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Posted March 7, 2006

Book: Pope Benedict XVI: Successor to Peter
Author: Michael Collins
Paulist Press, NY, 2005, pp.95

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

This introductory book on the pope presents a short biography of Joseph Ratzinger in both a human and a historical context. Starting with the pope’ s early years in Bavaria and his youth during the Second World War, it then outlines his academic career, how the student riots of 1968 transformed him from a liberal to a conservative theologian, his time at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and some of the more dramatic and public interventions he made in that position. Finally, the book looks at the opening days of his pontificate and — from statements, homilies, and addresses delivered during that time — assesses the likely pattern of the papacy of Benedict XVI.

An Excerpt from the book:

During this period, he was assigned to teach a course on Christology by the Dean. His classes drew large crowds of students. They were impressed by his openness and his knowledge of Lutheran authors, some of whom were his colleagues. In 1967, at the end of his second semester, Tubingen celebrated the 150th anniversary of its foundation. The following year, however, the university, as with many others throughout the world, was to experience the revolt subsequently referred to as ‘the year of 68'. Ratzinger later laid the blame on the absorption of existentialism into theology and the mingling of Marxist philosophy. But the so-called revolution was by no means confined to theology. Every department of every university experienced the change in some form or another. For Ratzinger, however, the revolt was based in students’ demands for unrealistic change wrought by their own desires, rather than in obedience to God’s will.

Ratzinger had now been teaching for a decade, in three prestigious universities. What was happening on the world stage was not just a student revolt. He suspected that there was also a political motivation behind it. What offended him was the manner in which his own students began to ridicule elements of the church’s teaching, which he saw as synonymous with the faith.

During this period he published his first major work, An Introduction to Christianity. It was a sumation of his ten years of teaching experience and was developed from the 1966-67 series of lectures in Tubingen.

The constant struggle at the university of Tubingen was beginning to tell on Ratzinger’s health. He was dean of his faculty, a member of the governing senate and one of the committee charged with drawing up a new constitution. His lectures had been interrupted and he had been challenged in public by his students. The sudden collapse of respect for his status as a lecturer was an affront, but the lack of respect to the priesthood was more shocking. Although he later admitted that the revolt was planned and executed by a relatively small group, he found it difficult to cope with the changes. Moreover, he was disappointed by the lack of support he received from the senior members of the faculty.

Shortly after Christmas of that year, Joseph received an invitation from the newly-established University of Regensburg. He had come to know the small city from his regular visits to his brother. He had already been offered the first chair of dogma, which had been taken by his former colleague Johann Auer. Now, when the offer came for a second chair, he seized the opportunity. The constant friction was too much for him at Tubingen. Now it was no longer the students in revolt. The very faculty was at war with itself. The atmosphere of tension and bitterness was too much for Joseph. He had never dreamed academia could be so small-minded and petty. With few regrets, he decided to leave Tubingen for Regensburg.

Table of Contents:

The early days
The Second World War
The seminary
Into academia
The Second Vatican Council
Back to academia
Bishop and cardinal
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Liberation Theology
Other controversies
Private life
The election
The pontificate