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The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI: The Christocentric Shift 2010th Edition
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"Pope Benedict XVI’s theological work and his pastoral and spiritual writings are here placed in the perspective of the mystery of Christ. Father Emery de Gaál has beautifully and exhaustively clarified the fundamental interpretative key to the Ratzinger texts and to the life of Pope Benedict XVI." --Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago
“He was already one of the most important theologians of the past century before his election to the papacy as Benedict XVI in this century. But now Joseph Ratzinger must count as perhaps the most important postconciliar theologian, bar none. de Gaál gives us the most comprehensive study of the pope’s theology now available. But even more, he places the pope’s thought in the context of the revolution in Catholic theology that started well before Vatican II and has continued on to this day: the revolution that abandoned neoscholasticism and shifted its focus to Christology. That story is indeed a dramatic one, and here it is dramatically and comprehensively told. This book is a ‘must purchase’ for every theological library – and for all admirers of that perhaps greatest of great theologians, Joseph Ratzinger.”--Fr Edward T. Oakes, S. J., Chester & Margaret Paluch Professor of Theology, University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary
“Father de Gaál’s work is indispensable for anyone who wishes to understand the Christocentric shift in the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI and in contemporary theological anthropology generally. It is the deepest analysis of the topic currently available.”--Tracey Rowland, Professor and Dean, John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne, Australia
About the Author
Fr. Emery de Gaál is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and located in Mundelein, Illinois. He studied theology in Munich and Pittsburgh and also published Theology: The Art of Equanimity. He is a Catholic priest of the diocese of Eichstätt, Bavaria, Germany.
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The future of Catholic faith and of Christianity and indeed of any credible theology lies by living afresh from the mystery of Jesus the Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. This, according to Emery de Gaál, is the theme uniting all of the writings of the theologian Joseph Ratzinger and of Pope Benedict. The pope's concern, writes de Gaál, "is the result of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ as a believer living the sacramental life of the Catholic Church."
de Gaál contends that Pope Benedict XVI's theology is characterized by an overriding Christological concern which has its roots in the Ressourcement movement (a return to the early church fathers in order to live the spirit of early Christianity), and is fully consonant with the testimony of scripture, the teaching of the councils, and the living faith of all the Catholic faithful throughout the Church's history.
For Ratzinger/Benedict, "the contentious issues are not epistemology, ecclesiology, or social matters but a proper understanding of Christology." "In Ratzinger's estimation," writes de Gaál, "all crises within Christianity are only secondarily institutional in nature. Primarily, the question is one of Jesus' Christ's divinity and the Incarnation's relationship to the praxis of faith."
To achieve this, the author introduces the reader to the Bavarian ambience of Joseph Ratzinger: the rich and joyful piety of the people and the gentle countryside where Corpus Christi processions meander. The author himself spent many years there and is a priest of a Bavarian diocese, Eichstätt. This gives de Gaál a unique insight into the world which formed the pope's thought and spirituality, as well as the political and academic challenges that Ratzinger encountered as a student and young professor.
This work brings to light a number of interesting and new aspects of Ratzinger life and theology. The author shows how the Jewish thinker Martin Buber, the Munich theologians Gottlieb Söhngen and Romano Guardini, as well as the French Cardinal Henri de Lubac and, to a lesser degree, the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar's contribution to the Christocentric thought of the young Ratzinger.
Particularly helpful is the author's access to and discussion of a number of the pope's works that are only available in German. Of special note in this regard is Ratzinger's doctoral dissertation, a text that is unknown in English, but proves a key to understanding the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. de Gaál also recounts how Ratzinger was the mind behind Cardinal Frings co-drafting of Dei Verbum, the Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. If anything, this study shows that the heavy involvement of Ratzinger at the drafting of central conciliar documents does not permit one to interpret Vatican II against Ratzinger/Pope Benedict.
The book also discusses Ratzinger's little-known ecumenical contributions. Two of his doctoral students are now Greek Orthodox bishops. Without Ratzinger's intervention the joint Catholic-Lutheran declaration on justification in 1999 would not have come about.
The book includes a very helpful diagram of 19th and 20th century currents in Catholic systematic theology. This reveals the intellectual origins of Benedict's thought and how his vision differs from other approaches. It argues that a Bologna School hijacked the genuine spiritual meaning of Vatican II and the true concerns of the liturgical renewal. A major proponent of Bologna School was Annibale Bugnini, who engineered the revised Roman Missal.
This work also provides the intellectual and spiritual context for understanding some of the pope's more controversial decisions, such as his speech at Regensburg in 2006 and his papal letter Summorum Pontificum, making the Tridentine Mass more readily available within the Roman Rite. For Pope Benedict, "only be seeing the continuous presence of Jesus Christ in all validly celebrated forms and rites past and present, will Christians overcome politicizing Church life and be respiritualized," argues de Gaál.
The task confronting modern man is "to oppose `the cult of the ugly' and to `withstand the deceptive beauty that diminishes man instead of making him great and that, for that reason, is false." In Ratzinger's thought, one does this by "encountering the beauty of Christ," which is "a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction." Jesus Christ alone makes us free--this, writes de Gaál, is the clarion call of Pope Benedict XVI. This occurs most importantly during worship and prayer, on one's knees, at the Eucharist. After the Enlightenment, Ratzinger argues, history and human existence can only make sense with Jesus Christ. By living out this commitment totally, Mary is presented as the fully free human being.
To my knowledge there is no better unifying summary and presentation of Ratzinger's/Pope Benedict's thought available in English.
Fr. Randy Stice
Director of the Office of Worship and Liturgy
Diocese of Knoxville