April 23rd, 2007


Personal: Jen discovers my Batman soup

A little while back, Julie gave me a can of "Batman" chicken noodle soup from Campbell's, some kind of promotion with the animated Saturday morning series, The Batman. This was just a bit of a gag gift, maybe half making fun of me because of the geek status of being a comic book reader, and half because she's actually gotten into reading at least the really good Batman stories from my trade paperback collection. (And amazed to discover how much that puts her stock up with guys across the board, because apparently all the guys who don't actually buy the stuff read them from friends who do, and apparently dig the women who can talk sensibly about it.)

So I had to drop Jules a line, letting her know that she would have laughed herself silly, and been very proud of herself, to hear the "Are you really this lame?" disbelief in Jen's voice as she called from my pantry closet, "You have Batman soup?!"
Benedict XVI wind

Theological Notebook: A Hostile Evaluation Op-Ed of Benedict XVI printed in The New York Times

An implausibly negative spin on all things Benedict, it seems to me....

The New York Times
April 23, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
His Own Pope Yet?

WITH little fanfare, Benedict XVI will tomorrow mark the second anniversary of his formal installation as pope, a threshold at which his immediate predecessors had established themselves in the public mind. Yet he remains an enigma to many who thought they knew him well, and something of a blank slate to a world curious to see what this new pontiff would be like.

Polls show Benedict — formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — in the middle of the pack among respected world leaders, and a survey last year in Germany had the Dalai Lama and even the losing World Cup coach Jürgen Klinsmann outpacing the first German pope as “a role model and admirable person.” It wasn’t that Benedict wasn’t liked as much as he wasn’t known, or understood.

Much of this puzzlement can be chalked up to the blessing of low expectations. Not only was Benedict following the supersized pontificate of John Paul II, but as John Paul’s doctrinal “bad cop” in Rome for more than two decades, he had diligently cemented his reputation as a conservative hardliner while continuing his own career as a polemical theologian who wrote dozens of books and engaged in frequent debates. All that made Cardinal Ratzinger the most prominent and controversial head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in memory.

Given that pre-election platform, when his fellow cardinals elected him pope on April 19, 2005, in a 24-hour conclave that was the shortest in modern times, many feared, or hoped, that the church was now headed by a higher-ranking version of Benedict’s old self.

Yet the new pope was too astute to fall into that trap. For one thing, Benedict understood that being pope would demand a pastoral touch instead of a combative edge. As he told dinner companions last fall: “It was easy to know the doctrine. It’s much harder to help a billion people live it.” Also, befitting his age and temperament — an academic with no parish experience, Benedict turned 80 on April 16 — he moved deliberately in making changes. He has traveled little (his visit to Brazil next month will be his first to the Western Hemisphere) and he tried to tone down the emphasis on the person of the pope — a motif of his predecessor’s style — and put it back on the basics of the faith.

Above all, in his pronouncements and writings, he carefully accentuated the positive. His first encyclical was titled “God Is Love,” and charity has become the recurring byword of his apparently irenic pontificate. “Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option,” as Benedict said last year.

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