Reviews - What do customers think about Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age?
A Worthwhile Collection of Thoughts on Benedict XVI May 21, 2007
As he explains in his Introduction, Fr. Twomey's short book is a collection of priorly published articles (some revised here) that endeavor to educate the reader about Pope Benedict XVI on several levels:
-- Included are an overview of the voluminous writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict that is more a listing than anything more comprehensive. The main text and numerous footnotes point to further reading in the source texts rather than going into detail. This abbreviation is frustrating at times; one wishes to follow up on the references, but who reading an introduction such as this would have the many cited works at hand?
-- Unlike some other contemporary theologians, Ratzinger himself has compiled a body of literature that is "unfinished." Twomey often makes reference to the tendency of Ratzinger to write unfinished "fragments" that toss out ideas with the intention that others join in and carry on the discourse.
-- Twomey, who has known the pope since he was a student of Professor Ratzinger over thirty years ago offers added insights into his teacher's character. For instance, Twomey emphasizes Ratzinger's classroom encouragement of frank, open discussion (a trait companionable to the tendency to write theology fragments that stimulate expansion).
-- Three chapters (out of five) of "Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age: A Theological Portrait" investigate Ratzinger/Benedict's theory of conscience which Twomey advises is not merely the popular narrow definition that might be termed an "excuse mechanism." Instead the pope concerns himself with a broader sense of conscience as alignment with higher, divine truth.
-- Indeed, the pope's own search for truth is an abiding theme of his life and therefore of Twomey's book. In concert with that, one chapter considers the question of Ratzinger's youth in Nazi Germany which had been a common topic in the news media upon his election to the papacy. Twomey systematically discounts accusations that Ratzinger was a willing participant in the Hitler Youth. Ratzinger found no truth in Nazism.
-- One of the two appendices consists of a sermon Pope Benedict gave in 2005. It provides a notable glimpse into the way he integrates various ideas to provide fresh windows of thought. The homily also happens to refer to the American priestly sex scandals, making it of further interest.
Although Twomey's brief introduction is definitely a series of fragments itself, it succeeds in piquing interest in further reading and so is recommended for those interested in understanding Pope Benedict and his scholarship and character.