Potpourri of Popery, Octave of All Souls Edition

Shamelessly pinched from here.

They're starting to call Benedict "The Pope of Christian Unity." Various links in the potpourri will indicate why, but I've seen that in easily 8-10 sources now.

Wednesday's Audience continues a series about faith & reason seen through the lens of the tensions between monastic and scholastic theology --this time as exemplified by the debate between St. Bernard & Abelard. B16's positive treatment of Abelard interests me; he highlights his genuine contributions even as he points out his incontinent lifestyle and places where his thinking went off the rails into subjectivism and relativism (if only today's theological progressives understood how medieval they are!). The Pope talks about the importance of debate:
Above all I believe it shows the usefulness of and the need for a healthy discussion in the Church, especially when the questions debated have not been defined by the magisterium, which continues to be, however, an essential point of reference. St. Bernard, but also Abelard himself, always recognized, without doubting, its authority.
And then he also reflects on the Magisterium's dual purposes: not to squelch this debate, but to provide true North by which to steer: and to prevent wild ideas from hurting anyone.
in the theological field there must be a balance between what we might call the architectonic principles that have been given to us by Revelation and that, because of this, always are of prime importance, and the interpretative principles suggested by philosophy, that is, by reason, which has an important function, but only instrumental. When this balance between the architecture and the instruments of interpretation diminishes, theological reflection runs the risk of being contaminated with errors, and then it corresponds to the magisterium to exercise that necessary service to truth that is proper to it.

Moreover, it must be emphasized that, between the motivations that induced Bernard to place himself against Abelard and to request the intervention of the magisterium, was, also, the concern to safeguard simple and humble believers, who must be defended when they run the risk of being confused or led astray by opinions that are too personal and by theological argumentations without scruples, which might endanger their faith.
The Magisterium as helmet: I like it.

I also like that last line, as I find I'm getting sort of liberal in my old age. Some thinkers I once thought were off the rails I now see as perfectly orthodox in themselves and properly understood. Their errors seem to lie in being too arrogant to notice or care how their ideas may not have general application and lead into error.

The Pope ends as always with the "take-home message" for today's debate: let it be vigorous, but play nice:
Abelard showed humility in acknowledging his errors; Bernard used great benevolence. There prevailed in both what should truly be in the heart when a theological controversy is born, that is, to safeguard the faith of the Church and to make truth triumph in charity. May this also be the attitude with which there are confrontations in the Church, always keeping as the aim the pursuit of truth.
Sunday's Angelus touched on All Saints, All Souls & the communion of saints.

You'll want to read his address to the Colloquium of Astronomers celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope. He invites Science to rediscover its sense of awe (loss of which is the true and genuine fruit of the Darwinian revolution; Darwin made the world flat):
The International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar.
Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science. Who can deny that responsibility for the future of humanity, and indeed respect for nature and the world around us, demand – today as much as ever – the careful observation, critical judgement, patience and discipline which are essential to the modern scientific method?
At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit.

Very interesting remarks upon receiving the credentials of the new Iranian ambassador.
(He says cooperation is more about rights than technological progress, and challenges Iran to let the Church operate freely.)

Here's in a way a little nothing speech --just some remarks at the end of a luncheon at the close of the Synod for Africa. But I note this about the relationship between Church & politics. Benedict never misses an opportunity to reiterate that politics isn't the Church's competence:
if this spiritual dimension is profound and fundamental, the political dimension also is very real, because without political achievements, these changes of the Spirit usually are not realized. Therefore the temptation could have been to politicize the theme, to talk less about pastors and more about politicians, thus with a competence that is not ours.
The other danger was in order to avoid this temptation to pull oneself into a purely spiritual world, into an abstract and beautiful world, but not a realistic one. A pastor's language, instead, must be realistic, it must touch upon reality, but within the perspective of God and his Word. Therefore this mediation involves, on one hand being truly tied to reality, taking the care to talk about what is, and on the other hand not falling into technically political solutions: this means to demonstrate a concrete but spiritual word.
I think those words and that intent sheds some light on how we ought to read the latest encyclical, too. As does this. (I think Africa forms the backdrop of most of the specific recommendations.)

While we're on the Synod, here's the homily for its close. Lovely, with the recurring refrain, "Courage! Get up!"

That Synod must have been so exciting. (Love this piece from John Allen on interventions from women during the proceedings.) The Church in Africa truly believes, and with the new accommodation for Anglicans --announced while the Synod was still in session-- may be about to double in size.

The Pope's going to Brescia this weekend.