Thursday, January 12, 2012

Concepts of Benedict XVI

I read before Christmas that the Pope was more than a little indifferent to some artist who was fussing about a portrait. The artist reminded the Pope "A picture is worth a thousand words". The Holy Father replied, "Ah, but a single concept is worth a thousand pictures".

What are the key concepts Benedict XVI has been proposing? What are the ideas will endure from this Papacy and become his legacy?

The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is the first and foremost concept. It is The Big Idea. We see this most notably in the document he issued in 2000 as Prefect of the CDF Dominus Jesus.

In many ways the work he had done as a young priest during the Council in preparing the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum already set the foundations of Dominus Jesus. Dei Verbum took into account modern biblical criticism, which from the second half of the 19th century had struck at the very heart of the trustworthiness of Revelation and reduced active faith to a mere somewhat sceptical assent or often non-assent to doctrinal propositions, it is Modernism and its slightly more sophisticated sister Liberal Relativist. It is defeating this that is Benedict's life work and legacy.

A crucial part of Dominus Jesus is not only the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the trustworthiness of Revelation but also of the uniqueness and trustworthiness of the Catholic Church. his emphasis on reading the Second Vatican Council in terms of the continuity underpins this and for all the fuss made about Summorum Pontificum its prime purpose is to underline the continuity of the Church.


Matthew said...

Why Assisi then? It is not as if His Holiness proclaimed the exclusive uniqueness of Jesus loud and clear there.

Shane said...

Yes the theme of continuity has been central to his pontificate. John Paul II by contrast seemed to think that the changes in the Church were largely a good thing and felt comfortable with them.

Michael1 said...

One of the odd things about this blog is that subscribers seem sometimes to assume that the Holy Father is someone trying to turn the clock back to past centuries.

There seems to be an assumption among some - not all - that the Pope's appeal to tradition is a call to preserve the past in aspic.

Clearly that is not the case on any careful reading of his work. Continuity is not to be understood as stasis. Tradition is something which needs continual revisiting and reconsideration if it is not to be dead dogma. In his theology, the Holy Father looks for the critical re-examination of tradition.

Aidan Nicols, in his study of the Pope's theology says:

' so describing Tradition as the perpetuation of everything the Church is and believes, the Council [this was the Pope's contemporary view], the Council had failed tom ake room, as Ratzinger notes,for a judicious criticism of particular elements within Tradition. He considered that ... the Council Fathers would have been better advised to work out criteria for the possible - even necessary - criticism of tradition within the Church.'

[Me again] Neither should it be thought that he rejects in the wholesale way this particular item might be inferred to suggest (perhaps a misreading) the merits of Biblical scholarship. The Pope's own work clearly demonstrates the emphasis placed by German scholars on Christ's preaching the coming kingdom (see Schweitzer, Reimarus et al.)His whole approach attempts to make sense of the traditional scholarly division between the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith. Of the study of scripture, the Pope says:

'...only by listening to the whole history of interpretation can the present be purified by criticism and so brought into a position of genuine encounter with the text concerned.'

[Me again]. This Pope has a much richer and far more nuanced approach - and a much less fundamentalist 'Catholic' - vision than those neo-traditionalists who try to make him in their own image would allow. He recognises that the Holy Spirit did not cease to speak to a Pilgrim Church in 1870.

Jacobi said...


You are absolutely right.

Benedict has shown us the way forward with his concept of Continuity.

He has also defined the "ecclesial crisis", as he puts it, as being a result of the collapse of the liturgy.

The restoration of the Tridentine Mass and the Reform of the Reform of the Novus Ordo, now under way, are his answers to this crisis.

But it will take time.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, quite right. Pope Benedict's theology is dynamic, not static and certainly not chilled in aspic, it is exactly what VII calls for when it says theology should be rooted in scriptures and the Fathers.
Personally, I see Benedict as a modern "Father".

Sixupman said...

BXVI's greatest asset and greatest, in one sense, failing is his being imbued with great Charity!

EuropeanCatholic said...

He is a wonderful Pope.

We are so fortunate to have him.

I wonder if he will be a Doctor of the Church one day.

His writings emphasise the beauty of knowing God and the primacy of friendship with God, with the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, the God with a Human Face as B16 likes to say.

Long live the Pope!

Anagnostis said...

Here's a real Father:

"Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything" (St Gregory of Nyssa).

I'm with the portrait painter, and the Incarnation.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think that Logos could be translated as "Concept".

Gregary Geoghan said...

I too read the article you refer to although I cant remember exactly where now. I found the most interesting part was towards the end which you have not included. Benedict may or may not be considered a great teaching pope although, as the article states, we will have to wait for the judgement of history to determine the extent of this quality. However the mark of his papacy has been the lack of leadership which is consistent with his 'hands off' approach as a bishop. This lack of leadership has resulted in a lack of policy consistency and in-fighting among the various vatican departments.

Gratias said...

Benedict is indeed a blessing for the Church. He does not lack leadership, he seeks to convince through reason. In the present world imposing authority would probably be futile.

This teaching Pope is the best we could have hoped for, so pray he lives long.

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