Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pope Benedict--a mystagogue

~by Gianni Baget Bozzo in Tempi via Papa Ratzinger Forum. I found this commentary on Pope Benedict to be fascinating.
The protest against the Pope at La Sapienza University led to the 'Rome demonstration' - a demonstration for freedom of opinion, even if in this case, on behalf of a particular person, the Pope.

Benedict XVI would have wanted to speak at La Sapienza as a professor - as he had done in Regensburg in September 2006 - thinking he had the immunity of a university professor to do so. But academe apparently no longer protects a Pope, who expresses the fullness of the Catholic Church before the world.

The text he never delivered at La Sapienza is a professor's discourse. He does not invoke any thesis that academic consensus could not accept.

He refers to John Rawls who defends the right of 'non-public' traditions to express themselves equitably in the civic space as minorities who do have reasonable arguments to present. And to Juergen Habermas who asks, as a premise for public debate, an acceptance of the equity among all parties to propose reasonable arguments.

In this, he was certainly not speaking as a Pope, who derives from Christ the right to speak to the world about the faith to which so many Christians have testified to the point of martyrdom and death.

In both cases - Regensburg and Rome - Joseph Ratzinger invoked freedom and academic consensus. But this was denied to him as Bishop of Rome. His role has drawn religious and political reactions, indicating the integral historicity of the Successor of Peter who, precisely by opposing him, his adversaries acknowledge that he speaks in the name of Christ and not just in his personal capacity.

This would seem to contradict the fact that his persona as a German university theologian confers a special fascination on his manner of presenting the papacy today as the Church experiences it.

But this is not the reason that he fascinates believers and non-believers alike today, in a manner quite different from that of the great communicator that John Paul II was.

Benedict XVI wants to get rid of the anxiety that has characterized the last Pontificates regarding the Church presence in the public discourse over social and political issues.

He may be called a mystagogue - one who intends to lead Christians into the mystery of the divine life that is inherent in each human being.

In fact, his concern has not been to show what defines the practice of the Church in social affairs, even if he knows that social work is a necessary expression of Christian charity as he himself indicated in his first encyclical.

His primary concern as Pope has been addressed to the Christian mystery of life eternal. Eternal life as participation in the Trinity, through Logos, the Word, in which, as the Johannine prologue says, "everything that was created takes life".

In the Word, the world existed in God before it was. It is a non-temporal but essential 'before' which expresses the immanence (presence) of creation in the divine Logos.

The Second Vatican Council called for 'signs of the times' as criteria to guide the Church. Those signs now indicate God as the dominant issue of this time, in which man has progressed to the point of imposing his 'form' on the world he is transforming without realizing the meaning of such action.

That is why the Pope speaks against the auto-sufficiency of the natural sciences and the technologies that derive from them, claiming to be the only way of progress for their archetype of man, whereas they really do not know where they are going and what they are really doing.

In short, the scientists of self-sufficiency have absolutely no awareness of the fall-out on reality from their autonomous proceedings.

The Pope is not opening up a conflict. All he is doing is to have Christians increase the contemplative dimension of Christian mystery, with respect to their actual existence which has become an all-absorbing sphere encompassing all human activity except human self-awareness and contemplation of God.

Precisely for this, because he is a mystagogue, Benedict XVI, who wants to lead Christians to participate in the Mystery of existence and salvation, must be seen to embody the difference between science and reality, man and technology.

The Pope expresses contemporary man, in the face of new powers that man possesses or dominates, and about which the Pope, by preaching the divine Mystery, is a witness to the humanity of man and his freedom.

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