New Book Major Cardinal Comments On Mysticism, Fallen Priests, And Mass
Written prior to the Cardinals
elevation to Pope Benedict XVI
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the second
most powerful man in Rome -- has written a new, potent book -- in some
ways, a miniature, "second Catechism." At times, it is also startling. Not since
the release of Sister Lucia dos Santos' memoirs last spring has there been a
work with such potential for future ecclesiastical influence.
In this work called God and the World, Ratzinger, prefect of the Sacred
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- and often described by
biographers as the most important senior figure in the Holy See (meeting
privately with the Pope more than any other prefect) -- comes out in a
surprisingly free-wheeling style to make a number of assertions -- some sure to
Among the Cardinal's comments:
On bad priests: "It
certainly can happen that people slip through, as it were, without really having
received a call. But there are also 'failed callings,' that is, callings
that are not truly lived out. The strange thing is, as we have already
discussed, that God entrusts himself to such fragile vessels, that he has taken
such a horrible risk with the Church. He has put Himself into hands that betray
Him time and again. And He has left us the opportunity of falling and of being
corrupted, so that He still has to support the Church Himself again and again
through these very tools that have proved unsuitable."
In a conversation with German journalist
Peter Seewald, Ratzinger also comments on controversies about the Mass itself --
and states his conviction that kneeling should always be a
part of the Roman Catholic liturgy; that there should be increased
availability of Latin Mass (though not a return to it); but that, to him,
whether one receives Communion on the lips or on the hands is not a crucial
Should Masses be said again in
"That is no longer going to be possible as
a general practice, and perhaps it is not desirable as such," says the
high-ranking Cardinal. "At least it is clear, I would say, that the Liturgy of
the Word should be in people's mother tongue. But otherwise I would be in favor
of a new openness toward the use of Latin."
Communion in the hand, or
directly in the mouth?
"I wouldn't want to be fussy about it,"
responded Cardinal Ratzinger. "It was done in the early Church. A reverent
manner of receiving Communion in the hand is in itself a perfectly reasonable
way to receive Communion."
On the issue of kneeling, however,
Ratzinger takes a hard line.
Kneeling devoutly should remain, says the
Prefect, and this is crucial due to the current trend in many parts of the West,
especially the U.S., of not only limiting kneeling but of ridding churches of
"Communion used to be received kneeling,
which made perfectly good sense," says the Prefect. "Nowadays it is done
standing. But this standing, too, should be standing in reverence before the
Lord. The attitude of kneeling ought never to be allowed to disappear from the
Church. It is the most impressive physical expression of Christian piety, by
which, on one hand, we remain upright, looking out, gazing upon Him, but, on the
other, we nonetheless bow down."
"'Man is never so great,' said John XXIII,
'as when he is kneeling'" (points out Seewald) -- to which the Cardinal adds:
"And that is why I believe that this attitude, which was
already one of the primitive forms of Old Testament prayer, is something
essential for Christians."
On the Blessed Mother: the Cardinal
advocates recitation of the Rosary and intimates that he has grown increasingly
close to the Blessed Mother as he ages.
"People have realized that the complete
removal of the feminine element from the Christian message is a shortcoming from
an anthropological viewpoint," he writes. "It is theologically and
anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of
And as for mysticism:
"God speaks quietly. But He gives us all
kinds of signs. In retrospect, especially, we can see that He has given us a
little nudge through a friend, through a book, or through what we see as a
failure -- even through 'accidents.' Life is actually full of these silent
indications. If I remain alert, then slowly they piece together a consistent
whole, and I begin to feel how God is guiding me."