Via Media

Via Media

A post

posted by awelborn which we will gradually post various reactions to the encyclical, in between a mad dash to try to summarize it.

Ruth Gledhill of the Times UK surprises herself:

Every sentence, stop and comma speaks of orthodoxy. It is steeped in the tradition of the ancient Church. The Pope was former head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the body once known as the Inquisition. But this encyclical is not the work of an inquisitor. It is the work of a lover — a true lover of God.

The NYTimes surprises no one:

Headline: Benedict’s First Encyclical Shuns Strictures of Orthodoxy

Um….well, no one expects headline writers to understand much, I guess. But it’s a a very NYT headline, don’t you think? The article follows with various quotes from the usual suspects, but essentially misses, in its fascination with eros, the fundamental connection that’s being made here, that the love God pours out on us, embodied and reachable through Jesus, is a love we, in turn, share with others.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 11:08 am

I laughed when I saw the NYT headline. So the Holy Father doesn’t mention abortion and contraception in his Encyclical. He must be weakening!
And of course, when he does condemn abortion and contraception, as he will inevitably do, he’ll be accused of regression.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 11:20 am

Father Neuhaus in the First Things blog has a comment in line with this topic.
“As you might imagine, I spend a good deal of time talking with reporters. I usually don’t mind it. It comes with the territory. With notable exceptions, reporters are people of good will working hard to write a story that will please their editors. It is true that they are not always the sharpest knives in the drawer. These days most of them have gone to journalism school, or j-school, as it is called. In intellectual rankings at universities, journalism is just a notch above education, which is, unfortunately, at the bottom.
An eager young thing with a national paper was interviewing me about yet another instance of political corruption. “Is this something new?” she asked. “No,” I said, “it’s been around ever since that unfortunate afternoon in the garden.” There was a long pause and then she asked, “What garden was that?” It was touching.”
What prompts me to mention this today is that I’m just off the phone with a reporter from the same national paper. He’s doing a story on Pope Benedict’s new encyclical. In the course of discussing the pontificate, I referred to the pope as the bishop of Rome. “That raises an interesting point,” he said. “Is it unusual that this pope is also the bishop of Rome?” He obviously thought he was on to a new angle. Once again, I tried to be gentle. Toward the end of our talk, he said with manifest sincerity, “My job is not only to get the story right but to explain what it means.” Ah yes, he is just the fellow to explain what this pontificate and the encyclical really mean. It is poignant.”

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posted January 26, 2006 at 11:23 am

I thought this was a pretty good article. I wouldn’t expect a “theological” review of the teachings contained in the Encyclical from a major-circulation daily.
Overall, the tone of the article was very complementary to the Holy Father and to the Encyclical. Hopefully it will inspire some folks to read it who wouldn’t otherwise do so.
As far as the headline goes, I guess it wasn’t any more misleading than the heads on Judy Miller’s pieces.
I think “shuns” is misplaced, but I don’t think you can avoid the context in which this Encylical comes out: this Pope’s election was greeted by a chorus in some quarters of “now that Ratzinger’s the Pope, do you think he’ll finally be able to deal with . . . . ”
I also think “Orthodoxy” is misplaced. Is this Encyclical a departure from previous “programmatic” first Encyclicals? Or is Benedict telling us that “love” is the program for his Pontificate.

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Jay Anderson

posted January 26, 2006 at 11:33 am

This sentence tells you all you need to know about the NY Slimes story:
“Pope Benedict XVI presented Catholicism’s potential for good rather than imposing potentially divisive rules for orthodoxy.”
What a loaded statement – loaded with crap, that is.

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Karen LH

posted January 26, 2006 at 11:40 am

That’s ok. My husband saw something on Google News yesterday that said that the first half of the encyclical was written by John Paul II and was about chastity.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 11:51 am

Ruth Gledhill is the Times’ Religion correspondent. She attends an Anglo-Catholic parish.
She also co-wrote (with Times correspondent Richard Owen) another article. in today’s Times that includes some interesting information.

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Jay Anderson

posted January 26, 2006 at 11:54 am

“As far as the headline goes, I guess it wasn’t any more misleading than the heads on Judy Miller’s pieces.”
Is there any story onto which you don’t try to bootstrap the Plame issue?

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posted January 26, 2006 at 12:43 pm

Here are the topics I saw refuted in the encyclical:
1. Marxism
2. The Culture of Death
3. Misusage/distortion of human sexuality (via eros), to include homosexuality, fornication, abortion, contraception and prostitution
4. Liberation Theology
5. Protestant absolutization of “the flesh profits nothing…”
6. Islamic fundamentalism
7. The idea of a “Church-State”
How anyone could read this and think it is uncontroversial is beyond me, and I don’t think I’m reading more into this than was intended.
God Bless

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posted January 26, 2006 at 12:47 pm

“Ruth Gledhill is the Times’ Religion correspondent. She attends an Anglo-Catholic parish.”
Of the C of E?

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posted January 26, 2006 at 1:38 pm

Charity truly does cover a multitude of sins. :)

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Jeff Miller

posted January 26, 2006 at 1:43 pm

The part that made me laugh out loud was.
“Legitimate criticism will come from some feminist circles. Although it is biblical, some women will not be happy at being referred to as rib-made helpmeets”
Talk about missing the poing.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 1:50 pm

Yes, she is an Anglican. She’s a pro-female bishop enthusiast.
My earlier post included a link to another article that she co-wrote.
An excerpt:
“The first half — on love — was written by the Pope in his native German at his summer retreat of Castelgandolfo in the hills south of Rome. The second half, on charity, is a reworking of a draft text which John Paul II — Benedict’s mentor — did not have time to complete before his death.
Vatican sources said the merging of the two halves had proved problematic. ”
I’m sure I haven’t been paying enough attention to the pre-release buzz, but IS the second half of the encyclical based on an unpublished treatise by Pope John Paul II?

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posted January 26, 2006 at 3:26 pm

St. Ignatius Press? The Times remaions messy on details as well as biased with heads.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 3:31 pm

The New York Times seems overwhelmed that the Pope did not mention issues of homosexuality, divorce, abortion, contraception, etc. In fact, they seem to hope this Pope will now go easy on these issues. In reality, this encyclical lays the foundation to address these issues. The Church’s position on all these controversial topics can be drawn as a logical conclusion from the Pope’s discussion of authentic love. When Eros is unbridled, self-gratifying practices prevail. It takes the balance of Agape to bring Eros to its intended noble manifestation.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 3:46 pm

Denise is exactly right. The Pope’s new encyclical is describes the foundation for the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.
Interestingly, Andrew Sullivan gets it wrong in the same way the NYT did but worse. He reads the encyclical as giving “hope” that the Papacy can “change and grow” to the point that it will bless homosexual sex:
“I also, obviously, share Benedict’s wonder at conjugal love. I see no conflict between the love of two homosexual men or women for each other and the mystery of heterosexual love. One day, it would be wonderful to see this doctrine of love extend to all God’s creatures. … And yes, this does surprise me somewhat. It is not as extreme or as repressive as Benedict’s well-earned reputation. It is a sign, one hopes, of a papcy that can change and grow and concentrate on the central truths, not peripheral obsessions. For that, a great sigh of relief. And, even, yes, hope …”

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posted January 26, 2006 at 4:00 pm

Denise –
Exactly. What people seem to miss is that B16 is attacking from the front, not the rear. He seeks to remind people of the positive message that undergirds all the so-called “negativity” of the Church.
One thing I have found in argument: you will never persuade someone if you start off by disagreeing with them. You immediately become “the enemy” and after that their only interest is in finding ways to prove you wrong. If you want to truly persuade rather than just engage in vituperation (which, admittedly, can be fun…), you need to first find common ground. Once you are no longer “the enemy”, you are actually listened to, rather than just scanned for refutation. This is B16’s opening salvo in a plan to “kill them with kindness”…

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posted January 26, 2006 at 4:20 pm

How anyone could read this and think it is uncontroversial is beyond me, and I don’t think I’m reading more into this than was intended.
Ryan, that was my conclusion as well. I expected screaming headlines, not the ones we got. I can only assume that a whole lot of journalists didn’t understand it. I think Benedict addressed all of our current problems by addressing that which underlies all of them–our inability to define love, and thus our inability to define God, which leads to an inability to define ourselves.
Someone mentioned a difference in style between Part I and Part II. I picked up on that as well. Part I was innovative teaching in the sense that no pope has ever looked at love in this way. Part II seemed to be a rehashing of the usual social gospel homily that we’ve all heard many times before. For me at least, Part II weakened Part I, and I’m still struggling to overcome that reaction, because Part I is dynamite.
I wonder if the two parts really did have two different authors?

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posted January 26, 2006 at 4:31 pm

Dan said (at 3:46)
“Interestingly, Andrew Sullivan gets it wrong in the same way the NYT did but worse. He reads the encyclical as giving “hope” that the Papacy can “change and grow” to the point that it will bless homosexual sex”
But at least Andrew is finally coming to see (and tacitly acknowledge) the warmth and love that Benedict has ALWAYS had, even if he thinks those qualities have just developed in Benedict over the last couple of months!
That is a start.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 5:41 pm

Larry’s hopeful comment reminds me of the old joke attributed to Mark Twain:
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

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Richard the Adequate

posted January 26, 2006 at 6:10 pm

“It was touching…
…It is poignant”

Sheesh! Neuhaus is obviously losing it. He usually goes for the trifecta with “quaint”.
Early-onset Alzheimers maybe?
He’s sooo easy to pick-on. It’s almost criminal.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 6:11 pm

Carrie wrote –
“Part II seemed to be a rehashing of the usual social gospel homily that we’ve all heard many times before. For me at least, Part II weakened Part I, and I’m still struggling to overcome that reaction, because Part I is dynamite.”
These were initially my thoughts but the following excerpts show that Benedict perceives the threat of those who want to change the Church into a social service organization.
27 b . . . We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support
31 a . . . For this reason, it is very important that the Church’s charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance.
31 b . . . Christian charitable activity must be independent of parties and ideologies. It is not a means of changing the world ideologically, and it is not at the service of worldly stratagems, but it is a way of making present here and now the love which man always needs.
33. . .With regard to the personnel who carry out the Church’s charitable activity on the practical level, the essential has already been said: they must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love
37. It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 9:19 pm

Benedict perceives the threat of those who want to change the Church into a social service organization.
Yeah, and we know who they are, too. Even if we don’t talk about it.
Actually Part I is addressed to the same source if you are aware of all the ramifications of that source.
I hope they were listening. It looks like a line in the sand, sort of. I can’t imagine why the headlines were not screaming today. Perhaps the rebuttal will be more subtle than headlines would permit. May God be with him.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 9:25 pm

He said, however, that he hoped that the pope’s emphasis on love would make him more open to opposing views. “Loving your neighbors also means loving critical theologians, he said. “He also has to apply these ideas within the church itself.”
This is a pretty stupid quote, huh?
I’m sure that any parents out there will agree with me when I suppose that a parent can love a child but still feel the need to reprimand him when he does wrong.

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posted January 26, 2006 at 10:09 pm

Hi Amy, hi everyone.
I read Deus Caritas Est late last night, when everything was quiet and I was alone with Il Papa’s words.
It is magnificent.
To be honest, I do believe that he wrote all of it … as to the “involvement” of John Paul the Beloved in this Encyclical, it is entirely possible that they spoke about this topic when JPII was still with us; after all, their weekly dinners are a well-known truth. It could be that if this is what happened, the memory of that particular discussion was one of the things that inspired Il Papa to write Deus Caritas Est. I haven’t been able to read all of JPII’s encyclicals, but I did read “Veritatis Splendor”, and believe me, the style of writing there is markedly different from the style of writing in Deus Caritas Est.
Out of all the eloquent, moving and thought-provoking words I read, however, there is one paragraph which struck me as particularly poignant:
“There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).” (Par. 35)
There are echoes here of Il Papa’s first statement to the world on April 19, 2005, at the Loggia:
“After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.”
And then, there is this:
“Certainly Job could complain before God about the presence of incomprehensible and apparently unjustified suffering in the world. In his pain he cried out: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! … I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? … Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me” (23:3, 5-6, 15-16). Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). We should continue asking this question in prayerful dialogue before his face: “Lord, holy and true, how long will it be?” (Rev 6:10). It is Saint Augustine who gives us faith’s answer to our sufferings: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus”—”if you understand him, he is not God.”[35] Our protest is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that “perhaps he is asleep” (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.” (Par. 38)
This echoes a portion on Job in “God and the World”, wherein the then Cardinal Ratzinger was speaking of how faith sees us through the darkest times of our lives.
I say again, Deus Caritas Est is magnificent. It is a perfect combination of firmness and compassion … it is truly a father’s letter to his children, and anyone who has ever said that Joseph Ratzinger does not know how to be compassionate, does not understand what it is to be pastoral, and cannot comprehend what it is to be human, will surely see how wrong they all were.
Deus Caritas Est is Joseph Ratzinger looking out at all of us, through the eyes of Love.

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David B

posted January 27, 2006 at 1:30 pm

The headline in my local paper regarding the encyclical said, “Pope’s encyclical warns against sex”
No bias there.

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posted January 28, 2006 at 1:21 pm

With regard Fr. Neuhaus’ remark about journalism schools, I’m certainly glad that I live in Missouri. The few people who I know here who are journalists, or aspiring journalists and writers, including one son–are very intent on getting their facts straight and knowing what they are talking about. They often do not come from religious backgrounds and their high school educations have not given them the religious vocabulary to deal with complicated (or even, not so complicated) theological or ecclesiological distinctions. This situation leads to howlers that Fr. N. has encountered. The students at Mizzou and many younger people don’t have the vocabulary, often because their course work doesn’t give them enough time for theology classes, at even an undergraduate level. My sons and my students would not be in that category. I think that Fr. N.’s sort of condescending language is his genuine attempt to be grandfatherly and maybe, exercising, uh, what the latest papal letter is about. As for schools of education; again, it depends on the school. I was with a group of junior high public school teachers (my wife’s colleagues) at a white elephant party last evening; and I must say that I have never been with so many well informed, intelligent and caring men and women–of all ages. And this is true of the staff of every school where my wife has worked and there have been many; this is certainly also true with regard to the people at every Catholic school I know of. Generalization is a “vice” that often accompanies a fine mind like Fr. N’s; and I am certain that he too realizes that a good way with words and a sharp intelligence can make for some rhetorical excess and get you into trouble. A. Greeley should know that. But, hey, they’re in good company, the same thing happened to St. Augustine.

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