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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Papa Benedict XVI and the theology of two brothers

An interesting thought popped into my head today as I read "Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God". I was reading through Chapter IV: The Church as the Family of God by Father Pablo Gadenz, and was struck by what he describes about Papa Benedict XVI's theology of two brothers. This is interesting as this deals with his views about non-Christians and their relationship to the family of the Church. Father Gadenz asks ".. we see that the difficulty between family and universality [as pertaining to the Church] begins with the covenant with Abraham. This covenant introduces a tension as the children of Abraham are separated "as a special family from the great human family of the children of Adam (or, rather, of Noah)." How is the reunion of the whole human family to occur if some children are elected through special venants while the others are seemingly rejected? He quotes the following from then Cardinal Ratzinger:

  '"At important points in salvation history there appears pairs of brothers, the election or rejection of each of whom is strangely connected. These are, in particular, Cain and Abel (and Cain and Seth), Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob."
Father Gadenz explains: The term "brother" may also refer to a collective entity: The nation of Israel, among all the brother nations, is God's elect -- Israel is God's "first-born son" (Ex. 4:22). In the New Covenant established by Christ, the Church becomes the new Israel, the bearer of God's election. There still remains a boundary between Christians and non-Christians, between the brotherly community or family and those "outside" the family. While there is a boundary, there is an openness to those "outside." The brotherhood of Christ is not yet universal, but it seeks to become so. Men, in general, are not yet brothers in Christ, but they can and must become so. Father Gadenz reveals the thoughts of Cardinal Ratzinger here, as quoted from him:
 In relation to Christian brotherhood this means that, however important it is for the Church to grow into the unity of a single brotherhood, she must always remember that she is only one of two sons, one brother beside another, and that her mission is not to condemn the wayward brother, but to save him. The Church, it is true, must unify herself to form a strong inner brotherhood in order to be truly one brother. But she does not seek to be one brother in order to finally shut herself off from the other; rather she seeks to be one brother because only in this way can she fulfill her task toward the other, living for whom is the deepest meaning of her existence, which itself is grounded wholly in the existence of Jesus Christ.

This does not agree with how Papa Benedict XVI is currently perceived by outraged Muslim leaders. There is no contempt or hatred behind his thoughts on Islam. It is brotherly love, which includes harsh frankness at times in order to help the object of that love: the other brother. The question now is whether this brother will focus more on what was said, rather than on what the proper response should be.

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