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Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith Hardcover – Nov 2000

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"'A fair and unfailingly interesting account of one of the most controversial figures in religion today' The Irish Times 'Elegantly written and throughout its eight chapters engages one's interest. It never indulges in facile stereotypes. While being critical, Allen fully respects Ratzinger's stature as a theologian and intellectual. With verve, he traces the formation of one of the most controversial prelates in recent times' The Furrow 'We needed a book which was well researched, informative and analytic, adequately critical, yet thoroughly and determinedly fair. John Allen has given us just such a book' The Tablet 'Full of important information about Ratzinger career and changes of position... his most original contribution is to argue that Ratzinger sometimes promotes views even more conservative than the Pope's.' New York Review of Books 'It is not just because of the position he has occupied since 1981 as head of what used to be the Holy Office that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is a key figure in the development of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II... John L. Allen puts us all in his debt by tracing how this has come about... The resulting book is essential reading.' Church Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John L. Allen has worked for the National Catholic Reporter in the US and is CNN Vatican analyst. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Allen Himself Now Sees Flaws 27 April 2005
By dumbox1 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
To his credit, John Allen has acknowledged the flaws in his biography of Cardinal Ratzinger. In a 2004 lecture at Catholic University, and again in his "Word from Rome" column on 4/26/05 (shortly after Ratzinger's election as Pope Benedict XVI), Mr. Allen noted that he was greatly affected by a negative review of the book by Fr. Joseph Komonchak in Commonweal magazine. Fr. Komonchak's review made Mr. Allen realize that he "was locked in a dualistic mentality in which Ratzinger was consistently wrong and his critics consistently right.... The book - which I modestly believe is not without its merits - is nevertheless too often written in a 'good guys and bad guys' style that vilifies the cardinal."

Mr. Allen is currently working on a new book on Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, which he says he hopes "will be a more balanced and mature account of both Ratzinger's views and the politics that made him pope." As I've become a great fan of Mr. Allen's journalistic work in recent years, I'm confident that his new book will live up to those hopes, and far exceed this one in quality and balance.
36 of 51 people found the following review helpful
A good read overall. 25 Jan. 2001
By Christopher Blosser - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Given the scathing reviews Allen's book has recieved by vehement critics, one would get the impression that he has nothing at all positive to say about Ratzinger. On the contrary, Allen believes Ratzinger "is not the vengeful, power-obsessed old man who lurks like a bogyman in the imaginations of the Catholic left". With regard to Ratzinger's thought, Allen finds that his "arguments are more than ex post facto rationalizations for exercises of authority" and speaks of "a deep, logical consistency to [his] vision". Indeed, Allen is so impressed with Ratzinger that he exclaims "in the unlikely event I ever had access to Ratzinger as a personal confesser, I would not hesitate to open my heart to him, so convinced I am of the clarity of his insight, his integrity, and his commitment to the priesthood" -- sentiments which might be denounced as treasonous or dismissed as insane by some on the Catholic left. (Picture a conservative saying the same claim about Hans Kung).
Allen's prevalently liberal audience will be reassured by the fact that his praises for Ratzinger as a person fail to carry over to Ratzinger's role as doctrinal prefect. One doesn't have to read far to note that on every issue from contraception to women's ordination to liberation theology he comes down squarely opposed, and remains just as steadfast in his convictions as the cardinal is in his.
There are many aspects about John Allen's book with which I disagree. Granted, we could expect something of a much different tone had this been written by one of Ratzinger's ardent supporters (Father Joseph Fessio or Cardinal Schonborn). Nevertheless, I believe we should respect Allen's account for what it is: an honest (and so far as I have noticed, unparalleled) attempt by a liberal Catholic to appreciate the person and thought of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. (No doubt others will disagree with my impression -- I say read the book and judge for yourself).
Finally, two poignant observations by John, L. Allen himself:
"Reaction to Ratzinger is often uncritical, driven more by emotion and instinct than sober reflection. Progressives do not read his books, they disregard his public statements, and they assume every position he takes is based on power politics. Conservatives revere most of what he says as holy writ, often spouting mindlessly without penetrating to the principle or value he seeks at stake. Neither response takes Ratzinger seriously.
* * *
The problem with political arguments in contemporary Catholicism is that too often the disagreeing parties talk past one another, having very little intellectual common ground upon which to base the discussion. . . . Neither is willing to spend the intellectual effort to understand the concerns that drive their thoughts, the arguments that have led them to the conclusions they hold, the alternatives they have considered and rejected."
This is certainly advice which any Catholic, regardless of his personal and ideological convictions, can take to heart and follow.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Useful facts, lots of hostility 5 Sept. 2007
By Pedro E. Martinez - Published on
Format: Hardcover
John Allen's shows his hostility toward Ratzinger in his choice of verbs and adjectives to describe what Ratzinger has done to preserve Catholic ortodoxy. Mr. Allen would have a Catholicism where everyone thinks and does as they please, and still be in good terms with the Church. However, I still managed to finish the book and to leave it with an increased admiration for the current pope. On the plus side, Mr. Allen does provide useful summaries of the theological views of those whom then-Cardinal Ratzinger opposed, as well as some of his reasons for doing so. But the way he finishes the section on Other Religions ("What is at stake"), implies that Ratzinger's views have contributed to the civil wars that- like Kosovo and Northern Ireland- are fought under the disguise of being religiously motivated. Suggesting that Ratzinger's work has contributed to those conflicts is completelely over the top and inflammatory, not to say untrue.
23 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A Somewhat Wandering Account 18 Dec. 2000
By Mr Pat Hynes - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book in the hope that I would obtain a clearer understanding of Cardinal Ratzinger in terms of his role and significance during the last twenty years. However I have to say that while there is lots of information in this book along with stories and anecdotes, it fails to deliver in terms of a substantive analysis of the church since vatican II and where the church will be as we move further into this the 21st century. At the conclusion of the book Allen hinges his critical description of the Cardinal in terms of the next conclave including a list of reasons why Ratzinger will not be Pope. If that is not enough he then goes further to sujest that in the event that he is wrong and Ratzinger does become Pope all of the difficulties he would envisage with such a papacy. The issues which he attampts to examine are far to complex in nature to be benchmarked of nothing other than his own futuristic and prophetic beliefs. Sorry to be so negetive.
42 of 68 people found the following review helpful
A Bad Joke 28 Nov. 2000
By "wilhelmf" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
John Allen is a journalist who apparently has neither the inclination nor aptitude for scholarly analysis on any topic - and lacks even even the supposedly central virtue of his calling: objectivity.
Are we really supposed to believe that he can offer an evenhanded account of a man whom he has spent the better part of fifteen years bitterly criticizing in the periodical he works for? If James Carville claimed to have written an objective, balanced biography of George W. Bush would you believe him? Allen lacks the critical distance necessary for a reasonable account.
Cardinal Ratzinger's job is to defend the integrity and continuity of Catholic doctrine in a turbulent age. He rightly conceives his role in the context of 20 centuries of belief and practice, and is loath to throw caution to the winds to salve the political conscience of Mr. Allen and his associates. The Cardinal has a responsibility to the world's one billion Catholics now, as well as an obligation to the billions of Catholics yet to be born, not to make hasty or ill-considered decisions. He understands the gravity of his position and the need for circumspection and deliberation - Mr. Allen is oblivious to these concerns.
Allen fails to provide historical context, fails to explain the motivation of his subject in his subject's own terms and fails to understand what his subject is trying to accomplish. This intellectual shallowness, coupled with his evident ignorance of theology, scriptural criticism, ecclesiastical history and philosophical discourse as well as his deep-seated personal animus against the Cardinal and all orthodox Catholics make Mr. Allen signally inadequate for the task he sets himself. No wonder he fails miserably.
I agree with the previous reviewer - one would be better advised to read the written works of the Cardinal, rather than this sad little hatchet job, if one wants insight into the man and his thought.
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