Meet Pope Benedict (the Gothic Version)

RatzingerChandelierAnthony Grafton, a professor of history at Princeton University, has written a thoughtful summary of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings (The New Yorker, July 25). I apologize for my delay in mentioning this essay — it never appeared on The New Yorker‘s website, and the paper edition often reaches my home rather late in the publication week.

An illustration by Robert Risko depicts Ratzinger as a Pope Noferatu, clutching an inaccurately thick copy of The Ratzinger Report that’s marked with six small Post-It notes. Grafton’s profile is less prone to caricature, though he often returns to the image of Ratzinger as a man who prefers the shelter of “an enchanted castle of Latin song and prayer, intense and sacraments, which he has spent the rest of life exploring.”

Here is a key paragraph toward the end of Grafton’s essay:

In some sense, Ratzinger may be right: the form of our devotions certainly shapes our religious experience. Even in the secularized West, religions and denominations from Catholicism to Reform Judaism have found that a liturgy rich with music and cast in a sacred language continues to attract and hold worshippers. Yet Ratzinger’s passion for a particular world of Catholic beliefs and devotions is more than a recipe for a revived Catholic worship. His emotional vision underpins and buttresses at every point the doctrinal structures that he has made as a scholar. In the end, it determines what he can accept as suitable and what he rejects. As the organ and liturgy drown out the weaker voices of liberal critics, as the searchlight of orthodoxy retrospective reveals the errors of Leonardo Boff and other dissidents, the Pope and the magisterium — the centralized authority of Roman Catholic wisdom — have no need to look outside for enlightenment.

Print Friendly

  • Maureen

    The article says:
    “Yet Ratzinger’s passion for a particular world of Catholic beliefs and devotions is more than a recipe for a revived Catholic worship. His emotional vision underpins and buttresses at every point the doctrinal structures that he has made as a scholar. In the end, it determines what he can accept as suitable and what he rejects.”
    ————

    Other than the obligatory comment (“The Bible, the Tradition, and the Magisterium determine what he can accept as suitable and what he rejects!”), I don’t really argue with this. Why should I? Being Catholic means that the traditions with a small t and the emotional responses of the people are part of how God speaks to His Church. (Vox populi, vox Dei.) Of course they all feed into each other. Of course a new custom must be connected with the old, in rationale, usage and appearance, or be doomed to perish. Every little thing means something, and speaks of the God Who made everything — and Who means everything to us.

    Everything I’ve read by the man has been educational, thought-provoking, conscience-searching, and basically just plain holy — as well as perfectly in tune with everything else I’ve ever learned about my faith. To the point that several times, I could have kicked myself for not realizing something so obvious before — but nobody had pointed out that “obvious” implication before. I’m glad he’s our Holy Father, and I wish him long life and many encyclicals.

  • Pingback: The Japery

  • Aumgn

    God, it’s depressing. So many scholars like Grafton who you might just want to read for their great knowledge, taking pleasure in their erudition – an erudition in Grafton’s case worn in an especially winning manner – going and confirming themselves as pub philosophers with an opinion, typically wrong, about everything and anything.

  • Tom R

    See Traditions Are Like Wives: Good When Singular, Bad When Plural (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1968).

  • Pingback: CaNN :: We started it.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X