00 8/16/2009 8:39 PM

Posted 7/27/09 in the BENEDICT thread:

In a cathedral 16 centuries old,
Benedict XVI restores the message
to make God known to man

Translated from

July 26, 2009

In the increasingly eventful chapter of 'surprises' in Benedict VXI's Pontificate, the Vespers he celebrated at the Cathedral of Aosta last Friday is a new entry from many aspects.

Think of it: the Pope is on vacation, the rhythms of normal life are generally slowed down everywhere in summer, and a carefree atmosphere attests to the fact that summer is a season of the ephemeral.

And suddenly from the cathedral that was once St. Anselm's seat in Aosta, words come forth that resonate with the 16 centuries of faith conserved within those walls - recently restored to some of its ancient splendor - but also indicating the path for a new future, as Pope Benedict extemporized an extraordinary lesson of his Magisterium.

As father of the Church and its teacher in faith, the Pope can certainly not be limited in what he needs to say about the faith, even in the summer, nor for that matter, to keep a 'light touch', especially with the physical disability to his right wrist.

Indeed, we all got far more than we expected.

First of all, the beauty of language - a gift which helps and almost carries forward a course that the Pope himself says may appear more suggestive than demanding.

Or rather, suggestive because it is demanding: To affirm, in the silence of that cathedral, that "power means to be with those who suffer" and that "without God, the world has no compass" was like ripping open not just the enclosing cathedral walls but also the wall of indifference in the world.

It was much more than a resounding call: it was a meditation which also placed a seal on this temple of worship - alongside and beyond the restored stone of the cathedral, he also restored its message, confirmed its charism anew.

The voice of sixteen centuries of faith rang out stronger and firmer than ever, belying the cliche that summer is not a time for thinking anything big, or for doing other than pro forma tasks.

What fascinates about Benedict XVI is the daring simplicity of the task that he has assigned himself: to make the face of God not only known to mankind but to make God familiar to man.

And that is what evangelization means. But Pope Benedict makes it clear that for the Church, evangelization is everything.

Even in St. Anselm's cathedral, it would have been difficult to think of a mid-summer papal visit. But then, neither does one necessarily associate a Vespers celebration with something that constitutes a true spiritual pilgrimage for souls made uneasy by the times we live in.

One cannot consider the event otherwise. And in a sense, it has become more difficult to speak about 'surprises' from this Pope [presumably because he is so consistently on message].

The full video of the Vespers in Aosta may be seen on Russi's site

An unexpected implication of the Aosta homily was picked up by two Vaticanistas who commented in their Sunday reports.

In his Aosta homily,
the Pope praises
'the Catholic Darwin'

by Gian Guido Vecchi
Translated from

LES COMBES (Aosta, July 25 - "Let us hope everything goes well," the Pope said yesterday to his doctors after they X-rayed his fracture right wrist one week after they operated on it.

Both his medical check-up and the X-rays were 'excellent', the doctors said afterwards. They replaced the resin cast that was taken off to do the X-ray, said the fracture was healing well, and the cast would be taken off after the feast of the Assumption.

Meanwhile, Benedict XVI had 'rehabilitated' Pierre Teilhard de Charcin (1881-1955), known as 'the Catholic Darwin' and the 'forbidden Jesuit'.

One of the great 20th-century theologians, who was also a paleontologist and biologist, he became the object of a 'monitum' (reprimand) from the then Holy Office on June 30, 1962, exhorting "all Bishops and superiors of relgious institutions, seminary rectors, and university heads to protect the thoughts, particularly of young people, from the dangers in the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his disciples".

So one had to see Benedict XVI - great theologian that he is, who took part in the Second Vatican Council as a consultant and who led the ex-Holy Office for 23 years - praise "the great vision that Teilhard de Chardin had", the Pauline idea that ultimately, we will have "a true cosmic liturgy and the cosmos will become a living host".

It was just one citation, but an important one, linked to Paul's Letter to the Romans, given in a homily that was extemporaneous - therefore, even more significant because the words came spontaneously.

Already, in his 1987 Principles of Catholic Theology, the then Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged the influence of Teilhard's influence on Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution of Vatican II on the relationship between the Church and the contemporary world.

And much water has passed under the bridge since the ex Holy Office denounced 'ambiguities and errors so serious that they offend Catholic doctrine' about Teilhard's writings in the 1962 monitum.

As Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi (also Jesuit) commented, "No one today would dream of saying that an author who expresses heterodox views should not be studied." [By scholars, presumably, not by pupils, students and seminarians.]

Theologian Gianni Gennari observes: "But the monitum against Teilhard was never withdrawn."

[In June 1981, the OR published a letter written by then Secretary of State Casaroli to then Mons. Paul Poupard on the occasion of the centenary of the French Jesuit's birth - which praised Teilhard's body of work beyond "the difficulties of conception and deficiencies of expression" and conveyed "this message on behalf of the Holy Father to you and all the participants of the conference over which you are presiding at the Catholic Institute of Paris in homage to Fr. Teilhard de Chardin".

Two weeks, later, the OR published a communique which rejected interpretations that Casaroli's letter meant the Vatican had changed its position about Teilhard, saying: "After having consulted the Cardinal Secretary of State and the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, by order of the Holy Father, had been duly consulted beforehand, about the letter in question, we are in a position to reply in the negative", pointing out that Casaroli's letter had, in fact expressed reservations even if the 1962 monitum was never directly mentioned.

It must be noted that Cardinal Ratzinger was never involved in this dispute because he was not named CDF Prefect till November 1981 and he did not actually take office until February 1982.]

Gennari notes: "Teilhard de Chardin spoke of 'divine matter' and because of this, he was accused of pantheism! It is very significant that Benedict XVI says today what the young Ratzinger would have said in the 1960s. Which is not an argument for those who would have us believe that the Church is trying to bury Vatican-II".

The lay theologian Vito Mancuso, who last year wrote an open letter to Corriere della Sera demanding the rehabilitation of Teilhard, commented on the Pope's citation in Aosta: "Teilhard de Chardin was persecuted for having introduced the evolutionary method in theological thought, and an optimistic but not ingenuous attitude towards the world and science. I am pleasantly surprised. Benedict XVI's words have great significance."

Praise for Teilhard de Chardin:
Benedict XVI 'pardons'
the Catholic Darwin

Translated from

AOSTA, July 26 - Half a century after a Vatican condemnation, Joseph Ratzinger paid homage to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit who tried to reconcile the theory of evolution with Christianity. [Not exactly. He tried to apply the idea of evolution to the development of man in the Christian sense.]

The 1962 monitum against his writings (that is, the reprimand made by the former Holy Office against what it considers 'grave doctrinal errors' in his writings) has not been lifted, but in the very rich homily delivered extemporaneously by Benedict XVI last Friday at the Cathedral of Aosta, he praised "the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin, who thought that ultimately we would have a true cosmic liturgy and the cosmos would be a living host".

It's a highly significant citation, surprisingly sprung by Benedict XVI about "an aristocratic theologian, scientist and mystic who crossed over from the religious field, and with his studies in China on the origins of mankind [he was among the discoverers of Peking Man], influenced even non-Christian thinkers", said Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservqatore Romano and a scholar on the history of Christianity.

"Notwithstanding criticisms of his weak philosophical vision and excessive optimism in the union of faith and science, he is a figure who fascinated an era, one who in 1963 was the inspiration for a leading character in the novel that became big film, Nei panni di Pietro [literally, 'In Peter's clothes'- sorry, the title does not ring a bell with me] and L'uomo venuto dal Cremlino {The man from the Kremlin), both loved by Papa Wojtyla," Vian continues.

And yet, Cardinal Ottaviani, custodian of orthodoxy [as prefect of the CDF in the 1960s), banned the 'heretic' Teilhard from Catholic bookstores and schools for, among other things, that 'cosmic liturgy' praised Friday by Benedict XVI [and a recurrent concept in his discourses on liturgy].

"Teilhard de Chardin was accused by the Vatican of immanentism and materialism for concepts such as 'divine matter', with sharp censure that has never been revoked," says the theologian Gianni Gennari.

"Yet as a progressive theological adviser at Vatican-II, Ratzinger studied him and discussed him enthusiastically with Karl Rahner. Now, as Pope, he is not afraid to show the same conviction, without asking whether it is prudent to express his personal attitude for that controversial advocate of dialog with the contemporary world who was so opposed by the traditionalist Curia."

"Pope Benedict has thus shown in his own words that the identification of creation and the living host does not contradict the value of the sacraments," Gennari goes on.

He thinks that in this way, the Pope is rehabilitating Teilhard's non-atheist Christian evolutionism - that is, history as the path from the alpha of pre-incarnation Christ to the omega of the risen Christ".

After recent Vatican 're-readings' of Galileo, Giordano Bruno and John Calvin, Papa Ratzinger has also lifted the shadow of pantheism [God-world] that he was accused of, and recognizing that in general, his work does not contradict the Magisterium.

Now it remains for the CDF to take the formal step of withdrawing the Monitum and do justice to the Catholic Darwin.

I hope the Pope clears the way for the next logical step....
In 2007, I posted two brief articles by priests that I thought made an excellent brief introduction that skims the essentials of Teilhard de Chardin's thought in the READINGS thread of the PRF:

As I mentioned in my introductory comment to that post, I was very much into Teilhard in the 1960s as an intellectual adventure in which I did not mind whatever was unorthodox about his thinking, because I was not reading him as a Catholic writer [I was not into reading about Catholicism at the time; I was also getting introduced to the Eastern philosophies and religions) but for his scientific insights and his attempt to synthesize his thought in Christian terms, which was an extraordinary combination.

Posted 8/8/09 in the BENEDICT thread:

I missed this entry by Bruno Mastroianni on July 29, following the Vespers in Aosta and the Angelus at Les Combes.

Benedict XVI says
God helps man to use his reason

Translated from

july 29, 2009

Benedict XVI speaking to more than 6,000 persons for the noon Angelus last Sunday at Les Combes got good play in the Italian media for it.

His praise of grandparents as 'repositories and witnesses of life's fundamental values' grasped one of the signs of a society that is increasingly longer-living, while families are experiencing a full educational emergency.

Less reported was the Pope's homily the preceding Friday at Vespers in the Cathedral of Aosta. In the city that gave birth to St. Anselm (whose 900th death anniversary is marked this year), the Pope spoke extemporaneously of the primacy of God and his 'true power' which is forgiving.

Benedict XVI underscored that without God, man has no compass, and said so in the very cathedral that was the first seat of St. Anselm, the 'Doctor magnificus', father of a school that spread erudition and study in all Europe. The saint, to whom faith and openness to the truth of God are the true guarantees for the correct use of reason.

His famous dictum - "that about whom it is not possible to think there is anything greater" - was not an exercise for philosophers but a simple idea to make it understood that God, even if we ignore him, is an inescapable reference point of man's intellect.

There is almost a millennium between Anselm and Joseph Ratzinger. But the question remains the same: mankind, despite all kinds of rational enlightenment and scientisms, is more keenly aware than ever of the difficulty of going anywhere without a compass.

On that Friday in Aosta, the Pope gave us the orientation: "We must bring anew to this world the reality of God, make him known and make him present."

From this, the first to profit would be reason.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/16/2009 10:56 PM]