Review: Light of the World

As I mentioned previously, I received Light of the World as a Christmas present.  I finally had a couple free hours and managed to finish it off.  First impression: it was good.  Very good.  Pope Benedict and Peter Seewald cover a remarkably broad range of contemporary issues, from environmentalism to liturgical reform to his own papacy.  The pope is candid and frank in his answers, while Seewald is bold but not antagonistic.

My second impression is that the Pope needs better PR people.  It’s not really a stretch to say that, since the Holy Father admits it himself.  The first step, as they say, is admitting you have a problem, but it would be nice to see some real action on this front.  As much as I enjoyed this interview, media response shows that even this book could’ve benefited from a critical consideration before publication.  It would not have been hard to predict that the nuance of some of the Pope’s statements would be completely lost on the media, and absolute clarity is the best way to prevent misunderstandings.  That’s not the same as dumbing down the teaching itself, and it’s likely that any statement would be misrepresented, but the fine moral distinctions in an otherwise straightforward book were bound to be seized upon.

Of course some would argue (and it’s a fair argument, I think) that that Pope knew exactly what he was doing, and that he wanted to put forth these ideas – nuanced as they are – to a broader audience than might otherwise pay attention.  It’s possible.  Given the Vatican’s pretty lousy PR record right now (between L’Osservatore Romano and all the other statements that get attributed to “the Vatican”), it’s hard to assume the best here.  This didn’t diminish my experience of the book, since I have what I think is a better-than-average grasp of these issues; it’s just an observation.  Overall, I found it to be good evidence of the fact that this pontificate understands the issues of the world today and was reassured by the fact that – as she always is – the Church is present.

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