Friday, September 08, 2006

The evening stuff

The International Herald Tribune looks at the Pope's trip to Germany and the circumstances of Europe's godlessness.

While the decline of the church itself is undeniable, many studies show a rising interest in Europe in faith more generally. Pilgrimages are newly popular. A recent British television series on men entering a Catholic monastery attracted millions of viewers. The funeral of John Paul II also drew millions, and Benedict himself attracts hundreds of thousands every time he says a public mass - without, though, any increase in ordinary church-going.

"The challenge for anybody in religious leadership is what they do in that oddly paradoxical combination of circumstances, which is the continuation of decline, but a rise in interest," said Grace Davie, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Exeter in England. "I would not presume to say whether the pope is doing a good job or not. But I would say that the opportunity lies in capturing the moment."

But Germany has warmed to him, and in Regensburg the streets now ripple with the Vatican flag. Part of that appeal has been Benedict's quiet and intellectual style, which, while decidedly not compromising on the faith, has largely sought to avoid strident condemnation on moral issues.

"If you look at the Catholic Reformation, the state of the church in 1520, how did the church pull itself together then?" asked Philip Jenkins, professor of religion studies at Penn State University. "It was not to focus on every little political and social issue," he said. "It was a new focus on sanctity, new religious orders and, above all, a focus on Mary. And their view, I think, is: 'If we do it again, maybe the 21st century will look more like the Catholic Reformation.'"

Aye, but which order is going to step up or will it be the mass movement of lay organizations that pulls off the rebirth? Probably the latter, as such Jesuit-emulators as the Legionaries of Christ have yet to break through to world-wide recognition and status.

Then there is the reality that the church, to many, simply seems irrelevant, given all the modern world has to offer. Ferenc Acs, 35, a Ph.D. candidate in neuropsychology at Regensburg, was baptized a Catholic and said he was relieved that Benedict "seems to be more moderate than expected."

But Acs did not expect much change in church doctrine he disagrees with. He does not expect to return to church. And he had no plans to attend the pope's mass next Tuesday. "If you're going to hike five kilometers for a spectacle," he said, "I prefer rock concerts."

I'm sure Herr Acs will be able to meet plenty of deceased rockers in a rather fiery place should he keep up his unrepentent attitude. (Oh, wait! Triumphalism is out of style, I forgot, sorry. :/)

Frank Hilario has a piece on Mother Angelica and EWTN in the context of TV as cultural medium, etc. Fairly typical analysis, but worth a read if you're a fan of the nuns down there. In the previous story in the IHT, the 'We Are The Church' gang was complaining about the lack of a role for women in the Church. Obviously they don't tune in to watch the international TV superstar and her brethren. Tsk.

‘Because He Was a German!’, a book by Jerome-Michael Vereb on the role of Cardinal Bea in making triumphalism politically incorrect and ecumenicalism cool and modern, is reviewed by Peter J. Bernardi, S.J., a professor of theology at Loyola University, New Orleans for America magazine. (That was a great run-on sentence by the way. :D)

The book relates the beginnings of ecumenical activities in the 20th century, with special attention to the “German theater.” Why Germany? Several factors conspired to produce an ecumenical kairos in the “country” that was the cradle of the Reformation. First, the collapse of the Reformation principle cuius regio, cuius religio at the end of World War I and then the nightmare of the Third Reich stimulated a new appreciation of the church’s nature and the shared Christian call to holiness. Second, ressourcement in Reformation historiography by Lutheran and Catholic scholars helped to set aside sterile polemics and clear a path for dialogue. Third, prophets of “spiritual ecumenism,” notably Max Metzger and the Una Sancta movement, placed high value on lived experience and promoted exchanges with ecumenically minded Protestants. Vereb cites Cardinal Willebrands, co-founder of the Catholic Conference for Ecumenical Questions and subsequently secretary and then president of the S.P.C.U., who stated that the “single greatest cause for the dynamic of the ecumenical movement” was “the ‘life together’ of Protestant and Catholic clerics in concentration camps.”

Pretty straightforward stuff. Maybe I'll even splurge and get a copy of the book. But it'll have to wait until after I've waded through the Divine Comedy.


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