Some good analysis of the Germany trip

Despite some unfavorable headlines, Benedict’s visit offers bountiful material for discussion and contemplation.

While much of the mainstream media coverage during and immediately following the papal visit to Germany had a distinctly negative tone (Reuters: “Pope Benedict disappoints hopes of both German Catholics and Protestants”; AFP—yes, we have another occasion to mention their apparent bias—“Pope Benedict XVI fails to satisfy critics in homeland”), some interesting analysis of what the Holy Father actually said during the trip—apart from what his critics said, or wished he had said—is starting to emerge.

On this blog, Mark Brumley takes a look at the Pope’s address to Lutherans:

Martin Luther is not a popular figure in most Catholic circles. Understandably so. Most Catholics who think about Luther at all, hold him responsible for the dividing of Christendom and the problem of ongoing Christian disunity. What’s more, the pesky Fundamentalist missionary at the door, who attacks the Catholic Church as the “whore of Babylon”, is seen, rightly or wrongly, as a direct spiritual descendant of the former German Augustinian monk.

… The Holy Father seems comfortable talking about Luther with Lutherans, even talking with obvious regard and sympathy for Luther. Shocking?

Not to those who have followed the nuances of Catholic teaching on non-Catholic Christians as it has developed, especially as expressed in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and in papal teaching since then. Not to those who are dissatisfied with a spiritual cold war among western Christians or who don’t need to refight the battles of the 16th century in order confidently and placidly to affirm their Catholic faith. And not to those familiar with Benedict XVI, theologian and pastor.

The Catholic Thing has two interesting pieces on Benedict’s address to the Bundestag, or German parliament, one from Robert Royal and one from Fr. James V. Schall. Says Royal:

The critics will probably not notice that Benedict, as his wont, allows a real value for positivist reason, but when it claims to be the only rationality, it becomes a windowless concrete bunker, closed to God and the world, and diminishes and threatens humanity. Europe in particular now finds itself in a state of “culturelessness,” vulnerable to radical forces ready to fill the vacuum.

Without endorsing any political agenda, the pope offered the ecological movement as an insight into the need to recover a value-laden nature. He believes we also lack a sense of human nature as inviolable, not to be manipulated, and not something that human beings create at will. God has put meaning and value into both nature and human nature that require respect: “In this way and no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”

Fr. Schall discusses Benedict’s use of the term “ecology,” and also notes the orientation of the Pope’s address, made clear at the very outset:

I think that my favorite line in the pope’s lecture was in the beginning when he spoke to the Parliament of his native Germany. He told them that its members were to “work for the good of the Federal Republic of Germany.” That was the key word: the “good” of the people, not something subjective, not something based on will alone. It was founded on an understanding of what man is in his political life, what his “good,” including his transcendent good, is.

The major alienation of the modern world has to do with just what is “good,” just who is “good.” “Man is not the measure of all things.” The measure of all things is the good willed by the Creator and understood in our nature to be good. We did not make the good to be good. We discovered it already there, already good. The denial that there is a good to which we can knowingly order ourselves is what characterizes our time. God alone is “good,” as both Plato and the New Testament tell us. Essentially, this truth is that about which Benedict XVI affectionately reminded his German countrymen in their governing body when they invited him to address them. Many of them, I suspect, knew that they needed to hear such words clearly spoken in their midst.

At the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen offers his take on the four-day trip:

For the most part, the pontiff steered clear of commentary that could have been given a political spin, such as reflections on Germany’s role in Europe, which is a matter of controversy these days given the continent’s fiscal crisis and perceptions of German unwillingness to bail out weaker economies, or the hot-button cultural issues that swirl around the Catholic church, such as abortion, gay rights, and the family. …  Instead, Benedict focused on what German theologians call the Gottesfrage, or the “question of God.” His basic argument was that beneath the pressing issues of the moment lies a deeper question: Is there space for God, for a reality beyond self-interest and the human will to power, in the ultra-secular cultural milieu of the 21st century?

More to come, as analysis of the Holy Father’s many addresses during the trip continues.

Some related links:

Benedict’s homily from the final Mass at Freiburg

Angelus Prayer remarks

Address to lay Catholics working for the Church and society

Farewell address at Lahr airport

Links to full texts from the first three days of the trip can be found here and here.

Catholic News Service’s round-up report on the four-day trip

Fr. Z. has compiled a medley of the musical lows (and occasional highs) of the papal Mass in Berlin.


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About Catherine Harmon 576 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.