Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plato's Republic

Again, I've gone to the archives. Hopefully this format proves better than the only occasionally reliable Blogger search.

Book I

Book II

Book III

Book IV

Book V

Book VI

Book VII


Book IX

Book X

On Liberty

I've gone back into the archives to provide links to the first set of discussions PJ and I had. May this someday prove useful, to someone.

1) Introductory

2) Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion

3) Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being

4) Of the Limits of the Authority of Society Over the Individual

5) Applications

Instructive Reflections

Church, Ecumenism and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology, is a collection of lectures and papers by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. This slender volume takes a theme similar to that of his book, The New People of God, first published (in German) in 1969: "the question of the nature of the Church and her structure, the questions of ecumenicism and of the relation between the Church and the world." The threefold division given in the book will be followed in my review.

The first part, On the Nature and Structure of the Church, contains a useful chapter, "The Primacy of the Pope and the Unity of the People of God"; it offers insight into the Cardinal's understanding of the responsibility of the pope, which responsibility is now his. The pope's relation to the Church, as an individual, is not only biblically sound—we find Paul speaking, as Paul, for the members of his community, and addressing other communities through their leaders, such as Peter—it also provides a framework for responsibility. Ratzinger uses Reginald Cardinal Pole's observations to work his way towards a pope who leads and guides his Church even in, perhaps especially through, personal suffering. As Pole observes: "The office of the papacy is a cross, indeed, the greatest of all crosses. For what can be said to pertain more to the cross and anxiety of the soul than care and responsibility for all the Churches throughout the world?" Ratzinger was reflecting on this cross long before it became his as pope.

Part two deals with Ecumenical Problems. Given the recent actions by the author, as Pope Benedict XVI, in respects to the struggling Anglican Church, "Problems and Prospects of the Anglican-Catholic Dialogue" is most enlightening. Although it will be some time before the effects of the olive branch offered to Anglicans by Pope Benedict are known, this section makes clear that when the pope acted, he did so with immense awareness of the issues at stake. In the appendix to this section, Ratzinger draws on the great Catholic convert, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. He notes, "In Newman's day, every kind of interpretation of the Thirty-nine Articles was permitted except for an explicitly Catholic one. Conversion for Newman became imperative once the Anglican hierarchy had explicitly rejected as unacceptable his attempt at a Catholic interpretation." Although personal interpretation was supposed to be given significant freedom, it required limitation, without which a believer would be totally cut off from tradition. This conundrum, which is at least as old as Luther's discovery of alternative Protestant theologies, confronts Anglicans today.

The final part, which comprises almost half of the book, it titled Church and Politics. Ratzinger's meditates on "Europe: A Heritage with Obligations for Christians." He points out problems with three "counterimages" of Europe: a pre-Christian paganism; what is often dubbed post-Christian, but what he calls "post-European"; and Marxism. The first image resonated with practitioners of National Socialism, which was "a renunciation of Christianity as alienation from the "beautiful" German "savagery"." The second elevates tolerance by excluding religion from the secular realm; in the process rational law dissolves into anarchy. This leaves opens the door to tyranny, since anarchy wearies of lawlessness and readily consents to force as a substitute.

The third image, Marxism, comes up with some frequency. Time and again, Ratzinger tactfully and gently corrects its errors. Rather than discuss Marx's economic theories, Ratzinger points out the problems of Marx's eschatology. Since human beings as such are secondary to the goal of communism, their dignity is not sacred. "In practical terms, those who act according to party logic, and only those, act in keeping with freedom. When party logic demands arrests and terror, then it goes without saying that such action, too, is in keeping with freedom, because, after all, it is consistent with the logic that leads to freedom." Such thinking cannot protect the rights and dignity of every human being.

Church, Ecumenism and Politics is engaging and informative. It offers valuable insight into the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI on matters of particular and far-reaching significance, which indicates that the Church is in very able hands.

Monday, February 15, 2010


From Sonnet 15:

For what can Warrs, but endless Warr still breed,
Till Truth, & Right from Violence be freed,
And Public Faith cleard from the shamefull brand
Of Public Fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed
While Avarice, & Rapine share the land.

Sometimes even the puritans get it right. I've been distracted by fine literature, but it's important to remember that Americans are still killing and being killed in at least two countries. And the bleeding shows no signs of abating anytime soon.