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The Ratzinger Report
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 5, 2003
I came to this book--or, rather, interview--as a person feeling the pull to Catholicism. This was probably not the best book to read this early in the journey to Rome, since it presumes something of a knowledge of the Church and its "crisis" in modern times, particularly after Vatican II--unlike, say, an introduction to Catholic theology or liturgy. In that respect, then, not being a Catholic, I was probably limited in what I could take from the book.
Nevertheless, I found it extremely fascinating and worthwhile. For starters, Ratzinger's understanding of the Church speaks directly to why I was drawn to it in the first place. He conveys a sense of the Church's community of believers, the communion of saints, emphasizing the very important communal aspects of the Catholic faith and suggesting that theology is not just a matter for individuals and academicians and "theologians"--it is pursued as a community. He describes this community, this unity quite wonderfully, I think: "harmonic wholeness."
His description as the Church going up against the powerful cultural forces of our time was also quite convincing and appealing. Indeed, the Church stands virtually alone against the tide of permissivity. Ratzinger discusses the difficulties the Church was facing in the mid-1980s, from feminism and liberation theology to the dangers of extreme individualism. His proposed solutions are probably not surprising to those familiar--among others: not an abandonment of Vatican II but a discovery of its true spirit; a re-affirmation of traditional doctrines (such as the Virgin Mary); a recognition that the Church is not democratic but sacramental and hierarchical instead; and a restoration of the virtues of motherhood and virginity.
All in all, a great survey of the Catholic Church's position in the modern world, which deals with problems as well as possible answers. Moreover, Ratzinger speaks, either directly or indirectly, to the problems facing the world in general, and his solutions could just as easily be applied in that broader context. This book, then, in many ways, transcends its intended Catholic audience--a true achievement.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2001
In this interview, Cardinal Ratzinger, perhaps the second most influential person in the Catholic church, shows everyone to be wrong about him. He is less conservative than the conservatives think and progressives fear. Ratzinger is an example of how the Catholic church is something entirely different, such that you cannot fit it's mission into a 'progressive' or 'conservative' form. Rather, there is simply Catholicism. Ratzinger's main goal is to make us, progressives and conservatives, understand that Vatican II cannot be ignored, but must exert its full affect upon the Church.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2005
Several years after its publication, this remains the best single introduction to the man now pope. It also would be something of a classic even had Cardinal Ratzinger not become pope. The 2 book-length interviews which followed, by Peter Seewald, are also interesting, but Messori's edges them out for its conciseness and organization, plus the fact Messori is an informed Catholic who does not have to wade through doctrinal positions unfamiliar to him.

Certainly this is sort of an elevated dialogue -- Ratzinger is, primarily, an intellectual and theologian. Every book under his name, even the few devotional ones, are in that vein and it comes with the territory. That said, he speaks as plainly and directly as he can, and -- for an upper level churchman -- is remarkably candid and does not dodge controversy. This quality, plus the fact that Ratzinger was a major player in Vatican 2 -- is what gives the book historical value with or without his recent election.

The topics covered are very wide ranging -- though most concern the state of the Catholic church, not Christian or Catholic theology in general. Overall, it might be called a report card on Vatican 2, with mixed grades. Here, Ratzinger clearly stated his continuing thesis that the council has not yet been implented properly or in its wholeness. All positions are stated rather openly and without rancor but cooly. The startling things he states thus give the reader a sort of double-take. For instance, he is convinced that civilization at present is in a grave and unprecedented crisis on many fronts, and the future hardly certain. He thus does not really echo John Paul II's motto, "Be not afraid" in every conceivable sense. In the sense of the ultimate goodness of God and the triumph of redemption afforded by Christ, sure. But on a temporal level, Ratzinger's view is that nations and peoples, at any historical moment, possess and exercise will to accept or reject those gifts. Doubtless this is a view seared into his being from having been brought up under the Nazis. And he sees disturbing general parallels to that disaster in what the entire European civilization is doing at present. His spooky discussion concerning the Fatima message only underscores this viewpoint. For afficionados of that event, his 1 and 1/2 pageworth of dry discussion of the 3rd secret prophesy, in this book, constitutes the only cogent, authoritative official description of that subject (as compared to the vision released some years later, with JP 2's interpretation attatched, and which Ratzinger's "official" and generalistic commentary --likewise very dry -- noted was not a matter of faith).

Ratzinger is no romantic. His sometimes terse observations, so casual and so comfortably delivered, can be quite numbing in their realism and impact. What is done in history is done; to the extent the council failed, for instance, it needs be remedied, but there is no going back. Thus while generally conservative in viewpoint he is no believer in "restorations" or "returns" to a prior situation. Indeed he sees the council as part and parcel of a general historical crisis in the west; deviations and mis-interpretations are not merely an intra-Catholic issue. Indeed the nature and causes of this historical crisis in western civilization is the main personal ingrediant he brings to the table.

All in all, this is a book that once read, a thoughtful reader will return to on several occasions. His papal name only doubly underscores the point of view which emerges throughout these friendly chats -- connecting the two dots (Saint Benedict, the cornerstone of western Christian civilization in his Catholic view, and Benedict XV, pope at the time of the start of its endgame) which are the most passionate focus of this otherwise -- to all outward appearances -- most urbane academician.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2005
One of the best lines about the new Pope I have heard so far is "guess what-he's a Catholic".

The Ratzinger Report offers insight into this great man, his philosophy, his faith and his vision.

In this book Cardinal Ratzinger expresses his concerns about the modern world. Although I am in not complete agreement with all of his ideas (such as his opinions of liberation theology which although his criticisms of it are well taken I believe the churches stand could have been modified could have been modified to accommodate both a continuation of the struggle for the poor of Latin America while at the same time condemning Marxism) he presents them well. This book show a man dedicated to preserving the main essence of Catholicism and to continue to make it a refuge and alternative to the excesses of the modern world while at the same time building bridges of understanding to other faiths. It seems as though some of the most important "bridge-buiding projects" that the church will have to undertake is not with other religions or some exotic lands but to the West which actively does its best not to understand the Catholic church and obscure its message.

The book is a both a call of alarm and a message of hope. I believe hope is the quality that shines through most in this book.

One of the great messages of this book is that Catholicism is a faith not dictated by a hierarchy but a dialogue between the clergy and the faithful. These are not sentiments that would be expressed by a "hard liner". This book show the new Pope to be not the rigid conservative many have unfairly made him out to be.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on this new Pope. I suggest that anyone with a fair mind who wishes to express an opinion about the new Pope have an informed opinion and read this book.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2000
This book is an interview of Cardinal Ratzinger by journalist Vittorio Messori. Questions vary from ecumenism to liberation theology, Ordination of women to the issue of vocations to religious life. It is a great insight of the Catholic Church in modern days. Cardinal Ratzinger also gives some personal information about his being raised in nazi Germany.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I have greatly enjoyed those volumes of Ratzinger's interviews that have been translated into English and published by Ignatius Press; "God and the World," "Salt of the Earth," and "The Ratzinger Report." However, I believe that with respect to the other two books, "The Ratzinger Report" falls short.

Is this an insightful book? Yes. Does this shed light on the thought of Joseph Ratzinger in the mid-80s? Yes. Is this as good as the other, later interviews? I'd argue No.

There are several factors that play a role in my opinion. The first is that this is an interview composed by a different reporter than the other two. The Second is the format in which it is written (prose vs. Q&A). The Third is the depth and length of the book. This is a much shorter volume with questions that do not delve as deep into the mind of Ratzinger as the other books.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be a formal or informal scholar of the theological and social thought of Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI). However, if you have read the other two interview books, be prepared for a significant difference.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
To celebrate the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI's reign, I decided (along with, doubtless, millions of other people) that it was best to catch up a bit on the new Pope's intellectual legacy. The Ratzinger Report is a perfect place to start. In this interview, Ratzinger frankly speaks his mind to an Italian reporter in their historic 1984 meeting. An analysis of the historical fallout and correct interpretation of Vatican II dominate the beginning chapters. The remainder of the book constitutes a logical segway from the historical significance of the Second Vatican Council to the underlying and transcendent identity of the Church. He then brings the discussion back to a particularization of general principles in the context of such "hot topic" questions as the what constitutes valid liturgical reforms, what are the effects of moral relativism, as well as a description of the true role of the Church in the modern world. The book ends with an overview of Ratzinger's position on Liberation Theology. In this section, as with the rest of the interview, this book serves as an excellent presentation of the Pontiff's position on the most fundamental of church issues as well as the most contemporary - which, after all, are just two sides of the same Truth.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2006
In 1985 I was a fairly recent returnee to the Church after several years of disinterest and non-attendance. The Church in America was obviously in trouble-even I could tell that. Odd priests with strange behaviors and weird homilies. Theologians writing articles and books viciously hostile to "Rome"-they always seemed to refer to the Pope as "Rome". I eagerly looked forward to the publication of this book, and devoured it when it appeared. Alas, my pastor, an apparently grown-up man and a theologian himself, angrily, red-faced, denounced the book from the pulpit and insisted that "Rome" had no right to interfere with the teachings of the American Church. "Rome" had no knowledge of conditions and circumstances here in America and should just butt out. That's not an exact quote-it was 20 years ago, after all-but his words were very much to that effect.

Over the years I've heard that same sort of thing many, many times. It has presented me (and everyone else) with a choice. Do I follow the increasingly popular "American" way or do I follow the Pope? My choice is the latter.

This book, 20 years old as it is, puts the matter very plainly. The issues haven't changed. The dissenters in Europe and America have simply grown more subtle and evasive. I highly recommend this book if you want a thorough grounding in what the tension between "Rome" and the dissenters is all about.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2011
"The Ratzinger Report" is an informal interview undertaken in 1985 in the Swiss Alps with then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. At the time, C. Ratzinger held the high office of Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In layman's terms he was responsible for the preservation and promotion of core Roman Catholic beliefs. As a non Roman Catholic, yet true believer in the risen Christ, I was drawn to study this book for two reasons; to know the type of background considered appropriate for the position of Pope, and to gain a better understanding of the fundamental thinking and positions of a well placed "brother in the Lord" in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Though many of the theological and practical questions discussed have their roots in the consequential issues of Vatican II, the discussion encompassed many current issues that have relevance for all believers in the universal truth of Jesus Christ. While maintaining a clear and concise defense of Roman Catholic systems of belief and practice, such as "Apostolic Succession" and "real presence," Ratzinger willingly reveals a deep appreciation for all post- reformation believers. On Protestantism he notes "While Protestantism certainly could give the impression of superiority and greater learning, I was more convinced by the great tradition of the Fathers and Medieval masters." The man honestly recognizes that, beyond the sectarian differences between the Orthodox, Protestants and Roman Catholics there is an undeniable unity within Christ's universal church that touches all individuals who truly believe in the historical resurrected Christ.
I was pleased to learn of the thought process and theology of the man who would eventually become Pope and indisputably the most recognized Christian on the planet. Rather than being a one-sided apologetic for traditional doctrinal positions of the Roman Catholic Church, this "discussion" reveals a man who unequivocally recognizes the universality of Christ's message in a manner that has the ultimate effect of unifying, not separating His universal Church.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2008
Better Late Than Never to read this book. As the subtitle explains, "an exclusive interview", Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger with Victoria Missouri. This text has been on my list of books to read for a long time, the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger.is now Pope Benedict XVI certainly does not diminish any of the subjects discussed in the book The interviewer appears to be a very knowledgeable Italian journalist. The book was very rewarding mainly because of the reasons given for the Church's actions or non-actions, such as the constant voicing for woman priests. This book gives the reasons why the Church has not gone down this route. The first half of the book may be a little dull but the second half involves discussions that most American Catholics feel are relevant. The book discusses Ecumenicalism, the Church's stand on Liberation Theology and what has brought on the feeling that many Catholics feel their religion is out of sync with their society. This and many more subjects are discussed.
Once read, I know this book will be kept around as a reference.
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