THE POPE BENEDICT CODE
by Joanna Bogle
(2005, Gracewing, 90pp, $18.95. Available from AD Books)
Joanna Bogle has been one of the most outspoken defenders of Christian truth in the United Kingdom, expressing herself fearlessly in newspaper articles, lectures and media appearances.
She explains the aims of her "Code" as "to present in an attractive way some of the important messages [Benedict XVI] has conveyed in this opening period of his pontificate" and "to offer some of the teachings of the Pope ... in a form that will enable Catholics and others to understand his message and relate it to their own lives."
As the author rightly points out, a pope, unlike the secular politician, does not have a "program", since his job is to be faithful to and hand on what was revealed to us by Christ. His task is to teach and safeguard true doctrine in the context of the times we live in, not to invent new ones.
However, within these constraints, a pope can "bring his own style and gifts", as Benedict has undoubtedly done, even in the short period since his election.
Before presenting us with a series of extracts from Benedict's sermons, addresses and writings, the author provides a brief biography of the future pope.
Here, claims are examined that the earlier "liberal" Joseph Ratzinger later changed into a hard-line conservative. The Cardinal himself maintained that there was a "basic continuity" in his theology and Bogle quotes the explanation of a former student of Professor Ratzinger in support of this: "Is it too much to suggest that the changes in his thinking might best be interpreted as signs of maturity, of further reflection due to changing circumstances and broader experience, especially as Prefect of the Congregation?"
There are also revealing recollections from another former student of Professor Ratzinger, Fr Joseph Fessio SJ, founder of Ignatius Press, and from Fr Richard Neuhaus.
The overview, in addition, deals with the Pope's thinking on liturgy: "Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God, when it allows Him to enter and act. Then something truly unique happens, beyond comprehension, and people have a sense that more has taken place than recreational activity."
Following the biography, the author provides "snippets to give a flavour of what Pope Benedict has been saying in his first days and months in office", as well as "things he said and wrote as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
These "snippets" (together with linking narratives and commentaries) are grouped under such key headings as the Eucharist, Sunday observance, confession, the Church, papal authority, the priesthood, ecumenism, the one true Church, sanctity of human life, catechetics, and young people and the Church's future.
In short, The Pope Benedict Code provides not only a convenient introduction to the life and thoughts of our new Pope but also a concise refresher course on Catholic teachings.