BENEDICT XVI AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
By Robert Tilley, St Pauls, $29.95
Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC
AT the very heart of Pope Benedict XVI’s theology, underpinning and informing all his teachings, is the concept of the human person understood not in terms of the autonomous self but in terms of communion.
It is his belief that, if we are in error about the self and in denial of the fact that being a person is by nature being related, we will be in error about all else besides.
With this in mind, we should not be surprised that his first encyclical was on Christian love and that, making a strong plea for the rediscovery of metaphysics, he constantly reaffirms its importance.
Given that a bibliography of Benedict’s works would, in itself, fill a small volume, the task of distilling his thought and making it accessible to readers of more modest academic attainments is not an easy one.
Following a thematic rather than an historical approach to the Holy Father’s considerable output, Sydney-based Robert Tilley, a self-confessed conservative has, I believe, succeeded admirably in that undertaking.
He demonstrates the relevance of these writings to the world in which we live and, in doing so, shows up the shallowness of some Ratzinger critics who think that one can make a credible judgment of a text without first reading it.
There is much here that will challenge readers to nuance their positions on a wide range of topics: liberation theology, freedom and the person, religious pluralism, relativism and the death of humanity, the hierarchical structure of natural theology, spiritual pragmatism, mystical agnosticism and the New Age, ecumenical dialogue, Jewish-Christian relations, totalitarianism and modern relativism – to mention but a few.
Though clearly written and generally well-structured, this is not a book for the general reader.
However, it will be welcomed by the theologically literate who wish to acquaint themselves more fully with Pope Benedict XVI’s thought.
It is the richer for beginning with a brief biography of the pontiff and for concluding with a select bibliography of his writings and of other relevant works.