Thursday, January 26, 2006

What a start

I'm still working my way through the new encyclical, which is more a measure of how busy I am at work right now (big project over the next couple of months) than of the clarity of the work. The encyclicals of John Paul II were never so much hard to read, as needing slow and careful reading -- there was so much there. Pope Benedict's writing is, as it has been, a model of clarity. As someone else has pointed out, it scans. The reports over the past couple of weeks was that this encyclical was delayed in order to get a better translation (something JP2 had a problem with -- we're still waiting for a really decent English translation of Love and Responsibility). Well he got it.

As usual Rocco has some of the best initial comments (on Beliefnet), and points out one application close to home:

But this encyclical's call to love, even when it is inconvenient or uneasy, should give pause to the church's lay activists at the extremes. Particularly in the United States, the fringes of the Catholic community have viewed those who disagree with them as virtually excommunicated.

Writing about sacramental communion, when Catholics receive what the church teaches is Jesus’ flesh and blood, Benedict rejects the notion of the church as an ideological battlefield: "Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself," the Pope writes.

Speaking in the first person but stressing the collective, he continues that "I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. ...Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united."
This cuts to the heart of my own reflections on the Church in this postmodern world. Lots more to read here, and some great comments going up. Everybody seems to like this, but we will have to keep an eye out for the classic problem of different people seeing with different eyes, and in a sense reading different encyclicals.

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