Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI

By Presa, Neal D. | The Ecumenical Review, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI


Presa, Neal D., The Ecumenical Review


Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI. By Tracey Rowland. New York, Oxford University Press, 2008, 214 pp., $15.54.

Tracey Rowland's Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI astutely introduces us to the theological, cultural and ecclesiastical forces that shaped the thought of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and which continue to guide him now as Pope Benedict XVI. Rowland's carefully researched volume is far from what was in 2005, when Ratzinger was elected pope, the simplistic curiosity as to whether he would be a mere continuation of or a more conservative version of John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla). Rowlands reveals that both Ratzinger and Wojtyla desired to engage modernity and postmodernity with a culture of love, not death. While Wojtyla tended to use modern cultural terms and then repackage them with the Christian gospel, Ratzinger spoke straightforwardly, using "overtly Christian, unmutated, directly Scriptural" (154).

Ratzinger's role in and after Vatican II reveals a theologian who--influenced by Augustine, Aquinas, H. de Lubac, H. von Balthasar, R. Guardini inter alia--desired to engage what he saw as an increasingly humanistic culture. However, he did this not by accommodating Christiania, to the terms and presuppositions of the culture (contra K. Rahner, E. Schillebeeckx, H. Kung), but by a clear presentation of the faith and Tradition. Embedded in this was his belief that at the core of Christianity is not merely a moral system (contra Kant), but a deep encounter with the triune God; in other words, Christianity is about "Revelation". Rowland cited a letter Guardini sent to Paul VI in 1965 as a summation of Ratzinger's own belief and approach vis-a-vis modern culture: "What can convince modern people is not an historical or a psychological or a continually modernizing Christianity but only the unrestricted and uninterrupted message of Revelation" (146).

Rowland in her book discusses Ratzinger's position toward the church's liturgy, specifically the implementation of Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) and its desire to inculturate worship. …

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