Posts Tagged ‘Commonweal’
There’s a flourishing discussion about papalotry, or the inordinate and uncritical adulation of popes, going on between the blogs of America Magazine and Commonweal. I’ll leave papalotry to my betters (Gregory Wolfe offers some good thoughts) and focus on its origins. Catalyst for the debate was Commonweal editor Paul Baumann’s critical post about a speech that Pope Benedict made a few weeks ago when he was made an honorary citizen of the town of Freising, a suburb of Munich where the Pontiff spent his seminary years.
It is perhaps fitting that Mr Baumann’s post is entitled “Confusing Images” because both its focus and intentions were confusing. Ostensibly Mr Baumann is reacting to another Commonweal blogger, Fr Robert Imbelli, who had simply posted up the Pope’s speech entitled “Images of Gratitude”, uncritically. Mr Baumann professes himself surprised by “the adulation the Pope’s remarks elicited”. He describes the speech as “unexceptional and thereby perfectly suited to the blandness of this particular civic ritual” but then proceeds to give to give it a meticulous going over.
He writes: “His appreciative recollections concerned family, neighbours, Catholic feast days, walks in the countryside, the numinous aura of Freising’s medieval cathedral, and cherished memories of his ordination. ‘At the seminary we were one family,’ the pope recalls, and Freising ‘became a real homeland to us, and as a homeland it lives on in my heart.’ The war and the crimes of Nazi Germany are mentioned, but seem vague and distant shadows in Benedict’s telling of the hardships and joys, the cold dormitories, study halls, ‘and so forth’ of his seminary training. Tellingly, he concludes by praising the ‘real Bavarian culture’ of his youth.” Read the rest of this entry »
In the excerpt Peter Steinfels, who spent many years at the magazine, muses about the Commonweal readers of the future.
He identifies four groups: the fundamentalists “who want something, whether it’s the Pope or particular texts opr certain forms of ritual, that can be relied upon to provide their identity” for whom “things are not to be challenged; they are to be taken literally”, the neo-conservatives, a group which is “much more questioning and intellectually adventurous but whose identity is very much defined over against the secular liberal culture”.
Steinfels juxtaposes these first two groups with two subsequent groups to which he assigns no handle. They consist of “a very large liberal group that has a Christian and Catholic commitment but are not willing to isolate themselves” who want “to be engaged with the culture in conversation with it, not just in battle with it” and the fourth group “is a more radical and political group that forms an identity largely around very personal, radical social justice commitments.”