Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hans Küng and Joseph Ratzinger.

After a long estrangement, two old friends and colleagues got together for dinner this weekend. The two friends had a lot of catching up to do, for their lives had changed a lot since they'd last met. Both had achieved great notoriety and weathered serious controversies, and the two had often found themselves on the sides of different issues. For years, the two friends hadn't spoken with one another. However, as the friends aged and became more aware of their mortality, they decided to put aside their differences for a while and get together for a meal and the sort of intellectual discussion they both greatly enjoyed.

A reunion of two old friends isn't the kind of story you'd typically see in the New York Times. When one of the friends is a controversial though still world-renowned theologian and the other is Pope, this kind of story becames very newsworthy - so much so that you can indeed read about it in the Times. (You can also read about it - and in greater detail - in this John Allen piece on the NCR website.) This is the kind of story that gives me great hope, as the fact of a Küng-Ratzinger reunion speaks volumes about both men. Though his old friend Cardinal Ratzinger played a role in his censure, Küng speaks of the Pope in positive and fairly optimistic terms. Pope Benedict's willingness to engage in an apparently cordial and good-natured dialogue with a theologian he previously censured bears witness to the Pontiff's fundamental openness - an openness that is said to be constitutive of Benedict's character but which stands in contrast with the bullish persona he acquired at the helm of the CDF. The Pope's personal openness may yet surprise those who expect him to hem to a narrow and predictable course, and I'm hopeful that history will remember Pope Benedict XVI was a pontiff who listened respectfully to people on all sides of an issue before making decisions that impact the present and future of the entire Church. Even when the Pontiff makes pronouncements with which some of the faithful disagree, I am hopeful that a spirit of serious discernment will be evident in his modus operandi. Thus the dinner that took place this weekend between two old friends is an event of some importance, and an event that gives me some cause for hope. AMDG.


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