Saturday, July 10, 2021

Book Review: Pope Benedict XVI and the Benedict Option

Our Eighth Day Institute (EDI) has worked several times with Rod Dreher, who has also praised the glories of Eighth Day Books here in Wichita. He's the author of The Benedict Option and Live Not By Lies. He appreciates the small community spirit of EDI and our efforts toward "the renewal of culture through faith and learning." Thinking about his encouragement to Christians to nurture our faith and culture in small communities (like our parishes, for example?) led me to purchase and read this book (also recommended by a good friend), published by Wipf & Stock's Pickwick Publications:

How ought the church respond to the rise of a post-Christian secular age? Should it retreat? What is the mission of the church in this context? Joseph Ratzinger's eucharistic ecclesiology provides a model for living the relation between communion and mission, a model that provides a sound image for conceiving of and imagining the church's engagement with modernity and the embodiment of missionary communion. Ratzinger's vision, deeply influenced by St. Benedict's and St. Augustine's responses to the problems of their day, offers a theologically and liturgically grounded vision of missionary communion that transcends politics. In light of our creation by, from, and for the triune God, authentic responses to the present dis-integration of reason and community require the witness and invitation of the church as a community for the world. Ratzinger argues that right worship can and does habituate Christians and equip churches to respond to the existential questions confronting modern persons, many of whom seem partially paralyzed by the anxieties of life without truth and communion. Might the witness of communion for mission lived by the new ecclesial movements, especially the Focolare, offer an example of how Ratzinger's creative minorities can successfully evangelize this secular age?

I am not a theologian; I'm just an adult educated and formed Catholic who admires Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so I admit I had to look up words and transcribe some Greek, etc. I was interested in Ratzinger's response to the Second Vatican Council and its implementation, especially in his doubts about Gaudium et Spes, which George Weigel also analyzed in his The Irony of Modern Catholic History as being perhaps too optimistic about how the Catholic Church and the modern world of the 1960's could get along together for the common good and evangelization. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI had been there during the meetings of the Second Vatican Council. He based his view of the mission of the Church to evangelize in the Modern World on his theological studies of the doctrines of the Holy Trinity, Christology (the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity), and Ecclesiology and the Eucharist. Brumfield proposes that Pope Benedict thinks that smaller movements, "creative minorities" will do more for the Church's mission of evangelization than relying upon large-scale programs and processes.

Like Alasdair MacIntyre in the oft-quoted conclusion of After Virtue, Pope Benedict XVI looks for another, perhaps not so different, Saint Benedict of Nursia, who will retire from the world to learn the founding principles and the Good News of the Kingdom Jesus preached, and which He told the Apostles to share with the world, and then present the Gospel to the community around him. Really, Pope Benedict is looking for many Benedicts, people like Chiara Lubich of Focolare, or the FOCUS missionaries who train and prepare to go to college and university campuses and evangelize or even re-evangelize the Catholic students, etc.

The structure of the book is that after a historical analysis of the historical and metaphysical situation of the Church before and after the Second Vatican Council and Ratzinger's response to it, first Brumfield explains Ratzinger's/Benedict's theology: Trinitarian, Christological, Ecclesial, Augustinian, Bonaventuran, and Eucharistic, and what that means for evangelization and mission (Parts 1 and 2). Then he examines criticisms of Benedict's theology by Miroslav Volf, Joseph Komonchak, and Mary Ehle, with response and analysis. Finally, Brumfield demonstrates how Chiara Lubich's "creative minority" the Focolare exemplifies Pope Benedict's view of how these small groups, formed in and by the teachings of Jesus and His Church, enriched and strengthened by the Sacraments and then reaching out to the people around them, exemplifying the Love of Christ in practical, meaningful ways (Part 3)

The weakest part of the book for me--revealing thus my weakness--was the section on the criticisms from the three theologians listed above. I don't know their works but trusted Brumfield's presentation of their commentaries. They almost seemed to me to be taking certain teachings out of context and disagreeing with Benedict to disagree--especially when Brumfield responds to them.

I found this a rewarding and challenging book to read.

Table of Contents (with subtitles)


Part 1
1. From Metaphysics to Modernity
    1.1 From Metaphysics to Facts, and from Facts to Progress
    1.2 An Anti-Modern Modern Church
    1.3 The Council's Response: Coming Out of the Ghetto
2. Post-Conciliar Crisis and Ratzinger's Response
    2.1 The Controversy of Gaudium et Spes
    2.2 Ratzinger and the Analogy of Being
        2.2.1 Early Influences: Przywara; Sohngen: Bonaventure as Klassiker der Analogia Fidei; The Role of Bonaventure: Ratzinger's HabilitationRatzinger in the Festschrift
        2.2.2 Ratzinger's Appraisal of Gaudium et Spes: Post-Conciliar Crisis; Analogia Entis and Analogia Fidei; Logos and Dialogos
        2.2.3 Towards a Life in Communion and for the World

Part 2
3. Being as Relation: Communion in the Trinity
    3.1 The Divine "Communio Personarum"
        3.1.1 The Son of the Father
        3.1.2 The Spirit of Love
    3.2 Person as Relation
        3.2.1 Divine Personhood
        3.2.2 Divine Persons and Human Persons
4. Communio Ecclesiology
    4.1 Origins of the Church
        4.1.1 What the Church is Not
        4.1.2 Jesus and the Church
    4.2 The Church as the Body of Christ
        4.2.1 Communion in the Incarnate Son
        4.2.2 The Eucharist Makes the Church
        4.2.3 Eucharist and Episcopacy
5. Eucharist and Mission
    5.1 Communion and Mission
        5.1.1 Abrahamic Origins
        5.1.2 Gathered around Jesus and Sent by Jesus
        5.1.3 Communion is Missionary
    5.2 Liturgy and Mission in Ratzinger
        5.2.1 Worship in the Old Covenant
        5.2.2 Jesus and the New Worship
    5.3 Becoming Eucharist

Part 3
6. Questions and Critiques
    6.1 [Miroslav] Volf's Critique: The Ecclesiological Implications of Person as Relation
        6.1.1 Volf's Trinitarian Approach
        6.1.2 Volf's Personal Problem
        6.1.3 Volf on Ratzinger's Christological Anthropology
    6.2 [Joseph] Komonchak's Critique
        6.2.1 Komonchak's  Ecclesiological Method
        6.2.2 Komonchak: Local Church and Church Catholic
        6.2.3 Ratzinger's Neglect of the Humanity of the Church
    6.3 [Mary] Ehle's Missiological Critique
        6.3.1 Ehle's Perspective
        6.3.2 Ehle of Ratzinger's Mission of Communion
    6.4 Summary of the Critiques
7. Response and Analysis
    7.1. [Ralph] Del Colle's Trinitarian Response
        7.1.1 The Dominance of the One or the Agency of the Three?
        7.1.2 The Role of the Spirit in Ratzinger's Christology
    7.2 Ratzinger's Intercultural Ecclesiality
        7.2.1 Coming to Terms with "Culture"
        7.2.2 Church: Not a Naked Faith and Not a Classical Cultural Agent
    7.3 An Embodied Communion and a Performance of Caritas
        7.3.1 Ratzinger's Augustianism and Embodied Ecclesiology
        7.3.2 Concrete Love in Ratzinger's Mission of Communion
8. Communion and Mission Made Concrete in the Movements
    8.1 The Need for Concrete Communion
    8.2 Communion and Mission Embodied in the Movements
    8.3 The Example of the Focolare
        8.3.1 Chiara Lubich and the Focolare: Concrete Unity
        8.3.2 Lubich and Ratzinger: Jesus in the Midst as Concrete Communion for Missions: Unity Modeled After the Trinity; The Ecclesiological Dimension of Jesus in Our Midst; Jesus in Our Midst and the Mission of the Church
        8.3.3 The Concrete Effects of a Mission that Flows from Unity: Recognition of the Evangelical Effectiveness of Unity in the Movements; [Living Sacrifice] (in Greek) and the Cry of Jesus Crucified and Forsaken
9. Conclusion

No comments:

Post a Comment