Academic journal article Theological Studies

From the Editor's Desk

Academic journal article Theological Studies

From the Editor's Desk

Article excerpt

Love, then, consists in this: Not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins. Beloved, if God has loved us so, we must have the same love for one another.... Our love is brought to perfection in this, that we should have confidence on the day of judgment; for our relation to this world is just like his. Love has no room for fear; rather, perfect love casts out all fear.

--1 John 4:10-11, 17-18

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the reactionary decisions by the U.S. administration to intervene militarily first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq--decisions opposed by Pope John Paul II, most of the world's bishops and religious leaders, as well as by many military advisers--the index of fear has risen sharply worldwide. Four months later the Boston Globe initiated a series of articles detailing the results of investigations into clergy sexual abuse. These articles opened the gates to a flood of such reports from around the United States and, indeed, from around the world. It is safe to say that, for Catholics, this combination of being assaulted, first, by terrorists and counteroffensives by U.S. armed forces, and second, by numerous (and ongoing) accounts of sexual abuse by clergy represents a suffering of fear and shame such as we have never before experienced.

At the same time, the Church witnessed the decline and death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI. The former, although very popular, was experienced by many theologians as heavy-handed toward those who exercised critical thinking and expressed alternative views. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, while head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was estimated by many--fairly or not--to be the executor of John Paul's authoritarian style. When his name was announced from the papal balcony on April 19, 2005, as the new pope, many theologians gasped out of fear that what many had experienced as undue constraint during the long reign of John Paul II would continue unabated.

One of the first indications that this suspicion might be misguided came on September 24, 2005, when Benedict XVI spent several cordial hours with censured theologian Hans Kung at Castel Gondolfo--an audience that Kung had repeatedly petitioned with John Paul II over 25 years but was never granted. There were other indications. Already as head of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger had earned among bishops who met with him during their ad limina visits the reputation as a warm and genuine person who was really able to listen to them. At the October Synod on the Eucharist, Benedict changed the rules to allow an hour each day for unprecedented free discussion, and at the March consistory he sought advice from the cardinals on administrative and pastoral issues.

Most recently, the direction that Benedict wants to set for his papacy is clearly indicated by his first encyclical, Deus caritas est. …

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