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Part Two. Read Part One here.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What are some of the more egregious examples of animosity towards Cardinal Ratzinger that you're aware of?

There are many emails that I get — from the left and the right — that aren’t really fit to print. I do post samples to the margin of the "Ratzinger FAQ" so you can pick which ones suit you. Some of the negative ones are rather amusing, while I’m surprised by the sheer number of people who have written from around the globe expressing their appreciation for the Cardinal and the availability of the website.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What are your favorite books by Cardinal Ratzinger? If you could take just one on a deserted island, which one would it be? Why?

Christopher: Favorite books? It’s really hard to say.

Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today
is a must-read for any Catholic, or Christian interested in ecclesiology — the nature of the Church and the priesthood, the primacy of Peter in the New Testament and Catholic tradition. As a Protestant convert learning about the structure of the Church, the nature of authority, the meaning of the priesthood — this work was of great benefit to me.

Spirit of the Liturgy
is another favorite — as an introduction to the various issues being discussed in "liturgical renewal" (and to gain a proper understanding of what Vatican II actually meant by the term), this is an excellent choice. Ratzinger’s investigation of the Jewish roots of the liturgy, sacred time and space, the placement of the altar and orientation of prayer — these are all topics which deserve more attention.

Introduction to Christianity
is magnificent both for its scope and its clarity — it’s a reflection on the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed, the essentials of the Christian faith. Perhaps because Ratzinger wrote it in 1968, he seems particularly attuned to the skeptical, post-Christian mindset of our times — for those who weren’t born into the faith and for whom belief does not come easily. To present a commentary on the Apostle’s Creed with such an audience in mind is no easy feat.

If I had to take one to a deserted island, it would probably be Introduction to Christianity — since I tend to read it every other year or so. Although that’s a really difficult choice, since I’ve benefited from every book I’ve read by him.

IgnatiusInsight.com: If you had to convince someone to read some of Cardinal Ratzinger's works, what would you tell them?

Christopher: Hopefully I will have done some convincing by what I’ve said already.

To the curious reader encountering Ratzinger for the first time, I’d provide the caution that it helps to have some background or schooling in theology, or at least a good education. (Introduction to Christianity, for instance, is by no means written for a popular audience, and was fashioned from lectures to students and faculty). My common experience of Ratzinger is that although I find him to be at times demanding reading, it is ultimately and always worth the effort.

For a good introduction to Cardinal Ratzinger — his thought and his person, one cannot go wrong with the three book-length interviews translated in English by Ignatius Press: The Ratzinger Report, Salt of the Earth and God and the World — especially the last, with its focus on Christian faith in the modern world in all its aspects. These are accessible to practically anybody and do a masterful job at communicating who Ratzinger is as a person (shattering the negative caricatures of him in the process).

IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you think will be Cardinal Ratzinger's legacy as a theologian? As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith?

Christopher: In his critical biography of the Cardinal, National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen, Jr. ventures the opinion that while Ratzinger will be largely remembered in the theological community as "largely derivative", he may "find an audience outside the professional theological community," due to the polemical nature of his writings, as "the patron saint of the disaffected."

The "patron saint of the disaffected" these days seems to be Hans Kung, what with his titles: Why I am STILL a Christian (oh, the drudgery!); Reforming the Church Today: Keeping Hope Alive — (hope in the agenda of Call to Action, perhaps?), not to mention his recent biography My Struggle for Freedom (from the chains of orthodoxy?).

Maybe I just lack the keen insight of a journalist, but it seems to me that the "new generation" of youth, priests and bishops are overwhelmingly orthodox, on fire for the traditional Catholic faith and for which no watered-down substitutes will suffice. And, not surprisingly, many appear to be reading Cardinal Ratzinger. There is a timeless clarity, a solidity to his work that can come only with a faithful presentation and explication of the traditional Catholic faith — and that is why I think so many readers find him refreshing.

Looking back, I think many Catholics will also become truly appreciative of Cardinal Ratzinger’s role as Prefect of the CDF. Particularly in a time where our culture is reaping the consequences of the sexual revolution and the underlying philosophy of moral relativism, where so many flounder in the utilitarian pursuit of pleasure and consumerism, the gospel’s call to the freedom of selfless love is truly inspiring.

We can thank the Cardinal (and the Holy Father) for helping to preserve that call by their teachings and faithful example.

IgnatiusInsight.com: In addition to Cardinal Ratzinger, the Ratzinger Fan Club features information about a number of other theologians. Who are some of those and why have you chosen them?

Christopher: Hans urs Von Balthasar was a friend of Cardinal Ratzinger and a brilliant and inspiring theologian in his own right. Also very demanding reading (I recommend Edward T. Oakes’ Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans urs Von Balthasar, which I’m reading now; also A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen [Ignatius], a brief yet enlightening book on various topics explored by the Second Vatican Council). There was a website devoted to Balthasar set up by a Dutch priest — for some reason it went under, and I established this tribute as a resource for those investigating his work.

Cardinal Avery Dulles: This page is a tribute to a distinguished Jesuit theologian and ecclesiologist, whom the Holy Father honored in 2001 with an appointment to the College of Cardinals. An American Catholic we can all be proud of! (I had the opportunity to meet him as a student at the Aquinas/Luther Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College).

The other "affiliate websites" were set up as my way of honoring various Catholic figures who I have learned a great deal from in my journey as a Catholic, and who I believe others might benefit from reading. These include:

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus is the editor of the popular interreligious journal First Things and his brilliant and witty monthly column "The Public Square"

Michael Novak is a Catholic scholar known for his writings on business, politics, and the relationship between the Catholic Church and liberal democracy.

George Weigel is the papal biographer (Witness to Hope), just war scholar and social critic.

Walker Percy was a Southern novelist and keen critic of the (post)modern world. My favorites Percy novels: Love in the Ruins, followed by The Thanatos Syndrome and Lost in the Cosmos, which is truly the best "self-help" book for the modern age.

I also put together various websites in connection with current reading and research (although I never went on to graduate school, I’m a voracious reader and spend my free time blogging and plundering the local public library). These are:

• A compilation of articles and resources on the debate over the war in Iraq and the Catholic just war tradition.

• A compilation of articles and resources on the debate over the Catholic Church’s compatibility with liberal democracy and the "American experiment", and some contemporary figures in the debate.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Cardinal Ratzinger's most recent book in English is Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. Have you read it? If so, what do you think of it?

Christopher: Unfortunately, I have yet to read it — I have no doubt if it’s anything like Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, The Church and The World, it will deal with a very complex subject with grace and tact, and as with all of Ratzinger’s works, will lend much clarity to the discussion.

For the longest time this subject of religious pluralism and salvific truth was dominated by the likes of Hans Kung, Paul Knitter, and Jacques Dupuis. Of those three I actually enjoyed reading Dupuis’, although the notification from the CDF was certainly merited. But it’s good to see somebody of Cardinal Ratzinger’s stature weighing in on the issue, so pertinent to our time.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you have a favorite Cardinal Ratzinger quote or anecdote?

Christopher: Yes: "The loss of joy does not make the world better – and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good. . . . [W]e have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and recieve good news." - Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth (pp. 36-37).

Related links:

• Cardinal Ratzinger's IgnatiusInsight.com author page.

• An exclusive excerpt from Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions.

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