Samuel Gregg, author and Research Director at the Acton Institute, has two good pieces out today about Pope Benedict XVI. The first, on NRO's The Corner (ht: Steve C.) is about the fifth anniversary of the Holy Father's address at Regensburg:
To say that Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture was one of this century’s pivotal speeches is probably an understatement. It’s not every day a half-hour lecture generates mass protests and is subject to hundreds of learned (and not-so-learned) analyses for weeks on end.
In retrospect, however, we can see Regensburg taught us many things. Leaving aside the response of parts of the Middle East, reactions elsewhere underscored most Western intellectuals’ sheer ineptness when writing about religion. One well-known American Jesuit, for instance, opined that Regensburg illustrated how Benedict hadn’t yet transitioned from being a theologian to pope — as if popes should only deliver the type of banal poll-tested addresses we expect from most politicians.
More seriously, Regensburg shattered the inconsequential niceties that had hitherto typified most Catholic-Muslim discussions. Instead of producing more happy-talk, Benedict indicated that such conversations could no longer avoid more substantial, more difficult questions: most notably, how Christianity and Islam understand God’s nature. Regensburg reminded us that it matters whether God is essentially Logos (Divine Reason) or Voluntas (Pure Will). The first understanding facilitates civilizational development, true freedom, and a complete understanding of reason. The second sows the seeds of decline, oppression, and unreason.
But perhaps above all, Regensburg asked the West to look itself in the mirror and consider whether some of its inner demons reflected the fact that it, like the Islamic world, was undergoing an inner crisis: one which was reducing Christian faith to subjective opinion, natural reason to the merely measurable, and love to sentimental humanitarianism. The West, Benedict suggested, was in the process of a closing of its own mind.
Read the entire post, "Benedict at Regensburg: Why It Still Matters". The second piece, "Benedict Among the Germans", is on the American Spectator site, and looks at the Pope's upcoming trip to his native Germany:
In one sense, the Church is extremely present in everyday German life. It is after all one of Germany's biggest employers. Amply funded by a church tax levied on all Germans who identify themselves as Catholic, the Church runs thousands of educational institutions, hospitals, retirement homes, foreign aid programs, and so on.
It has, however, also become heavily bureaucratized -- something to which Benedict alludes in his interview-book Light of the World. Nor is it clear what distinguishes many German Catholic institutions from those of a more secularist bent. Moreover, by no means do all the people working in the Church's numerous agencies profess to be faithful Christians.
Some years ago, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne openly wondered why the German Church employed so many people who were at best indifferent, if not quietly hostile, to Christian belief and evangelization. For asking this commonsense question, Meisner was pilloried by the secular press and assorted celebrity-theologians.
From this standpoint, bureaucratization is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in German Catholicism. And that problem boils down to one thing: a failure on the part of many German Catholics to teach the Catholic faith because of the distance they've put between themselves and the truth-claims of that faith.
Anyone who reads German theological journals will tell you that much of Germany's Catholic theological establishment sits rather loosely towards orthodox Catholicism. Much of it seems more intent on deconstructing that faith than illuminating its principles.
It's also true that they and many other German Catholics are now essentially liberal Protestants in the way they view Christianity and the world. And liberal Protestantism is, as the legal historian Harold J. Berman (himself a mild Baptist) once wrote, merely one step away from agnosticism.
Read the entire article. I, for one, am looking forward very much to Benedict's addresses in Germany.
For further reading:
• Biography of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
• Jesus of Nazareth (Part 2)
• Other Recent Books by Pope Benedict XVI
• All books by or about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
• Excerpts from books by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
• Articles about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI