The Love Behind the Rules | Mary Beth Bonacci on Benedict XVI and His First Encyclical
I got a call a few weeks ago from a newspaper in New York, wanting to interview me about the Popes new encyclical. The phrase "the Popes new encyclical" actually sounded rather strange to me, almost as if Id forgotten that any Pope after JPII would actually be writing encyclicals. Of course, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was a brilliant theologian and a prolific writer. It only makes sense then that, as Pope Benedict XVI, he would continue that tradition.
And, in Deus Caritas Est, he has.
The reporter I spoke with, along with many others in the press and elsewhere, was surprised that the Holy Father would choose for his first official Church document a simple topic like love. After all, he could have chosen any one of the current, contemporary, controversial topics with which the Church is grappling homosexuality, euthanasia, stem-cell research. Why love?
The answer seemed crystal clear to me. This is a man who spent over twenty years as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His role at the CDF was essentially "doctrinal watchdog." He had to look at the myriad applications of Church teaching to contemporary circumstances. He had to say, "You can do this, but you cant do that." He had to be the enforcer. He had to be all about the rules.
It was my theory that this wonderful, loving, pastoral man is saying "Finally!" Finally he has the opportunity to go beyond the "rules," to explore the heart of the Christian message, which is the Heart of God love. "Deus Caritas Est" is Latin for "God is Love." That simple truth the subject of all of those collages we made in CCD back in the 70s is the guiding principle behind all of those rules. And without understanding the love behind the rules we are, as St. Paul said, no more than "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."
Benedict XVI seemed ready to talk about the love behind the rules.
Turns out that I was right about the Holy Father's motivation. In fact, he recently gave an interview to the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana in which he explained the central premise of the encyclical. He said that he wrote the encyclical to answer two fundamental questions. They are: "Is it possible to love God?" and "Can we really love our neighbor when he is strange or even disagreeable?"
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
God's Eros Is Agape | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
First Musings on Benedict XVI's First Encyclical | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Some Comments on Deus Caritas Est | Mark Brumley
Did I Read the Same Encyclical as the NYTimes? | Carl E. Olson
Other IgnatiusInsight.com Articles by Mary Beth Bonacci:
The Horrible "H" Word
Teens, Sex, and Real Love | Interview with Mary Beth Bonacci
There's More to Prayer Than "Saying Our Prayers"
Was Pope John Paul II Anti-Woman?
JPII, Why Did We Love You?
A Hero Goes to His Reward
Some Atrocities are Worse than Others
Parents Love the Chastity Girl
The Attack on Abstinence
Mary Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks and writings about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken to tens of thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and television programs, including several appearances on MTV.
Mary Beth has written two books, We're on a Mission from God and Real Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications. She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series, also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award for Best Youth Curriculum.
Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women of America for 1997. Her apostolate, Real Love Incorporated is dedicated to presenting the truth about the Church's teaching about sexuality, chastity, and marriage.
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