Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger's Theological Ideas: Wise Cautions and Legitimate Hopes/Pope Benedict XVI: An Introduction to His Theological Vision

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Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI Tracey Rowland. Oxford University Press. 2008. ISBN: 978-0-8091-4601-7. 214 pages, hardcover. $12.95.

Joseph Ratzinger's Theological Ideas: Wise Cautions and Legitimate Hopes James Corkery, SJ. Paulist Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-6-19-920740-4. 174 pages, paperback. $14.95.

Pope Benedict XVI: An Introduction to His Theological Vision Thomas P. Rausch, SJ. Paulist Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-8091-0556-4. 195 pages, hardcover. $22.95.

All of these authors feel it necessary to begin their books with a biography of Joseph Ratzinger before they treat his theology. Rowland situates Ratzinger squarely at the end of the controversies of three theological schools - the NeoThomists (Garrigou-Lagrange, Leo XIII), the French Ressourcement scholars (De Lubac, Danielou), and the Transcendental Thomists (Rahner). She also describes the split immediately after the Second Vatican Council between those implementing the renewal through the Consilium (Kung, Metz, Congar, Schillebeeckx, Brand Bockle, and Gutierrez) and those embracing the Communio viewpoint (von Balthasar, De Lubac, Le Guillou, Bouyer, Medira, and, indeed, Ratzinger himself). Her writing is clear; her theological expressions are precise.

Corkery links Ratzinger's early life to "tensions" that are combined with his personal inclinations, and he demonstrates how these tensions and tendencies flow into his theological positions and formations. As do all three authors, Corkery points to the influence of Ratzinger's dissertation on Augustine and his second doctorate on Bonaventure as influential in Ratzinger's personal theological formation.

Rausch is far more confrontational than the other two in his biography of Ratzinger, dealing with his Nazi background, his decisions against the progressive agenda while head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (namely liberation theology, relativism, women, homosexuality, progressive theologians, and religious pluralism). For biographical notes, Rausch depends heavily on John Allen's biography, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican Enforcer of the Faith (Continuum, 2000; reissued under the title Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger, 2005).

Reading the three books side by side, one notes something that is not mentioned but clearly is in play in each text: the autobiography of its author. Rowland is from Australia, the dean of the Melbourne campus of the John Paul II Institute and a member of the editorial board of the English language edition of the journal Communio, founded by, among others, Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar. In short, she is a fan - a very competent theological fan, but nevertheless a sympathetic fan. She writes as a teacher explaining theology. Corkery is an Irish Jesuit and a professor of systematic theology. After the papal election, Corkery became a correspondent for the media because of his studies on Joseph Ratzinger. The subtitle of his book, Wise Cautions and Legitimate Hopes, highlights his focus on the papacy of Benedict XVI. Corkery's approach is European, his writing style is journalistic, and he strives for accessibility in a "chatty" style. Rausch is clearly an American, a Jesuit professor at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles, and he writes from a very American background, arguing as best he can with Ratzinger's "theological vision." He includes such editorial characterizations as "God's Rottweiler," "Cardinal No," and "Der Panzerkardinal," and, of course, the "Grand Inquisitor" (page five). The other two biographies use no similar terms.

These views from three English-speaking countries provide diversity worthy of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger, the author of more than 100 books and 420 articles and reference works. No one book will completely summarize his immense output, which ranges from precise academic exploration to poetic and homiletic expressions.

So this review will be a summary of these summaries (but not a "reform of the reform")! …