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Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI Hardcover – March 20, 2008
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"The pope's deep and passionate love for the adventure of theology shines through this text, which is geared to the reasonably educated lay reader. Not only papal enthusiasts but also libraries and professional theologians will want to have this book." --Theological Studies
""Both intellectually sophisticated and yet aimed at the ordinary educated reader...Provides valuable insight into how an influential contemporary theologian and--perhaps--other members of her circle view the development of contemporary Catholic theology and Ratzinger's role in it." --The Thomist
About the Author
Tracey Rowland is Dean and Associate Professor of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology of the John Paul II Institute, Melbourne, Australia, and Member of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham.
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Writing from the church's conservative/traditionalist wing, Rowland does a surprisingly good job at being analytical and objective in her analysis and assessment of Ratzinger's theology, as well as looking at some of the social influences on his beliefs. While she does not hide her sympathy for Ratzinger's views and his overall project of winding back Vatican II and restoring the Tridentine form of Catholicism as the norm, she does so without engaging in bitter polemics or emotional hysterics so many of her Traditionalist friends do when looking at the lamentable state of the post Vatican II Australian Catholic church.
While I don't agree with her views or conclusions in the book, it is well written and thoughtfully presented enough to be a valuable addition to any person interested in this key figure in recent church history.
Rowland pulls together a wide range of material and synthesizes it quite well. Unlike Nicol's book, which just walks the reader through some early texts (where he seems to simply restate what Ratzinger just wrote) and other books which attempt to polemicize him needlessly, this one honestly looks at the controversial aspects of his insights, but not in a hysterical tone.
She moves from some of his earlier ideas into his later thought, again done thematically. I thought she also provided excellent insight into the general theological atmosphere in which Ratzinger wrote. She contextualizes in a straightforward manner that allows the reader to grasp the significance and deeper targets Ratzinger sets his sights on. One glaring omission in the text is handled deftly by Hahn in his book Covenant and Communion (2009). While Rowland covers the wide range of Ratzinger's thought, Hahn tackles Ratzinger's understanding of Scripture and synthesizes a tremendous amount of the pope's scholarship in order to develop the heart of Ratzinger's theology: a eucharistic/Christological/sacramental communio ecclesiology.
For those not versed in theology, Rowland will require some work. It is worth it. Those versed in the field will find this extremely insightful. It is a must read for those who want to delve into Benedict's work and gain some sense of coherence and direction.
The Communion school of theology and its Ressourcement project would seem to be vibrant with not only the Holy Father but Cardinals Scola and Ouelet among others leading the cutting edge of a Christo-centric, Trinitarian and Nuptial reading within the Tradition. All of this can be said to have begun well prior to Vatican II - John Henry Newman emphasized the importance of being "deep in history" and led a recovery of interest in the Fathers which echoed to Przywara and Balthasar. To derrogate the importance of history in theology is to have failed to grasp the central and burning question facing theology in this and the later part of the last century. This is not to be anti-Thomas but to fossilise the Angelic doctor and to rely on Suarezian systematised parodies of his insights is not only absurd but does a great disservice to the man who was a disciple of St Augustine and whose Catena Aurea shows him to be deep in history and the tradition of the Fathers.
The forces of liberal secularisation are to the Church more grave a threat and as real as those she faced against the ideology of dialectical materialism during the Cold War. It is now secular post-modern materialism which threatens. History and our patrimony and identity are vital theological questions not only for the institution of the Church, the family and all Christians and persons of goodwill if we are to survive in a secular world which ignores with some justified disinterest mere bald statements of a dogma, doctrine, rules or even (pace, dear scholastic) down-pat syllogisms.
We do not abandon all the rules but our faith, but the faith of the Church is not moralism (merely a set of rules to be followed - a code of ethics): it is about being in love with a person (Deus Caritas Est). We accept the Church's teachings as true for they are His (the love of our heart) own, as Newman put it in his hymn. These teachings are His Church's, the mediatrix between Being and Time (Principles of Catholic Theology), and we accept them in love because the Church - the Communio Ecclesia - is His spouse(in history). We cannot save ourselves (Spe Salvi) and we cannot be saved by systems, rules, goods of flourishing (unless the good is Christ) or a school of theology, even noble Thomism, let alone other worthy -isms.
Anyone interested in the renewal of Catholic theology will find this book essential and compelling reading.