparisons or anything that would rain on Francis' parade. He isn't competing in any way for the day-to-day grind but in his signature role as professor welcomes the occasion spotlight to espouse his cause.In exchange, the wildly popular pope and the widely unpopular former pope would be best buds, comrades on the same team, smoothing over the thorny differences in their outlook, demeanor and self-adopted missions. Beneath the steely, private Benedict stirred instincts of control and conformity which had driven dissident theologians into exile, tried to contain awareness of the scope of church sex scandals and declared that Protestant churches failed the test of authenticity.Over the past months, the resigned pontiff has been stepping out of the shadows with what appears to be an effort to clear his name of accusations against him and to place himself closer to the Catholic mainstream. For the once head of John Paul II's doctrine truth squad, who conducted a fierce attack on liberation theology, it will be a hard sell but Benedict has apparently revived sufficiently from a case of debilitating exhaustion that was widely reported at the time of his resignation, to push ahead with reputation rehabilitation.In his remarks in a trio of recent books, he asserts that he didn't want the job, often felt paralyzed by big decisions, and didn't enjoy the papacy's demanding extrovertish side, but denies that he vacated the position out of a sense that his papacy had failed. Elsewhere he is said to express annoyance at the liberality of fellow German bishops, remind readers that he sees himself as guardian of theological correctness that sometimes causes tensions (on the birth control encyclical, for example, he agrees with the conclusion but faults the reasoning), and steers clear of examining charges that he overlooked scandal and ignored critics of his treatment of women. Not surprisingly, he thinks his former colleague, Hans Kung, went around the theological bend a long time ago. (Regardless of whether Padre Benedetto does think this of Hans Kung, I am rather surprised that Joseph Ratzinger, whose courteousness to friend and foe alike is the stuff of legend, would even criticize Kung in this manner. I'm also surprised at the criticism of the German Church. It is almost as if I'm listening to someone else's voice, not Joseph Ratzinger's ...)These revelations by the only pope in modern times who's had the opportunity to revisit his papacy in public constitute a mind-boggling change in the way the world sees popes. Not long ago they were virtually sequestered, sealed away from anything resembling quotable interviews or open conversation. John Paul II began the transition by talking to reporters during flights to far flung destinations. Benedict continued that pattern but the astonishing breakthrough has been undertaken by Francis. In my view, Francis became pope largely on the strength of his gift of bonding with people of every variety. After the reticent, wary Benedict and the disastrous impact of the single issue of child abuse and hierarchical coverup, I believe the cardinals desperately sought a pope with a surfeit of charm and persuasiveness who could change the dominant story and offer an alternative picture of the church. They got it, whatever it means in the long run. He has effectively returned the papacy to earth, shedding most of what remained of the patina of otherworldliness. Nearly 150 years after popes were supernaturally encased in the doctrine of infallibility, the spell has been broken.There have been those like me that believe Benedict's residence in Francis' back yard has had a dampening effect on Francis' willingness to carry out bolder reforms which his words have implied. Benedict has every right to his stricter constructionism and his narrow view of what can and cannot be allowed in Catholicism, but the fact that he has a former pope who has shown such contrasting canonical instincts living next door seems to be a formidable restraining influence. (It doesn't help that the former Pope's private secretary still occupies a ranking position in the Curia and has not been shy about taking potshots at Pope Francis and promoting such outlandish ideas as an "expanded Petrine ministry" with an "active" member and a "contemplative" member.) When the pope was a bishop in Argentina and Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict, cracked down on liberation theology, Bergoglio initially followed suit. It took years for him to see wisdom and the cause of the poor in it. As Benedict makes his case to burnish his reputation, that indirect, even covert influence could continue to restrain a reluctant actor.
Sep 21 16 10:17 AM
Sep 25 16 3:41 PM
Sep 26 16 3:11 PM
Oct 1 16 2:00 AM
Oct 13 16 1:35 AM
Oct 13 16 3:10 AM
Oct 15 16 5:11 AM
"He should just give up and die, he looks so bad" - Trump on the aged Pope Benedict, in 2013 https://t.co/ME5H5aGk6o pic.twitter.com/tvTtUUEPdY— Michelle Boorstein (@mboorstein) October 15, 2016
"He should just give up and die, he looks so bad" - Trump on the aged Pope Benedict, in 2013 https://t.co/ME5H5aGk6o pic.twitter.com/tvTtUUEPdY
Oct 24 16 4:25 AM
Oct 31 16 3:33 AM
The biggest annoyance in becoming pope, the former Benedict XVI says in a new book, was the cufflinks. He wasn’t used to wearing them, and “I thought that whoever invented them must be in the depths of purgatory.”He said this laughing, for his latest book, called in English Last Testament, is an extended biographical interview with Peter Seewald, who first met him in 1992 and has published two other book-length interviews with him.This book reveals a serious point about Benedict’s life, but first I want to say that I found the trivia about this holy old academic quite endearing. Favourite opera? Don Giovanni. But the “pope emeritus”, who resigned the papacy in 2013, doesn’t like having music on when he is working: “Either music or writing,” he says. He wrote his books (including the three volumes on Jesus that he composed in his eight years as Pope Benedict XVI) in pencil, a habit he acquired from commenting on university students’ essays.If he has to think something out, he lies on the sofa: “I always need a sofa.” He likes seven or eight hours sleep a night: “That is non-negotiable,” even if he ran up a deficit on being elected pope. He was never sporty and resented in his youth the Nazi insistence on schoolboys having to pass in sport to finish school. But he has walked every day and thought nothing of a 20-mile walk to visit the grave of his favourite comedian (Karl Valentin).One of his favourite prayers is the General Prayer of the Reformation-era Jesuit, St Peter Canisius, which is given in a footnote. When he visited Rome in his thirties he came equipped with “a slight anti-Roman resentment” developed during his studies. Among theologians, Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar are the ones he most admires. He enjoys the memory of an aunt making rude gestures at top Nazis as they sped past her house in a train. He never learnt to drive: “To steer a car back and forth across the world seemed too dangerous to me.” He is happy now to give a weekly sermon to four or five people present in his chapel on Sundays. He realised that he needs peace and quiet at morning Mass, and did not invite visitors to concelebrate with him as Pope John Paul II did; nor did he have a stream of guests at dinner, a time he also liked to be quiet. On his gravestone he wants “only the name”.So one might think that Joseph Ratzinger, the theologian who in 2005 became pope, was a bit bourgeois in habits and took care of creature comforts. Yet his account of his resignation reveals a history of realism and self-sacrifice. Popes, he says, taking an idea of the Elizabethan English Cardinal Pole, must be martyrs, in the sense of a witness, taking up the cross of Christ. A brain haemorrhage in 1991 affected his sight, with one eye afterwards losing all vision. He had a pacemaker fitted in 1997, but soldiered on, when he’d have happily retired into a quiet life of study, because he accepted an appeal by John Paul II to stay at his side. As pope, he decided in the summer of 2012 to resign for a solid reason: the doctor told him he could never fly the Atlantic again. The pope was expected next year at World Youth day in Brazil, and announcing his resignation in February 2013 left time for a new pope to be elected for this and other engagements for which he was now too weak. It was a brave step, and one not motivated by feelings but by realism. He speaks warmly of his successor.He saw his short reign as an opportunity, not to do much, but to “give people the courage to have faith”.
Nov 4 16 4:18 PM
German journalist Peter Seewald does the reader both a favor and a disservice with his generous introduction to the new volume, Last Testament: In His Own Words, by Pope Benedict XVI, which publishes worldwide on November 15. He reminds us of Pope Benedict’s gifts to the Church, the academy, and the written word, but then he speeds past all of the problems. After ten pages of mostly nodding in agreement, or at least thinking that it was good to be reminded of what had been good in Benedict’s papacy, on the eleventh page of the foreword my pencil dug into the margin on the page. There, Seewald writes, “The historic act of [Benedict XVI’s] resignation has fundamentally changed the office of Peter at the last. He gave it back the spiritual dimension to which it was assigned at the beginning.” ( Benedict never made this claim. This is Ganswein's interpretation)Wait a minute. It is important not to miss the real story of why this book is important: for two reasons, it never should have been written. First, no modern pope had ever, or perhaps ever should have, resigned from office in the way that an embattled CEO might resign from a corporation, weary of dealing with stockholders and a difficult board of directors. Second, if a modern pope were to resign, one might hope that he would also cease giving interviews and writing books, as if the faithful want or need more than one pope doing those things at a given time. We had enough of that during the Middle Ages.In fact, the only pope to willingly and freely resign from the chair of St. Peter before Benedict XVI did in 2013, was Celestine V, in 1294. Celestine V was simply unprepared for the job. A hermit in his eighties, he was elected by the College of Cardinals when they couldn’t agree on anyone else. He was a place-holder, to some, and a puppet, to others. No one expected him to do much, or to live very long. He spent most of his time in private prayer instead of engaging with his responsibilities. Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore, and quit. Celestine thought that he would be able to go back to his mountain and his former life. His successor wouldn’t allow that, and Celestine was thrown in prison, never to be heard from again.Pope Benedict XVI, as Seewald points out, engaged a great deal as pope. He wrote magnificent books and encyclicals, moved ecumenical relationships forward, and focused the Church on faith over numbers. However, there were early signs that he might resign. Experts speculated about it after the infamous 2006 Regensburg University speech when Benedict referred to Islam as “evil and inhuman,” and then again in 2010 as he failed to manage a growing clergy sexual abuse scandal. Some people said that a lack of managerial and diplomatic skills — ineptitude similar to that shown by Celestine V 700 years earlier — might be a sign that Benedict no longer had the mettle for the job. The rest of the story is recent history. We know it already. Benedict XVI quit in February 2013.In Last Testament, he tells Seewald why: “[M]y hour had passed and I had given all I could give.” It is odd to hear him say that, given the courageous way that his mentor and predecessor, Pope John Paul II, carried on his papacy despite the debilitations of Parkinson’s disease, osteoarthritis, and two assassination attempts. John Paul II was praised for his courage and faithfulness.Last Testament is a collection of interviews with Benedict XVI, conducted immediately before, and soon after, he resigned. There are beautiful moments in the book. The Emeritus Pope is winsome and his humility and gentle spirit are a real inspiration. “I am an entirely average Christian,” he even says to Seewald at one point.Still, having an Emeritus Pope is unprecedented, and troublesome, so much so that Pope Francis was forced to explain to reporters aboard the papal plane on June 26, 2016: “I never forget that speech [Benedict XVI] made to us cardinals, ‘among you I’m sure that there is my successor. I promise obedience.’ And he’s done it. But, then I’ve heard, but I don’t know if it’s true...that some have gone to him to complain because of this new Pope, and he chased them away.” That was bound to happen, which is the primary reason why popes are not supposed to just walk away. (The question about two popes was asked because of Ganswein's ridiculous claims in a speech he gave in May 2016. The "trouble" caused by the retired Ratzinger is not of his making but he could and should move to stop it)Jon M. Sweeney is the author of many books including The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation, which has been optioned by HBO.
Nov 10 16 10:53 AM
The first things that came to mind when I was asked to write about the experience of translating Benedict XVI’s Last Testament were uninteresting and entirely predictable: all the unforeseen consequences one might expect when an early career academic finds himself with a gargantuan, if awesome, task to complete in very little time.Making my way tortuously through 288 pages of freshly printed German text in August, in an extreme bout of overwork, led to moments of anxiety. I worried about even slightly misconstruing the intended meaning of the former pope’s words, panicked about when I would finish my own book (which I was supposed to be submitting to the publishers that month) and, most serious of all, felt an overarching sense of guilt at a wholly unsatisfactory neglect of my wife and son over the August Bank Holiday.Such was the maelstrom of complex emotions swirling around my little writing desk in a poky corner of our flat, where I was hunched over a laptop balanced precariously among piles of books and dictionaries. I did emerge from time to time to read our toddler a story, or eat a spot of dinner. But on such occasions I still found my gaze wandering out of focus as I agonised over the best possible way to translate difficult German words. Gezecht, for example, meaning “to carouse” or “consume large quantities of alcohol”, which the Pope Emeritus uses to describe the activities of a small group he joined for after-session debriefs in the Trastevere district of Rome during Vatican II.But the “kitchen sink theology” image just described is not really the whole truth. For although I was a million miles away from the scene the Pope Emeritus describes of his own optimum environment for careful study, the fact remains that – as the retired pope’s interviewer Peter Seewald puts it himself – “In the beauty of [Benedict XVI’s] language, the depth of his thinking leads one up to the heights.” Amid all my difficult circumstances, there was much to keep me fully engaged with the text as I followed all the twists and turns of Ratzinger’s remarkable life, and sailed upwards on the wings of his magisterial intellect.This didn’t come as much of a shock to me, admittedly. I converted to the Church in 2008, and I believe that Joseph Ratzinger said once that the Church of the future will be a Church of converts, just as it was for the first generation of Christians. Converts from 2005 to 2013 can thus aptly be termed the “Benedict Generation”, and tend to share a concern for the intellectual heritage of Europe, a firm conviction in the formative power of the liturgy and the practice of piety, and – as exemplified by their namesake – a sense of dynamic contemporaneity combined with deep fidelity to the sacramental mission of the Church.What particularly kept my soul ringing out with joy as I was hunched over Last Testament was the candour with which Benedict XVI shows himself to be a man of profound interiority and prayer.There is, of course, plenty of human interest in the book, and much a non-Catholic would find compelling simply as a drama of history. One feels some sympathy for this softly spoken 50-year-old intellectual when he is unexpectedly and reluctantly elevated to the episcopate, and then again four years later when he takes on the global responsibility of being the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog. The feeling of sympathy grows yet stronger in reading about the attempts he made to resign – yearning for a life of solitude, recollection and prayer – which eventually led to the point where John Paul II would know a request to step down was coming and answer: “You don’t need to tell me … you want to be set free, it will not be heard. As long as I am here, you must stay.”Of course, John Paul II’s days came to an end, but Ratzinger didn’t get the reprieve he expected. Now I understand why the antechamber adjoining the Sistine Chapel, where a newly elected pope waits to go before the faithful, is called “the room of tears”. But eventually, Benedict XVI had only one authority who could grant him permission to step down. He usually refers to that authority in Last Testament as “the loving God”. He also describes in scintillating detail the prayerful encounters with that ultimate authority which led to his decision to relinquish the Petrine Chair, with God’s gracious blessing.The really important things I learnt from this translation, then, were not the usual caveats about work-life balance, time management and professional boundaries. On the contrary, I glimpsed something of what it is to stand “in the heart of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4:12), and as a fully paid-up member of the Benedict Generation this means I should get to work and fan the flame of this fire in once Christian lands.Now I just need to convince my long-suffering wife that I’ll make sure I won’t be doing this over the August Bank Holiday next year…
Nov 10 16 5:57 PM
Nov 19 16 1:19 AM
© 2017 Yuku. All rights reserved.