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Food for the Poor Godspy.com: Faith at the Edge


The Editors | 04.18.08


Benedict’s Discomforting Message

E.J. Dionne, Truthdig [Read the Article]

"Benedict directly challenged an assumption so many Americans make about religion: that it is a matter of private devotion with few public implications. Not true, said the pope. 'Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted,' he told the country’s Catholic bishops Wednesday. 'Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.' That is a demanding and unsettling standard for the right and the left alike... This is the thinking of a communitarian counseling against radical individualism... Perhaps it is the task of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to bring discomfort to a people so thoroughly shaped by modernity, as we Americans are. If so, Benedict is succeeding."

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By Harold Fickett AT 04.18.08 08:21PM

Harold Fickett

An excellent article for these pages, not only in its apt summary of Benedict’s message but in Dionne’s reflexive need to counter that message. 

“The church should not now close itself off,” Dionne writes, “to what our age has to teach about the equality of men and women or the virtues of more democratic structures in its internal life.”

Our age would know precisely nothing about the equality of men and woman if not for the Church’s contribution to Western civilization.  This is the fruit of Christianity, not of the Enlightenment, whose influence has turned that fruit rotten.  About the same goes for “democratic structures,” although admittedly the clergy are still struggling to form a partnership with the laity in their common task of evangelization.  This might be helped by a revised, more democratic approach to parish governance.  The “democratic structures” Dionne has in mind, I’m guessing, go much further. 

Still, I admire Dionne, a reliable liberal, for being as open to the pope’s mesage as he is here.  As he indicates, those of us who are conservative will have our own challenges in hearing this pope’s mesage.

By chassup AT 04.21.08 01:52PM


Benedict’s full comment, as he taught (reminded) the Bishops of this country how to lead their flocks:

“Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?

Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?

Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

While many call for the denial of the Sacraments to Catholics in elected office who publicly misuse their power or create public scandal, I like Benedict’s approach; warn the sinner, invite us all to a fuller encounter with Truth, and encourage each of us to live authentic lives.  If authenticity is preached throughout the land, perhaps the Grace of shame will return to our culture and lead us all to Truth.

By peterwilson1 AT 05.04.08 07:14PM


And let’s not forget what our age can teach us about…say…the killing of unborn children in the name of constitutional rights.


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