A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Timely Exhortation

Tom Baker, Commonweal's publisher (though I'm not quite sure what a publisher actually does) has a review of a book of sermons by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Baker gives one quote that particularly struck me in this season of endless pontifications about Pope Benedict's resignation, the coming Conclave, and sundry leaks and leakers. Bonhoeffer muses:

Such a struggle carries a great temptation with it: the temptation of being too sure of oneself, of self-righteousness and dogmatism, which also means the temptation to be unloving towards ones opponent.

But then, he was a Protestant hung-up on holiness.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

The review was insightful and the quotation always relevant, but the tone of the comment delivered may be ironic, yet it sounds sarcastic. Or am I missing something?

There was lots of discussion last week on what Pope Benedict XVI will be called after Thursday evening.In his daily press briefing, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., has said that Benedict will be called "His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope emeritus and Supreme Pontiff emeritus." I am surprised that there was no mention of Bishop of Rome emeritus, but perhaps there will be further clarifications over the next two days.My source for the moment is La Repubblica. The Vatican's official Bollettino for today is limited to two fairly minor appointments and the annual appeal for funds for the Holy Land.

Below find a link to an excerpt from the beginning of Bonhoeffers Letters and Papers from Prison: much in what he says seems relevant to our present situation in the Church. It speaks to all of us, but I think our Cardinals traveling to the Conclave with so much on their minds might find it especially fruitful reading. Toward the end of this rich but somewhat long selection in which he muses on how a Christian might respond to the overwhelming moral challenges of living in difficult times,surrounded with seemingly impossible choices, Bonhoeffer writes:Are we still serviceable?We have been the silent witnesses of evil deeds. Many storms have gone over our heads. We have learnt the art of deception and of equivocal speech. Experience has made us suspicious of others, and prevented us from being open and frank. Bitter conflicts have made us weary and even cynical. Are we still serviceable? It is not the genius that we shall need, not the cynic, not the misanthropist, not the adroit tactician, but honest, straightforward men. Will our spiritual reserves prove adequate and our candour with ourselves remorseless enough to enable us to find our way back again to simplicity and straightforwardness?

Susan Gannon, right on the mark. Many thanks.

Dr. Page, I recall when Louisville's retired auxiliary bishop, Charles Maloney, was designated "Titular Bishop of Bardstown". The latter see (for those not familiar) was established on the same date in 1808 as were the dioceses of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. At the same time, Baltimore was elevated to archdiocesan status.Relevant links are:+ B16 will be given a titular see?

The NY Review of Books had an interesting article last October about Bonhoefer and his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, who was also executed for his role in the plot to kill Hitler. For those interested, the article provides details about the period between Bonhoeffer's arrest in 1943 and his execution at Flossenburg on April 9, 1945, just a couple of weeks before that work camp was liberated by American soldiers. article also mentions Eberhard Bethge, a friend and confidante of Bonhoeffer's, and the author of what some consider the definitive biography of Bonhoeffer. Bethge gathered eyewitness accounts of Bonhoeffer's execution. The statements were in agreement about the salient facts: Bonhoeffer was stripped naked and jeered at by the guards as he was led into the execution place. He kneeled and prayed calmy for some time before arising and walking uanassisted up to the gallows. He placed his head into the noose made of piano wire, which was affixed to a meat hook that was raised until Bonhoeffer was suspended in the air. Some witnesses reported that they had never seen a person go to his or her death with more composure.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment