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Posts Tagged ‘Benedict XVI’

Like everyone else, I was surprised by the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. But apparently unlike many, this announcement did not strike me as extraordinary. Rather, I was surprised to learn how unusual papal resignation has been throughout history.

It is more difficult for me to understand why fewer have resigned than it is to understand why Pope Benedict XVI would do so. The Pope has life tenure in office. But the purpose of life tenure–to guarantee independence–is compatible with voluntary resignation of office. The Petrine office is demanding in many ways. When its current holder freely arrives at the conclusion that he can no longer carry out all the demands of office, it is entirely appropriate for him to resign.

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God and the World is the second book that arose out of conversations between Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Peter Seewald. (The first was Salt of the Earth.) Here are a couple of excerpts from their conversations, on the general topic of flexibility, vocation, and following one’s inclinations:

[Seewald] People nowadays, in contrast to these disciples following Christ, have the idea that they can work out their path, put their lives together, by their own unaided efforts. They think that in any case no one has any clear identity any longer. Life is a flowing stream of illusions, according to what task or what scenario confronts us–or what desire. An either-or decision is in any case passé in the modern world; instead of that there is the new possibility of neither-nor.

[Ratzinger] Flexibility has become the all-sufficient watchword. we want to be able to react to new demands, and we hope, by changing jobs fast, to be able to climb the ladder as quickly and as high as possible. But I think there are still callings that demand the whole of a person. Being a doctor, for instance, or a teacher, is not something I can do just for two or three years, but is a calling that requires my whole lifetime. That is to say, even today there are tasks that are not a job that runs alongside my life, so to speak, in order to ensure I have money to live on. For a true calling, income is not the criterion, but the practicing of some skill in the service of mankind.

* * *

[Seewald] To stay with paths in life: many people have the notion that their life is a kind of film. And in this biographical filmstrip they suppose they should be able to make all the cuts and supervise the production of each scene themselves. One cannot avoid the thought: Why should I go out of my way in life, make special efforts, seek anything out, show self-control or faithfulness? That is, set out on this difficult path that the disciples follow with Jesus. Why should my life not just be simple and easy?

[Ratzinger] That is something only those people can afford who are born to luxury. That is a fantasy of people with property, which takes no account of the fact that, for the great majority of mankind, life is a struggle. On those grounds I would see this idea of choosing one’s own path in life as a selfish attitude and a waste of one’s vocation.

Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so that he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him. We all stand in a great arena of history and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following one’s inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring, anyway. Only the man who “risks the fire,” who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. As we have said, it is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.

Source: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Peter Seewald, God and the World, trans. Henry Taylor, Ignatius Press 2002.

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From Pope Benedict XVI’s address at Regensburg:

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which – as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated – unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, “transcends” knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul – “λογικη λατρεία”, worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom12:1).

This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history – it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

Thanks to Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice for the pointer.

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In connection with World Youth Day 2011, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a gathering of university professors. In comments that also touched on his own experience as a university professor, Benedict described the role of the university as “the ‘house’ where one seeks the truth proper to the human person.” He linked this understanding of the university to the Gospel message, which “perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality.”

Some more key language from Pope Benedict’s remarks:

At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability. This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the University. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the University, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.

In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the “house” where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.

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