Item description for The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World by David Gibson...
Overview Newly Revised and Updated A top religion journalist presents a behind-the-scenes look at the early years of Pope Benedict XVI and what his papacy means for the future.
Publishers Description A leading religion journalist presents a behind the scenes personal portrait of Pope Benedict XVI, the alarming direction of this new papacy, and the impact it will have on the Roman Catholic Church in America.
Community Description There was no neutral response to the announcement that the "enforcer"---Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger---had been elected Benedict XVI, the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Conservatives saw it as the final triumph of their agenda. Liberals were aghast. Everyone else wondered what to expect. Award-winning religion journalist David Gibson explores the "war of ideas" that will be a defining feature of this new papacy.
Gibson persuasively argues that by tackling the modern world head-on Benedict XVI is gambling that he can make traditional, orthodox Catholicism the savior of contemporary society. But if the elderly Benedict fails in his battle with modernity, will Catholicism wind up as a "smaller-but-purer church"---the new kind of fortress Catholicism that some conservatives want? Such fears haunt millions of American Catholics pressing for change. Gibson points to the early warning signs of a papacy hyperfocused on "right belief" and shows how the key decisions of this surprising papacy will profoundly impact the future of Catholicism.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.86" Width: 6.16" Height: 1.15" Weight: 0.95 lbs.
Release Date Dec 13, 2013
Publisher Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN 0061161225 ISBN13 9780061161223
Availability 0 units.
More About David Gibson
DAVID GIBSON is an award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker who specializes in covering the Catholic Church. He is a national reporter for Religion News Service and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and for such leading magazines as New York and Fortune. David is also featured in the CNN series Finding Jesus.
MICHAEL MCKINLEY is an award-winning author, filmmaker, journalist and screenwriter. He has written several books, and wrote and co-produced the CBC TV documentary film "Sacred Ballot," as well as several documentaries for CNN Presents.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World?
Best summary of recent RCC history I've ever read! Jun 8, 2007
Looking for a light summer read? NOT! Looking for something that provides both background and insight into the history of the Roman Catholic Church and its papacy for at least the last 50 years? That reads a little like a mystery novel and calls into question whatever version of the "status quo" you consider to BE the status quo? Then this is the book for you!
Over my lifetime, both in and out of the Catholic Church, I'd heard all sorts of rumors and tales about Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. This book has helped me understand why I find myself on various sides of various issues (in my book, one chooses that leap of faith; faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin, one must take one with the other). If you were going to read one book that summarizes the Vatican II milieu, both the people who shaped it and how it continues to shape Catholic culture, I would highly recommend this book. Mr. Gibson has done his homework. Because of prior employment with the Vatican media arm, he has personal sources within the Vatican itself, as well as around the Roman Catholic world - he gives a first person account of the events of St. Peter's Square, when John Paul II's successor would be elected. Because of his personal conversion to Catholicism, he integrates an outsider's viewpoint with that of confused and educated cradle Catholics, such as myself. In this book, you will see the rise and fall of John Paul II, how then Cardinal Ratzinger carried out the work of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, how he has transitioned from the CDF to the papacy, and how various political and religious eddies and currents affect the ocean of world belief in which the Catholic Church finds itself.
I like books like this, ones that offer useful insight and overall framework. One is free to disagree with the interpretation of the issues presented, but I think it is good to see the issues on the table, and their historical context. With 8 pages of notes and an 11 page index for a 365-page book, all sources are easily found and cross-referenced. Mr. Gibson has masterfully documented a potential turning point in Church history.
Positive/encouraging critique of Benedict May 6, 2007
Comprehensive and extremely well researched, this critique of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI places him in context of the most important developments in the Catholic Church for the past 50+ years. The presentation is totally enlightening. Gibson is honest and fair, yet calls Benedict to task for some of his failings---but explains where Benedict is coming from in reaction against problems in the Church, especially a few renegade excesses eminating from the Second Vatican Council. Yet so much good resulted from that Council, and Gibson emphasizes that, in its spirit, the opening address to the Council by Pope John XXIII should prevail as the new tone leading to reorientation of Rome toward differing opinions and opposition to error: "the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations." (page 184)
The title of the book becomes so clear in its last paragraph: "Perhaps the best advice for a pastor today, especially one whose high office can leave him so remote from the lives of his flock, would be to turn back to the very first word of the Rule of Benedict, and the guiding principle of religious obedience. 'Listen,' the Saint counsels, 'with the ear of your heart.'"
"Living in darkness, seeking the light" May 2, 2007
Many of the preceding reviews posted here reveal the attitudes of the reviewers towards not the author but the subject of David Gibson's study. My review on the other hand tries to sum up Gibson's own perspective rather than my own reactions to the new Pope himself. Gibson's well-written survey may be limited by its short shelf life given that it appeared only months after the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the throne of St. Peter. Still, given the author's extensive research, first-hand knowledge as a former correspondent for Vatican Radio, and his wealth of contacts within the Curia and the episcopate, Gibson is extraordinarily well placed to comment upon the initial impact of Cardinal Ratzinger's elevation to the papacy.
The cleverly titled "The Rule of Benedict" moves along rapidly. The first hundred pages tell movingly but objectively the decline of John Paul II and the position that Cardinal Ratzinger assumed within the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (formerly "The Holy Office" or less neutral that of the "Inquisitor"). Without falling into vapid assent or stereotypical dissent, Gibson remains balanced about the tension that the two popes have created by their respective reactions to the forces of modernity within the post Vatican II ecclesiastical establishment. The analogy Gibson makes between John Paul's sympathy, stemming from John XXIII's own "aggiornamento" or "updating" and Benedict's more conservative "ressourcement" or "return to the sources" is illuminating. Gibson carefully explains how the Augustinian-Platonist vs. the Thomistic-Aristotelian split in the four sessions of Vatican II mirrored itself in the careers of John XXIII and Cardinal Ratzinger. The subject line of my review here cites on pg.128 what Gibson views as Benedict's motto. The pope is suspicious of what would weaken the Church's claim to difference. If Catholics are to become like everyone else, what good is there in staying true to the faith? Vatican II, Ratzinger feared, threatened to toss the true anchor of the Church into the seas of modern liberalism. Adrift, where could the faithful seek shelter?
The future Benedict became less enamored of the rush to embrace the contemporary ethos, and more determined to save the best of a more cautious past that the forces of eager reformers threatened to obliterate in a hasty rush to hurry up to the trends of the consumer-driven, fad-seeking, and overly-politicized attitudes of the wider Western world. Gibson's sympathies, although clearly with the reformers, do not weaken as much as I had expected his attempt to present fairly the more skeptical counter-reactions of those aligned with Benedict against those too hasty in wrenching the moorings of an ancient Church in their determination to bring Rome up to the pace of the rest of society.
The chapters about Benedict's earlier career add much for the lay reader to the complex, and not unlikeable, portrait of Joseph Ratzinger. Still, in places this is less than comprehensive. Not enough detail is given of the future pope's Bavarian career. The place where after ordination he was posted for a year of pastoral duties is not even mentioned by name. A small detail, but such attention to the actual texture and the mundane reality that helped shape Benedict XIV is rather uneven. Similarly, I had little sense of how precisely the student unrest at Tubingen in the later 60s unsettled Ratzinger. I failed to understand what his life was like in the later 50s and into the 60s. The ordinary experiences that helped along with the dramatic confrontations with the forces demanding change remained vague. This era powerfully upset the future Pope in solidifying his resentment and fear of popular unrest and by extension liberation theology and leftist agitation, but Gibson does not offer the "local color" that would have enabled a reader to better understand by firsthand testimony how utterly devastating this radical revolt was to the rather timid lecturer who found his lectern overrun by earnest protesters.
The result, as in the enormous amount of detail in a sympathetic chapter purportedly about American Catholicism to pretty much one case, that of the admittedly likeable Fr Tom Reese of the Jesuit journal "America," reads often more in this portion like a lengthy magazine profile rather than a comprehensive account of American reactions to Benedict's past and the fight in the American church to his rise to the papacy. I also sensed Gibson's dislike of right-wing forces in the American church appointed by the recent popes. I understand Gibson's frustration, but he seems to discount one telling factor. Regardless of one's own allegiances, the only growth in vocations and local clerical numbers is happening with the most traditionally oriented religious orders and among those most closely aligned with conservative movements. Like it or not, the lack of a progressive, socially liberal counterpart enjoying such levels of recruits among liberal lay or clerical leaders-- as opposed to factions that can operate within social work or public welfare realms-- seems to demand more consideration by any observer of today's American Catholic culture.
This is not a weakness in the book's overall design. Yet, the uneven nature of the coverage devoted to such detail does make the total impact of the book less than effective. Therefore this book reads better as a series of topics rather than a thorough study on all the aspects that created the current pope as we know him. The passages on electing a pope are admittedly fascinating, and Gibson's excellent here in making an often mythologized and little known conclave's quotidian challenges come vividly alive. The book as a whole is perhaps better seen as a series of linked subjects--- the decline of the last pope, the education of the current pope, the role of Vatican II in forming both of the outlooks characterizing the two major recent popes, the debates between liberals and conservatives, the arguments between those chillingly (at least as Gibson portrays them) under the eye of the CDF and their half-hidden accusers, and the restive clergy and episcopate who chafe under papal power. Ultimately this is not so much a biography as it is a combination of contextual reflections on the recent post-conciliar Church, how John Paul II and Benedict XVI differ on the extent to which the Church needs to be updated, and how the reforms of Benedict seeking a reaffirmation of core Catholic truths compare and contrast with those of John Paul.
In closing, any Vatican-based author who without sounding cloying or cute can make comparisons to Milli Vanilli, Ouija boards, Bela Lugosi, and the Kennedys deserves acclaim. Gibson does not pander to readers, and you will learn a considerable amount about matters recondite and risible without you feeling like the book's dumbed down or putting on airs-- no mean feat. Gibson can take on recondite theological concerns, explain the root meaning of heresy very effectively (see pp. 186-7), sympathetically show how Benedict wishes to keep the unworldly nature of the Church relevant in an age too quick to make all value systems relative, and how Benedict seeks out of a sincere wish to keep the uniqueness of Catholicism in an era too determined to water down what remains distinctive from the battles of the past two millennia. As a convert, Gibson is also ideally placed to ask whether what the current pope stands for matters to us, how much he can probably expect to stand firm against, and how far he may have to compromise to preserve the gains of the Church within a rapidly secularizing and demographically shifting world that, even since the current pope's own priestly career began, has changed nearly beyond recognition. It's a measure of Gibson's wide learning, diverse contacts, and careful reflection that his book manages to present a balanced view of the pope. He gets beyond facile representations of a severe attack dog or a triumphant chauvinist. He demolishes both left- and right-wing caricatures. Gibson's own liberal tendencies are always evident, but he also seeks to fairly explain why this pope was chosen when he was and why this election has resulted in a pope far more crucial to the future of Catholicism than his initial reduction as a "placeholder" or an interim appointee by Gibson's fellow journalists unfairly patronized Ratzinger. To Gibson's credit, after reading this study I recognized much more in Ratzinger to accept (if not acclaim) and not only-- as might be the usual expectation of a reader of much media coverage of the pope-- to critique.
So frustrating Apr 24, 2007
The modern world is a disaster. Battle on Holy Father! Mr. Gibson has missed the point of the papacy entirely. Its not about the man who is pope and Benedict has done a wonderful job of returning the emphasis to the Faith and the Liturgy rather than his own celebrity. A refereshing change! Oh, Mr. Gibson, in the old mass, the priest doesnt face away from the people. The people and the priest face the same direction, with their eyes and their minds (hopefully) on God. The lamest of the lame anti-old Mass myth out there...
Great book for Catholics and Non-Catholics Mar 15, 2007
This book by David Gibson, is a high quality work with an intelligent combination of historical accuracy and artistic description. You can immediately tell that it is written by a true Vatican "insider" with both an American and an Italian heart. It is easy to read, and gives the reader a sense of both the objectiveness of the Catholic Church (and it's newest Pope), and the depth and beautiful mystery of both. As Mr. Gibson is a convert to Catholicism, there are enough explanations that both Catholics and Non-Catholics alike will find this book easy to follow and will be able to form their own opinions. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with the hierarchical Church or the role of the Church in International politics.