Joseph Ratzinger needs little introduction. He has served as a theologian, peritus at Vatican II, bishop, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and currently is Pope. He was also one of the founding members of the international Catholic journal Communio.
Over the course of his career, Ratzinger has written and spoken on a variety of subjects and to a variety of audiences. Collecting and editing his speeches, articles, and monographs is a daunting task. David Schindler, the editor of Eerdmans’ Ressourcement series, has tackled this very task. This volume, entitled “The Unity of the Church,” is the first of three intended to make Ratzinger’s writings available to a wider audience. As the title suggests, each of these essays contained in the volume appeared in the North American edition of Communio. The other two volumes will cover Ratzinger’s writings on anthropology and theological renewal.
The present volume contains fourteen essays covering a number of topics including: ecumenism, eschatology, liturgy, Martin Luther, Vatican II, the relationship between the Church and economics, peace & justice, Communio, Hans Urs von Balthasar, ecclesial movements, interreligious dialogue, moral theology, and the World Council of Churches. Each essay is, in varying degrees, connected to ecclesiology. The mix of topics is one of the primary strengths of the volume. This variety demonstrates to the reader the complex thought and wide theological spectrum on which Ratzinger has commented. Of special note are the essays dealing with the relationship between ethics and the economy and the article examining the speeches given by Cardinal Frings’ during the Second Vatican Council.
In the essay on the relationship between ethics and the economy, Ratzinger comments that “The Church should not enter into dialogue here as a mere component in the economy, but rather in its own right as the Church” (78). He argues that economic systems can not ignore the role of ethics and morality. Since economic policy is orientated to the good of the group, both a robust, specialized understanding of economics and morality is necessary (84).
On the occasion of the centennial of Cardinal Frings’ birth, Ratzinger wrote an article analyzing Frings’ contribution to the Second Vatican Council. The article stands in line with other works which deal with the proper understanding and interpretation of the event which was the Council. Ratzinger begins by citing the thesis of Anne Roche Muggeridge’s book The Desolate City: Revolution in the Church, which asserts that Frings and his peritus, Ratzinger, began as liberals at the Council and ended up by the end of the Council distancing themselves from the likes of Karl Rahner. Ratzinger does not spend much time on an analysis of Muggeridge’s text, but uses it as a springboard to assess and analyze Frings’ contribution to the Council. Instead of a simplistic categorization of “liberal” and “conservative,” Ratzinger asserts that one must examine the entire life of Frings in relation to the Council. Ratzinger divides Frings’ speeches into four categories: progressive speeches, nuanced progressive speeches, pragmatic/pastoral speeches, and finally, speeches opposed to the “progressive line” (87). After the analysis of the speeches, Ratzinger writes, “The fundamental pastoral and at the same time theological motivation which ultimately guided the Cardinal has already become clear: his keen sense for catholicity, which is not only a vertical link with the pope but a horizontal link with the bishops and mutual responsibility for unity and love” (102).
Much of Pope Benedict’s writings are being released in a variety of formats and volumes. For example, in 2005 a collection of Ratzinger’s writings were collected in the book Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion and published by Ignatius Press. Joseph Ratzinger in Communio: The Unity of the Church is a useful addition within this broader movement. The advantages of this volume are the ecletic topics and timeframe of the writings. The essays, which span the years between 1961 and 2004, show the diversity of thought and the common convictions Ratzinger has held.
This text, which is easily accessible to undergraduate readers and useful for graduate students, is a welcome addition to the current scholarship from Pope Benedict.