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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: 10 Things Pope Benedict Wants You to Know
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Thursday, February 21, 2008
Featuring:
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Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight
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John L. Allen
Author
Carl Anderson:
Thank you all for joining us today, and a special thank you to John Allen, author of "10 Things Pope Benedict Wants You To Know," for spending this time with us.

Grand Knight Robert Camilleri
Rosary Council 3741, Henderson, Nevada
Would Pope Benedict XVI agree with "Archbishop Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments...[that]it is time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow communion in the hand" (Wooden, Catholic News Service, 2008).
Carl Anderson:
I agree with John Allen on this, and I think the question each one of us should ask ourselves is not only what the rules permit, but what is the most reverent and devotional way for each of us to receive communion.

John L. Allen:
The Holy Father has not specifically addressed this question, so anything I say is speculation. I suspect, however, that to some extent he might find himself caught between two instincts. The first is his strong desire to restore reverence and a sense of awe to Catholic worship, rooted in our centuries-long liturgical tradition. The second is an equally strong desire wherever possible to avoid further upheavals in the liturgy. For the time being, especially after the motu proprio on the pre-Vatican Mass, the pope may be reluctant to stir the waters further, for pastoral reasons if nothing else. How things might develop over a longer arc of time, however, is more difficult to say. The specific question of communion in the hand aside, I think there's no question that the Holy Father is a deep believer in lex orandi, lex credendi - "the rule of worship is the rule of faith." Given that revitalizing a strong sense of Catholic identity as an antidote against the "dictatorship of relativism" is a key priority of Benedict's papacy, I think we can anticipate further moves towards a more traditional, classically "Catholic" liturgical style.

Nimal Perera
Colombo, Sri Lanka
I strongly believe that we are now in a great time of reviwal. The Holy Spirit is moving amongst us in a mighty way like never before in this time. I would like to know what kind of attention His Holiness Pope Benedict pays on the Charismatic Renewal movement within the Catholic Church.
Carl Anderson:
I think that Pope Benedict has shown himself to be very supportive of movements within the Church - though he has clearly stated that such movements should work in close concert with their local parishes. This is, of course, one of the strengths of the Knights of Columbus.

John L. Allen:
While Benedict's personal spirituality is not really "charismatic," he has a great admiration for the charismatic movement. You may know that the Preacher of the Papal Household under John Paul II, whom Benedict has confirmed, is Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, who is a charismatic. Benedict is also well aware that charismatic spirituality is very popular in the global South, which is where almost three-quarters of Catholics today live, and I expect him to encourage it in every way he can. I recently returned from a reporting swing in Texas, where I visited the sprawling Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston. It was founded in the 1970s by a Maryknoll priest, and is today run by the Companions of the Cross, a congregation born in Canada which has a strong charismatic spirituality. I met lots of Catholics there who are absolutely on fire with the faith. Many had been attracted by Houston's mega-churches because the Spirit seemed to be moving there, but came back because they could find the same dynamism plus the rich sacramental life of the Catholic tradition through the charismatic movement. One guy, whose name (honest to God) is Joseph Smith, told me that he drives 32 miles each way three times a week to be part of the Charismatic Center. Here's the way he put it: "The Catholic Church might deny it until it's blue in the face, but we sort of pushed the Holy Spirit out the back door. But now the Spirit's back in the Church!"

John J. Hauser
Spring Hill, Florida, United Stated
What can the local council do to help Pope Benedict when he comes to the United States. How best can we serve him.
Carl Anderson:
Read about the pope - for example in the special issue of Columbia magazine in April, follow the coverage of his trip, discuss his statements, and bring more men into the Order to join him in being coworkers of the truth.

Grand Knight Robert Camilleri
Rosary Council 3741, Henderson, Nevada
How can members of the Knights of Columbus benefit from the Pope Benedict's visit to the United States in April?
Carl Anderson:
One place to begin is by reading John Allen's "10 Things Pope Benedict Wants You To Know," and in this way, to try to bring ourselves closer to the Holy Father's thinking and to his pastoral mission. I would also encourage you to follow the pope's trip closely on EWTN and on www.papaltrip.org - the website we will be unveiling soon that is dedicated to the Pope's visit. The pope's episcopal motto is coworkers of the truth. Let us strive to be coworkers with him!

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
What do you feel is the most important thing that Pope Benedict wants us to know?
John L. Allen:
The sound-bite answer came in Benedict's first encyclical: "God is love." That's clearly the foundation for everything else. If we want to start unpacking that, I think the Holy Father's first move would be to insist that the content of God's love (because divine love is not merely a feeling but also a plan for authentic human flourishing) is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. For that reason, Christology - the Church's teaching on Christ - is perhaps the core doctrinal concern of this papacy, as it was during the latter years of Cardinal Ratzinger's time at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In some ways, I think the Pope's most urgent message, both to Catholics and to the world at large, was expressed in especially clear form in his speeches during his May 2007 trip to Brazil. There, the Holy Father said that he shares the widespread hunger for justice, peace, and a better world. Preaching Christ, however, is not a distraction from this vital work - it is the indispensable foundation for it. What does Benedict want us to know? That God loves us; that God's love reaches us through Christ, and the community he called into being, the Church; and that bringing Christ to the world remains the primordial task of the Church in every generation. Every other challenge, task, and ministry flows from this core and has meaning only by way of reference to it.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
Which of the top 10 is most symbolic of the Popes namesake, St. Benedict whose name he took to reflect his Papacy?
Carl Anderson:
The pope drew his name from two places in particular, Benedict XV and St. Benedict. St. Benedict is patron of Europe and founded the Benedictine monks, who are credited with saving learning during the Dark Ages, an important theme of Chapter 8 - Catholic Identity. Pope Benedict XV worked for peace and did all he could to avert World War I, which is reflected in chapter 7, The Church Forms Consciences but Stays Out of Politics.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
Thinking to the future which of the things will likely be the one that this pontificate will be remembered for?
Carl Anderson:
If you put a gun to my head, I'd have to agree with John - with one further thought. There can be no doubt that his legacy will be an intellectual and theological one. That his teaching is magnafied by his personal witness and the authenticity of his personal holiness which is so transparent.

John L. Allen:
Trying to predict the future is always a hazardous enterprise. (I once predicted, for example, that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would not be elected to the papacy, and look where that got me!) But if you put a gun to my head, I would say that Benedict XVI is likely to be remembered as a "teaching pope." It probably won't be dramatic moments on his trips, for example, or his impact on the politics of his day, that loom largest 100 or 500 years from now, but the depth and richness of his teaching - his encyclicals, his Wednesday catechesis, his speeches and messages. The Holy Father is one of the finest theological minds of his generation and a tremendous literary craftsman, and I suspect his texts will be studied, analyzed and prayed over for a long time.

Victor
Seattle
Have you met the Pope in person? What are you impressions of him?
Carl Anderson:
Yes, I have met the pope several times, including this month. The most direct way to describe him is that he is a man of the beatitudes, and reflects in his person, precisely the sort of person the Lord was saying in his Sermon on the Mount.

John L. Allen:
Prior to his election, I met Cardinal Ratzinger on numerous occasions, above all in Rome, and had the opportunity to interview him several times. Since his election my access is more limited, but I have been on the papal plane for all his foreign trips and have also interacted with him in the papal apartments on a few occasions. In general, I would say that those of us who knew the cardinal in Rome were always struck by the disjunction between his public image as a stern, foreboding disciplinarian, and the private man, who was always the kindest, most gracious, most humble man you'd ever want to meet. In fact, several colleagues and I had a running bet that if we ever met a bishop from anywhere in the world who came to Rome for an ad limina visit and didn't say that his best meeting in the Vatican had been with Ratzinger, the rest of the group would buy us dinner. We never had to pay off, because none of us ever found a bishop who wasn't struck by Ratzinger's openness, capacity to listen, and command of the issues. If you're looking for a reason why the 115 cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel only needed a day to elect him pope, I would suggest starting with his 20-plus years of experiencing of meeting, and impressing, bishops from all over the world.

Kerry
Lansing, MI
I see on your website that you are writing a book. When will it be released? Will you have a discussion like this one?
Carl Anderson:
Yes, I have a book being released March 25, and I hope that no one will be too suprised that is my book club choice for April.

Jane
Norwalk, Conn.
You wrote a book that seemed critical of Cardinal Ratzinger a few years ago. Have you changed your mind about him now that he's Pope?
John L. Allen:
I wouldn't say I've "changed my mind," because as a journalist it's not my job to draw ultimate conclusions - that's something I leave to my readers. I say, however, that between the time I wrote my biography of then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1999 and today, I've learned a great deal more about how Catholicism works and the realities it faces around the world. Over that time, for example, I took 25 trips with John Paul II to 35 nations, plus seven trips so far with Benedict XVI. I also spent six years in Rome meeting Catholics from every point of the compass and listening to their stories. All that gave me a much better sense of the dynamics of the global Church, and in particular how the issues look through the eyes of Joseph Ratzinger. I hope that's allowed me to understand the mind of the Holy Father better, and to appreciate his true concerns and motives. My first book was indeed unfair to Cardinal Ratzinger, not out of malice or intentional bias, but simply because my reach exceeded my grasp. If my approach seems more balanced and fair today (and I certainly hope it does), I would like to believe it's because I know a little bit more and can see things a bit more successfully from the pope's point of view.

John W.
Jersey City, NJ, USA
What other subjects do you think Pope Benedict might write on in future encyclicals?
John L. Allen:
At present, Benedict is working on a "social encyclical," meaning a document that will develop the social teaching of the Church on issues such as economic justice, war and peace, the family and human life, and the environment. At some future point, since the pope has already produced encyclicals on love and hope, it would not be surprising him to see him write an encyclical on the third theological virtue, which is faith.

Tony
Springfield, MA
Some pundits claim Benedict XVI has inhibited reform and progress begun by John Paul II. How do Church leaders view Benedict's direction for the Catholic Church, and how optimistic are they about its impact on 21st century culture?
Carl Anderson:
I can't speak for Church leaders or pundits, but one of the themes of my book, A Civilization of Love, is that Benedict XVI is carrying forward the great renewal of the Church that was at the center of John Paul II's pastoral mission. This is already very clear from his first two encyclicals, and from his opening homily to the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel just after his election as pope, which in turn is a development of what he said at the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II.

John L. Allen:
Well, of course, as with all things, it depends on which "church leaders" you're talking about. I actually don't hear much about Benedict "inhibiting" reforms associated with Pope John Paul II, unless you mean in the sense that Benedict and John Paul have different personalities and styles - for example, Benedict's less splashy approach to travel and public appearances and so on. I think it's more common to hear complaints from more liberal quarters that Benedict (and John Paul) reined in certain currents associated with the Second Vatican Council. In any event, I think the originality of Benedict's papacy lies in his attempt to flesh out a third option between the usual conservative and liberal options, which I tried to describe in response to another questions in terms of "affirmative orthodoxy." You'll get a lot of different opinions as to how well that approach might work in the short run, but remember that one virtue of the Vatican is its capacity to think in centuries. For a pope who routinely sees the current situation in light of hundreds of years of history, I don't think he expects results next week.

Mary
New Mexico
What topics do you think Pope Benedict is likely to address on his trip to the United States in April?
Carl Anderson:
I think many topics that he might discuss on his trip are outlined in John's book, and in Benedict's own books over the years such as Salt of the Earth.

Jacob
Dearborn Hts, MI
The 10 Things featured in the book are often inseparable truths that we need to be reminded of, perhaps especially in the Western world, which rejects them in various ways. Thank you for writing it. Are there any other things that come to mind, which could be added to the list? For example: marriage and family as a divine institution rooted in human nature; the inviolable dignity of human life; etc.
Carl Anderson:
Yes - then we'd be up to 12 things. The pope himself has spoken about his desire to present Christianity in a positive fashion, and Vatican observers have noted his strong defense of marriage in just this way. Pope Benedict himself answered this at a press conference: "Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option.... We have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and it's in this way that marriage develops, first of all, as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then the family, that guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet. So, firstly it's important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we don't want something. I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it's not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. As far as abortion is concerned, it's part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: "Thou shalt not kill!" We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother's womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. The human person must always be respected as a human person. But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way."

John L. Allen:
The examples you give are all good ones. This book could easily have been about "20 things the pope wants you to know," or more. In a sense, the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church is composed of things the pope wants you to know. But my attempt was to stand back from specific issues, and try to extract broad themes that run through Benedict XVI's thought. On that basis, I think the list in the book holds up okay.

Pat
Fairfax, Virginia, USA
You say that Benedict wants us to realize that Christianity isn't just a set of rules and prohibitions. But given the fact that most of the Ten Commandments begin with "You shall not. . ." doesn't he face something of an uphill battle here?
Carl Anderson:
Yes - the ten commandments begin the way you say, but when Christ was asked to summarize the law and the prophets, he said what? What could be more positive than this. Benedict himself has said: "Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer..."

John L. Allen:
Obviously Christianity includes rules and regulations, with the Decalogue offering a prime example. Benedict XVI is a firm believer in the importance of law, including moral law. I think the pope's point is rather that those rules are not the heart of the matter; whenever the Church says "no" to something, it's rooted in a much deeper "yes." More to the point, the outside world seems to be far more familiar with our "no's" than our "yes's," and Benedict is trying to restore the balance. That's what "affirmative orthodoxy" is about.

Tom
Burbank, CA
What do you think is the most common misconception about Pope Benedict?
John L. Allen:
That he's some sort of dour, draconian figure. In truth, you'll never meet a more humble, gentle soul, and he actually has a terrific sense of humor. When I published my book about the conclave and the direction his papacy was likely to go, for example, he had an aide call me to express his thanks - "especially for the part about the future of my papacy," the aide quoted him as saying, "because it has saved me the trouble of thinking about it for myself!"

Charles
Chicago, IL
What do you see as the similarities and differences between Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI?
John L. Allen:
I think the dominant note is actually the continuity between the two, but they are nevertheless quite different men. To put it into a sound-bite, if John Paul had not been a pope, he would have been a movie star; Benedict would have been a college professor. They're both gifted communicators, but in very different ways. Another contrast is that John Paul strove for, and expected, to make a difference in the here-and-now. My sense is that Benedict thinks against a longer arc of time, and is not aiming at an immediate social and political "payoff" from his trips or messages.

Peter
College Park, Md.
Pope Benedict's U.S. trip seems insignificant in terms of media interest. Many Catholics seem unaffected too. Will the pope have a stirring message to capture their attention and inspire an affirmative response?
Carl Anderson:
Yes, we are certainly concerned that there won't be appropriate media coverage, which is why we are promoting his visit with papaltrip.com, our commemorative issue of Columbia and our support of EWTN's coverage. I think as we get closer to his visit, excitement will build to a greater level. He is, after all, only the third pope to visit the United States, and he is an international figure whose message many people will have an interest in.

John L. Allen:
You haven't seen a lot of coverage because, of course, the trip hasn't happened yet. There is a fair degree of media interest, however - I've taken part in several meetings and conference calls with TV networks which are preparing coverage plans. In terms of Benedict's message, how "stirring" it may be remains to be seen, but you can count on it being thoughtful, carefully articulated, and provocative. To some extent, how affirmative the response of American Catholics may be is up to us.

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