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Monday, January 30, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI - 'Deus Caritas Est' - Reactions & Commentary

"Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others."

Deus Caritas Est is essentially the meditation of Pope Benedict XVI on love -- love as it is (sometimes erroneously) considered to be by the world and love as expressed in all its richness in the biblical tradition, in the love of God for Israel and as it is exemplified in the Eucharistic sacrifice of our Savior.

The second part of the encyclical is an explication of how love is to be embodied in our daily life as Christians, -- in our love of (and service to) our neighbor, and what that entails in light of our faith.

Question: Why did he choose love as his theme? -- The Holy Father answered this question in an address he gave on January 23, 2006, to participants in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" on the theme "But the Greatest of These Is Love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Zenit News Agency provides the translation:

Today the word "love" is so tarnished, so spoiled and so abused, that one is almost afraid to pronounce it with one's lips. And yet it is a primordial word, expression of the primordial reality; we cannot simply abandon it, we must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor so that it might illuminate our life and lead it on the right path. This awareness led me to choose love as the theme of my first encyclical.

I wished to express to our time and to our existence something of what Dante audaciously recapitulated in his vision. He speaks of his "sight" that "was enriched" when looking at it, changing him interiorly [The textual quotation in English is: "But through the sight, that fortified itself in me by looking, one appearance only to me was ever changing as I changed" (cf. "Paradise," XXXIII, verses 112-114)]. It is precisely this: that faith might become a vision-comprehension that transforms us.

I wished to underline the centrality of faith in God, in that God who has assumed a human face and a human heart. Faith is not a theory that one can take up or lay aside. It is something very concrete: It is the criterion that decides our lifestyle. In an age in which hostility and greed have become superpowers, an age in which we witness the abuse of religion to the point of culminating in hatred, neutral rationality on its own is unable to protect us. We are in need of the living God who has loved us unto death.

There is simply no excuse for not reading the encyclical in full. I quickly realized (reading it over a Saturday afternoon) that it's one of those texts where, if I went after it with a highlighter, I'd quickly run out of ink. =) So if you haven't read it already, I strongly recommend taking the time to do so -- and especially before you read this roundup and any "commentary" or reaction from bloggers, journalists and pundits.

General Observations

Tom of Disputations refers to Vatican documents as having a particularly high Ginger Factor: most of it will make no sense at all to the journalists reporting on it.

Unfortunately, papal encyclicals are no exception to this rule. Give them something as elementary as the Christian view of love, and not suprisingly, there are always some who will completely botch it.

  • Fr. Richard Neuhaus reviews Deus Caritas Est ("The style is that of the Ratzinger whom we have known over the years: precise, almost crisp, and relentlessly Christocentric") and notes with humor the predictable response of a journalist:
    In intellectual rankings at universities, journalism is just a notch above education, which is, unfortunately, at the bottom. . . .

    What prompts me to mention this today is that I’m just off the phone with a reporter from the same national paper. He’s doing a story on Pope Benedict’s new encyclical. In the course of discussing the pontificate, I referred to the pope as the bishop of Rome. “That raises an interesting point,” he said. “Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?” He obviously thought he was on to a new angle. Once again, I tried to be gentle. Toward the end of our talk, he said with manifest sincerity, “My job is not only to get the story right but to explain what it means.” Ah yes, he is just the fellow to explain what this pontificate and the encyclical really mean. It is poignant.

  • The Encyclical “Shuns Strictures of Orthodoxy”? - Alejandro Bermudez' Catholic Outsider responds to Ian Fisher's ridiculous reading of the encyclical in The New York Times Jan. 26, 2006, noting that it "did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics"; to which the Outsider adds:
    Fisher list stops too short. He forgot to mention that the encyclical did not mention other highly divisive issues among Catholics: cars, restaurants, yoga and who should win the Superbowl, a very, very divisive question now that the Broncos are out of the picture (snif!)

    Ah! The Pope did not mention dish washing machines either. You can’t imagine how divisive this issue can be among Catholic households.

    Carl Olson fisks Ian Fisher's article as well, wondering Did I read the same encyclical as The New York Times? (Insight Scoop January 26, 2006).

  • Passionate prose is a real revelation - Times [UK] columnist Ruth Gledhill finds her preconceptions of the Panzerkardinal abruptly shattered:
    I STARTED reading Deus Caritas Est expecting to be disappointed, chastised and generally laid low. An encyclical on love from a right-wing pope could only contain more damning condemnations of our materialistic, westernised society, more evocations of the “intrinsic evil” of contraception, married priests, homosexuality. It would surely continue the Church’s grand tradition of contempt for the erotic, a tradition that ensures a guilty hangover in any Roman Catholic who dares to indulge in lovemaking for any reason other than the primary one of reproduction. How wonderful it is to be proven wrong.
    To which Insight Scoop's Mark Brumhill comments: "It is always good to see bigotry and prejudice destroyed--or at least diminished. More helpful still would be for commentator Gledhill to get biblical and pause (selah) to consider how it is that her expectations could have been so far off the mark (hamartia) to begin with and whether, perhaps, it isn't really Benedict XVI's fault that they were." One would hope.

  • The Pope's Labor of Love, by Alexander Smoltczyk (Der Spiegel January 25, 2006) starts off on a good note:
    Benedict XVI has decided to follow directly in the steps of his predecessor. Until just before his death, John Paul II had been working on an encyclical about Christian love. Benedict XVI's treatise, addressed to "men and women religious and all the lay faithful," completes that project and begins with a reference to love as "one of the most frequently used and misused of words."
    but can't resist the opportunity to take a condescending tone:
    . . . the pope quickly turns it down a notch to make it clear he's only talking about one type of erotic love -- that between a man and his wife in the marriage bed. "From the standpoint of creation," the pope writes, "eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose." A God, a husband and his wife. It may not quite represent the most up-to-date ideas of gender research -- much less the scenes in some seminaries -- but it does have the advantage of dogmatic precision.
  • The Tablet hails the encyclical as "the true face of Catholicism":
    Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical confirms him as a man of humour, warmth, humility and compassion, eager to share the love that God “lavishes” on humanity and display it as the answer to the world’s deepest needs. On his election last spring, the former Cardinal Ratzinger was widely assumed to have as his papal agenda the hammering of heretics and a war on secularist relativism, subjects with which he was associated as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instead he has produced a profound, lucid, poignant and at times witty discussion of the relationship between sexual love and the love of God, the fruit no doubt of a lifetime’s meditation. This is a document that presents the most attractive face of the Catholic faith and could be put without hesitation into the hands of any inquirer.
    Funny how the author sees a radical disjuncture between the "kindler, gentler" Ratzinger and the "hammerer of heretics".

  • Whispers in the Loggia reports that Deus Caritas Est is "Ratzinger-Written, Kung-Approved", at least insofar as Kung perceives that the encyclical "isn't a manifesto of cultural pessimism or of restrictive sexual morality towards love, but to the contrary takes on central themes under the profile of theology and anthropology."

    Meanwhile, Reuters reports that

    "The Catholic Church's leading dissident theologian praised Pope Benedict for his encyclical on love on Wednesday and asked for a second one showing the same kindness concerning birth control, divorce and other Christians.

    The Swiss theologian then urged the German-born Pontiff, the Vatican's stern doctrinal watchdog for 23 years before his election last April, to be kinder to his Catholic critics and to Protestants offended by frank statements he has made about them.

    "Joseph Ratzinger would be a great Pope if he drew courageous consequences for Church structures and legal decisions from his correct and important words about love," Kueng wrote in a statement, using the Pope's real name.

    Alongside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Inquisition office that Ratzinger used to head, the Pope needed "Congregation of Love" to vet Vatican documents and ensure they are truly Christian in outlook, he suggested.

    Via Curt Jester, who retorts:
    "Congregation of Love" is right up there with Dennis Kucinich wanting of a "Department of Peace". Though I would argue that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is already a congregation of love. If you love someone you tell them when they are doing something that endangers your eternal life or can lead others astray. What Kueng is really suggesting is a Congregation of Indifference where you can just do whatever you want and being its prefect would be the world's easiest job.

  • The Surprising Message Behind 'God Is Love', January 25, 2005. Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia) reviews the encyclical for Overall a good plug, although I'd take issue with this:
    While conservative Catholics will agree that the concept of human love, eros "reduced to pure 'sex,' has become a commodity, a mere 'thing' to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity," the absence of the divisive doctrinal questions of sexuality, contraception, and abortion from the document might further add to the suspicion, already aired in some quarters, that their man has "gone soft." It is not what they would have expected--or, perhaps, wished. . . .
    Oh, I'd say that Pope Benedict XVI has been making his views on the "divisive doctrinal questions" of contraception, abortion and sexuality explicitly known for some time. I certainly don't need (nor would I expect) him to mention it with every given opportunity.

    The "progressive" interpretations of the Deus Caritas Est (for example, by Andrew Sullivan and Hans Kung) try to pit Benedict's teaching on love in opposition to the Church's prohibitions against sexual immorality. I would suggest, rather, that in choosing love as the topic of his first encyclical, Benedict is offering a necessary reminder to us that the moral teaching of the Church is best understood in its proper context, as issuing from the love of God and His vision for humanity. (Further reference, John Paul II's theology of the body).

  • On a better note, from Zenit News Agency -- interviews with Legionary of Christ Father Thomas D. Williams, a dean at Rome's Regina Apostolorum university; Sister Maria Gloria Riva, a contemplative religious of the Perpetual Adorers of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and film director Liliana Cavani.

  • And from Ignatius Insight, commentary by Fr. James V. Schall:
    Walking along the corridor of our department just hours after Deus Caritas Est was issued, I ran into a young man I did not know. He asked me if I had seen the new document. I was impressed that he ever heard of it. I had not seen it, though I knew about it. He told me its title. He added that he had hoped for something more "relevant," like bio-ethics.

    I replied that I thought charity was a pretty good topic since it is central to the Church’s teaching about who God is and what our lives are about. And it has not a little to do even with such a perplexing topic as bio-ethics, such as addressing the foundations of bio-ethics. One of the reason some bio-ethicists get things wrong when they do is, I suspect, because they do not understand the primacy–even the physical primacy–of charity, in its full theological and philosophical meaning, even as applies to the fact that we, as individual persons have both minds and bodies to be what we are.

    and Fr. Joseph Fessio:
    those who have read his works, are familiar with his life, or have had the privilege of knowing him, the encyclical is no surprise. He has a penetrating intellect which always goes to the heart of the matter. He has a sense of the poetry of life and of revelation, which gives his writing clarity, depth and beauty. And he is someone who listens both to the living and those whose thoughts come to us through their books and works of art. Then from all that he's seen and heard, he's able to synthesize and organize and present an idea or position in a coherent way that always illuminates.

    I see this as a foundational encyclical. And I hope he has a long enough papacy to build on this strong foundation. He has taken the very heart of Christian revelation as a starting point, the central truth of the Christian faith: God is love.

Part I: "The reconciliation of Eros & Agape"
  • Clairity provides a good summary of "the marriage of eros and agape, with mention of the influence of Luigi Guissani. More reflections from Ancient & Future Catholic Musings.

  • Neil at Catholic Sensibility also contributes with some related strands of thought by Antonio Socci and the Dutch Protestant minister W.A. Visser 't Hooft.

  • Liberal Catholic JCecil (In Today's News) addresses Pope Benedict's views on "ecstacy," or "the ecstatic experience":
    I suppose if you've never experienced the intoxicating beauty of deep prayer or sacramental married love or the ecstatic joy of the birth of a child, or the ecstatic joy of knowing you really helped another human person in a way that will effect the course of their life, and so forth, the first line might sound puzzlingly prohibitive in an otherwise joyous letter.

    All I hear the Holy Father saying is that if you want ecstasy, there are far better ways to achieve it than with temple prostitutes or drugs and such.

  • In "Unity in Difference", Daniel (Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex) responds to a commentator at Amy Welborn's who "sees this Encyclical as an olive branch to “gays” because B16 does not explicitly limit eros to heterosexuality and limit “gays” to agape. This sad thinking, besides being delusional, completely misunderstands the faith and the Trinitarian foundation of love." Daniel responds:
    Self-gift can only be rooted in Trinitarian love. The Father’s total gift of Himself to the Son and the Son’s reciprocation are fruitful. This mutual Love is a Person . . . the Holy Spirit. Being the Source of everything that exists, this total self-giving establishes the framework for creation and so it is the interpretive key for understanding creation and most especially the human person who is created in the image of this Self-giving God.

    This framework shows that love must be true to the order of creation. This is where those who mistakenly believe that B16 is somehow now saying that same-sex genital relations are suddenly not a disorder, completely miss the Trinitarian nature of creation. The Encyclical says that “…man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’” (DCE 11). Here B16 follows JPTG’s theology of the body in which the latter shows that man is made, male and female, in the Trinitarian image. Husband and wife are a unity in difference, made complementarily for one another. The structure of heterosexual anatomy demonstrates their complementarity and their having been ordered to the one-flesh union which is the only genital union that has the capacity to be fruitful in a life-giving way.

    B16 uses the phrase unity and difference also to describe the hylomorphic union of body and soul. Because the soul is the substantial form of the body, the body expresses something in the soul. This includes sex differences. Sex differences are ontological and created for the unity in difference of love, manifested in its dimensions of eros and agape.

    (Readers of The Pertinacious Papist will recognize the commentator in question as being one Fr. O'Leary, aka. "The Spirit of Vatican II").

  • Fr. O'Leary is not alone in his illusions -- Andrew Sullivan, now blogging for Time magazine, writes: "I also, obviously, share Benedict's wonder at conjugal love. I see no conflict between the love of two homosexual men or women for each other and the mystery of heterosexual love." And of his delighted remark that the encyclical "is not as extreme or as repressive as Benedict's well-earned reputation", Amy Welborn counters:
    The "well-earned" reputation for repression is getting so old. Sing that to the institutions of higher learning in the Jesuit tradition that have flourished, repression-free, for the past thirty years. Better yet, read some of this pope's theology. As I mentioned, anyone familiar with Ratzinger will find no surprises in Benedict.
  • John Heard (aka. Dreadnought), on the other hand, asks What if anything, does the Pope call same sex attracted men to via this Encyclical?, and arrives at an answer:
    What of gay men? The Pope speaks eloquently of the love that animates heterosexual unions via the proper balancing of eros and agape (love that 'goes up' and the love that 'comes down') but he leaves a small section, surely enough, to describe the understanding of philia or brotherly love much respected by the ancients.

    Philia describes a love no less significant than that which expresses 'the relationship between Jesus and His disciples'. It is this love, somewhat removed from the central animating focus of the Encyclical, that same sex attracted men must desire, pursue and celebrate. Twisted eros, described by the Pope as previously subsisting in 'sacred prostitutes' and other degraded forms of sexuality in the Pagan world, too often stalks the edges of the 'gay community' today.

    (Probably not the kind of answer O'Leary and Sullivan were looking for, but hey).

  • Oswald Sobrino praises the encyclical for "going on the offensive"):
    The Pope, as those before him, is seeking to capture all things for Christ precisely because all things were made through Christ and find their fulfillment in Christ. So the eros that is so central to us as human beings, the eros that is so distorted, falsified, and misused, the eros that has the potential for so much flourishing and for so much self-destruction certainly can never be left out of the Christian equation. The Pope, so to speak, parachutes the Gospel into territory that has been ceded for far too long to pagans, secular or otherwise. Eros was made by God through Christ to unite with agape.

    As someone with a graduate degree in economics, let me offer some mathematical analogies. If we take eros (the intense mutual attraction of male and female) and add agape (the selfless love focused on the good of the other) we then get true Christian philia (the love of friendship). If agape is left out of the equation, then eros is left adrift like an orphan with no constructive horizon. And what we get is disaster: jealousies, conflict, and eventually mutual hatred. It happens all the time.

    Another analogy: if we take philia (the love of friendship) and add agape, we end up with a transformed friendship, a Christian philia that ennobles both. Without agape, friendship can easily become simply a conspiracy in mutual self-destruction or manipulation. Again, it happens all the time.

Part II - on the meaning and obligation of Christian charity

In the second part of his encyclical, Deis Caritas Est Benedict discusses the meaning of charity in the mission of the Church. The ministry of charity is placed alongside the proclamation of the Word of God and the celebration of the sacraments as expressions of God's love: "For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being." This obligation encompasses both our fellow Christians -- those within our ecclesial family -- and the world at large:

The Church is God's family in the world. In this family . Yet at the same time caritas- agape extends beyond the frontiers of the Church. The parable of the Good Samaritan remains as a standard which imposes universal love towards the needy whom we encounter “by chance” (cf. Lk 10:31), whoever they may be. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the Church also has a specific responsibility: within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need. The teaching of the Letter to the Galatians is emphatic: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).
Responding to the argument of Marxism (and certain proponents of "liberation theology") -- that "works of charity are in effect a way for the rich to shirk their obligation to work for justice and a means of soothing their consciences, while preserving their own status and robbing the poor of their rights"; that the poor do not need charity but rather justice, and a just social order in which all will share the world's goods -- Pope Benedict responds:
There is admittedly some truth to this argument, but also much that is mistaken. It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community's goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church's social doctrine.
This goal, however, cannot be found through Marxism ("revolution and the subsequent collectivization of the means of production") -- "such an illusion has vanished today." Rather, "the Church's social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church," as encompassed in the social encyclicals of Benedict's predecessors and which "has now found a comprehensive presentation in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church."

The responsibility for the just ordering of society properly belongs to the realm of politics, "the sphere of the autonomous use of reason." At the same time, insofar as the origin and goal of politics is justice, it is naturally concerned with ethics -- and it is likewise here that the Church can exercise its influence through the formation of conscience by appeal to natural law:

This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.

While the Church must not usurp the proper role and end of the State, Benedict also reminds us of the inherent limitations of the State in the satisfaction of man's fundamenal needs:
Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.[20] The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.
  • As Kishore Jayabalan of The Acton Institute puts it: "This is the Catholic case for limited government par excellence. Justice and politics are necessary and good objectives to pursue, but they are not what human life is ultimately about. Divine love transcends politics. This is the language of a political philosophy that points beyond itself to theology, and it’s perfectly fitting as Benedict’s first encyclical. ("Pope Benedict on Limited Government" Acton Institute Powerblog January 25, 2006).

  • Gregory Popcak (Heart, Mind & Strength) praises Benedict's recognition of the difference between social work and social justice.

  • Michael Liccione (Sacramentum Vitate) comments:
    That will probably be the most controversial aspect of the encyclical among those who care what popes think. It has something to please everybody and something to offend everybody. The Church must not control or replace the State, but neither can she "remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice." Her social teaching plays a valid political role with its "rational arguments" yet, at the same time, she "purifies reason" with insights made possible only by faith. And whatever the political situation, her vast charitable works will always witness to Christ in civil society. They can never be replaced by just "structures" of the kind that government can create and regulate.

  • Amy Welborn agrees:
    To me, the most interesting point of this section was what will doubtlessly be referenced as Benedict's Augustinian pessimism - he says outright that those who carry out the Church's charitable activity "must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world..." (33), and should be wary of at trying to do "what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolve every problem." (36) It gives those of us reared in the "we're helping build the Kingdom" mentality something to think about, that's certain.

    It's pretty bracing and clarifying, and I'm placing bets that this will be the most contentious part of the document. Benedict say, additionally, that professional competence is fine, but is not the standard by which charity operates - person-to-person compassionate love is. He says quite directly that the "growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work" is a problem.

    What does this mean? Does this mean don't try to change things? To just hand out water and be done with it? Far from it. . . .

    It is persons that are at the center here. From the very beginning of the document, as Benedict explains what faith is, in very CL [Communion and Liberation] kind of lingo, I believe:

    We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
    And it ends with a person - you and me as part of the Body of Christ, having encountered the total love of God in Jesus, being graced over and over again as we meet him in Eucharist, being joined every more intimately to our brothers and sisters through that same Eucharist, and not only able, but moved by the Spirit to live in that reality in which eros and agape merge, nourish each other, and it becomes simply who we are, because we are in Christ.


First, I'd like to extend a welcome to readers of Mark Shea, Amy Welborn, Get Religion, First Things and "The Daily Dish" (Andrew Sullivan), and thank the authors for their graciously linking to this post. Here are some additional posts and commentary for your consideration:

  • Oh, to be a "Catholic Scholar", exclaims Amy Welborn, responding to the latest piece of journalistic coverage (An unexpected letter of love, by Michael Valpy Minneopolis Star Tribune January 27, 2005):
    Few Catholic scholars contacted this week had read the encyclical or planned to do so. Two professed amusement at the notion that the pope had written about love. And what puzzled some scholars is why Benedict had chosen the subject.
    Amy responds:
    to address an issue that's popped up down below. I'm not suggesting that a papal encyclical should immediately be at the center of every Catholic's - even Catholic scholar's - consciousness and concern. I actually spent some time musing - although I never blogged on it - about why I was interested and why I should care.

    But you know, this is the first papal encyclical since 2003, it's the first from this new Pope, who also happens to be a renowned theologian, who has been an object of controversy in the past and whose papacy so far has confounded some. So yeah, it's of interest, it's not very long at all, and any "Catholic scholar" who's on the newsroom rolodex (and once you get on, you learn to expect calls for reactions regularly), you'd think might have something to say besides, "Sniff." If that is, indeed, an accurate metaphor for what they said.

    Michael Valpy, take note.

  • Greg Sisk (Mirror of Justice) concludes that Deus Caritas Est is A Continuity With, Not a Departure From, the Witness of John Paul II:
    In emphasizing the proper role of the Church in the awakening and formation of conscience, while insisting that the Church must not enter into the “political battle” that remains instead the separate vocation of the laity, Pope Benedict XVI’s words have been portrayed by some as a departure from the public witness of his predecessor. After all, John Paul II addressed civil authorities regularly with boldness and spoke with prophetic directness on issues of human rights, pointedly including the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

    I submit that these observers both have misread Benedict XVI as foreshadowing something of a withdrawal by the Church on direct engagement with civil regimes on basic matters of human rights (including sanctity of life issues) and have misunderstood the non-political nature of John Paul II in his forthrightly religious witness in the public square. In other words, I see Benedict XVI's first encyclical as steadily in continuity with John Paul II in the understanding of the appropriate role of the Catholic Church when it encounters the temporal civil order. . . .

    Read the rest here; discussion (as usual) by Amy Welborn's Commentariat here.

  • Pope B16 & CL - David Jones (Nouvelle Theologie) provides the background on Pope Benedict's relationship with Fr. Giussani and Communion & Liberation.

  • A Commentary on "Deus Caritas Est" by Pastor John Wright. Jan. 29, 2006:
    It might surprise some to find a theologian and pastor in the Church of the Nazarene not only caring, yet positively endorsing, the writings of the contemporary bishop of Rome. I am convinced, however, that the commitment to holiness of heart and life in the tradition of the Church of the Nazarene must drive us to conversation and shared life with those within the Roman Catholic church, even or especially the bishop of Rome. We must because our Lord prayed that we be sancified in truth so that we might be one as the Father and the Son are One. Secondly, the message of holiness finds its most consistent teaching and embodiment in the Christian tradition within the teachings of the Catholic Church and the bodies of the saints. Thus I offer this series of essays, as I can get to them, in hope that the fragmented body of Christ may some day be healed so that the world may know the God who is Love.
    (See also Part II of Pastor Wright's Commentary).

  • "What is this thing called love?" January 31, 2006. (You can also find Maggie at the Institute for Marriage & Public Policy's

  • "Benedict Genius Est" - Panel discussion on "The Religion Report," headed by Stephen Crittenden religion correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The show features "Leading Catholic moral theologian Charles E Curran" -- did he say "leading?" -- journalist Rocco Palmo of “Whispers in the Loggia," and the Jack de Groot- the National Campaign Director of Caritas Australia. A review of the Crittenden interview here by yours truly.

  • "For the Love of God", by Lorenzo Albacete. New York Times Feb. 3, 2006.

  • The Controversy of Love and Love and the Will of God, two excellent reflections on the encyclical by Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea.

  • The Discipline Love Requires, by Al Kimel (Pontifications). Feb. 3rd, 2006:
    "I have not yet read Pope Benedict’s new encylical; but when one finds Hans Küng, Charles Curran, Luke Timothy Johnson, Joseph O’Leary, and Andrew Sullivan applauding the document, one gets a bit nervous . . ."

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