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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?
Christopher: There are many emails that
I get from the left and the right that arent
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 Im 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?
Christopher: Favorite books? Its really hard to say.
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.
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. Ratzingers 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.
to Christianity is magnificent both for its scope and its clarity
its 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 werent born into the faith
and for whom belief does not come easily. To present a commentary on the
Apostles 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 thats a really difficult choice, since Ive benefited
from every book Ive 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 Ive
To the curious reader encountering Ratzinger for the first time, Id
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 Reporters 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
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 Ratzingers 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 gospels 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?
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 Im 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
Richard J. Neuhaus is the editor of the popular interreligious journal
First Things and his brilliant and witty monthly column "The
Novak is a Catholic scholar known for his writings on business, politics,
and the relationship between the Catholic Church and liberal democracy.
Weigel is the papal biographer (Witness to Hope), just war
scholar and social critic.
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, Im 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 Churchs 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
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 its 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 Ratzingers 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 its good
to see somebody of Cardinal Ratzingers stature weighing in on the
issue, so pertinent to our time.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you have a favorite Cardinal Ratzinger quote or
Christopher: Yes: "The loss of joy does not make the world better
and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of sufferin g 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).
IgnatiusInsight.com author page.
excerpt from Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions.
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