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Q & A: Father Ken Himes

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This week at Q & A, we are looking at the contributions Pope benedict XVI has made to the Church to call attention to the publication of a new book from the USCCB, Pope Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy.

Today we hear from Fr. Ken Himes, who teaches theology at Boston College.

The question: What do you perceive as a specific contribution Pope Benedict XVI has made to the Church?

Father Himes: After Joseph Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome, a friend told me that I should take a vacation from my study of Catholic social teaching since there would be no new social encyclical coming out of Benedict’s papacy. While my friend was joking, it is fair to say the expectations of many people were low regarding Benedict’s interest in social teaching. Yet this papacy has continued the practice of commemorating the social encyclicals of predecessors while adding its own voice and perspective to social questions.

Gerson (Conveniently) Forgets Racism

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Michael Gerson this morning has an article in the Washington Post in which he discussed the Obama administration's loss of religious voters. He believes that in its pursuit of "big governement" solutions, the Obama administration fell afoul of religious conservatives who are suspicious of big government, exciting anew what Gerson calls "long-standing evangelical fears of the aggressive secular state."

Election Time: NH 1 & 2

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UPDATE (10/26): Carol Shea Porter appears headed for defeat against the former mayor of Manchester, Frank Guinta, the largest city in the state. Independents are breaking heavily for Guinta with some recent polls showing him with a double digit lead, and no recent poll showing him with less than a 5 percent lead. Both Cook and Real Clear Politics list the race as "Lean Republican." Guinta is likely to become New England's only GOP respresentative in the U.S. House.

Why I Love Benedict

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I can recall precisely where I was when I realized that Joseph Ratzinger had been elected Pope. I was jogging on Varnum Street, near Providence Hospital. For those familiar with Washington, D.C., the Brookland section of town, where I then lived, is known as “little Rome” because it is home to so many Catholic institutions: CUA, the Shrine, the Franciscan monastery and other religious houses, Providence hospital, etc. The bells in the Shrine began to ring. It was close to noon, so I assumed they were pealing the Angelus. But, they kept ringing. I cut my run short and as I got closer to my home, the thought occurred that if the cardinal electors had reached their decision so quickly – it was the first full day of the conclave – they had to have selected the frontrunner, Cardinal Ratzinger. I got inside and turned on the television and shortly thereafter, Cardinal Medina Estevez stepped on to the loggia of St. Peter’s and announced that, indeed, the cardinals had elected Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope.

Blast From the Past: Pius VII

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I mentioned Pope Pius VI's trip to Vienna in 1782 this morning. This excerpt from Eamon Duffy's masterful history of the papacy recounts the tale of Pope Pius VII's trip to Paris in 1804 for the coronation of Napoleon. Once again, those tyrants who sought to subject the Church and its Pope were done in by the simple faith of their own people.

"The slow journey through northern Italy and France was a triumph, and a revelation. Wherever the Pope went, he was mobbed by emotional crowds. His carriage drove between lines of kneeling devotees, men pressed forward to have their rosaries blessed, women married by civil rites under the Revolution to have their wedding-rings touched by the Pope. It was clear to everyone that the papal office had gained more mystique than it had lost in the flux and turmoil of Revolution. Napoleon was not pleased."

E.J. Dionne on the Dems

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In this morning's Washington Post, E. J. Dionne tells of some Democrats who are - finally - not running from the health care issue but embracing it. In the upcoming issue of the print edition of NCR, I will have an article about another Democrat, Tom Perriello, who is also defending his vote in favor of health care reform.

The White House gets a big, fat "F" for not making sure that every American knows the name of a child who was unable to get health insurance because of a pre-existing condition but who, now, because of the health care reform is able to get such coverage.

Remember Ryan White? He became the face of AIDS sufferers and the opposition to increased funding on AIDS research, and care for those struicken with the disease, evaporated.

As I never tire of pointing out, the polls indicate there could be a GOP tsunami, but they also indicate that the electorate has not made up its mind.

If the White House will get out the old bully pulpit, and Democratic candidates don't lose their nerve, they can limit the losses in November.

Q & A: Fr. Robert Imbelli

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As mentioned, this week at Q & A we will be looking at the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI to mark the publication of a new book, Pope Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy, published by the USCCB.

Our first interviewee, Fr. Robert Imbelli, is a professor of theology at Boston College and he was good enough to send his thoughts on Pope Benedict's pastoral-theological approach.

The question: What is one of Pope Benedict's most significant contributions to the life of the Church?

Father Imbelli: Since he was a young student of theology, Pope Benedict found in John Henry Newman a theological and pastoral sensibility akin to his own. Newman’s concern to help believers “realize,” make more fully real for themselves, the meaning of their faith is very much Benedict’s own pressing desire.

Angle Steps In It

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Sharron Angle, it turns out, is not only facing Harry Reid in the Nevada Senate race. There is also another Tea Party candidate, Scott Ashjian, who is getting a small slice of voters according to polls. As the Angle-Reid race is tight, even a few votes for Mr. Ashjian could hurt her chances.

Thoughts on Abp DiNoia's Red Mass Sermon

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NCR has already published the text of Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia’s homily at yesterday’s Red Mass. I hope readers will consult it, especially preachers, because it is rare that we get such a specimen of fine preaching.

There were many fine passages. In speaking of the central dogma of our faith, the Trinity, the archbishop made clear, what is too often forgotten, that our Catholic faith makes a large claim: “Christ teaches and the Church proclaims that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, desires to share the communion of trinitarian life with creaturely persons, that—in the famous formulation of St. Irenaeus—God who is without need of anyone gives communion with himself to those who need him.” It is easy to forget, when the Church is beset by self-induced scandals and in an age that treats religion as an artifact of an earlier and simpler time, that at the heart of our faith is an invitation to join the divine life.

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April 11-24, 2014

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