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  • Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Posted by Christopher Blosser at 3:30 PM

    La Sapienza University is the largest European university and the most ancient of Rome's three public universities. It was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII -- in 1870, it was secularized and became the university of the capital of Italy. [Source: Wikipedia]. This year, Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to speak to 1,000 hand-picked guests in the Aula Magna, the main lecture hall, at the inauguration of the academic year.

    A student walks past a banner reading: Times have changed, however -- no longer a Christian institution, students and faculty, obstinate in their militant secularism, have voiced their resentment at the Holy Father's scheduled appearance; the faculty with a signed letter of protest signed by 67 lecturers and professors; students with four days of increasingly hostile demonstrations. The Times reports:

    A hundred militant left wing students had occupied the office of Professor Renato Guarini, the university rector, to demand that the papal visit be cancelled because of Benedict's "obscurantist" stand on science in general and the Church's treatment of Galileo as a heretic in particular. Sixty-seven science professors and lecturers at La Sapienza signed a letter to Professor Guarini calling on him to scrap the visit. Professor Guarini said the Pope was "saddened" by the protests.

    Students had said they would greet the Pope with a "sonic siege" of loud rock music - which he once defined as "the devil's work" - an "anti clerical" gay and lesbian parade and banners reading "No Pope" and "Knowledge needs neither fathers no priests". . . .

    Sergio Doplicher, a mathematics lecturer, said "I have no objection to the Pope coming to give us his blessing but have serious reservations about him restating the supremacy of faith over science and of moral principles over the lay values protected by the Italian Constitution".

    Behind the controversy over faith and science lies a broader row over what many see as the Vatican's interference in Italian affairs on issues such as stem cell research, abortion and same sex civil unions. The Pope was to speak on the death penalty and the wider theme of the Church's "defence of life".

    The La Sapienza student website said Pope Benedict had "condemned centuries of scientific and cultural growth by affirming anachronistic dogmas such as Creationism while attacking scientific free thought and promoting mandatory heterosexuality".

    A student walks by banners against Pope Benedict XVIAccording to Reuters:
    . . . The first day on Monday revolved around an "anti-clerical" meal of bread, pork and wine and a banner reading: "Knowledge needs neither fathers nor priests".

    Meanwhile, a poster bearing the message ''Knowledge is secular'' has appeared outside the university under the statue of Minerva which is its symbol.

    In defense of Galileo?

    "Fra Giordano [Bruno] was burned, Galileo recanted, We will resist the Papacy, 17 January - Anti-Clerical Day, 12 Noon, Aldo Moro Square.To do science is not a crime, Secular-Self determining Knowledge, Sexual Liberty, LGBT Rights, NO POPE" -- "That's what passes for intelligent discourse in some quarters, friends." Zadok The Roman
    According to Richard Owen the Times, at the root of the faculty's dispute with the pope is remarks made by Cardinal Ratzinger some 17 years ago, concerning the Church's condemnation of Galileo in 1633:

    In their letter the La Sapienza scientists, including Andrea Frova, author of a study of Galileo, and Carlo Maiani, the head of the Italian National Council for Research, said they felt "offended and humiliated" by a statement made in 1990 by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger suggesting the trial of Galileo for heresy because of his support for the Copernican system was justified in the context of the time.

    Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in condemning Galileo in 1633 for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo was forced to recant and spent the remaining eight years of his life under house arrest.

    John Paul said the Inquisition had "transposed into the realm of the doctrine of the faith" a matter which had to do with scientific investigation, but added it was working "within the knowledge available at the time" and had guarded the integrity of the Catholic Faith. Cardinal Ratzinger, as John Paul's head of doctrine, observed that "At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just".

    Unfortunately, the Times reporting (which is indicative of the understanding of the Sapienza faculty) is factually incorrect and reveals a gross misunderstanding of what Ratzinger actually said. From L'Osservatore Romano, Professor Giorgio Israel (translation by the Papa Ratzinger Forum):
    They accuse him of having said - in a lecture he gave at La Sapienza on February 15, 1990 {cfr J. Ratzinger, Wendezeit für Europa? Diagnosen und Prognosen zur Lage von Kirche und Welt, Einsiedeln-Freiburg, Johannes Verlag, 1991, pp. 59 e 71) - a statement that was actually from the philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend: "In the time of Galileo, the Church was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The trial of Galileo was reasonable and just."

    But none of them bothered to read the lecture in full and carefully. Its theme was the crisis of faith in itself that science has, and he cited as an example the changing of attitudes about the Galileo case.

    If Galileo had become - in the 18th century, the century of the Enlightenment - emblematic of the Church's 'medieval obscurantism', the attitude changed in the 20th century when Ernst Bloch, for instance, pointed out that Galileo never showed convincing proof of a heliocentric cosmos, to the statement by Feyerabend - described by Ratzinger in the lecture as 'an agnostic-skeptic philosopher' - and by Carl von Weiszsacker who said there was a straight line from Galileo to the atom bomb.

    These citations were not used by the cardinal to seek vindication or to make justifications: "It would be absurd," he said "to construct a hasty apologetics on the basis of these statements. Faith does not grow out of resentment or the rejection of reason."

    The citations he made were clearly used as proof of how much "modernity's doubts about itself have now involved even science and technology."

    In other words, the 1990 lecture could well be considered - by anyone who reads it with the minimum attention - a defense of Galilean rationality against the skepticism and relativism of post-modern culture.

    From John Allen Jr., the comments by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990 on the Galileo case, excerpted from A Turning Point for Europe? The Church and Modernity in the Europe of Upheavals, Pauline Editions, 1992, pp. 76-79.

    Benedict cancels -- and turns the tables on Sapienza protestors

    January 16, 2008

    Responding to the protests of faculty members and students, Pope Benedict XVI cancels his appearance at Sapienza University. Notice of the pope's cancellation was conveyed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent to the rector of the Università La Sapienza, prof. Renato Guarini, together with the address Benedict XVI would have given:

    Esteemed Rector,the Holy Father had gladly accepted your invitation to visit the Università degli Studi "La Sapienza", to offer in this way a sign of affection and of the high regard in which he holds this illustrious institution, which originated centuries ago at the behest of his venerated predecessor.

    But since, at the initiative of a decidedly minority group of professors and students, the conditions for a dignified and peaceful welcome were lacking, it has been judged prudent to delay the scheduled visit in order to remove any pretext for demonstrations that would have been unpleasant for all. But in the awareness of the sincere desire on the part of the great majority of the professors and students for culturally significant words from which they can take encouragement for their personal journey in search of the truth, the Holy Father has arranged to send you the text he prepared personally for the occasion. I gladly act as the agent of his decision, attaching the written address with the hope that all may find within it ideas for enriching reflections and examinations.

    I gladly take this opportunity to extend to you, with feelings of profound deference, my cordial regards,

    Tarcisio Card. Bertone
    Secretary of State

    From AsiaNews.it, translation of the speech Benedict XVI planned to deliver Thursday at La Sapienza University in Rome..

    According to Zenit News Service, Benedict's address was read by another professor during the inauguration, to much acclaim:

    During the inauguration ceremony, a professor read the discourse the Holy Father had prepared for the occasion. A standing ovation and students' shouts of "Long live the Pope" followed the reading.

    Fabio Mussi, the Italian minister of education, and Walter Veltroni, the mayor of Rome, were present.

    Meanwhile, Italian leaders voiced their dismay at the Pope's cancellation (Catholic World News):

    Italian president Giorgio Napolitano released a statement condemning the "inadmissible intolerance" shown by the campus protestors, who had planned to greet the Pope with loud rock music, anti-clerical posters, and parades of militant homosexuals. Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that the protests had "provoke unacceptable tensions and created a climate that does not honor Italy's traditions of civility and tolerance."

    Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni added his perspective that the Pope's appearance on campus would have been "another great opportunity for the city of Rome to show itself as the center of civil dialogue." While intellectual debates are welcome, he said, the "intolerant behavior" of a minority at La Sapienza was "bad for democracy and liberty." The former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, went further, saying that the incident was "humiliating" and a "shameful day" for Italy.

    A group of university students of the Communion and Liberation movement greeted the Pope with chants of "Freedom! Freedom!" at the beginning of his general audience AsiaNews.it:

    "So there are three places where the pope cannot go: Moscow, Beijing, and the university of Rome", commented one of the young people present at the audience. "If Benedict does not go to La Sapienza, La Sapienza comes to Benedict", read one of the banners that the young people raised.

    Pope Benedict XVI is greeted by La Sapienza University students at the end of his weekly general audienceThe pope did not mention the affair, not even in the greeting that he addressed to the students. For the second week, Benedict XVI dedicated the discourse of his general audience to Saint Augustine, dwelling in particular on the last year of the life of the bishop of Hippo, who died during the Vandal assault on his city in 430. The pope emphasised in particular Augustine's call to the pastors to remain close to the faithful in moments of difficulty, as so many priests have done so often throughout history.

    January 17, 2008

    Calling the Sapienza protests a “painful blow to the entire city of Rome,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, has called on the faithful to gather this Sunday in St. Peter’s Square during the recitation of the Angelus to show their support for Pope Benedict XVI (Catholic News Agency). In contrast to the violent and hate-filled demonstrations at Sapienza, he emphasized the Angelus would be a sign of peace and spiritual solidarity:

    "Next Sunday's event will be a moment of prayer, any other motivation in the people joining us at St. Peter's Square would be unwelcome and out of place," Cardinal Ruini told the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano.

    The Cardinal explained that "because of its prayerful nature, the Angelus cannot be turned into a political demonstration."

    "This will be a moment to show affection for the Holy Father and not a demonstration against the lack of receptivity from La Sapienza. It is an event that want to express the feelings of the majority of Romans, as well as the majority of the La Sapienza community," Cardinal Ruini added.

    The gathering at St. Peter's square next Sunday, therefore, "must be in tune with the classic tone of the Angelus, which is a moment to listen to God's word and also a moment to listen to the Holy Father, to be with him, to greet him."

    In an interview with 'Corriere della Sera, Ruini also remarked that "some signs of solidarity" with the Pope by attendees of Sappienza University had come too late.

    January 18, 2008


    • Dangers of anti-Catholic academic extremism, by Hugh McNichol. Catholic News Agency. January 16, 2008:
      The dissenting students and faculty are adamant about the perception that the Holy Father is “anti-science,” in his papal ministry and his theological ponderings. There really cannot be anything further from the truth than branding the former Joseph Ratzinger, an esteemed theologian and scholar as someone that is an antithesis of scientific research and discovery. Perhaps the real matter at hand here is the inclusion of individuals that have a desire to eliminate any inclusion of theological related theories into the study and development of modern science. It appears to this author that what is going on here is sort of reverse Inquisition, which seeks to defame any pursuit and inclusion of religious beliefs into the empirical world of scientific observation and discovery. This protest by the students and faculty of Rome’s Sapienza University is the precipice of a slippery slope that really threatens a global appreciation of Catholic theological development and its historical foundations. The protesters involved in this dispute seem mainly to be concerned with the fact that the Church in the past has at times dealt a rather heavy hand to the empirical sciences and at times was consistently opposed to certain paths of scientific study.

      How unfortunate that a university that has in the foundational root of its name and purpose the word, Sapienza…which means wisdom or knowledge is directly opposed to the free exchange and development of scientific ideas simply because they are speculated by the Bishop of Rome. Such animosity against a papal visit clearly indicates the university has excluded many aspects of free philosophical thought and its open expression for the extremely parochial view of secular science sans theological and historical appreciation for the pursuit of higher studies in the physical sciences. Could it be that there is a movement at play here that reeks of secular humanism and purely empirical science that is seeking to undermine the philosophical expressions of natural law and the expression of right reason?

    • Shunning a truth-seeker, by Fr. Raymond De Souza. National Post, (Canada) January 17, 2008:
      There is no doubt that La Sapienza turning its back on the pope is a historic moment. Certainly, it is a moment that has horrified Italy. And Italy should be horrified, for it means that La Sapienza has also turned its back on the search for truth, and on freedom in the search for that truth.
    • Silencing the Pope, by Father John Flynn. Zenit News. January 20, 2008 - on "cultural clashes and impoverished secularism."


    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Pope Benedict Roundup 
    Posted by Christopher Blosser at 11:38 PM

    As Catholic News Agency tells us, 2007 promises "a world of busyness" for Pope Benedict, with "ad limina" visits by bishops from four continents, including Italy, Ukraine, Slovakia, Portugal, Serbia, Kenya, Togo, Benin, Gabon, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea and Laos; a May visit to Brazil (his first across an ocean); a June visit to Assisi to the birthplace of St. Francis, and a prospective to address the United Nations General Assembly in September.

    What follows is a (by no means comprehensive) roundup noting some of the significant events in the Holy Father's pontificate from January-2007 to the present. Apologies for not getting around to this sooner (I'd given up blogging for the most part during Lent).


    • On February 17th, 2007 Pope Benedict participated in a Q&A session with seminarians of the Roman Major Seminary. The Holy Father spoke of the discernment of God's voice and spiritual direction ("through his Word, in Sacred Scripture, read in the communion of the Church and read personally in conversation with God"); elements of his own priestly formation and his influences ("it was above all the figure of St Augustine who fascinated me from the very start, then also the Augustinian current in the Middle Ages: St Bonaventure, the great Franciscans, the figure of St Francis of Assisi").

      There is a simplicity and beauty in the Holy Father's words and advice, for instance, in persisting in one's vocation despite our very human frailness and inconsistency:

      It is good to recognize one's weakness because in this way we know that we stand in need of the Lord's grace. The Lord comforts us. In the Apostolic College there was not only Judas but also the good Apostles; yet, Peter fell and many times the Lord reprimanded the Apostles for their slowness, the closure of their hearts and their scant faith. He therefore simply shows us that none of us is equal to this great yes, equal to celebrating "in persona Christi", to living coherently in this context, to being united to Christ in his priestly mission.

      To console us, the Lord has also given us these parables of the net with the good fish and the bad fish, of the field where wheat but also tares grow. He makes us realize that he came precisely to help us in our weakness, and that he did not come, as he says, to call the just, those who claim they are righteous through and through and are not in need of grace, those who pray praising themselves; but he came to call those who know they are lacking, to provoke those who know they need the Lord's forgiveness every day, that they need his grace in order to progress.

      I think this is very important: to recognize that we need an ongoing conversion, that we are simply not there yet. St Augustine, at the moment of his conversion, thought he had reached the heights of life with God, of the beauty of the sun that is his Word. He then had to understand that the journey after conversion is still a journey of conversion, that it remains a journey where the broad perspectives, joys and lights of the Lord are not absent; but nor are dark valleys absent through which we must wend our way with trust, relying on the goodness of the Lord.

      On bearing witness to Christ in suffering:
      It was not by chance that the Lord told his disciples: the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem to suffer; therefore, anyone who wants to be a disciple of mine must shoulder his cross so he can follow me. In fact, we are always somewhat similar to Peter, who said to the Lord: "No, Lord, this cannot happen to you, you must not suffer". We do not want to carry the Cross, we want to create a kingdom that is more human, more beautiful, on this earth.

      This is totally mistaken: the Lord teaches it. However, Peter needed a lot of time, perhaps his entire life, in order to understand it; why is there this legend of the Quo Vadis? There is something true in it: learning that it is precisely in walking with the Lord's Cross that the journey will bear fruit. Thus, I would say that before talking to others, we ourselves must understand the mystery of the Cross.

      Of course, Christianity gives us joy, for love gives joy. But love is also always a process of losing oneself, hence, a process of coming out of oneself; in this regard, it is also a painful process. Only in this way is it beautiful and helps us to mature and to attain true joy.

      Anyone who seeks to affirm or to promise a life that is only happy and easy is a liar, because this is not the truth about man; the result is that one then has to flee to false paradises. And in this way one does not attain joy but self-destruction.

      Christianity proclaims joy to us, indeed; this joy, however, only develops on the path of love, and this path of love has to do with the Cross, with communion with the Crucified Christ. And it is presented through the grain of wheat that fell to the ground. When we begin to understand and accept this -- every day, because every day brings some disappointment or other, some burden that may also cause pain --, when we accept this lesson of following Christ, just as the Apostles had to learn at this school, so we too will become capable of helping the suffering.

      Zenit News provided a translation of the exchange: Part I: "We Must Accept Our Frailty But Keep On Going"; Part II: "A Day Without the Eucharist Is Incomplete". March 2, 2007.

    • On February 22, Pope Benedict met with the Roman Clergy for a session of questions-and-answers as well. Here is a three part translation, also courtesy of Zenit: Part I: "Contemplation Is Expressed in Works of Charity"; Part II: "Do Not Extinguish Charisms ... the Church Is One" and Part III: "The Pastor Leads the Way" -- which touches on the meaning of reparation in Eucharistic adoration.

    Key Addresses January - April 2007

    • Message of Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace January 1, 2007.


        Benedict XVI on the Path to Peace (Part 1); Part II - interview with Paolo Carozza, law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (Zenit News January 8, 2007):
        Where Benedict XVI goes much further than the prevailing mentality is in his insistence that it is not enough to simply assert -- however correctly -- the link between peace and human dignity. To make that connection real and concrete, not just an abstract ideal or intuition of the truth, one needs to cultivate an adequate and objective understanding of what the human person is, and what human dignity requires.

        Benedict XVI thus takes us back to what Mary Ann Glendon has referred to as the "unfinished business" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the question of its foundations. For 60 years the international community has largely proceeded to try to develop and realize human rights though positive law while prescinding from any sustained effort to reach common understandings of their underlying source and scope.

        In short, the difference between the vision in Benedict XVI's message and the conventional wisdom of international affairs is not so much in the affirmation that the dignity and rights of the human person are the path to peace, but rather in the Pope's warning that that path will be uncertain, unstable and wayward without a "true integral humanism" that embraces the whole human person as a concrete, given reality -- without reduction, without manipulation, and without ideology.

    • Pope's 2007 Address to the Diplomatic Corps on the State of the World Delivered in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. January 8, 2007.
    • Pope's Homily on Feast of Baptism of the Lord Zenit News Service. January 15, 2007.
    • Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2007
    • Easter Vigil - Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI April 7, 2007.


    • Urbi Et Orbi - Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI. Easter Sunday April 8, 2007.


      • Explaining Benedict's focus on Africa, by John Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter April 9, 2007:
        Benedict XVI, this most European of popes, once again exhibited a notable concern with Africa during the Easter season. In his traditional urbi et orbi greeting, Benedict spoke in greater detail about the political and humanitarian struggles of Africa than any other part of the world. . . .
      • On Easter, pope laments wars, horrors, 'continual slaughter' in Iraq, by Carol Glatz. Catholic News Service. April 9, 2007.

      • Out of Pope Benedict XVI's 1,444 word Urbi Et Orbi Easter Message for 2007 devoted to an observation of all manner of human suffering throughout the world and the response of the Gospel, much is being made of the following sentence:
        In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.
        Amy Welborn has a roundup of pundit's reactions to the Pope's remark (along with the usual raging debate in the combox); for further commentary and reflections on the reaction, and the attempt by some to decipher a critique of U.S. foreign policy from the Pope's words, click here.

    Further Commentary

    • Exercises in Disinformation: The Pope According to the Leading Newspapers January 5, 2007 - Sandro Magister and Anton Smitsendonk, the former Dutch ambassador to China, examine how the press (including the New York Times and other major newspapers) "deformed Benedict XVI’s position on the entry of Turkey into the European Union."

    • Lost in translation: Pope's asides might be changed in official texts, by John Thavis. Catholic News Service. February 2, 2007:
      Rarely is a general audience talk interrupted by spontaneous applause, and Pope Benedict XVI seemed as surprised as anyone when the clapping began in the Vatican's audience hall.

      The pope had been talking about the church's early times, and he set aside his text to drive home a point: The apostles and first disciples weren't perfect, but had their own arguments and controversies.

      "This appears very consoling to me, because we see that the saints did not drop as saints from heaven. They were men like us with problems and even with sins," he said Jan. 31.

      That's when the applause erupted among the 6,000 people in attendance. The pope paused, looked up and smiled awkwardly, then continued to ad lib about how holiness doesn't mean never making a mistake.

      The moment marked a milestone for Pope Benedict as a communicator and demonstrated two important facts: First, the scholarly pontiff is focusing on uncomplicated lessons about the church and the faith. Second, when he talks, people listen.

    • McBrien: B16 doesn't really understand Vatican II, by Carl Olson. Insight Scoop February 4, 2007:
      Fr. Richard McBrien, former consultant to The Da Vinci Code movie and former head of the theology department at Notre Dame, has it on good authority—his own!—that Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI doesn't really understand Vatican II or how to correctly interpret it. . . .

    • 'Hell exists - deny it and you'll end up there', by Nick Pisa. The Scotsman March 27, 2007:
      POPE BENEDICT XVI has reiterated the existence of Hell and condemned society for not talking about eternal damnation enough.

      A furious Pope Benedict unleashed a bitter attack during a sermon while on a visit to a parish church and said: "Hell exists and there is eternal punishment for those who sin and do not repent."

      Sounding "more of a parish priest than a Pope" the leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics added: "The problem today is society does not talk about Hell. It's as if it did not exist, but it does."

      Pope Benedict unleashed his fury during a visit to the tiny parish church of St Felicity and the Martyr Children at Fidene on the outskirts of Rome, in his capacity as bishop of the Italian capital.

      One churchgoer said: "The Holy Father was really having a go. It was a typical fire-and-brimstone sermon that you would have expected from a parish priest years ago."

      Zenit News' reporting of the homily is a tad more . . . restrained:
      Hell consists in closing oneself off from the love of God, and sin is the true enemy of the human person, Benedict XVI says.

      The Pope made that comment on Sunday when celebrating Mass at the Parish of St. Felicity and Martyred Sons in the northern sector of the Diocese of Rome.

      "If it is true that God is justice, then we should not forget that he is above all love; if he hates sin it is because he has an infinite love for all human beings," the Holy Father explained.

    • Pope's Study of Church Fathers Not Just for Catholics Zenit. March 28, 2007 - Benedict XVI's Wednesday-audience series on the Apostolic Fathers can give us hope for unity among Christians, says David Warner, a Catholic theologian who was once an evangelical Protestant minister and who is now a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio.

    • "Catholic politicians get strict orders from pope", observes Ian Fisher (International Herald Tribune March 13, 2007):
      Pope Benedict XVI strongly reasserted Tuesday the church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage, saying that Catholic politicians were "especially" obligated to defend the church's stance in their public duties.

      "These values are non-negotiable," the pope wrote in a 130-page "apostolic exhortation" issued in Rome, forming a distillation of opinion from a worldwide meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2005. . . .

      In the document, the pope also repeated that celibacy remains "obligatory" for Catholic priests.

      So sorry to disappoint.

    • Scott Hahn on Benedict XVI's "Curriculum" Zenit News. March 29, 2007:
      Seminarians, students and other eager listeners gathered recently at the University of the Holy Cross in Rome listen to American professor Scott Hahn expound the theological vision of Benedict XVI. . . .

      Foremost on Hahn's agenda was the Holy Father's "curriculum" for Catholics, which Hahn believes will also lead many Protestant theologians to discover the answers they have been searching in the Catholic liturgy.

      But even more, Hahn said that Benedict XVI's "clarity and classic style of theologizing" make his teaching accessible to the average lay person.

      "One of the remarkable things about Benedict XVI," said Hahn, "is that he is almost too straightforward. With a little bit of effort, those who are not schooled in theology will grasp treasures of biblical wisdom in the context of liturgy and the sacraments."

    • An “Apostate” from Itself: The Lost Europe of Pope Benedict - From Sandro Magister, "L’Europa nella crisi delle culture" -- an address given by then-Cardinal Ratzinger before the plenary assembly of the European parliament. April 1, 2004.

    • The Pope and Islam, by Jane Cramer. The New Yorker April 2, 2007.
      It is well known that Benedict wants to transform the Church of Rome, which is not to say that he wants to make it more responsive to the realities of modern life as it is lived by Catholic women in the West, or by Catholic homosexuals, or even by the millions of desperately poor Catholic families in the Third World who are still waiting for some merciful dispensation on the use of contraception. He wants to purify the Church, to make it more definitively Christian, more observant, obedient, and disciplined—you could say more like the way he sees Islam. And never mind that he doesn’t seem to like much about Islam, or that he has doubts about Islam’s direction. . . .
    • A Pope Who Gets It, by Micah Halpern. FrontPageMag. April 7, 2007:
      It has been confirmed by the Vatican.

      Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on behalf of the fifteen British sailors and marines taken captive by Iran. Writing this letter to Iran's Muslim leader was a very bold move on the part of the world's leading Catholic. . . .

    • On April 10, 2007 Dr. Samuel Gregg delivered an address entitled "The Crisis of Europe: Benedict XVI’s Analysis and Solution" as part of the Acton Institute's 2007 Lecture Series. Click the link for audio (mp3). Text will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

    • "Easter in Rome: The Secret Homilies of the Successor of Peter", by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa. April 11, 2007. Commenting on an ongoing problem in the Vatican of Benedict XVI:
      There is a limit beyond which the words of Benedict XVI do not go. They reach completely only those who listen to them in person, whether present physically or thanks to a live television broadcast. The number of these persons is substantial, more than for any earlier pontificate. The Easter “urbi et orbi” message and the Way of the Cross on Good Friday were followed by huge crowds and retransmitted in more than forty countries. But even more vast is the number of persons who receive the pope’s message in an incomplete form – or not at all.

      Benedict XVI experienced this communications block to an even greater extent in the other celebrations of last Holy Week. . . .

      among those present at these Masses, only those who understood Italian were able to listen fruitfully to the pope’s homilies. The Catholic media outlets that translated and distributed the texts in various countries barely extended the listening area, to a niche audience.

      For a pope like Benedict XVI, who has centered his ministry precisely upon the word, this is a serious limitation. The offices in the Roman curia that deal with communications have to this point done nothing new in order to remedy this, at least in part. For example, no one sees to a quick distribution of the pope’s texts by internet to all the bishops and priests of the world, in the various languages.

    On a Lighter Note . . .


    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Posted by Christopher Blosser at 9:17 PM

    On December 30, 1993, the Fundamental Agreement was signed by Msgr. Claudio Celli, Vatican assistant secretary of state and Israel's deputy minister of foreign affairs, Yossi Beilin, paving the way to full diplomatic relations between the two parties in 1994:
    The Fundamental Agreement extends the theological advances of Nostra Aetate into the political realm, creating for the fi rst time formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel. The Agreement signifi es a historic step in the evolution of the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude toward Judaism and the Jewish People.

    The Fundamental Agreement addresses three spheres of relations: 1) political relations between Israel and the Holy See; 2) relations between the Jewish People and the Catholic Church; and 3) relations between the State of Israel and the Roman Catholic Church.

    In 1997 the "Legal Personality" Agreement between the State of Israel and the Holy See was signed:
    [regularizing] the status and legal personality of the Roman Catholic Church and its institutions under Israeli law, after approximately 500 years of undefined legal status under Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and Israeli sovereignty.

    This agreement marks the first de jure recognition of the Roman Catholic Church by any government in the Holy Land. It bestows upon the Roman Catholic Church the autonomy to run its internal affairs, subject to Israeli law in interaction with other bodies. The Legal Personality Agreement constitutes a continuation of the Fundamental Agreement of 1993.

    [Source: Milestones in Israel-Holy See Relations 1993-2005: Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate Consulate General of Israel in New York - must read and very helpful resource - CB].

    In an exclusive article, The ten years of the Fundamental Agreement 30 Giorni ["30 Days"] No. 12, 2003, Israeli statesman Yossi Beilin describes the "behind the scenes" discussions which led to the signing:

    These were open talks, launched at the Vatican’s initiative in the summer of 1991, even before the Madrid Conference. It was Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the apostolic delegate in Jerusalem, who announced the Vatican’s intention to initiate negotiations on an agreement with Israel, and he did so in consultation with Dr. David Jaegar, an Israeli Jew who had become a Franciscan priest, with boasted special knowledge in Canon Law.

    The initial probes between Israel and the Vatican revealed the main dispute between them: Israel wanted to reach, first of all, an agreement on diplomatic relations between the two states, and only subsequently to discuss questions such as the freedom of religion, Church taxation, education, etc. The Vatican wanted to deal with all the practical matters, and to remove – at least at the first stage – the matter of the diplomatic relations from the agenda. . . .

    Each party came to the table with its own priorities -- for Israel, the objective was (understandably) "the common war on anti-Semitism and unequivocal recognition of the State of Israel." For the Church, the concern lay with the rights of Catholics residing in the State of Israel:

    . . . the guarantee of freedom of worship for Catholics, the legal status of priests, and the special approach of Pope John Paul II, who, as early as 1981, had sent to the President of the State of Israel a blessing for the New Year, and in 1986, had visited the synagogue in Rome – symbolic acts which stressed – alongside a long list of other acts – his special deep respect for Israel and its people.

    Related Commentary on The Fundamental Agreement

    • In Israel-Vatican Relations Since the Signing of the Fundamental Agreement, Rabbi David Rosen discusses some of the conceptual conceptual hurdles that were tackled in the process of formalizing the Fundamental Agreement and Israeli-Catholic relations since its signing in 1993. [Microsoft Word - printable format]:
      . . . as the Preamble of the Agreement indicates, the accord took place within the wider context of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation on which it undoubtedly had a profoundly positive impact in turn. Indeed, for many Jews especially in Israel, the diplomatic normalization served as testimony and proof of the genuineness of the transformation in theological attitudes and teaching that had taken place over the previous thirty years. The third relationship addressed by the majority of the articles in the Fundamental Agreement, concerns the relationship between the Catholic Church in Israel and the State.

      While Israel's goal was essentially the first of these3, the Holy See's primary interest concerned the third. Indeed this difference reflects the divergent perceptions of the principle purpose of the bilateral relations.

      Rosen's article was published in the anthology The Vatican-Israel Accords: Political, Legal, and Theological Contexts, edited by Marshall J. Breger. University of Notre Dame Press (February 2004).

    • Israel's Relations with the Vatican by Aharon Lopez (former Israeli ambassador to Vatican). No. 401 13 Adar 5759 / 1 March 1999. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
    • How a Pope's Boyhood Friend Helped Forge Ties to Israel - Pope John Paul II's lifelong friend Jerzy Kluger played a subtle yet instrumental role in forging diplomatic ties to Israel:
      When the Archbishop was named Pope in 1978, he stunned the world by granting his first papal audience, or formal reception, to Mr. Kluger and his family.

      Three years later, the Pope was wounded in an assassination attempt. On Mr. Kluger's third visit to the Pope in the hospital, the Pope suggested that with the Camp David accords pointing the way for peace in the Middle East, it was time for the Vatican to consider opening diplomatic channels to Israel.

      "Are you willing to help?" Mr. Kluger says the Pope asked him. "We must proceed cautiously, officially and unofficially."

      Mr. Kluger played the role of broker and host, inviting Israeli and Vatican representatives to dine at his tennis club in Rome and playing bridge with key Cardinals. The steps were often small and symbolic. Once he relayed an Israeli diplomat's suggestion that the Pope send a telegram with Jewish New Year greetings to the President of Israel. The Pope sent the telegram.

      In 1994, at the ceremony welcoming the first Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. Kluger stood for photographs next to the Pope, sandwiched between Israeli and Vatican dignitaries.

      "I was a friend," Mr. Kluger said. "And we had friendly conversations, and friendly relationships which one way or another helped these developments. That's all."

      (Pope John Paul II and Jerzy Kluger's friendship was made the subject of Darcy O'Brien's The Hidden Pope: The Untold Story of a Lifelong Friendship (Roedale Books, 1998).
    The Vatican-Israel Accords: Political, Legal, and Theological Contexts, edited by Marshall J. Breger. University of Notre Dame Press (February 2004). [Contents].

    Published during the tenth anniversary year of The Fundamental Agreement, The Vatican-Israel Accords brings together essays that analyze the legal, historical, theological, and political meaning of the Accords.

    The compelling essays in this collection explore not only the document and events surrounding its signing, but also the past, present, and future of Catholic-Jewish relations. Contributors, who include scholars from Israel, Italy, France, Spain, and the United States, contend that the history and structure of the Accords offer lessons that may be instructive for others involved in seeking peaceful resolutions to conflict, particularly those who work for peace between Palestine and Israel.

    Contributors: Marshall J. Breger, Laurenzo Cremonesi, Msgr. Richard Mathes, David-Maria A. Jaeger, O.F.M., Leonard Hammer, Silvio Ferrari, Rafael Palomino, Msgr. Roland Minnerath, Rabbi David Rosen, Moshe Hirsch, Geoffrey Watson, Giorgio Filibeck, Ruth Lapidoth, Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., and Rabbi Jack Bemporad.

    MARSHALL J. BREGER is professor of law at the Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America.

    Reviews "The Vatican-Israel Accords promises to make a tremendous contribution to understanding a tangled relationship. It is a unique, and uniquely valuable, volume." --George Weigel, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C.

    Israeli-Catholic relations since the 1993 signing have not always gone smoothly. Sandro Magister reported on two impediments to Israeli-Vatican relations in 2005:Pope Benedict to specifically mention Israel as a victim of terrorism:

    The first skirmish came on July 12. That day, John Paul II was commemorated in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. And on that occasion, apostolic nuncio Pietro Sambi delivered a speech that was reprinted in its entirety by "L'Osservatore Romano" six days later.

    In the speech, Sambi complained about Israel's failure to take practical measures to implement the accords with the Holy See reached in 1993 and 1994:

    "The Fundamental Agreement, which was ratified by the state of Israel on February 20, 1994, and is recognized internationally, has not yet been incorporated into Israeli law by the Knesset. The same must be said of the Legal Personality Agreement ratified by Israel on December 16, 1998, and recognized internationally on February 3, 1999. The so-called 'Economic Agreement', prescribed by article 10 of the Fundamental Agreement, has not yet been concluded."

    A meeting between the two parties to discuss the application of these agreements had been planned for July 26. But the meeting never took place, to the great disappointment of the Holy See and the Catholic community in the Holy Land.

    On the day the ceremony was taking place in the Knesset, on July 12, Islamic terrorists carried out a serious attack in Netanya.

    But at the Sunday Angelus on July 24, Benedict XVI did not mention Israel as being among the countries recently struck by terrorist attacks: Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Great Britain.

    Exploiting this omission, the next day the Israeli foreign minister summoned the Vatican nuncio, Pietro Sambi, to communicate a note of protest [...]

    For further analysis on Pope Benedict's 2005 omission of Israel from a list of recent victims of terrorism, I refer to John Allen Jr.'s "Context crucial in Vatican-Israel uproar" (National Catholic Reporter, August 12, 2005).

    After some tit-for-tat jousting between diplomats, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon moved to resolve any ill-feelings with the Vatican in a personal letter (""Israel, Vatican mend fences after dispute over pope's terrorism comments", by Arial David. World Wide Religious News August 27, 2005):

    In his letter, Sharon said Benedict's efforts to promote dialogue with Jews and Israel made him "a true friend of Israel, genuinely committed to advancing tolerance, understanding and reconciliation," Ben Hur said in a phone interview, reading from the letter. He said Sharon then explained the reasons for his country's reaction to the omission.

    "Israel has been devastated and victimized by terrorism, and we are very sensitive to any attempt to distinguish between Islamic terrorism which systematically targets innocent Israeli civilians and that which is aimed at citizens of other countries," Sharon wrote.

    Sodano expressed his satisfaction with the letter during Tuesday's meeting, saying both sides had made mistakes and that he was happy to put the issue behind him, Ben Hur said. The letter also invited Sodano to visit Israel.

    In August 2006, Magister also featured an interview with Israeli ambassador Oded Ben Hur, in which he commmented further on Israel's perception of Pope Benedict and Israel's expectations of Rome:

    In mid-July, just when the war had broken out in Lebanon, [Oded] was deeply troubled by the first statements from the Vatican authorities: “All of them went the same way, against Israel. The true aggressor, Hezbollah, wasn’t even mentioned by name. But after this the judgments became more balanced.”

    Q: Did this happen when Benedict XVI began speaking out personally?

    A: I would go so far as to say that Benedict XVI looks at Israel from a different point of view, compared to others. He sees the state of Israel not as an error of history, but as the heart of the Jewish world, a heart that by right should beat in Jerusalem. At the same time he is a realistic pope, who understands that the Church’s political influence is limited. He knows that the Church’s strength is not political, but moral. And it is there that he exerts himself most. It’s the pope as the great educator of the world, reawakening consciences, illuminating the darkness of ignorance, and pointing out where evil is triumphing over the good.

    Q: The Middle East is one of the places where evil abounds the most.

    A: And it may be that today the international community is taking greater notice of this. What happened in Lebanon was not the rupture of a situation of peace. Peace wasn’t there before this war. In that country there was a cancer named Hezbollah, a state within the state, which held the civil population hostage and fought a war while using this population as a shield. Even today, after the ceasefire, Hezbollah says it does not at all consider the war to be over, and is refusing to disarm. And Hamas continues to launch Kassam rockets against Israeli cities. [...]

    Q: What is expected from the Church of Rome?

    A: A great deal. In Lebanon there is a strong Christian community that can act as a bridge for peace. The pilgrims to the holy places, when they come in great numbers, are also helpful to the local populations. I also have an idea that I have already proposed to the Vatican authorities: that of creating a task force with representatives from the three religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – who would travel throughout the various countries of the Middle East spreading a message of reconciliation, in order to sensitize and mobilize those who sincerely desire peace, and separate them from extremist and violent groups.

    In December of 2006 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Pope Benedict XVI (Catholic News Service Dec. 14, 2006) - among the topics of discussion was the "dwindling Catholic population in the Holy Land, including in Bethlehem," and peace in the Middle East:

    Ben-Hur said Pope Benedict thanked the prime minister for Israeli's declaration of a cease-fire with Palestinian militias, although Ben-Hur said the prime minister said it is getting more and more difficult "to withhold reactions" to missiles being launched into Israel from Gaza.

    Ben-Hur said that when Olmert renewed a government invitation for the pope to visit Israel, the pope said he really wanted to make such a trip, but was looking for "a moment of calm."

    "The prime minister told him, 'You can bring the calm,'" the ambassador said.

    Talks between Israel and the Vatican resumed in 2007 with the goal of applying the provisions of the Fundamental Agreement's over the holy places, the Church‘s properties, and finances. In Holy See-Israel: painstaking resumption of negotiations (Bernardo Cervellera, December 12, 2006), Oded Ben Hur gave another interview on the nature of the impediments to negotations.

    Related Resources

    • Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the institution that cares for the property of the Catholic Church in Israel and the Territories.
    • Catholic Friends of Israel, founded by Don Kenner. I came into contact with Mr. Kenner shortly after the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in July-August 2006 and have become an occasional contributor to their blog. To learn about the founder of CFOI, I recommend this interview with IsraPundit; see also "The Bishops and the Suicide Bomber" FrontPageMag January 28, 2004).
    • Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, founded by Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq., advocates among mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics in North America for fairness in the churches’ witness on issues related to the conflict between Israel and it's Arab neighbors.
    • Pave The Way Foundation "dedicated to achieving peace by bridging the gap in tolerance and understanding, between religions through cultural, technological and intellectual exchanges." Gary Krupp, the founder, was promoted to the highest Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great -- the first Jewish man to be knighted by two popes.


    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Posted by Christopher Blosser at 6:02 AM

    Bob Sungenis has replied to my response (Carl Schmitt, Israel Shamir and Robert Sungenis Against The Grain January 19, 2007). I'll address a few of his points further.
    • R. Sungenis:
      "Responding in writing to a particular article" is not debating. It is merely Mr. Blosser?'s opportunity to do more of the same that he already does on his blog -- make unsubstantiated accusations based on his own personal fears and biases without being challenged immediately and promptly in a public debate.
      I understand debate to be an exchange of views and a challenging of positions. In his prior response Sungenis defended his use of Carl Schmitt, asserting that "Schmitt was not actually IN the Nazi party, much less had an ?active role? in the party." -- I challenged it. Sungenis asserted that, based on his reading of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, "it looks like every good Catholic who is faithful to his religion is now classed as an anti-smite by the U.S. government" -- I demonstrated how this interpretation was erroneous and largely inferred from the biased reading of the "Reverend" Ted Pike.

      I'll reiterate my response to Campbell: Public speaking [in the form of public debating on stage] is not my forte. However, I may be persuaded to respond in writing to a particular article he has written on Zionism, Judaism, etc. Although I don't promise on devoting too much time to debating Catholic extremists.

    • R. Sungenis:
      I didn't defend Schmitt. I merely pointed out the duplicity of the article that said he was both an anti-semite and an anti-nazi, depending on whether he was being castigated by Jews or Nazis. I wouldn?t defend Schmitt in either case. By posting Shamir's article, I simply wanted to alert Catholics to the liberalism inherent in Judaism and Zionism, no more, no less.
      Bob, your challenge: "So which is it, Mr. Blosser? Was Schmitt anti-semite or anti-Nazi? Curious minds want to know" certainly sounds like a defense to me.

      While one can point to "liberal tendencies" in secular or reformed Judaism, or various forms of Christianity, it seems to me that Israel Shamir's point is somewhat different from your own, in that he contends that "the 'liberal democracy and human rights' doctrine carried by the US marines across the Tigris and the Oxus is a form of secularised Judaism."

      Sungenis [now] professes concern about the threat of liberalism within Judaism [secular or otherwise].
      Shamir is concerned about the threat of Judaism within "liberal democracy and human rights' doctrine."

      Two different things, and given Shamir's explicit bias, probably all the more reason why Sungenis should have reconsidered using him as a source. But my hunch is that Sungenis was initially attracted to Shamir because of his ideological bent -- that, or this is another example of Sungenis uncritically posting a dubious source without careful consideration.

    • R. Sungenis: This is a watershed moment. Mr. Blosser has put himself on the line by attempting to define "anti-semitism." According to him, it is not merely racial hatred of Jews but "animosity" towards Jews, and he is apparently claiming that I have such "animosity." But the first problem is, Mr. Blosser doesn't define what "animosity towards Jews" is, and thus he hasn't advanced the discussion any further.

      Funny, since in the very article I conveyed my agreement with Fr. Flannery's description of anti-semitism as "a hatred, contempt and stereotyping of the Jewish people as such."

      Sungenis protests:

      . . . let me say loud and clear to Mr. Blosser and to all my critics: I have no animosity toward Jewish people. I am a Catholic apologist and I write books, articles, give lectures and do debates against people who either attack the Catholic faith or have an opposing religion to the Catholic faith. [...] When I first started in the early 90s, Protestants were my main source of contention, yet no one in the Catholic world said I did so because I had ?animosity? toward Protestants. They knew I did so because Protestants were attacking and weakening the Catholic faith.
      Let's see, in his fourteen years of service as a Catholic apologist:

      • Where has Bob said that Protestants "want to rule the world, and the Catholic Church too?" -- He said that about the Jews:
        But the Jews haven't been humble at all. They do intend to rule the world. And now the problem is that they want to rule the Catholic Church, too.
        [Source: R. Sungenis: CAI Q&A, #46; November, 2006; see also "Genesis and the Jewish Connection", Part I].

      • Where has Bob referred to "Protestant control of the media" or "the Protestant agenda of Hollywood's elite"? -- He said that about the Jews.

        ("Jewish critics such as the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen are far outnumbered, however. The number of pro-Israel/pro-Zionist media outlets in America is staggering . . ."
        [See: "Neocons and the Jewish Connection"; Robert Sungenis and the Jews section 2].

      • Where has Bob suggested that Disney movies used to be of a higher moral quality because Walt Disney had a policy of not hiring Protestants? -- He said that about the Jews:
        A telltale sign in the movie industry of the shift in mores was demonstrated no better than in the Walt Disney corporation. Founder Walter Disney was well-known in the 50s and 60s for wholesome family entertainment. Interestingly enough, Walt had a policy of not hiring Jewish people.
        [Source: "Neo-Cons and the Jewish Connection" - the last sentence was removed when Sungenis was confronted by Michael Forrest's expose; however, one does not have to read through the remainder of the paragraph without noticing the same inference: Disney was fine until the Jews took over.]

      • Where has Bob questioned the political motives and policies of any of our Protestant presidents, based on their Protestantism? -- He did so with regard to FDR and his supposed Jewish ancestry.

      • Where has Bob said that Protestants are "inherently violent" and "some of the most ruthless people" when they come into power? Where has he suggested that "real Protestants consider all non-Protestants to be "less than animals"?

        -- He said that about the Jews.:

        [R. Sungenis]: Christianity is certainly not inherently violent, but unfortunately, Judaism tends to be, because real Judaism considers all non-Jews goyim that are less than animals, and this precipitates a loathing and violence against non-Jews. You can read all about this in the Babylonian Talmud and the Encyclopedia Judaica. Fortunately, Judaism is such a small enterprise today that they neither have the power or will to exercise these ideas in large part, and most of today's Jews are quite liberal and could care less about Judaism. But when they come into power, as they did in the communist regime under Lenin and Trotsky, they can be some of the most ruthless people on the face of the earth.
        [Source: "Question 8- Muslims, USA and the Jews, Part 2" Catholic Apologetics International Q&A January 2006]
      Certainly no stereotyping of the Jews as such. Just plain and simple political criticism. I think if you invited a sampling of Jews to survey Catholic Apologetics International with its curious preoccupation, the majority of them would leave confused and outraged by Bob's attitude and behavior and the kind of language that is used.

    • Responding to my observation that "Fahey's restricted definition of anti-semitism didn't prohibit him from indulging in fantasies of Judeo-Masonic conspiracies so off the wall that Hillaire Belloc was moved to say ?The thing is nonsense on the face of it," Sungenis notes that "Fahey wrote his work in 1950. Hillaire Belloc wasn?t writing any comments at that time because he had a stroke eight years earlier which totally incapacitated him."

      Fair enough. Nonetheless, Belloc was discussing the notion of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, which was espoused by Fahey. According to Dennis Barton In Defense of Hilaire Belloc ChurchinHistory.org), "Belloc denied the anti-Semite belief that the Jews were responsible for modern Capitalism ((HBJ 52)). He ridiculed The Protocols of The Elders of Sion, a book which was being treated like a 'Bible' by Anti-Semites." According to Belloc himself:

      "... these explanations of the Russian revolution are very good specimens of the way in which the European so misunderstands the Jew that he imputes to him powers which neither he nor any other poor mortal can ever exercise. Thus we are asked to believe that this political upheaval was part of one highly-organised plot centuries old, the agents of which were millions of human beings all pledged to the destruction of our society and their acting in complete discipline under a few leaders superhumanly wise! The thing is a nonsense..."
      Incidentally, Sungenis in a dialogue with an individual named Mark discusses the Belloc quote and (if I read him correctly) expresses his agreement with the criticism, going on to say that "I found that the majority of Fr. Fahey's patristic support was wanting. He had about a half dozen or so citations, but I didn't find them either convincing or representative of a unanimity." So, a point in his favor.

    • Regarding Sungenis' assertion that "the State Department's Report on Global Anti-Semitism . . . contains 12 descriptions of "anti-semitism," -- twelve points which I found to be contained nowhere in the report itself but rather resided in a news alert by the "Reverend" Ted Pike, Sungenis now concedes:
      Ted Pike made a summary of the document based on the history of cases prosecuted recently for anti-semitism. Culture Wars picked up the summary and mentioned it in an article several months ago, which is my source. The official government document can be found here: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgibin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=108_cong_bills&docid=f:s2292enr.txt.pdf Official dialogue on it can be found here:


      Sungenis took his info from E. Michael Jones. Jones makes the same erroneous assertion -- "Mr. Rickman will not have to define anti-Semitism. His state department office has already done that for him [referring to the twelve points]" -- without documentation. (The Conversion of the Revolutionary Jew October 2006).

      Regretfully, the first link that Sungenis provides is non-functional, and the latter two (the 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism, which I had already linked to; and the second, a 2005 briefing with Ambassador Michael Kozak and Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Ambassador Edward O'Donnell, do not contain the "twelve points." So again, we're at a loss and I am not prepared to take E. Michael Jones' or Ted Pike's "summary" of what The Global Holocaust Report means on faith. As I indicted to our readers, it's far better to simply read the government report and come to your own conclusions.

      Sungenis proceeds:

      Regarding the official Congressional Act, in mentioning their desire to ?enforce laws relating to the protection of the right to religious freedom of Jewish people? (p. 3), although I realize that the United States grants religious freedom to everyone, I?'m concerned that a reference to the religion of the ?Jewish people? is specified. All that needs to be reiterated is that the United States gives religious freedom to everyone, not that the United States protects a specific religion out of the myriads of religions existing. As it stands, a judge could take upon himself to interpret the new Congressional Act to mean that ?vociferous? criticism of Judaism, the Talmud or Kabbalah would constitute an infraction of the law against anti-semitism.This concern of mine is supported by the sentence on page 2 where it attempts to define ?anti-semitism? by pointing out that ?Anti-Semitism has at times taken the form of vilification of Zionism, the Jewish national movement, and incitement against Israel.? Again, a judge favoring Israel and the Jews could easily interpret ?vilification? or ?incitement? as including any criticism of the aforementioned. The fact that Judaism and its political offshoots are now, under US law, a state-protected religion, should alarm anyone who understood the US as a republic that separates church and state. No other religion enjoys this status.
      First, Sungenis' clarification here sounds a tad more self-composed, for which I'm appreciative. It's possible to discuss this without jumping to conclusions like "every good Catholic who is faithful to his religion is now classed as an anti-smite by the U.S. government."

      If we turn to the report itself, we'll see that the State Department is concerned with distinguishing between :

      For the purposes of this report, anti-Semitism is considered to be hatred toward Jews—individually and as a group—that can be attributed to the Jewish religion and/or ethnicity. An important issue is the distinction between legitimate criticism of policies and practices of the State of Israel, and commentary that assumes an anti-Semitic character. The demonization of Israel, or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue. Global anti-Semitism in recent years has had four main sources:

      1. Traditional anti-Jewish prejudice that has pervaded Europe and some countries in other parts of the world for centuries. This includes ultra-nationalists and others who assert that the Jewish community controls governments, the media, international business, and the financial world.
      2. Strong anti-Israel sentiment that crosses the line between objective criticism of Israeli policies and anti-Semitism.
      3. Anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by some in Europe's growing Muslim population, based on longstanding antipathy toward both Israel and Jews, as well as Muslim opposition to developments in Israel and the occupied territories, and more recently in Iraq.
      4. Criticism of both the United States and globalization that spills over to Israel, and to Jews in general who are identified with both.
      Granted that these examples are not clearly defined -- any legal case or attempt to prohibit anti-semitism will entail the need for distinctions. But I think some examples of what would be considered manifestations of anti-semitism (as opposed to mere "political criticism") will suffice:

      As I mentioned in my initial response, if you examine the actual U.S. Report on Global Anti-Semitism, the displays of anti-semitism the State Department is largely concerned about involve direct acts of desecration and violence -- vandalism of Jewish gravesites, synagogue-burnings, racially-motivated beatings, etc.

      Not every political cartoon that has the object of their criticism the state of Israel is anti-semitic. At the same time, it is true that many (particularly within Arab media) perpetuate old stereotypes and caricatures of the Jew as such, or notions of a Jewish global conspiracy. (See Major Anti-Semitic Motifs in Arab Cartoons, and illustrated interview with Dr. Joël Kotek), in much the same manner as anti-Catholic cartoons of the 19th century relied upon certain stereotypes and falsehoods.

      "Criticizing the Talmud" or "saying an unkind word [about the Kabbalah]" isn't necessarily anti-semitic, or will be deemed such by the U.S. government. Madonnah is not likely to be labeled an anti-semite for becoming disillusioned with the Kaballah center -- a far cry from the original esoteric tradition -- think of Fr. Matthew Fox's "techno-mass" as compared to the original Latin). On the other hand, employing criticism of the Talmud in such a way as to "paint Judaism as an immoral religion that preaches hatred for non-Jews and promotes obscenity, criminality, sexual perversion and other immoral acts" probably is. (See the ADL's The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics.

      Again, I think that, were a Jewish reader to stumble across Catholic Apologetics International's obsessive preoccupation with the Jews and "real" Judaism, he would question Sungenis' motives in doing so. Just as one would question the motives of a Protestant website that was inordinately preoccupied with publishing anti-Catholic propaganda and perpetuating an attitude of general hostility towards Catholics in general.

    Reflections on the Jewish Covenant and its people: An Enduring Relationship?

    Bob denounces "Judaism, Zionism, Talmudism, Jewish nationalism, liberal Jewish groups, Evangelical Protestants favoring Israel, and even Catholic converts advancing their Jewish views of religion" of possessing a fallacious and dangerous notion:

    They all seem to be working under the premise that the Jews are still ?God?s chosen people,? . . . the false premise that God still has some special relationship with the Jews above his relationship with the Gentiles, or has a distinctive ?covenant? with the Jewish people in the same way that He did in the Old Testament. These are grave errors in theology and politics, and every Catholic apologist should be condemning them. Unfortunately, there are only a handful that are doing so. The rest have been deceived. The Jews are no different than any other group of people on the face of the earth. There are no ?special relationships? with God based on one?s ethnic background or heritage.

    In October 2004 I carried on a 3-part discussion with Jeff Culbreath on "Jewish rejection of the Messiah" and contemporary Jewish-Christian relations, exploring the thought of Cardinal Ratzinger in Many Religions, One Covenant. You can find the concluding reflections and remarks for a summmary. It was a learning experience and I thank Jeff Culbreath for patiently indulging me. I suspect Jacob Michael has provided a much more coherent investigation in Never Revoked by God: The Place of Israel in the Future of the Church (e-book available for download), and so I'll leave specific discussion of the particular status of the Jewish covenant to more qualified hands.

    That said, I want to touch on the question of what kind of spirit should one embody in conveying theological disagreement with and/or engaging in interreligious dialogue with the Jewish people.

    In my last post I noted the possibility of offering criticism of Zionism without succumbing to the kind of malevolent stereotyping -- as demonstrated by Denis Fahey, Fr. Coughlin, Sungenis and others. I assert that the the same possibility exists in expressing theological disagreement in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Note for example, that Father Avery Dulles took a position critical to the joint publication of Reflections on Covenant and Mission which aroused Sungenis' initial ire back in 2002. ("Covenant and Mission" Vol. 187 No. 12 October 21, 2002). Observe how Cardinal Dulles is perfectly capable of mounting comparable criticism of the document (and its theological constructs) without resorting to the kind of polemic fury that mired Sungenis in controversy and tarnished his career as an apologist. (Cardinal Dulles would revisit the issue in 2005, and provoke a bit of controversy as well, when he rejected "the two-covenant concept -- a valid covenant for Jews made at Mount Sinai (the life of Torah) and a valid one for Christians made at Calvary (the resurrection of Jesus)," provoking the criticism of Rabbi James Rudin. See my discussion "To evangelize -- or not to evangelize?" Against The Grain March 21, 2005).

    I would add that Fr. James V. Schall SJ, Dr. Ronda Chervin, Fr. Francis Martin, Mark Drogin and David Moss all voiced their criticism of the document in a symposium for the National Catholic Register -- David Moss conveying that he was "embarrassed and irritated" -- Catholic leaders, who after two decades could produce something inconsistent with the Catholic faith, and irritated, that the document was released without undergoing. Again frustrating Sungenis' stereotype of a Neocon-ZionistTM, Deal Hudson, then-publisher of Crisis magazine, asked, “If we’re saved only through Jesus, how can we say that God’s covenant with the Jews ‘is a saving covenant’?” ("Rome Rejects While the Bishops 'Reflect'").

    By no means would I compare my own work to the likes of Dulles or the rest of these scholars, but one of the very first essays I posted to the RatzingerFanClub's discussion forum was entitled Jewish-Christian Relations: Mixed Signals from the Vatican, which was a joint reaction to the vitriolic response of Christopher Ferrara, Robert Sungenis, and John Vennari and to offer my own criticisms of Reflections on Covenant and Mission and the CDF document Dominus Iesus, noting conflicting positions of Cardinals Kasper and Ratzinger in their presentation of the Church's attitude towards fulfilling the Great Commission.

    It's interesting to note that at no point did any of the aformentioned scholars allude to Vatican or USCCB complicity in a Zionist agenda. Each of these individuals take issue with Covenant and Mission, yet the very spirit they embody speaks volumes.

    * * *

    Let's turn for a minute to the thought of the two most recent Popes on their relationship with contemporary Jews.

    On April 13, 1986, John Paul II made a historic visit to the Synagogue in Rome. In his address to the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community, the Pope reiterated the fundamental points of Nostra Aetate, the first of which was that

    the Church of Christ discovers her "bond" with Judaism by "searching into her own mystery." The Jewish religion is not "extrinsic" to us, but in a certain way is "intrinsic" to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You (the Jews) are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.
    I think we can assert with confidence that John Paul II wasn't only speaking of our relation to Jewish converts, but to the Jewish people in general.

    Turning to an early essay by our present Pope, then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations Communio 25, no. 1 (1998): 29-41), it is important to examine not only the content, but the overall tone of Ratzingers's remarks:

    "Even if Israel cannot join Christians in seeing Jesus as the Son of God,it is not altogether impossible for Israel to recognize him as the servant of God who brings the light of his God to the nations." The converse is also true: even if Christians wish that Israel might one day recognize Christ as the Son of God and that the fissure that still divides them might thereby be closed, they ought to acknowledge the decree of God, who has obviously entrusted Israel with a distinctive mission in the "time of the Gentiles." The Fathers define this mission in the following way: the Jews must remain as the first proprietors of Holy Scripture with respect to us, in order to establish a testimony to the world. But what is the tenor of this testimony? . . . I think we could say that two things are essential to Israel's faith. The first is the Torah, commitment to God's will, and thus the establishment of his dominion, his kingdom, in this world. The second is the prospect of hope, the expectation of the Messiah -- the expectation, indeed, the certainty, that God himself will enter into this history and create justice, which we can only approximate very imperfectly. The three dimensions of time are thus connected: obedience to God's will bears on an already spoken word that now exists in history and at each new moment has to be made present again in obedience. This obedience, which makes present a bit of God's justice in time, is oriented toward a future when God will gather up the fragments of time and usher them as a whole into his justice.

    Christianity does not give up this basic configuration. The trinity of faith, hope, and love corresponds in a certain respect to the three dimensions of time: the obedience of faith takes the word that comes from eternity and is spoken in history and transforms it into love, into presence, and in this way opens the door to hope. It is characteristic of the Christian faith that all three dimensions are contained and sustained in the figure of Christ, who also introduces them into eternity. In him, time and eternity exist together, and the infinite gulf between God and man is bridged. For Christ is the one who came to us without therefore ceasing to be with the Father; he is present in the believing community, and yet at the same time is still the one who is coming. The Church too awaits the Messiah. She already knows him, yet he has still to reveal his glory. Obedience and promise belong together for the Christian faith, too. For Christians, Christ is the present Sinai, the living Torah that lays its obligations on us, that bindingly commands us, but that in so doing draws us into the broad space of love and its inexhaustible possibilities. In this way, Christ guarantees hope in the God who does not let history sink into a meaningless past, but rather sustains it and brings it to its goal. It likewise follows from this that the figure of Christ simultaneously unites and divides Israel and the Church: it is not in our power to overcome this division, but it keeps us together on the way to what is coming and for this reason must not become an enmity.

    Consider as well the Holy Father's December 2000 essay, The Heritage of Abraham: The Gift of Christmas (December 2000):
    We know that every act of giving birth is difficult. Certainly, from the very beginning, relations between the infant Church and Israel were often marked by conflict. The Church was considered by her own mother to be a degenerate daughter, while Christians considered their mother to be blind and obstinate. Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.

    Perhaps it is precisely because of this latest tragedy that a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel has been born: a sincere willingness to overcome every kind of anti-Judaism, and to initiate a constructive dialogue based on knowledge of each other, and on reconciliation. If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people, the people of Israel, to whom belong "the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 9:4-5), and this not only in the past, but still today, "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). In the same way, let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge.

    We are left with the question of how Pope Benedict might encourage "a greater esteem and love for that people, the people of Israel, to whom belong "the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 9:4-5), and this not only in the past, but still today" -- if as Sungenis asserts, the Jewish people enjoy no such relationship and are "no different than any other group of people on the face of the earth." On the contrary, it seems to me that for some mysterious reason, God's friendship for the Jewish people remain intertwined with their heritage such that, even today, they constitute a precious witness.

    Perhaps no more tragic an affirmation of the continued significance of the Jewish people can be found in the concentrated efforts of the Third Reich to obliterate them from the face of the earth. As Benedict noted in his address at Auschwitz:

    Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone—to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.
    Again, I would encourage a reading of Ratzinger's Many Religions, One Covenant (Ignatius Press, 1999).

    As he explains, the proper context for discussing the Jewish-Christian relationship is not one of mutual antagonism -- of setting the Old and New Testaments against each other, of pitting Jews against Christians (either then or now) -- but of looking at both in relation to the covenant of Abraham. The New Covenant is an extension of the Lord's abiding covenant with Abraham. In Christ, God's covenant with the Jews is universalized, "opens up" to encompass Jews and gentiles. It is hard to do justice to his work here, but I have found Ratzinger's exposition of Church teaching on the covenant and Jewish-Christian relations to be beneficial to this discussion.

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