It is somewhat amusing now to post Bishop Finn’s thoughts on Peter Seewald’s book-length interview of Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote it last week before heading to the USCCB meeting in Baltimore and then on to the consistory in Rome.
The plan was to put out Bishop Finn’s column in conjunction with the release of the book, but a small portion of the book was curiously released early, in a “palpably incompetent manner,” with predictable results.
What’s amusing is that Bishop Finn evidently read the whole book without being thrown by the passage that now defines its release; he doesn’t even mention it. What Bishop Finn does say is that God has given us “holy father, a wise and good shepherd,” who “wants people to understand the Church he loves.”
Bishop Finn also says of the book, “This is not ‘sound bite’ theology, and I hope people won’t just pick through it – but read it in its entirety for the full picture.”
Here’s the column:
On the Pope’s New Book: Light of the World
Most Rev. Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph
I recently had the opportunity to read an advance copy of a new book by Pope Benedict XVI. Entitled, “Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and the Signs of the Times,” published by Ignatius Press. It is a book length conversation between the Holy Father and the German journalist, Peter Seewald, and it reaches the market this week. I don’t want you to think that I get any fee for saying so, but this text is another great gift from “Papa Ratzinger” to the Church.
In this first ever such interview of a sitting Pope, the Holy Father takes on the most direct, challenging and heart wrenching issues and questions of the day, including the response of the Church to the scandal of priest sexual abuse, the tension and promise of dialogue with other Christian and non-Christian denominations; as well as the somewhat neuralgic propositions urging the abandonment of priestly celibacy and the promotion of women’s ordination. Pope Benedict receives these and many other questions with warmth and addresses them with reasonableness and candor.
This is the third published interview between the two men, Peter Seewald and now-Pope Joseph Ratzinger. The previous books, “Salt of the Earth,” and “God and the World,” came out during the latter’s tenure as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This time we hear the successor of St. Peter – and it is a quick and enlightening read.
When I picked up the earlier works some years ago, I was amazed at the ability of Cardinal Ratzinger to synthesize and explain – without notes and previous knowledge of the questions – complex and nuanced topics with apparent calm and kindness. He wants people to understand the Church he loves, and he has extraordinary talents as a teacher. As George Weigel says in the forward to the new book, the Pope speaks in “full paragraphs.” Again, the interview was several hours sitting face to face without notes. His answers are well organized and focused. His responses are concise but substantive. This is not “sound bite” theology, and I hope people won’t just pick through it – but read it in its entirety for the full picture.
The Pope speaks about his election as Pontiff, his emotions, and ultimate trust in God. He talks about what he does in an evening where he has relaxing time. He tells of how he found himself weeping as victims recounted their narratives of abuse. The Pope chides the inquisitor for recounting all the things he has had to say “no” to over the years, and asks us to recall some more positive initiatives. In the most trying situations he has faced, in the perilous circumstances of planet earth, in the face of serious challenges of peace and unity, the Holy Father offers again and again his conviction of authentic Christian hope. It is very uplifting. We see that God has placed at our head a holy father, a wise and good shepherd.
As this goes to press I am happy to be able to make a rather brief trip to Rome to witness the Consistory and creation of new cardinals on the Sunday of Christ the King. There in particular I plan to congratulate “Cardinal Raymond Burke,” former Archbishop of St. Louis and now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, “chief justice of the Church’s Supreme Court,” and a good friend; he was the principal consecrator at my episcopal ordination here in May, 2004.
Though I do not anticipate having the opportunity to greet Pope Benedict on this visit, I know I carry with me your affection for him, and our prayerful gratitude for our Holy Father. May our Blessed Mother protect him and keep him close to her Son.