Sunday, April 13, 2008
From Time magazine:
A survey of the 80-year-old Pontiff's writings over the decades and testimonies from those who know him suggests that Benedict has a soft spot for Americans and finds considerable value in his U.S. church, the third largest Catholic congregation in the world. Most intriguing, he entertains a recurring vision of an America we sometimes lose sight of: an optimistic and diverse but essentially pious society in which faiths and a faith-based conversation on social issues are kept vital by the Founding Fathers' decision to separate church and state. It's not a stretch to say the Pope sees in the U.S.--or in some kind of idealized version of it--a civic model and even an inspiration to his native Europe, whose Muslim immigrants raise the question of religious and political coexistence in the starkest terms. . . .
Ratzinger's next American exposure came during the momentous Second Vatican Council in Rome, from 1962 to '65. Then in his early 30s, Ratzinger was a theological wunderkind who made his name behind the scenes. The U.S. delegation, meanwhile, was embroiled in a contentious debate over religious freedom. Conservatives opposed it: states must sponsor faith, and the faith should be Roman Catholic. The Americans argued that religious liberty was morally imperative and--from experience--that in a multireligious state, Catholicism could best thrive when the government could not play favorites. The council sided with them, and Ratzinger, anticipating a world composed of jostling religious pluralities, heartily approved. In a 1966 analysis, he wrote, "In a critical hour, Council leadership passed from Europe to the young Churches of America and [their allies]," who "were really opening up the way to the future." . . .