A Look Back At An Extraordinary Month

Hugh Hewitt is raising an eyebrow as he links to the LA Times’ review of John Allen’s new book on Pope Benedict XVI. I think the review is as fair as anything written in the LA Times can be – they will always throw their bones to the left and make sure they get in a jab here or there.

Allen’s book is entitled The Rise of Benedict XVI The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church, and I am sure, since it is John Allen that it will be researched to the last dotted eye and crossed t, and it sounds like it will be reassuring for any who are “afraid” of this pope who seems very brilliant, very shy and extraordinarily pastoral.

But since we’re talking about Benedict XVI, I thought you might enjoy reading this really rather exquisite piece written shortly after his elevation, by a young medical student in the UK, and which asks the question: WHY ARE WE AFRAID OF BENEDICT. Not only does she capture the installation mass beautifully, and remind us of how beautifully the Holy Spirit seemed to be stirring the whole world, but she looks around at the world and sees just why he is so “frightening” for so many. Hint: He addresses it himself, in his homily, as this writer, Victoria, points out:

Who do you want to be associated with? Those who believe in love, gentleness, abnegation, or those who believe in lies, power, and fear?

[Pope Benedict says:] “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.”

I’m sure the secularists of this world must be seething at this not-so-veiled anti-evolution, pro-life message.

[Pope Benedict says:] “And the account of the 153 large fish ends with the joyful statement: ‘although there were so many, the net was not torn’ (Jn 21:11). Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn! But no – we must not be sad!”

He acknowledges that the Church has its problems, and it has reached mass exodus in some areas. But nets can be mended.

[Pope Benedict says:] “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?”

How haunting.

This is what all post-modern people, myself included, feel about rules and regulations: that it takes away your freedom by imposing limits to it. And we’re just too used to having them.

[Pope Benedict says:] “Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.”

I can’t believe how honest he is. And how he answers his own question by giving us strength through our choice, if only we make it.

…Where some offer judgementless self-help, he counters with intellectual spirituality.

Where some suggest primacy of the communal, he reminds us of the singular path to faith.

And where some want to have validated their philosophies, their achievements, their world views, he makes them realise they haven’t achieved as much as they thought.

Worse than that, their prime of life is slipping away before they have had a real chance to change things. To reform, to reinvent, to make their own. It’s clear to them, their window of opportunity is being shut. For the Me-Generation, he represents the ultimate They. The They long-since thought overcome.

Very insightful young lady – Go read it all – you’ll enjoy! And I just stumbled across this oldie but goodie which was kind of fun to re-read!

And of course, it will come as no surprise to you that John Allen’s book is at the top of my Bookshelf (scroll down the sidebar). If you order it from Amazon via my site, all monies realized from the sale of books, DVD’s etc are donated to the hospice which took such loving care of my brother in his last days. I thank you for how great you folks are about buying thru my site!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • hope

    You know, I’d be much happier reading the med student’s piece about Pope Benedict if the recent issue with regard to the Vatican and terror vis-à-vis Israel hadn’t made me, as a Catholic, feel more than uncomfortable.

    As you may recall, the Vatican’s response to Israel’s complaint that the Pope failed to include the July 12 terrorist attack in Netanya, Israel, in his condemnation of other recent terror attacks.

    This statement has received deserved criticism; see, for example, Melanie Phillips:

    “So to the Pope, Jewish victims are invisible — because he doesn’t like the fact that Israel defends itself. Far from undoing the consequences of its dark tradition in its dealings with the Jews, Christianity now seems hell-bent on reviving it.”

    Especially in light of the recent moves for divestment by the Anglican Church and the demand by the Disciples of Christ that Israel remove its security barrier, isn’t this comment by the Vatican worth a fuller discussion?

    Melanie Phillips quotes from today’s BBC Thought for the Day given by Clifford Longley, who recently attended the annual conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews in Chicago:

    “Thirty years ago when I first started going to conferences like this there would have been many Jewish people there who had themselves survived the concentration camps, many Christians who had fought Hitler personally. It was a shared bond, not just psychologically but spiritually. That generation, united in seeing Israel as a Jewish refuge from persecution, has more or less passed. Christian responsibility for the pre-war rise in antisemitism no longer brings an automatic sense of shame, or colours how Christians see their duty towards the Jews. Good relations with Muslims, they would insist, are just as important as Christian relations with Jews.

    Yes and No to that, I would say. It is too soon to forget what centuries of what is called the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews did to the Christian soul of Europe. It is a religious obligation – or to put it another way, it is what God wants – that Christians should try to undo the consequences of that dark tradition. That means denouncing anything that seems to call in question Israel’s right to exist.”

  • hope

    Sorry — the second paragraph above should read:

    As you may recall, the Vatican’s response to Israel’s complaint that the Pope failed to include the July 12 terrorist attack in Netanya, Israel, in his condemnation of other recent terror attacks has received deserved criticism …

    And I should have included this as well:

    From the Vatican press office:

    VATICAN CITY, JUL 29, 2005 (VIS) – Following comments made by Nimrod Barkan, an Israeli foreign ministry official, which appeared in the Jerusalem Post newspaper on July 26, the Holy See Press Office issued the following note yesterday afternoon:

    “The untenability of the groundless accusations directed against Pope Benedict XVI for not having mentioned – in comments following the Angelus prayer on July 24 – the July 12 terrorist attack in Netanya, Israel, cannot but be clear to the people who made them. Perhaps it is also for this reason that an attempt has been made to uphold the accusations by shifting attention to supposed silences of John Paul II on attacks against Israel in past years, even inventing repeated Israeli government petitons to the Holy See on the subject, and requesting that with the new pontificate the Holy See change its attitude.

    “On this matter, it should be noted that:

    “John Paul II’s declarations condemning all forms of terrorism, and condemning single acts of terrorism committed against Israel, were numerous and public.

    “Not every attack against Israel could be followed by an immediate public condemnation. There are various reasons for this, among them the fact that attacks against Israel were sometimes followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the norms of international law. It would, consequently, have been impossible to condemn the former and remain silent on the latter.

    “Just as the Israeli government understandably does not allow its pronouncements to be dictated by others, neither can the Holy See accept lessons and directives from any other authority concerning the orientation and contents of its own declarations.”

  • TheAnchoress

    I’m not yet that concerned about the anger of some from the rather extremist and particularly touchy edge of Judaism, and I say that having a deep respect for Judaism as being part of my own heritage. No one who has read me would suggest I am an anti-semite.

    That said, before this brouhaha, Benedict has already committed to meet with the head Rabbis in Germany and visit a Temple in Cologne. I think Benedict will have plenty to say to the Jews, and I suspect it will be messages they are glad to hear…I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt. He didn’t mention Israel as terror victims. The press and one corner of the Jewish world made a stink. He’s also made it clear he is not going to has his remarks dictated to him by anyone, which I applaud. A mere oversight may be fodder for the press and others, but good for him that he didn’t then immediately bow down in tears and contrition and allow the world to tell him what he MUST say.

    I’m willing to see how things play out.

  • hope

    Two points:
    1)
    I hardly think that Nimrod Barkan, head of the Israeli foreign ministry’s Jewish affairs bureau, and Rome’s Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, qualify as being “from the rather extremist and particularly touchy edge of Judaism.”
    Mr. Barkan was the one who first took issue with the Pope’s omission of Israel, and Rabbi Di Segni said the Pope was acting like “a political institution, with precise interests to protect in the chess game of the Middle East.” See coverage in the Daily Telegraph.

    2)
    It was a “mere oversight”? Come on.

  • TheAnchoress

    Sorry, but there is nothing in Ratzinger’s writings, or his background, that would suggest he is an anti-semite and I am not ready to concede it to my Jewish brothers and sisters. As I said, I’m willing to see how things play out. We’ll have to agree to disagree! :-)

  • hope

    I also don’t think Pope Benedict has anti-Semitic leanings. Sorry if what I said above implied this. I just think his not mentioning Israel along with other places attacked by terrorists was a very bad move.
    As Clifford Longley said in the quote I included from his BBC Thought for the Day:
    “It is a religious obligation – or to put it another way, it is what God wants – that Christians should try to undo the consequences of that dark tradition [i.e., the teaching of contempt towards Jews].”
    In the current situation, I think that means clearly stating that the suicide bombers in Israel are not “freedom fighters” and not giving the slightest appearance of moral equivalency. And this I think the Vatican did when it said:
    “Not every attack against Israel could be followed by an immediate public condemnation. There are various reasons for this, among them the fact that attacks against Israel were sometimes followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the norms of international law. It would, consequently, have been impossible to condemn the former and remain silent on the latter.”

  • TheAnchoress

    Hope -

    I think this article by John Allen may go a little ways toward clarifying the issues re some of your concerns:


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