Pope Benedict’s fascinating Q&A

My friend Mr. John L. Allen, Jr., the nearly ubiquitous fair-minded columnist for that instrument of dissent, the National Catholic Reporter, has done us a great service in translating and transcribing the Q&A Pope Benedict XVI held with priests of the Diocese of Rome on 26 February.

You can find it here.

Allen’s comments are here.  They are useful.

This Pope is amazing in that he holds these Q&A sessions in different locations and occasions.

I would be interested in your comments about the Q&A.  I won’t reproduce the text here.  Read it there and come back.

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  1. tertullian says:

    “this great art: how to be human”

  2. TJB says:

    Any chance someone could give a translation of the Sonnet delivered in question 6?

  3. little gal says:

    “Thus I wouldn’t say that I’m here to talk like an oracle, to whom you pose questions. We’re instead here for an informal exchange, which for me is very important, so that through you I can know the life of the parishes, your experiences with the Word of God in the context of today’s world. In this way, I’d like to learn too, to come closer to reality – from which anyone living in the Apostolic Palace is a little too distant. “

    I think the Holy Father’s words and actions are the correct response to the critique by Luigi Accattoli that he is a ‘soloist.’ No, the Holy Father realizes that those in the front lines (parish priests) can provide the best ‘data’ on what is happening in the Church; it is information that hasn’t been massaged by levels of Curia…As a social worker who works for a government bureaucracy, I can’t tell you how issues get garbled, manipulated etc by levels of mgmt. So, good for him that he is enough of his own person to cut through all this and ‘get it straight from the horses mouth.’

  4. teresa says:

    I admire Mr. Allen immensely, and the Q&A he wrote down show really that our Holy Father is indeed a master in dialog.

    It reminds me of the day in the middle ages where there was such a liberal academical atmosphere that the masters and students felt so free to dispute over things concerning our Christian faith.

    You miss it now: the liberals avoid answering serious questions. But from my experience I know that people who are potentially converts need good theologians to explain the orthodox faith and the teachings of the Church to them.

    So I would like to ask you dear Father Zuhlsdorf and you folks here a question: today I heard the news that the FSSPX in Germany is seeking dialogs, their speaker Fr. Schmidberger has written, posted officially on their homepage in Germany, that they accept partially the Second Vatican Council, but there are things they want to debate. They want a clearance of the ambiguity by talking them over with the bishops and theologians. Are they doing the right thing? For my part I find an open debate over questions concerning faith very fruitful.

    But is it right for the FSSPX to debate over the Council before the brotherhood accepts it?

    I would be grateful to any answer.

  5. Fr. BJ says:

    little gal: the Holy Father says pretty much the same thing every time he does a Q&A. In fact, I seem to remember his “oracle” comment almost verbatim from previous ones. I wouldn’t read too much current events into it.

  6. Fr. BJ says:

    The answer to the first question reinforces strongly an idea I have about the problem of permanent deacons preaching.

    The fact of their poor homiletical formation (not to mention theological, pastoral, etc.) notwithstanding, I maintain that deacons cannot, in the end, be very effective preachers, because they are not doctors of souls. Read the last paragraph of the first question (beginning with “Who knows the world of the people of today better than the pastor? The rectory …”) and you will see how the priest has a much different angle on human beings than any deacon does — except, perhaps, a deacon who is involved in counseling or something. A priest can speak to souls in a unique way because of his intimate knowledge of them.

  7. little gal says:

    Fr. BJ:

    A good line can get alot of mileage and still be effective, eg.,” Go ahead, make my day.”

  8. Ed Francis says:

    I agree with Allen’s comment that, “this Q&A confirms a defining feature of Benedict’s approach to problems: his relentless insistence upon ‘both/and’ solutions.”

    Pope Benedict does, though, seem to sidestep the thrust of some questions. On the “three years” issue of parish priests, the Pope seems to work from a simplistic model, that both priest and young person arrive at the same place on the same day, giving them a full three years together. Unlikely. The priest’s question seemed pointed toward his felt need to be more than a commercial in the lives of the young people in his parish, and the pope didn’t go there.

    Also, what Allen called “high-horsed” doesn’t seem to me to be. If things were so clear, so unobscured, they would be more common in practice, but there has been deliberate obfuscation of some of the “obvious” aspects of Catholic Faith and praxis. The question deserved a more conscientious treatment than it got, from either the pope or Allen.

  9. Maureen says:

    Re: deacons preaching

    Friars preach — it’s some orders’ reason for being — and they’re not necessarily priests, either. Transitional deacons have always preached, and seminarians aren’t doctors of souls yet and may never be priests, for we don’t know their future choices. So it’s silly to say that permanent deacons shouldn’t preach if friars and transitional deacons do and have done since time immemorial.

    Re: the Holy Father

    Allen seemed to feel that the Holy Father was being slightly dismissive of traditional devotions or some sort of rabbithole thereof, whereas it seemed to me that he emphasized that indulgences and traditional devotions were important, part of the beauty and wealth of the Church. Of course, I wasn’t there, so maybe there were such elements of soothing on the day.

    And I made my own comments on Socratic dialogues as a form of spiritual writing at Allen’s page.

  10. Jason Keener says:

    I love reading about these Q&A sessions with Pope Benedict. The Holy Father is definitely a brilliant man who has a very wide frame of reference.

    Father Z, maybe you could do a blog post asking your readers what particular questions they would ask Pope Benedict if they had the chance to participate in one of these Q&A sessions.

  11. Bryan says:

    Does anyone else feel drawn even closer to this man, this Vicar of Christ, after reading these transcriptions?

    You don’t have to be a theologian. He speaks gently, but with great authority.

    And it’s understandable on so many levels.

  12. Luigi says:

    One of the first things that strikes me in scrolling through is the amount of commentary that precedes each question. Not to say the comments are unnecessary or obnoxious, or that I wouldn’t agree with every word of them; I haven’t read through each one carefully enough to say. It just stands out.

    I think this is because I am an American who has suffered through too many Presidential press conferences in which the “question” is 95% soapbox speech and 5% question. Very annoying in that venue.

  13. Luigi says:

    Q2: “What are the essential criteria of this urgent task of evangelization? According to you, what are the elements that guarantee that we won’t act in vain in the pastoral effort of proclamation to this generation of ours? I humbly ask you to indicate to us, in your prudent discernment, the parameters to respect and to value in order to carry out an evangelizing work that will be genuinely Catholic and that will bear fruit for the Church?”

    OK… I know I might run the risk of appearing cranky and arrogant, or just plain mean, but is this really the best set of questions this priest could ask the Holy Father? These are the sorts of elementary questions that every single priest should be able to answer for himself. In fact, many of his parishioners should be able to answer these questions. Or were his “questions” more about seizing the opportunity to offer the commentary that preceded it?

    Am I the only one who sees it this way?

  14. Origen Adamantius says:

    Re: preaching

    While there are orders who were founded on preaching, preaching in its technical sense (within the liturgy)is connected to sacred orders. A friar who is not ordained cannot strictly speaking preach. There is currently some debate about the nature of deaconal preaching. By ordination they have the the faculty to preach– to claim otherwise challenges the nature and meaning of Orders, however, the Girm (66) indicates that it is the priest celebrant who should be the ordinary preacher and occasionally according to the circumstances the deacon. The manner and type of preaching for the Deacon should be proper to the charisms of the sacrament–how and what exactly that is remains under discussion.

    Re: simplistic model

    I think it is a little much to expect the Q/A to offer a theological treatise. The Pope seems to be operating under the model that the Cardinal Vicar has responsibility for the administration of diocesan personnel and that The Holu Father respects his judgment.

  15. Genna says:

    John Allen: “More basically, some accent the ‘horizontal’ dimension of Catholic spirituality, its impact on the broader culture, while others see that as a distraction from “vertical” matters of prayer and liturgical worship.”
    But joined together, they make a perfect cross.

  16. Thomas says:

    On a side note, I know how awful the National Catholic Distorter is, but when your on the site and actually see their line-up of contributors in the sidebar it’s staggering.

    Dicky McBrien
    Joan Chittister
    Bishop Gumbleton
    John Dear

    I suppose one brightside is we can keep them all together. Maybe rename the publication THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC QUARANTINE.

  17. TJM says:

    Thomas, be of good cheer. Look at the ages of the people you just named. Tom

  18. Dr. Eric says:

    Re: Deacons preaching

    St. Francis of Assisi was made a Permanent Deacon so he could preach at Mass. Please don’t knock the Deacons. I want to be one some day.

  19. Aussie Paul says:

    “Holy Father, I am Pietro Riggi and I am a Salesian who works in the Don Bosco Youth Borgo, and I want to ask you: the Second Vatican Council brought many important novelties into the Church, but it did not abolish the things that were already there. It seems to me that various priests or theologians would like to pass off as the spirit of the Council that which in fact has nothing to do with the Council. For example, … take the least-known practices of piety. First Fridays weren’t abolished by Vatican II, but many priests never talk about them, or, rather they speak poorly about them. Today there’s a sense of aversion toward all this, because it’s seen as antique and dangerous, as things which are old and preconciliar, even though I believe that all these Christian prayers and practices are highly relevant and very important, and that they should be taken up again and explained adequately to the People of God …

    Benedict XVI
    These are realities of which the Council didn’t speak, but presupposed as realities within the Church. They live in the Church and develop in it. … For example, the Fridays of the Sacred Heart are a very beautiful thing in the Church. These are not necessary things, but they’ve grown up in the richness of meditation upon the mystery. Thus the Lord offers us these possibilities in the Church. This doesn’t seem to me like the moment to enter into all the details. Everyone can more or less understand what’s less important than something else; but no one should disrespect this richness, grown up over the centuries as an offering, as a multiplication of the lights in the church.”


  20. Andrew says:

    I agree Aussie Paul, from Aussie Andrew.

    The last part of that question was about the connection between Fatima and Akita, and whether we are living in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988 supposedly indicated the messages and phenomenon in the latter were credible, in a meeting with Bishop John Ito of Niigata.

    Here is an excerpt from the message the Blessed Mother was alleged to have given to Sr Agnes Sasagawa on October 13, 1973:

    “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in
    such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops
    against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and
    opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the
    Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon
    will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service
    of the Lord.”

    To me this always sounded a bit too much like the discredited version of the Third Secret of Fatima that was published in the German magazine Neues Europa in 1963.

    Private revelation is not necessary for salvation, but even if you don’t believe in Akita, I doubt that few people who read this blog, would disagree with the sentiments expressed in this message.

    So it would have been good had Pope Benedict spoken about this, but perhaps tactfully he felt it was more prudent to leave the subject alone.

  21. John Allen is brilliant, and the only reason I would ever click over to NCR!

    Re: friars preaching…

    The original “little brothers” were given permission to preach penance, that is, to exhort the people to live a moral life according to the teaching of the Gospels. They were not to expound upon the Church’s dogmatic teachings. This was done by both the lay brothers and the ordained.

    Francesco Bernadone did indeed become a deacon so that he could preach in the Mass. I also think that his diaconal ordination was expressive of the diaconal charism of the community he founded.

    Re; deacon’s preaching…

    Historically practices have differed. It was not unusual in Constantinople, for instance, to have several homilies preached on a Sunday. And these homilies were not the 15-20 minute variety! (St. John Chrysostom was not called “Golden-Mouthed” for nothing!) Very often deacons would preach along with the other clergy. I have also heard of deacon’s preaching after the liturgy. This is really not done too often at all these days. For me, my priest and I alternate Sundays. Personally, I think it depends on the deacon. Deacons should only preach IF THEY CAN! (I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in my day.) Priests, if they are pastors, are the ordinary preachers for their parish and therefore must preach at least from time to time. I do know some priests who forbid their deacons from preaching DESPITE the fact that they can preach and their bishop has told them to permit their deacons to preach. This is very much a control issue and fundamentally disrespectful to the diaconate.

  22. Luigi says:

    Fr. Z: I would be interested in your comments about the Q&A.

    Uhh… likewise, Fadda. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking for your thoughts on the Q&A.

    I too found the Holy Father’s reply to the last question perplexing. It seemed unusually dissmissive. John Allen said this priest was “high horsed,” so perhaps it was the tone as much as the question that elicited that response.

    The questioner, Fr. Riggi, is among those guilty of “soapboxing,” but I must admit, I thought his snapshot was on the money.

    What Does Fr. Z Say?

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