Pope Benedict XVI
Jacques Dupuis was not a likely suspect for the charge of endangering the church’s doctrine. But at the end of his career he found himself ensnared in doctrinal disagreements that took a personal toll.
Despite Evangelical Catholicism’s hectoring tone and the particular set of political judgments into which it straitjackets John Paul II, readers ultimately can’t afford to ignore George Weigel.
Catholics at both ends of the ideological spectrum look to a new pope for encouragement. And from the moment he made his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s, Francis seems to have given nearly everyone a reason to cheer. But whatever the direction in which the new pope steers the church, U.S. Catholics struggling to make a life of faith in what is admittedly a vertiginous moral and cultural landscape will continue to take surprising turns, confounding the usual categories.
In winning election as Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio defied the papal pundits, even though they should have seen him coming. His rise marks the decisive shift within Roman Catholicism toward Latin America and the developing world.
What can the next pope learn from Benedict, and what should we seek from him? Our special series concludes with new stories from William L. Portier and Richard R. Gaillardetz.
The humility of Benedict's decision to give up power will affect future papacies, all to the good.
John Thavis presents many stories that will make you laugh. Others may make you cry.
Divisions in the church are usually seen as mimicking those of secular politics. Conservatives or traditionalists are pitted against liberals or progressives. But Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican friar and the former head of his order, suggests a more fruitful way to understand the Catholic split.
Evaluations of Benedict's tenure have balanced the pros and cons of his deeds according to the lights of the balancer. What is untallied, except for his failure to unmistakably demand accountability in regard to clerical sexual abuse, is what has remained undone. Underlying conditions like the limitations of the clergy or the eroding credibility of church teachings on sexuality are no better than when he took office.
Even Benedict's most ardent supporters concede that his papacy has been marred by too many scandals and too many gaffes. And the courtly secrecy surrounding the deliberations to elect the next pope provides a reminder of the lack of transparency and accountability in the operations of the entire hierarchy.
Now It's Rome's Turn
Benedict, Eight Years Later
This is the long-term historical context of the papacy Benedict XVI will resign: one that became more monarchical in the nineteenth century (as a reaction against the democratization of modern political systems), and that is now more centralized than ever before—despite Vatican II.
Benedict is a traditionalist who was affected by modernity. He would not be troubled that he had to reach far back to find a precedent for papal resignation. He knows that a pope hobbled by sickness and weakness would be a dispiriting symbol in a media age. Then again, perhaps his traditionalism inclined him to this decision.
Ongoing News, Analysis & Opinion
In October 1963, Bishop Luigi Bettazzi addressed the Second Vatican Council on the need for collegiality. He was the newest bishop participant and, at thirty-nine, one of the youngest. Now eighty-nine, Bettazzi is the most active of the five surviving Italian participants, keeping faith with the council by writing and lecturing about it tirelessly.
There are few women in the pantheon of great jazz instrumentalists, and even fewer jazz performers in the pantheon of great Catholic artists. Mary Lou Williams was both. Yet even though she composed three Masses, jazz has yet to find a more central place in the liturgical life of the Catholic Church in America.
Revisiting ‘Economic Justice for All’
The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia
A Partisan Abuse of the Church’s Moral Teachings
Translating Moral Principle into Public Policy
There are currently several different, sometimes contending ways of being Catholic. To some degree that has always been so. The notion of the church as a rigorously disciplined and monolithic enterprise is largely myth, and modern myth to boot. What is not myth is the dramatic change in the self-understanding of Catholics brought about by the Second Vatican Council.
A closer look at what happened during the pope's visit to Cuba this year, and how this trip differed from John Paul II's in 1998.
What the CDF Gets Wrong about the LCWR
In the days after Vatican II, confession slipped its old juridical moorings, with its distinctive laws, regulations, judgment, and penance. At the moment it is searching for new moorings. What will confession look like once it finds them?
The small-government movement has created resistance to the reasonable proposals in the recent Vatican statement on financial reform. Yet, separate from the many strengths of the statement and the many problems in the way it’s been received in this country, there remains a significant hole in official Catholic social teaching on the economy.
Robert Barron's 'Catholicism'
The trouble with the new Roman Missal
The liturgical wars heat up
It's time for St. John XXIII
If George Weigel had lived in nineteenth-century France, he would have been termed an ultramontane—one who looked beyond the Alps to Rome. Instead, he looks from Washington to Rome.
Moral teaching after ‘Humanae Vitae’
Ratzinger, church law & the sexual-abuse crisis
Lisa Sowle Cahill’s middle way
Benedict & condoms
The pope on condoms
Way back in the twentieth century, when I decided to pursue doctoral work in theology, I never imagined that I would one day teach in an Oxford college. Neither did I imagine that John Henry Newman, of all people, would come to loom large in my day-to-day life.
The story of the first member of Focolare to be beatified
A short & unfinished history
The legacy of Avery Dulles
The Canadian cardinal, subject of this 2010 web exclusive, is regularly mentioned as a successor to Benedict. He is scholarly and spiritual and he knows how the Vatican operates. But what about the world outside of Rome?
In 1922, the Vatican issued norms for handling the canonical crime of the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The document was revised in 1962, and remained in force until 2001. Why did so few bishops know about it?
What does Rome know about pop music?
A pope who can and cannot change
A selection of articles from Commonweal on Benedict XVI.
A profile of the ethicist Gilbert Meilaender
No, this “Year of the Priest” has not been the best for priests or for any Catholics. Just when some of us thought we might be turning the corner, moving on, re-establishing some level of trust, it turns out the wounds are far deeper and much more widespread than we thought.
Stanley Hauerwas & the Christian Difference
The New York Times's worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But what makes the Times unique is that it is not just the nation's self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church.
Where do Catholics look for hope?
Much of Pope Benedict's good work in addressing the sexual-abuse crisis is now likely to be brushed aside as the history of his own negligence in handling an abusive priest when he was archbishop of Munich thirty years ago comes to light.
The Holy See has changed the way the Catholic Church receives Anglicans into full communion. Does this signal a shift in the Catholic Church’s methodology for ecumenical engagement? As a consequence of the shift, will the church eventually alter the very goal of such engagement?
Beware those authorities who criticize the independent Catholic press on the ground that pluralism equals relativism. What they really favor is monopoly. They want a single joint blast on the trumpet, or an orchestra in full flow. What they do not like are the discordant notes.
If the priest is going to face east during Mass, so should everyone else.
Letters from the September 11, 2009 issue.
Solidarity and subsidiarity in Benedict XVI’s ’Caritas in veritate’
Why Rome’s turning inward does not serve the best interests of the church
The recently elected USCCB president on the pope's call to fight poverty
Forty years after Vatican II, what would real collegiality look like?
Benedict’s insightful new encyclical, Spe salvi, is half lecture, half retreat conference.
The Second Vatican Council according to Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict's ‘Jesus of Nazareth'
Whatever happened to liturgical reform?
What message will the Pope’s visit leave behind?
The lessons of Regensburg.
What can we learn from the pope’s successful visit to Turkey?
A review of David Gibson’s ’The Rule of Benedict’
What was the pope really saying in his controversial remarks at Regensburg?
A former student of Joseph Ratzinger offers insights into the new pope.
Rumors of Benedict XVI’s scolding first encyclical have been greatly exaggerated. The Editors on Deus Caritas Est.
So far, Pope Benedict XVI has shown a surprising openness to interfaith dialogue. The Editors.
Bishops should not disagree with one another in public, especially on the most neuralgic issues of the day. For better and more often for worse, that discipline was a cornerstone of John Paul II’s pontificate. Yet disagree they did at the Synod of Bishops last month in Rome, the first of Benedict XVI’s papacy.
How is Benedict XVI, long a defender of orthodoxy and famous critic of the “dictatorship of relativism,” likely to approach interreligious dialogue? Does he see religious pluralism and tolerance as little more than an enticement to indifferentism or as something potentially more spiritually and intellectually fruitful?
From the archives: Joseph Komonchak on Pope Benedict XVI’s theological vision.
The attitude of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI toward other religions has long been appreciated by non-Catholics. “But in the attitudes of both men toward internal Catholic matters there is something many Orthodox find a bit disturbing,” writes John Garvey, an Orthodox priest and Commonweal columnist.
I have met Pope Benedict XVI only once. It was seventeen years ago, when I was a graduate student at Yale. Richard John Neuhaus had organized an invitation-only conference in New York on biblical interpretation. Among the invited guests were Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Raymond Brown, the widely respected biblical scholar, and the eminent Lutheran theologian George Lindbeck, my dissertation adviser, who had been a delegated observer at the Second Vatican Council. With the breezy temerity of youth, I wrote Neuhaus (then still Lutheran), and asked to be the “observer from the next generation” at the conference. Much to my amazement, he acceded to my request.
Charles E. Curran on the man who revoked his license to teach Catholic theology: "Ratzinger is a theological Augustinian who equates the heavenly city with the church and the earthly city with the world; hence the strong opposition between the church and the world in his thinking....I call myself a theological Thomist—one who accepts the basic goodness of humanity while recognizing that sin often tarnishes human endeavors."
"No one knows exactly where Pope Benedict XVI will lead the church....one should be cautious in making assumptions about what sort of pope he will be by looking at his record at the CDF. The pastoral dimension of the papacy alone will demand a different set of talents and skills."
Reviews of The Ratzinger Report (1987)
In September 2004, Sidney Callahan assessed a Vatican document on the collaboration of men and women authored by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
In 1996, John Paul II issued the apostolic letter Universi dominici gregis, which laid down detailed procedures to govern the election of a new pope. Among the responsibilities of the cardinals, prior to the recent conclave, was to appoint two preachers “known for their sound doctrine, wisdom, and moral authority” who were to offer “meditations on the problems facing the church at the present time and on the need for careful discernment in choosing the new pope.” This requirement of prayerful discernment of spirits carries beyond the conclave and the election of the next pope and constitutes a continuing responsibility of the church gathered in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
In our five-part series on the challenges of the next papacy, Cathleen Kaveny recounts her first (and only) encounter with Cardinal Ratzinger: "He was a real academic, delighting in the world illumined by his beloved texts, which conveyed a reality that seemed to be more vivid to him than the reality conveyed by his own senses."
The Vatican’s recent document on feminism and “the collaboration of men and woman” explicitly rejects “an outdated conception of femininity”—a good starting point, says former Commonweal columnist and noted feminist author Sidney Callahan. Unfortunately, the Vatican letter also accuses feminists of trying to make themselves “the adversaries of men.”