- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Tarcher; First Edition edition (July 21, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1585424501
- ISBN-13: 978-1585424504
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,539,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pope Benedict XVI: His Life and Mission Hardcover – July 21, 2005
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Stephen Mansfield's biography of Pope Benedict XVI is undeniably a brief, light read. Indeed, Mansfield's intention is not exhaustive detail, but a strong narrative thrust catching the salient points of the former Joseph Ratzinger's life. He traces this life from Ratzinger's earliest history growing up in Nazi Germany through his tenure as Pope John Paul II's appointed head for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), an organization tracing its lineage to, in popular terms, the Spanish Inquisition. This particular life's journey included polarizing events, such as Ratzinger's stint as a Hitler Youth in his early years, and later while at the CDF he was seen as nothing less than Pope John Paul II's personal enforcer of doctrinal conformity. Mansfield is particularly interested in finding the substance and character of the man who took this journey. From showing the heart Ratzinger had for the youth under his care in Bavaria early in his career, through a discussion of the religious history behind the name Benedict and why Ratzinger may have chosen it, and finally to an appendix where Mansfield turns from author to editor and gives us excerpts from Ratzinger's own writings and speeches, we are left with no doubt that Ratzinger is indeed as conservative as his predecessor and friend John Paul was. But by this point Mansfield has managed to give the new pope a life in the reader's mind beyond the two-dimensional portraits found in the press. We are left with the image of a restless, energetic pope who loves his God, who yearns for revival in his church and who, despite his conservative pedigree, is open to new voices, such as the Catholic charismatic movement.--Ed Dobeas --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
This accessible and generally balanced biography by Mansfield, a Protestant, offers a superficial introduction to Joseph Ratzinger for readers who are curious about the controversial new pope. After a slow beginning in which Mansfield flirts dangerously with hagiography and relies uncritically and almost exclusively on the pope's own autobiographical account of his early years, the book picks up with a strong examination of his war record. Mansfield finds that Ratzinger, who has been depicted by some pundits as a Nazi sympathizer, was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teen and was involuntarily conscripted into military service in 1943. He was ideologically opposed to Nazism and eventually deserted his unit. This part of the book is striking in its evenhandedness, with Mansfield bending over backwards to describe how many German Catholics' initial acceptance of Hitler as a political leader turned to fear and dismay as the dictator revealed his true colors. Mansfield's commitment to fairness extends to the chapter on Ratzinger's leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), in which he suggests that Ratzinger, far from being the snarling Rottweiler of political cartoons, is more of a German Shepherd who "sees himself as the caretaker of a sacred tradition." Although the writing is often pedestrian, Mansfield's depiction of a kinder, gentler pope offers a brief and inviting portrait of a new world leader.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the first chapter, Mansfield explores the childhood and early adulthood of Ratzinger, growing up in Bavaria in the midst of the second world war and Nazi domination of the country. Ratzinger's family was anti-Nazi, but mostly tried to stay out of conflicts military and political as much as possible. Ratzinger himself was criticised for having been a Hitler Youth, but Mansfield and other commentators point out that this affiliation was a mandatory aspect of life in Germany at the time, and that Ratzinger, while not a martyr or activist, was not a supporter or enthusiastic participant, either. Mansfield gives a bit of history of the kind of Catholicism that shaped Ratzinger and his family in Bavaria; this is one of the more staunchly Roman Catholic areas of Europe, and has been for centuries, and this kind of communal shaping would have significant effects later.
In the second chapter, Mansfield explores Ratzinger's affinity with Augustine, the early great intellectual of the western Christian tradition, whose works such as the Confessions and City of God continue to have profound influence in circles Catholic and Protestant to this day. Aquinas was not as strong a figure for Ratzinger as was Augustine, and Mansfield shows some of the ways in which these figures battle for primacy within Ratzinger's thought, but Mansfield sometimes slips into simplistic analysis ('Augustine thought in exclusively biblical categories, while Aquinas thought in inclusive philosophical categories', Mansfield writes, but neither idea is as generally true as this statement makes them sound).
Mansfield devotes a good amount of space to Ratzinger's work with Pope John Paul II, and the legacy that is left in the wake of such a long and eventful pontificate. Mansfield also looks specifically at Ratzinger's time in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the place from which Ratzinger's infamy as God's Pit-Bull and the Vatican Enforcer arise.
Mansfield does draw in a lot of material. In one part, he explores the different interpretations that could be applied to Pope Benedict XVI vis-à-vis the prophecy of St. Malachy; in another, he gives a listing of passages and quotes from Ratzinger's own writings and speeches (as well as a few that have come after his succession to the papacy). Mansfield is fairly balanced, very accessible, and interesting to read. A bit more depth in various points would be appreciated, but as a general interest, quick-history text, it succeeds on several levels.
In the months since his election, a different side of the man has emerged; here was a shy, gentle, scholarly theologian, firm yet collegial, in his approach to matters of the church. Although less charismatic than his predecessor, his pastoral qualities have begun to emerge. This is no small part, due to a fresh examination of his life, and in particular, to this book.
Stephen Mansfield, author of THE FAITH OF GEORGE W. BUSH, presents a brief, yet informative overview of Pope Benedict's life, from his youth through his multifaceted life as cleric - especially his roles as a professor, a theologian with roots deep within Vatican II, bishop, and in recent decades, as Cardinal, prince of the Church. Mansfield focuses on his role as head of the CDF. This position was, in effect, a lightning rod as Ratzinger's charge to maintain the integrity of the faith often put him at odds with those who sought to change the Church to meet their own conceptions of the faith.
The author objectively examines the Pope's background, his election and the challenges he will face as leader of the Catholic Church. His analysis is thorough, conveyed in a direct and natural style. The content is well-organized and allows both for sequential reading as well as review of individual chapters. Although more weighty explorations of Pope Benedict XVI await, Mr. Mansfield's book is a wonderful introduction for those who wish to learn about the new pontiff and those issues that will influence his papacy.