Pope Benedict XVI to visit England

If you haven’t already been hearing about it in the news, Pope Benedict XVI will visit England in a few weeks for 4 days. Our Holy Father is definitely going to need prayers. There are already planned protests and everything anyone disagrees with regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church seems to be back on the table for discussion. The Church is never going to ordain women as priests. The Church is never going to allow contraceptives to ruin the marital embrace. Get over it. Find something else to complain about. Putting an ad on a London bus is not going incite an Ecumenical Council to overhaul the teachings of the Church. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It’s just wasted money.

And earlier this summer, it was reported that English Muslims were planning to protest the visit and “tell the Pope what they really think of him” (i.e., utter slanderous and spiteful words). Supposedly the UK police are going to be monitoring the situation, and I hope they keep on it. The extremist website promoting the hatred is still fuming over Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg Address… they obviously never read Pope Benedict XVI’s Truth and Tolerance.

Thus it becomes apparent that, beyond all particular questions, the real problem lies in the question about truth. Can truth be recognized? Or, is the question about truth simply inappropriate in the realm of religion and belief? But what meaning does belief then have, what positive meaning does religion have, if it cannot be connected with truth?
… we have to get a view of the phenomenon of religion as such and cannot simply start from an undifferentiated mass of “religions” in general. We first have to try to understand them as they are, in their historical dynamic, in their essential structures and types, as also in their possible threats to each other, before we try to arrive at any judgments…
And finally, we have inevitably to face up to the question of whether man is made for the truth and in what way he can, and even must, put the question of truth.

From the Regensburg Address:

…I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both… The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole – which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature…

The Address was a speech on faith and reason, and the hullabaloo over Pope Benedict XVI’s quotation is pure childishness. He is making a point (in relation to faith and reason) about violence and God using an example from someone else. The Holy Father was never claiming Islam is a religion of violence, or making a statement about Mohammed. Though, the reaction of certain Muslims to the out-of-context quote following the lecture is demonstrating its own point… that it still continues to be a point of contention regarding the Pope is even more baffling. Anyone who flames up at the Holy Father for it, has completely missed the entire point of the lecture, and I hope they will read it (the whole thing), in context.

In any case, we should prepare for the Holy Father’s visit to England by praying hard for him, and for those who will hear him. Viva il Papa!

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.

R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat
eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
[Ps 40:3]

Pater Noster…,  Ave Maria….

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum
Benedictum, quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti,
propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo,
quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi
credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum
nostrum. Amen.

V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make
him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the
will of his enemies. [Ps 40:3]

Our Father…,  Hail Mary….

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look
mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen
as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we
beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify
those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the
flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Coming Soon…

I heard through the Internet grapevine that Pope Benedict XVI’s second installment of Jesus of Nazareth will be released in the Spring of next year (2011)! I’m looking forward to it, and you can be sure I’ll review it ASAP.

Meanwhile, check out the first volume if you haven’t already: Jesus of Nazareth !

Prophetic words

How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another… Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

~Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
18 April 2005

What strikes me most from this homily of [Pope Benedict XVI’s] (before they elected him to be the next successor of St. Peter after Pope John Paul II), are two parts. The first, is his remark that “today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of Church is often labeled as fundamentalism”. We are being attacked on all fronts today. Now, even by our own (i.e., fellow Catholics), we are being criticized for holding fast to the Faith of the Church. Fidelity is a bullseye on our back rather than a badge of honor.

The second idea that strikes me is the picture of relativism: being tossed about by the waves, flung from one extreme to another… all dictated by one’s own desires (whether understood consciously or not). In the immediate realm of things (of life), relativism is the easy answer. It lets us agree quietly with everyone about everything. Relativism loves tolerance. And as the ever quotable GK Chesterton reminds us: “tolerance is the virtue of a man with no convictions”.

This is the attack on the Church by Satan… Relativism. Indifference. If he can just get people to be apathetic enough, he can win the world… and we just won’t care. In fact, we probably wouldn’t even notice.

 

Book Review: Jesus of Nazareth

Pope Benedict XVI writes a personal reflection on the life of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth, not a dogmatic treatise. That said there is nothing in Jesus of Nazareth that goes against his Catholic faith; instead, Pope Benedict XVI rescues Jesus from current (and sometimes popular) trends to view Jesus outside of His depiction in the Gospels. This book is a return to the Gospels to rediscover (and recover) the true identity of Jesus. It reads more like a meditation than a textbook.

Unlike some of the Holy Father’s other works which, though very good, are very rough reading for theological beginners, Jesus of Nazareth is accessible to the average reader. There are a few places where one with a more robust theological background could get more out of the reading (and there is a least one study guide to aide curious readers), but overall I think that the average person could read Jesus of Nazareth and gain something from it.

Jesus of Nazareth could be said to be Pope Benedict XVI’s personal response to the question “who is Jesus?”. In the forward, he makes it clear that he is writing from his own personal perspective (which is also why the book was published under Joseph Ratzinger and not merely Pope Benedict XVI).
You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Book Review: American Babylon

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ American Babylon is a weighty description of what it means for Christians to be in the world, but not of the world. It is an often repeated phrase that holds a variety of meanings, but Fr. Neuhaus likens it to the relationship between the soul and the body: “The soul is captive to the body, yet it holds the body together. So Christians are held captive to the world, and yet they hold the world together.”

While a good read, American Babylon is not light reading. Fr. Neuhaus does a great job demonstrating the difference between living in the city of men (earthly life) and the City of God (eternal life), but he often explains these differences by references to competing contemporary philosophies that could be confusing to the inexperienced reader unfamiliar with persons like Richard Rorty, Peter Singer, or the Niebuhr brothers.

Surely the most polemical topic of Fr. Neuhaus’ book is the chapter which asks, “Can an Atheist Be a Good Citizen?” Fr. Neuhaus responds in the negative. Surprising this may seem (to some) at first, I found it interesting that Fr. Neuhaus’ sentiments are echoed in our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s most recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate. The Holy Father explains that atheism is an impediment to integral human development (see Caritas in Veritate #29). Fr. Neuhaus says that the “new atheism” growing in the world today has no real moral accountability. The atheist is unable to give compelling reasons defending the society (and the actions of the society where he lives).

I found American Babylon to be a thought-provoking and necessarily slow read in order to digest the many wise words of Fr. Neuhaus. Fr. Neuhaus definitely had a talent for engaging the public square on matters of religion and philosophy.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Year of the Priest

Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. … After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is” ~ St. John Mary Vianney, quoted in Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Clergy for the “Year of the Priest”

Starting Friday (6/19), Pope Benedict XVI will declare a “Year of the Priest” for the Church under the patronage of the Curé of Ars (St. John Vianney).

In addition to praying fervently for our priests, I hope to get in some good reading on the priesthood. Here are my (intended) reads so far:
Theology of the Priesthood by Fr. Jean Galot
The Curé of Ars Today by Fr. George William Rutler
The Curé of Ars by Father Bartholomew O’Brien
The Sermons of the Curé of Ars by St. John Vianney
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii by Pope Pius XI (encyclical letter)
Christ, the Life of the Priest by Blessed Columba Marmion
The Priest is Not His Own by Fulton J Sheen
The Priest in Union With Christ by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Tony Blair… did he convert or get stuck in the cafeteria?

Blair questions papal gay policy

The latest in the BBC news has Tony Blair questioning the Church’s stance (not merely Pope Benedict XVI, don’t let them fool you into such slippery thinking) on homosexuality. (FYI, here is what the Holy Father said in context)

It really irks me how people try to save face by playing down Church teachings, or worse, brushing them off as antiquated ideas that are due for an update. Especially a covert. For heaven’s sake, don’t convert if you don’t believe! Don’t say “Amen” if you don’t mean it. Or, as James puts it, “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no”. You don’t get to pick and choose what to believe by what is convenient for you, or what you happen to feel like abiding by. It’s either true or it isn’t.

Mr. Blair sets up this false dividing line between “the Church” (i.e. the Church leaders, he means) and “the Church” (i.e., some liberal all-embracing idea for the laity… there IS a mystical sense of the Church, but I highly doubt Mr. Blair knows or refers to this). The Church [leaders] say one thing, but the Church [laity] believe another, according to Mr. Blair. Well, here’s a NEWSFLASH: The Catholic Church has not ever been, nor will she ever be, a democracy. So that leaves Mr. Blair with two options: suck it up and embrace the wisdom of the Church after some serious study in which he discovers the true rationale for the Church’s teaching(s), or continue to make himself look foolish by complaining about something he can’t change.