Potpourri of Popery, New Year's Eve Edition

It's embarrassing to grow old and be constantly slack-jawed at how fast other people's kids grow and time flies --but can it really be Advent already tomorrow? Right. To it, then.

Several  big developments since the last potpourri.
Release of Verbum Domini, the post-synodol exhortation on scripture in the life of the Church. Alas, the Pope's non-magisterial interview book got more notice, even in the Catholic press, but this is the important document, one the Pope wishes to have broad effect. Like all post-synodal documents, it's a mix of theoretical and practical things. This includes profound reflections on the scriptures themselves; guidelines for understanding it; lectio divina how-tos and more. From the prologue:
I would like the work of the Synod to have a real effect on the life of the Church: on our personal relationship with the sacred Scriptures, on their interpretation in the liturgy and catechesis, and in scientific research, so that the Bible may not be simply a word from the past, but a living and timely word. ...Following the example of the Apostle John and the other inspired authors, may we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit to an ever greater love of the word of God.
First major defections from Canterbury to Rome under Anglicanorum coetibus (5 bishops, 50 priests, several hundred congregants). After meeting with the Pope, the Druid announces Church-sharing plan. More on this in the potpourri below.

The Synod on the Middle East, documents for which are gathered here. The Holy Father gave a lovely homily at its conclusion, reiterating his fond hope that Christians will remain in the Middle East in spite of the risks:
The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular potency in the places in which, by Divine Providence, it was written, and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence.  
...because the Good News is the key to freedom and peace, not only for Christians:
Another contribution that Christians can bring to society is the promotion of an authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom becomes essential to guarantee to all the members of the various religious communities the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the Synodal Fathers.
That last sentence is pretty much the key for understanding the Synod, I think. Various Jewish groups got antsy about some remarks at the synod, and George Weigel and others are nervous that the Synod Fathers don't give Israel its due. I get a little nervous about that myself, but whatever the cultural limitations of some of the Arab patriarchs, the purpose of the synod was not really Jewish-Christian relations, but engaging Islam and Muslims, who are, let's face it, the key to peace in the Middle East (Christians and Jews being sinners, but not of the bombing innocents variety, generally).

The cardinals' meeting on sexual abuse, religious freedom, et al, followed by the consistory (with an excellent homily!) Lots of fun pictures of that event if you scroll around.

The trip to Santiago de Compostela & Barcelona to shore up the family. Lovely homily at the Cathedral of Santiago about the impact of St. James and the meaning of pilgrimage -- a theme he takes up again, more boldly, at the mass for the Compostelan jubilee. What does Europe seek, he asks, and what does it need? The answer lies in God, who is author-- not enemy-- of freedom:
how could God have created all things if he did not love them, he who in his infinite fullness, has need of nothing (cf. Wis 11:24-26)? Why would he have revealed himself to human beings if he did not wish to take care of them? God is the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom, not its opponent. How can mortal man build a firm foundation and how can the sinner be reconciled with himself? How can it be that there is public silence with regard to the first and essential reality of human life? How can what is most decisive in life be confined to the purely private sphere or banished to the shadows? We cannot live in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun. How is it then that God, who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness? This is why we need to hear God once again under the skies of Europe; may this holy word not be spoken in vain, and may it not be put at the service of purposes other than its own. It needs to be spoken in a holy way. And we must hear it in this way in ordinary life, in the silence of work, in brotherly love and in the difficulties that years bring on.
Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear, and work with his grace for that human dignity which was discerned by her best traditions: not only the biblical, at the basis of this order, but also the classical, the medieval and the modern, the matrix from which the great philosophical, literary, cultural and social masterpieces of Europe were born. 
Next came my favorite of his addresses in Spain --the homily for the dedication of Holy Family Cathedral in Barcelona.  Some day I am going to collect all his homilies that take the architecture of the church where he preaches as his starting point: beautiful!

Audiences:  Continuing his effort to re-introduce us to the most important figures of the Church, B16 has been doing an amazing series on the women of the Church. Here's the latest, on Catherine of Siena.

Oh, yes, and there's the new interview book out, Light of the World. You may have heard something about it, though as it's not a magisterial document but an interview with Joseph Ratzinger, it doesn't rise to the level of essential Church business in my view (not to say I am not aching to read it!).

The "Pope oks condoms except he really didn't" flap is just one more proof to me that I have no idea what's going on in the world. I don't understand how anyone who bothers to read could interpret "She of course does not regard it [the use of condoms] as a real or moral solution...,"   to mean "Pope blesses condoms." Nor do I understand the orthodox Catholic blogosphere's panic over Vatican PR, which did not strike me as inept or out of it at all. The Church's stance --agree or disagree--is not hard to understand nor was what the Pope said very subtle or nuanced, requiring special sensitivity. It was obvious and his logic self-evident to anyone who wants to know what the Pope thinks rather than bend it to his own wishes. He that has ears let him hear.

Here's the requisite clarification and a thorough round-up of all the ink spilled if you must, but the take-aways for me from this episode are two:
  1. The banality of our culture, even orthodox Catholic culture. As the Pope indicated, "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality;"
  2. And, related: it is once again demonstrated the only calm, lucid mind in the Western hemisphere belongs to the man in the Chair of Peter. Everyone else: right, left, in-between, is perpetually overwrought --and that is precisely the situation the pope is trying to address in trying to restore Reason.
There is a legitimate question to be asked about whether a sitting pope ought to take the risk of granting an interview of this kind. Is Ratzinger contributing to the diminishment of the Papacy? Francis Rocca takes that up here, suggesting the Pope knows what he's doing:
By speaking to Mr. Seewald so informally on matters of such importance, the pope may be seen to be collaborating in his own diminishment. And yet, on the evidence of the book itself, Benedict's decision to participate in the interviews was deliberate and principled. "Standing there as a glorious ruler is not part of being Pope," he tells Mr. Seewald. "Is it really right," he asks later, "for someone to present himself again and again to the crowd in that way and allow oneself to be regarded as a star?" People, he acknowledges, "have an intense longing to see the Pope" but only because he is "the representative of the Holy One." No one, he says, should "refer the jubilation to oneself as a personal compliment."
Also, the new book is part of the "Courtyard of the Gentiles" the Pope keeps speaking about. Update: Christopher Blosser leaves a link to his excellent round-up of all the other topics covered in Light of the World.

Not so important, but of note to me:
And finally: new film on Escriva;SJ physicist says Hawking unscientific; and, St. statue stops a thief!