Saturday, February 04, 2006

I'm Shocked--Shocked!--to Find Love Being Praised Here!

I've just been perusing Chris Blosser's survey of the conventional wisdom regarding Deus Caritas Est, here and here. As usual, Chris is to be congratulated for doing us all the service of bringing this material together and commenting on it with such perspicacity. What struck me about the various voices heard from in the excerpts was not so much how little these people appear to understand Benedict XVI, but how very badly they understand Roman Catholicism. Take, for example, this Bright Light (Ruth Gledhill, writing in the Times of London):
I started reading Deus Caritas Est expecting to be disappointed, chastised and generally laid low. An encyclical on love from a right-wing pope could only contain more damning condemnations of our materialistic, westernised society, more evocations of the “intrinsic evil” of contraception, married priests, homosexuality. It would surely continue the Church’s grand tradition of contempt for the erotic, a tradition that ensures a guilty hangover in any Roman Catholic who dares to indulge in lovemaking for any reason other than the primary one of reproduction. How wonderful it is to be proven wrong.
Quite. I expect she's used to it by now, though. Here is a woman who appears to know absolutely nothing about the Church's moral theory or theology informing us that she's surprised to find that the Church does not teach what she, in her ignorance, assumed that it did teach. When she finds out that it never did teach what she assumed that it did, I expect she will find it even more wonderful, because the surprise will be greater.

Also of interest to me was the fact that Stephen Crittenden, religion correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, quoted from DCE the passage where the Holy Father refers to Nietzsche's infamous claim that Christianity had poisoned eros, causing it to degenerate into a vice, in order to support his approving claim that "this document dialogues with everybody." This is interesting for two reasons. First, and most importantly, it is quite clear to anybody who reads the encyclical with even minimal care that Benedict XVI is not quoting Nietzsche with anything like approval. In the section immediately following the quotation Benedict compares the role of eros in the pre-Christian world with the treatment it got from the Church, and then draws the conclusion that, as far as Christian teachings go:
Far from rejecting or "poisoning" eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur.
That's the kind of dialoguing with error that I like, but it shouldn't come as such a shock to the likes of Stephen Crittenden that one should quote one's opponent before shredding him. Or maybe it should--he is just a journalist, after all.

As I ponder the encyclical I am struck, over and over again, by the consistency of its message with John Paul's Theology of the Body and, indeed, with the whole of the Church's Tradition. I'll never cease to be amused by the hopeless pundits of the left, those dinosaurs who continue to play football as though Knute Rockne had never existed, running and running their pointless, old fashioned arguments about this or that changing while the rest of us are watching the spectacular passes by means of which the Church moves forward in Her own way, with logical consistency and historical continuity.

Thanks again to Chris Blosser for all of his hard work.

2 comments:

Christopher said...

As I had mentioned in discussion with other RFCers, there are two strains of interpretation of Deus Caritas Est that I am very uneasy with, the first contrasting the "kindler, gentler" Benedict with the "bad cop" Prefect of the CDF.

Rocco Palmo does this a bit on his blog -- On one hand, it's legitimate to understand the CDF as a restrained role in which, of course, only one side of the Cardinal was revealed to the public (not so for those who read his texts, especially his devotional works).

On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to take this comparison of pre/post 2005 Joseph Ratzinger to the extreme, as if to suggest that the 'new' Benedict is a repudiation of the old. K√ľng pursues this route to the extent that he requested that "Joseph Ratzinger would be a great pope if he were to draw from these true and important words on love [in Deus Caritas Est] the courageous consequences for church structures and canon law," asking Benedict to heed his personal agenda for the reform of the Church.

The other strain of interpretation, which Crittendon exemplifies, is the placing of Benedict's pontificate in opposition to Pope John Paul II. On his blog Palmo joined Crittendon in pronouncing the end
of John Paul II's "theology of the body," noting its absence from the encyclical. (But was it truly absent? -- reading the encyclical made me think of it as well).

Of course there are key differences in thought, tone and style between Benedict and his predecessor, but I would view them -- as you did -- as being complimentary rather than in conflict.

p.s. Thanks for the link!

Andrew R said...

I've met Stephen Crittenden and he's a pleasant enough chap, but he does have the distinction of having been cautioned by the left-leaning BBC-ish Aus BC, who hardly touch anybody, more than once, for careless innuendo: http://timblair.net/ee/index.php/weblog/comments/not_as_bad_as_last_time/