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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Let God?s Light Shine Forth
Date: 4:30-5:30 pm (ET)
on Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
Robert Moynihan
Bill Briere, Wyoming State Deputy
Laramie, Wyoming, USA
The hellish environment that Hitler created has helped to form a couple of our greatest popes. With our foothold in Poland, could "Let God's light shine forth" become a mission statement for introducing the K. of C. to Germany?
Carl A. Anderson:
Great question. We will let history be the judge, but surely the Pope is concerned about a new evangelization of Europe, and particularly his homeland - Germany. And probably no one understands better than he the philosophical and cultural foundations of secularism in Europe.

Bill Lees
Naperville, Ind.
Do you think the 'real Ratzinger' was under wraps while he was head of doctrine for the Church? He doesn't seem to be the bad guy everyone said he was.
Robert Moynihan:
Characterizing someone as a "bad guy" is silly and simplistic. To say that a man of the pope's stature was under wraps for 25 years is ridiculous. He was extremely outspoken year after year in the public square and gave book-length interviews, including to me. He was accessible. He listened to the arguments of others and he responded. He was like an intellectual fighter who accepted to be in the ring. He has changed as pope. To say that he is now not "under wraps" is a distortion without any relation to reality.

The pope’s two major documents — his encyclical and his recent apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist — both deal with charity. Why do think that is?
Carl A. Anderson:
Because God is love, and as Pope Benedict has explained so well, that love, when put into action provides a powerful witness to our secular culture.

Robert Moynihan:
I agree with the supreme knight. He put it clearly and well. The pope is placing love at the center because so often we place someting else at the center. Whether it be laws or traditions or appearances. To place love at the center is to return to the heart of the faith. He did not want to emphasize laws, traditions or appearance but the very essence of the faith which is God, which is love.

The pope has been invited to speak at the U.N. Regardless of whether he does, do you think Pope Benedict gets enough credit as a world leader, and not just a spiritual leader?
Carl A. Anderson:
The world would be a much better place if it gave greater credit to the Pope as a world leader: it would be a more peaceful place as well. Pope Paul VI once said that the Pope must look at the world through the eyes of Christ. Clearly this is what Benedict is trying to do, and what he is trying to get the world to do as well.

Robert Moynihan:
I'm not worried whether he gets credit from anybody; it's of no concern to me. The fact that any thoughtful world leader would like to consult with the pope even about prudential matters about human behavior suggests the esteem in which he is held. Week after week worlld leaders stop in Rome and year after year the pope is invited to visit to meet with presidents and on this occasion to come to the United Nations to speak to the representatives of all the nations. He doesn't need to travel anywhere. He can speak in St. Peter's Square and the world will listen.

York, PA
In your book, you say faith and family are the “twin poles” of the pope’s life. What are the challenges to the Knights and to the Church to restore or enhance those? Especially since the pope has also said that the world is ignoring God.
Carl A. Anderson:
The family is the most important point of encounter between Christian faith and contemporary secular culture. We see this in issues such as abortion and marriage. The family is also the "culture" in which our children have our faith and moral values transmitted to them. We might say that the family is the first school of evangelization. We need to recall and reflect on why the Council and the Pope refer to the family as the "domestic Church." If we do that I think we can understand why John Paul II and Benedict XVI have emphasized the family to such a degree, and why it is an important part of the mission of the Knights of Columbus.

New Haven
The other book this month was about how men could apply the Rule of St. Benedict to their own vocation as fathers. Do either of you have favorite saint/role models as fathers and husbands?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think St. Thomas More is a great example of a father and husband. In fact, he ultimately died for a principled defense of the sacrament of marriage.

You were an auditor at the World Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005. Now that the pope has released Sacramentum Caritatis, the apostolic exhortation based on the synod’s findings, what is your reaction to it?
Carl A. Anderson:
Sacramentum Caritatis emphasizes the important role of the synod of bishops, and how John Paul II and now Benedict XVI is using this collegiality to renew the Church. The Pope is emphasizing over and over how all of the Lord's actions in our life reflect his creative and redemptive love. And so the beginning of his pontificate we see Deus Caritas Est, and as we look at different aspects of the life of the Church - for example now the Eucharist - we see it now as a Sacrament of Charity. So we see many paths bringing us back to the central truth of the Christian life.

Springfield, Mo
The pope talked quite a bit about the drama and the symbolism of the Easter vigil celebrations of his youth in your book, and he returned to that topic recently. Why do you think that is? Is he commenting on contemporary liturgy?
Robert Moynihan:
In part, yes. He does feel profoundly the need to restore a sense of the sacred in our modern liturgy, but it is not only this that moves him to return repeatedly to the memories of the Easter vigils of his childhood. He recalls those Easter vigils because they formed him. Those Easter vigils shaped not only his soul but his mind and his imagination. When the darkness of Holy Saturday was lit by the first candle at dawn on Easter Sunday, it was as if a new world was beginning. The resurrection became emotionally and psychologically real to the young Joseph Ratzinger in the moment of the lighting of the candle in the darkness, in the moment of the singing after long silence.

Have either of you had a chance to preview the pope’s new book? Do the Knights or Inside the Vatican have any plans to promote it or feature it in the book club?
Robert Moynihan:
I have only read the introduction and excerpts. I am waiting to read the English edition when it comes out May 15. I am anxious to read the book and write about it, and advertise it in the pages of my magazine. I think this book and the ones that follow will be landmarks in the scholarly study of how the 20th and 21st centuries thought about Jesus.

Benedict mentioned in his first speech that he would seek collegiality. "To listen together with the whole Church..." How have we seen this? Where have we seen this?
Robert Moynihan:
[Moderator's Note: Part 2 of answer]: The great concern of the pope is the freedom of the Church. He wishes the Church to proclaim the Gospel and not be tempted by any other message, no matter how seemingly attractive. Each generation, each century has its own trend, its own fad, and our century is no different. To protect the Church from the pressure of the age, the pope must preserve his authority to make the final decision when human strength alone may not be enough to stand against the influence of the world. However, in so far as it is possible, he wishes the stands he takes to be shared by his brother bishops. This is the true meaning of collegiality.

Benedict mentioned in his first speech that he would seek collegiality. "To listen together with the whole Church..." How have we seen this? Where have we seen this?
Robert Moynihan:
[Moderator's Note: Part 1 of answer]: Good question. I think that we have seen a number of examples of collegiality. He makes some decisions alone, but he seems always to consult many people before making those decisions. This is true collegiality. He does not diminish his role as the bishop of Rome nor does he overlook the role of other bishops throughout the world. In Rome, he has on several occasions called together his entire curia to consult with him on important matters, including the question of the Society of St. Pius X and the question of the Church in China.

How did the 20th century experiences of World War II, Nazism, Communism, the cold war, etc. influence Benedict? Is that the reason for his emphasis on charity and on peace? He said he chose the name Benedict to recall the peace efforts of Benedict XV.
Carl A. Anderson:
Certainly the Pope has made a very strong statement in choosing the name Benedict. But it is a statement consistent with his thinking as a young theologian. For example, his book written in the 1960s, entitled "Introduction to Christianity," begins with proposing Christianity in the midst of a secularized, cynical post-WWII culture.

Burbank, CA
Your book includes several excerpts from speeches or other writings of Cardinal Ratzinger’s, and his inaugural homily as pope. Have you detected a change in tone or themes from his writings as a cardinal and as a pope?
Robert Moynihan:
Yes, and I wrote the book in the days after his election. Now, two years have passed exactly yesterday that he was installed as pope. In these two years I have seen a remarkable deepening of the pope's spirituality. He always had the spirituality he is now displaying. But it is like a river that comes out of the mountains, crosses the prairie and then moves toward the sea. Such a river gets broader and more impressive because of all the tributaries that add their water. This aging Christian, now the bishop of Rome, is more himself and more profound than 10 or 15 years ago.

New York
Both of you knew the pope as Cardinal Ratzinger. Do you see any differences in him now that he’s pope?
Carl A. Anderson:
I would not say that we see differences in him; we see him more clearly, and we see his spiritual strength and intellectual greatness in a more transparent way.

Oklahoma City
I was shocked to read that 12 years ago Ratzinger said that the Church faces one of its most profound crises since Gnosticism. What is he as Pope doing about this?
Robert Moynihan:
That his Church is truly the extension of his body in space and time. That the magisterium, the sacraments are not unnecessary externals but essential elements of the life of the Church. He has preached each Wednesday and Sunday in Rome and in many homilies that the faith once handed down remains our faith. In this way, his calm, measured, thoughtful presentation of key Catholic doctrines is defending the Church against the new Gnosticism.

Springfield, MA
Pope Benedict's new book was just released -- on his 80th birthday -- and he's writing a sequel! What's his message for Catholics in general and particularly for those in the Americas?
Robert Moynihan:
[Moderator's Note: Part 2 of answer]: These authors claim Jesus performed no miracles. They claim he did not rise from the dead. They claim the Church invented almost everything that we believe about Him. This effort has been called "scientific." It has become difficult for intellectuals to be Christian believers in this climate. Pope Benedict in his book is attempting single-handedly to refute hundreds of other scholars by defending the Church's teaching that Jesus lived, acted, performed miracles, died and was resurrected just as the Gospels teach.

Springield, Mass.
Pope Benedict's new book was just released -- on his 80th birthday -- and he's writing a sequel! What's his message for Catholics in general and particularly for those in the Americas?
Robert Moynihan:
[Moderator's Note: Part 1 of answer]: The center of the pope's heart and faith is the person Jesus Christ. He has focused all his intellectual energy for the past year or two on writing the first of a proposed 10 volumes on Jesus. Why is this so important to him? Because much of the intellectual firepower of the last 200 years in the West has been directed at "debunking" the story of the Gospels, that is, the story of Jesus. Author after author, historian after historian, theologian after theologian has argued that there were exaggerations in the Gospels and in the teachings of the early Church about Jesus.

Panama City, Fl
What can you tell us about the continuity between the papacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI? Benedict mentioned John Paul's pontificate and their mutual commitment to the Vatican Council. What points of similarity or difference should we expect?
Carl A. Anderson:
Clearly both popes are popes of the Council and have made their life's work that of clarifying and implementing the renewal hoped for by the Council. Pope Benedict has the advantage of building upon the foundation laid for so many years by Pope John Paul II, and of course, Benedict deals now with issues or events that are more pressing today than during John Paul's papacy, for example, the emergence of militant Islam.

Alicia M.
Brooklyn, NY
You write at length about the Pope's spiritual life. Most people think John Paul was a saint. Do you think Benedict will gain the same recognition when he dies?
Carl A. Anderson:
Certainly, it is true that Pope Benedict is a very holy man, a man who has a close and wonderful relationship with God. I think it is safe to say that the Church has been blessed to have a man like Pope Benedict follow Pope John Paul II.

Robert Moynihan:
I think he's a good man, a holy man and a wonderful and even a poetic theologian. I will leave any judgment about his sanctity to others and to God.

College Park, Md
The Pope is rumored to be ready to release a document to make the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass a regular option for Catholics. How does this fit into his larger vision for the Church, and how do you think the action will be received?
Carl A. Anderson:
Let's wait to see what the Pope actually does here. But, we should remember the rich spiritual heritage of the Tridentine Mass, and should not fear it remaining part of our tradition.

Branford, Ct
I know you have met the Holy Father on more than one occasion. Can you give us your personal impressions of this holy man?
Carl A. Anderson:
Pope Benedict is clearly a man of great intellect and holiness and despite the many aspects of his ministry, I have always been impressed with how interested he is, and how knowledgeable he is about the work of the Knights of Columbus.

Reid Barry
Ottawa Ontario
What do you think has been the Pope's major accomplishment to date in his two years as head of the church?
Robert Moynihan:
I would say the publication of his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, and the successful transition from one pope to the other. It's hard to imagine now how difficult it seemed to us two years ago for there to be a successor to John Paul II who would be a strong pope at a time when the Church is under tremendous pressure. But Joseph Ratzinger, as pope, has met or exceeded expectations both in general and in specific. He has carried through 12 months of continuing and fulfilling agenda items on the table and also moving evermore in the second year toward accomplishing his own agenda, including Islam, Europe and orthodoxy.

Miguel M.
El Paso, Texas
Could you give me your impressions of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict and his vision for the Church?
Carl A. Anderson:
I would say that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has distinguished himself as a brilliant mind, a very humble man, and a person who believes wholeheartedly in the mission of the Church in the world. Taking "Deus Caritas Est" as a programmatic document for this papacy, I think it is evident that charity, and a love for God that has both an internal and external form, will be among the key legacies of this pontificate. The Pope is very concerned about the encounter of Christianity with secular culture. I think we have to admit, and the Pope himself recognizes, that many people view the Church as a negative institution with a rulebook that usually says 'no' to many modern questions. The Pope wants to emphasize the great affirmation that is Christianity. As the Lord said, "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." The Pope emphasized in the title of a recent book, "The Yes of Jesus Christ" and has said Catholics must bear witness to the great yes of God to man and life.

St. Louis, Mo.
The book mentions Benedict's emphasis on prayer. It argues that charity by day and prayer by night are equally necessary. How can the average Catholic or Knight manage both?
Robert Moynihan:
Let's not despair. He's not talking about 12 hours of prayer and no sleep, then 12 hours of charity and no meals. He is saying that there should be a balance. That our activity should not be frenetic and without an anchor in silent meditation and prayer. He is saying that a certain time, perhaps in the evening, should be set aside to be with God, to sense God's will, to discern God's plan as best one can. Then, one's action in the day, one's efforts at work, one's efforts to "do justly, love mercy and walk humbly" with God are nourished and strengthened by the prayer that preceded them.

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