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'Looking Back' -- today's update

Featured now in our Looking Back web exclusive, Robert P. Imbelli, whose piece "Shepherding the Church" appeared in the May 6, 2005, issue of Commonweal. Following is an excerpt from his reflection on Benedicts papacy:

[Eight years ago] I expressed the hope for a new appropriation of mystical knowledge of Christ. Pope Benedict has more than fulfilled this hope. The oft-cited statement in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est Christianity is not a set of ideas or a moral code, but a living encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ has been the cantus firmus of his magisterium. He has developed this theme in creative variations from his magnificent volumes on Jesus of Nazareth to his mystagogical homilies and catecheses.These are a heritage we will continue to harvest for years to come.

You can read the whole thing here. Well be posting more in coming days.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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"Christianity is not a set of ideas or a moral code, but a living encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ"On first reading I found this statement very surprising and then mystifying. Christianity most certainly IS partially a set of rules about what we may not do and what, if done, is reprehensible. It's almost looks as if Benedict has joined the ranks of those who say that bad behavior is "a mistake". Also, take the phrase "living encounter". It seems that "encounter" is quite a commonplace word these days in theology, but what does it MEAN? I don't know which German word was translated as "encounter", and perhaps that word has special connotations in German, but, what are they? Is it a technical theological meaning we are expected to recall? And, anyway, can there be any other sort of encounters besides living ones? Sounds redundant.Given the great clarity of most of Benedict's writing it would seem that here he is not quite sure of himself, that he's relying on a commonplace concept, and a very mushy one at that. My question then becomes: why would he say such a thing? What is it that he grasps as important but can't say clearly? What is he trying to get at? He *sounds* something like Socrates who thought that virtue is knowledge (encounter) and that bad behavior is a mistake (bad judgment, but I can't believe he agrees with that -- it seems to contradict his luminous encyclical God is Love.On the other hand, it seems to me that there is a profound and recurrint problem in Christian theology which concerns whether or not the will/heart/affectivity is at the same cognitive/knowing. Sometimes even Aquinas seems to be pulled in that direction with the notion of "connatural knowledge". Aquinas was mushy about it, so I suppose it's not surprising that Benedict might be too.(And don't give me that bit about man's abilities sometimes acting together as a unit so there's no problem -- the issue isn't whether the powers can unite with each other in one experience, the issue is whether they are somehow identical with each other.)

Looking back at Pope Benedict, here is an article from RNS about Benedict and "his' encyclicals. It's about Benedict at his best, I think. He gets down to essentials so beautifully.

The weeks before the conclave should be a time of sharp thinking and decisive movement, of pliancy to the Spirit, but so far it is a tired rehash of the usual preconclave junk, even including the prophecies of St Malachy. A total lack of direction seems to have descended like a pall on the catholic millions. The lackluster quality of the papabile roster is one cause for this. There is simply no cardinal to get excited about.

Looking forward (not pleasant): LaStampa says that there is a movement in Rome now to prevent Cardinal Mahoney from voting in the conclave, and also possibly C. Sean Casey of Ireland. The article doesn't say just who constitutes the movement, but suggests that there are some voters concerned about it. would have put this somewhere else, but there's no active thread about the conclave.)

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