Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review of "Light of the World" by Benedict XVI

What a shame. Pope Benedict XVI has given us his thoughts on modern Western culture, Islam, Orthodoxy, Judaism, relativism, the priesthood, the burden of being Pope, the sex abuse crisis, infallibility, marriage, and much more and the average person will only think about one word that gets a brief mention - condoms.

Light of the World is the new book-length interview between German journalist, Peter Seewald and Pope Benedict XVI, who did two previous book-length interviews previous to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger being named to the papacy. This book is unprecedented, because never before has a Pope given such exclusive access with a no-holds-barred approach to a journalist. The book is just what you would expect it to be - an intelligent give-and-take between two men who respect one another. It certainly gives us an inside peek into the world of how the Pope lives and thinks.

I have been blessed to read most of Benedict's major works and his other interviews and Light of the World may be the best way to introduce a novice to Benedict's way of thinking. He clearly illuminates his understanding of the problems that face the Church, modernity, and culture. He is neither naive about the situation nor is he pessimistic. Rather, he has a good feel for what is ailing modern man and what will help turn us around - faith in Jesus Christ.

He understands that the proposal that the Church makes to the modern world is quite daunting - Jesus is the Lord of all of creation and died for our salvation. But, he also understands the urgent need our world has for this message, because if it is true, then there is nothing more important for the world to know.

Benedict is honest and direct in his answers. You won't find any dodging of the tough question as a politician might. Rather, Benedict is quite honest the the human side of the Catholic Church is full of sinners who mess up all the time and that he himself has made errors. He is critical of the Church's communication efforts, among other issues, and his compassion for the victims of the sex abuse crisis is quite clear. Yet this does not keep him from honestly analyzing the situation to notice innocent priests have to face consequences as well. He says:
Yes, it is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too.
Seewald is also to be commended. He asked questions that cut through the clutter and get to the heart of the matter. He isn't shy about asking tough questions, nor does he lack a sense of wit, which is evidenced by telling Benedict that he clearly lacks the personality of John Paul II. Benedict shrugs it off by saying he doesn't try to be anybody but himself.

If there is anything lacking in the book, it might be the translation. There are several times that phrases seem to be awkward and punctuation seems out of place. The book was originally done in German and translated to English, which is probably where the problems arise.

Light of the World helped me gain further insight into the Pope's thought process and understanding his opinions on a wide-range of topics. I highly recommend it for those interested in learning the same.

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