Distinctly Catholic

Ratzinger's Faith: Part III


The Church is often portrayed as a stern moralizing agent, hurling anathemas against people, fixated on sin, especially sexual sin, and Joseph Ratzinger is also often portrayed as Exhibit A in that indictment. He did not earn the title der panzerkardinal for nothing, right?

But, as early as 1964, as Tracey Rowland points out in her book “Raztinger’s Faith,” which I have been examining the past few days, Ratzinger was concerned about the reduction of religion to ethics. Preaching to a group involved with student chaplaincy at the cathedral of Munster, Raztinger asked: “What is the real substance of Christianity that goes beyond mere moralism?”

Ratzinger's Faith: Part II


In continuing our examination of Tracey Rowland’s book, “Ratzinger’s Faith,” begun yesterday, we turn as she does to one the Second Vatican Council’s most emblematic documents, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, or Gaudium et Spes. Even the title of the document was novel: The document was not, like Lumen Gentium, a doctrinal constitution, but because the Council Fathers wanted to highlight its significance they devised this hybrid name, a pastoral constitution.

Worst Column (So Far) on Gay Marriage


Garry Wills takes to the online pages of the New York Review of Books, a venue that you would think might require some standards of cogent thought for publication, to make a very curious argument about same sex marriage. He suggests that the Catholic Church's view that marriage is a sacrament is simply a medieval "fiction." He makes this point by way of voicing his support for same sex marriage.

Hmmmmm. I can see that there is an argument, although not a Catholic argument, that there is no such thing as the development of doctrine and so the organic growth of the Church's teaching over the centuries is, per se, invalid. I can see, too, that there is a case to be made, although I have yet to see a convincing one so far, that the doctrine of the Church does develop and that such doctrine should now develop to encompass same-sex marriage. But, I cannot understand Wills' argument which seems to be that the only developments that are legitimate are those that end up agreeing with him. A magisterium of one, and on the pages of the New York Review. Who knew?

Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept.


Everyone likes to denounce the increasingly bitter tone of our nation's political life. But, voters in New York's 16th Assembly district are in for a unqiuely ugly fight. The incumbent, State Rep. Michelle Schimel, is being challenged by her husband. The couple separated last year but are not yet divorced. Forget the pay-per-view wrestling: The debates in this election contest are going to be soimething to watch in the annals of human conflict!

Happy Feast


Today is the feast of St. Dymphna, patron saint of mental illness and nervous disorders. As you can well imagine, I have long been intrigued by her cult and once made a pilgrimage to her shrine in Geel, Belgium. Obviously, it did not do much good!

Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan Irish king and a Christian woman. When her mother died, her father said he would only marry a woman as beautiful as his deceased wife and the only woman who fit the bill was his daughter. Horrified, she fled with her priest, Father Gereburnus, to the mainland. Her father tracked them down and beheaded her in the town where her shrine is today. In the Middle Ages, a hospital was built to care for the mentally infirm in the town and her cult became associated with the humane treatment of the mentally ill ever since.

Ratzinger's Faith


I first became acquainted with the writings of Tracey Rowland in the pages of the Tablet, where she is a fairly regular contributor. I am not sure why I did not see her book “Ratzinger’s Faith” when it was published by Oxford Press in 2008. But, I saw it at a local bookstore this past winter, bought it, and put it on my list of books to read. I completed it last weekend and highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the theological pedigree and distinctive theological perspectives of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

GOP Hearts Ryan, But Not Really


The Washington Post ran an interesting story today about Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R - N.Y.) appearing before constituents and being asked about Paul Ryan's budget, which Buerkle voted for. Buerkle was speaking to a mostly older crowd and they were especially concerned about the proposed changes to Medicare. As the article details, Buerkle was clear that the changes would not affect those currently on Medicare, although presumably, if the elders in the audience really like the program, they would want their children and grandchildren to benefit from it also.

Against Scientism


The New Republic has published an elegant and important essay by Philip Kitcher defending the importance of the Humanities and History as forms of human knowledge without which our world would be impoverished and less than humane. I came across it this weekend, before reading Pope Benedict's homily at Arezzo, but it is not difficult to see how Kitcher and Benedict would have something to talk about.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017