Not Your Grandfather's L'Osservatore Romano

In less than a year Giovanni-Maria Vian, the new editor of the Vatican's newspaper, has given a new tone and style to the venerable daily.He has opened its pages to a number of authors, who are not Catholics, and who raise respectful challenges to issues regarding the Church and modern society and culture.Back in March a prominent Italian intellectual and journalist, Aldo Schiavone, raised this concern regarding Pope Benedict's Encyclical, Spe Salvi:

Of course, I do not have any authority to maintain this, but I am unable to dispel the idea that a God of love like the one that Benedict invites us to consider does not need a man hemmed in, a man imprisoned by his biological materiality, a man who needs to be protected from himself through recourse to presumably "natural" bonds, but has instead chosen through love to have beside himself a man who is totally free, and thus totally free to choose Him.I am not unaware of the fact that taking this approach imagining a new relationship between history and eschatology, in which the infinite is not only on the side of the latter, because this is ultimately what is at stake would require great changes in the Church's magisterium and its attitude toward the world. But really, if not now, when? The energy is there. And the hope is there. Perhaps all that is needed is a bit of prophecy, without renouncing doctrine.

And then on June 28th, another journalist-professor, Ernesto Galli della Loggia (the name sings!) raised some pointed questions apropos the same Encyclical:

But this agreement ..... cannot silence a critical observation regarding the entirety of the analysis of the encyclical, as convincing as this is in many passages: Why did the story of the Christian West go this way? Why does it seem to have concluded with the entrapment of the religion so deeply involved in its creation?The answer can perhaps be found in what at a certain point as I have already recalled the encyclical itself calls the necessary "self-critique of modern Christianity": a reference that is not, however, taken up again afterwards.I ask whether it is permissible to expect from Benedict XVI what we would certainly have asked of professor Ratzinger. I don't know. But I am certain that if at some point the pontiff would wish to speak out in response to this question, those words might raise an echo not destined to die out over time.

The full texts are available at Sandro Magister's indispensable website.They make for interesting reflection in conjunction with the readings from Romans 8 in the liturgies of the next four Sundays -- the chapter from which the Pope drew the title of his Encyclical.

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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