Thursday, April 28, 2005

he can't be as bad as they say...

I knew there was another reason why I liked our new Pope...

That's probably a Sam Adams he's got there, right?

words mean things

As the media searches for words to describe (define? categorize? caricature?) Pope Benedict XVI I find myself questioning on two levels:

1. Do those who write about him actually know him? Have they heard him at length and on different topics? Have they read (and understood!!) what the man has written throughout his long academic and ecclesial career? Or are we getting mostly hand-me-down opinions from journalists and 'analysts' too far removed from their subject to be truly informative?

2. Are the words commonly draped on Pope Ratzinger in the media even applicable? Terms like conservative or liberal, right-wing or left-wing, hardline or centrist, traditionalist or progressive, hawkish or moderate... are rooted in a VERY American political context and may not be terribly useful for expressing who he is, what he thinks and what challenges he and the Church are facing.

In an op-ed piece in Sunday's NY Times, Jason Berry calls Benedict XVI “a theologian of fundamentalist convictions”.

Wow. Berry either doesn't know what fundamentalist means or is unfamiliar with Ratzinger's theology.

If it's the former, fundamentalism is ‘rigid or irrational adherence to a small number of clearly defined principles to the exclusion of all other truths or viewpoints’.

If it's the latter, I strongly recommend some of Ratzinger's signature theological works, such as, Truth and Tolerance, In the Beginning, Called to Communion, Introduction to Christianity, The Nature and Mission of Theology, Principles of Catholic Theology, Eschatology, Why I remain in the Church and Behold the Pierced One. There are many more, but I'll stick to the ones on my bookshelf for now.

I have found in Ratzinger's writings to be thoughtful and progressive (yup, progressive: forward looking, daring), expansive in vision and open-ended in the conclusions he draws. Those who limit themselves to asking (ad nauseam!) what the Pope thinks about women as priests, gay marriage and the practicality of celibacy have no idea what they're missing.

He is not an easy read, and therefore, the epithets that are so easily thrown around when Benedict XVI is mentioned are both improper and annoying.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

that which we are, we are

Looking for something else, I chanced upon Tennyson's Ulysses (1842) one evening last week. I can't remember reading it since high school, so I reread it. Slowly. Wonderful stuff.

We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
I might just e mail it over to our new Pope. To have a responsibility as intimidating as the papal office thrust upon you at the age of 78, when retirement and rest would be more in order, requires a valiant heart.

Speaking of the Pope, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough expressed his chagrin at joining the 'lemmings' of the media who forsaw a violent rejection by American Catholics of Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pontiff. Yesterday ABC cited a full 81% of those polled as pleased with the choice of the new Pope, while only 13% claimed to be disappointed.

Kudos for Scarborough.

I, however, remain suspicious of polls, even when in agreement with their results.

some work of noble note may yet be done...

There is a certain vulnerability that comes with being a Catholic priest. It is, I think, essential to the vocation. In order to truly be what he is called to be, the priest must not have recourse to the masks and disguises that others can use to hide their frailties and failures. That is perhaps his most severe renunciation.

The quest for authenticity is everything. If respect and understanding for the Catholic priesthood has fallen dramatically in our day, I suspect it has to do with the abandonment of its essential truth by those of us who have embraced it. If our credibility is tarnished, we have tarnished it.

"What an excellent day for an exorcism!"

I am a Catholic priest, forty-something, who has spent the last 24 years - except for a brief interval - outside the USA. Part of that time was spent studying in Europe, part (the last 15) was spent as a missionary in Latin America. I now minister to a latino community in my home diocese in New England.

Much has changed. The essential stays the same. I guess that's what essential means.

This weblog is my way of obliging myself to organize and express my thoughts coherently... for my own benefit, if for no one else's. The scrawls and half-thoughts of my handwritten journal are too unsupervised to be taken very seriously. At least this way I'll be careful of my spelling.

Curiosity and integrity. That's all I can promise on this blog, for as long as it lasts.

Feel free to educate me.