Imagine, if you can, Pope Benedict XVI appearing on the Oprah Show for an hour interview.  Oprah would not neglect to ask the hard questions and we could hear the answers from the Pope’s own mouth.  Wouldn’t that be fascinating?  This book is much better than that.   In Light of the World we have the result of SIX hours of face-to-face interviews with Benedict XVI by veteran journalist Peter Seewald.   Seewald has done his homework and his questions are wide-ranging and searching.  He knows his subject well, having already authored Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait, and  Pope Benedict, Servant of the Truth, as well as having two previous interviews with him as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Here are a few things that caught my attention:

Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.  Otherwise, celibacy would lose its meaning as a renunciation.

I am not opposed in principle to communion in the hand.  I have both administered and received communion in this way myself.  The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the real presence with an exclamation point.

The German Philosopher Robert Spaemann was once asked whether an internationally renowned scholar such as himself could actually believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and worked miracles, that he rose from the dead and bestows eternal life on believers.  That’s just the sort of thing that children believe in, isn’t it?  Here is how Spaemann, now eighty-three years old, answered the question: “If you want to put it like that, yes, of course, I believe roughly the same thing I believed as a child — the point is just that since then I have had the opportunity to think about my faith. In the end, thinking about my faith has always strengthened it.”

What about the Pope? Does he still believe what he believed as a child?

I would answer in similar terms. I would say: Simplicity is truth — and truth is simple. Our problem is that we no longer see the forest for the trees, that for all our knowledge, we have lost the path to wisdom. This is also the idea behind Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince, which shows how the cleverness of our age causes us, ironically, to overlook the essential, while the Little Prince, who hasn’t the faintest idea about all this cleverness, ultimately sees more and better.

What really counts? What is authentic? Why shouldn’t God be capable of letting a virgin give birth, too? Why shouldn’t Christ be able to rise from the dead? When I myself determine what is allowed to exist and what isn’t, when I define the boundaries of possibility, and no one else, then of course phenomena like these have to be excluded. It is an act of intellectual arrogance for us to declare that they are internally contradictory or absurd and, for that reason alone, impossible. But it is not our business to decide how many possibilities are latent in the cosmos, how many possibilities are hidden above and in it. The message of Christ and the Church puts credible knowledge about God within our reach. God wanted to enter into this world. God didn’t want us to have only a distant inkling of him through physics and mathematics. He wanted to show himself to us. And he was able to do what the Gospels recount that he did, just as he was able to create a new dimension of existence at the Resurrection. He was able to go beyond what Teilhard de Chardin called the biosphere and the noosphere and to institute precisely a new sphere, in which man and the world attain union with God.

How blessed we are to have lived under John Paul II and Benedict XVI!


And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  — Matthew 16:18