Christendom College’s 17th annual Summer Institute was held this past Friday and Saturday at its Front Royal, Virginia, campus. The conference, entitled “Pope Benedict XVI: A New Pontificate,” featured guest speakers Francis Cardinal Arinze, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and others. Over four hundred people came to hear inspiring talks on various themes relating to the thoughts and writings of the newly elected pontiff.
Cardinal Arinze delivered the keynote address on the topic of “Benedict XVI and the Spirit of the Liturgy,” which focused on the works of Joseph Ratzinger prior to his election to the papacy.
“It is well known that the sacred liturgy figures much in the theological writings and addresses of Pope Benedict XVI as a theologian, Bishop, and Cardinal. He sees the liturgy as at the heart of the life of the Church. He even says that the Church subsists as liturgy and in the liturgy,” began His Eminence, who is a personal friend of Pope Benedict XVI and the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
He then delved into the thought of the Pope by explicating what His Holiness has taught about the essence of Christian Worship, the Holy Eucharist, the various liturgical rites and their modification, the function of music in the liturgy, and the relationship between dogmatic and liturgical theology.
“Christian liturgy is a liturgy of promise fulfilled, of a quest, the religious quest of human history, reaching its goal. And the high point is the Holy Eucharist,” he explained. “And the Pope places a great value on traditional Eucharistic piety by extolling the tabernacle, adoration shown in genuflection and kneeling, proper vestments, and the like.”
Cardinal Arinze explained that the Pope has much to say about the question of the formation of liturgical rites and of their change or reform.
“Real liturgy implies that God responds and reveals to us how we are to worship him. Liturgy cannot spring from our imagination, from our own creativity, for then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self-affirmation,” he said. “The pope’s authority regarding the liturgy is bound to the Tradition of Faith.”
Regarding music in the liturgy, Cardinal Arinze said that Pope Benedict believes that the Church “must maintain high standards in liturgical music: universality, catholicity, beauty, attention to the Logos, music as prayer and as a gesture that glorifies God.”
He concluded by explaining the relationship between sacramental and liturgical theology, and that these two theologies cannot be separated.
“Liturgy is not a science of norms and rubrics. It is not a type of juridical positivism. Liturgy is the adequate expression of the Sacraments in liturgical celebration, where development can take place according to the nature of the Sacraments, but not according to arbitrary rubrics,” he concluded.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, the internationally loved speaker and writer, presented a lecture on “Benedict XVI and Biblical Exegesis.” Fr. Groeschel decried modern biblical exegesis that does not deal with Scripture on a theological plane. He cited the source of improper biblical exegesis as rationalism, which uses mathematical methods in philosophy, holding that only that which can be observed by the human senses and deduced by human reason is true.
“This way of thinking entered the schools of biblical scholars, resulting in a widespread skepticism, creating a desire to get rid of the mythological. But Catholics did not fall prey to this very easily. The dogmas of the Catholic faith from tradition held that the Word of God, the Scriptures, are unerring substantially and they are given to us, no matter their origins, to guide us on our way to salvation. Many Protestant churches did not have that anchor, so skepticism came in,” he said.
“Scripture study grew further and further away from hermeneutics, which is the study of Scripture to make it an effective preaching and teaching tool,” Groeschel continued. “Contemporary Scripture studies are about as scientific as examining the entrails of a dead chicken by the full moon in order to predict the weather the next day. It’s not scientific!
“This way of thinking is dead!” Fr. Groeschel exclaimed. “Theories of a historical Jesus and a Christ of faith are not being taught in schools anymore. It is mentioned only in the pulpit these days, because people are not ‘keeping up on things.’ If you hear it from the pulpit you should approach the preacher and ask him if he believes in alchemy as well,” Groeschel said.
Participants also heard from Adoremus Bulletin editor Helen Hull Hitchcock , Diotima Project president Dr. Pia de Solenni, Straight Answers author Fr. William Saunders, and Christendom College president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell.
Helen Hull Hitchcock delivered an address entitled “Pope Benedict XVI and the Reform of the Reform” in which she stated that Pope Benedict is emphatic that the Council did not represent a rupture, but expressed continuity with the Church’s history. There is no pre- or post- Conciliar Church, he writes, there is but one, unique Church that walks the path toward the Lord.
She continued by explaining that the Pope points out that “liturgy can only be liturgy to the extent that it is beyond the manipulation of those who celebrate it,” and that the new books “occasionally show far too many signs of being drawn up by academics and reinforce the notion that a liturgical book can be made like any other book.”
Although the Holy Father admits that creativity with the new Ordo Missae has often gone too far, there is often a greater difference between liturgies celebrated in different places according to the new books than there is between an old liturgy and a new liturgy when both are celebrated as they ought to be, in accordance with the prescribed liturgical texts, she explained.
Dr. Pia de Solenni, who holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology from Holy Cross University in Rome, discussed “Benedict XVI and the Role of Women in the Church.”
“The Church’s view on women transcends categories of liberal and conservative, left and right. Rather, it represents a dynamic reality to which John Paul II dedicated a good portion of his pontificate and which Benedict XVI shows every intention of continuing; particularly since he published a document as president of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the collaboration of women in which he asserted that ‘women have a role in every aspect of society,'” she began.
Touching on the disputed topic of priestly ordination of women she said that persons who believe the Church should adapt to cultural changes and allow women to enter the priesthood just as they have entered other professional fields are gravely mistaken.
“The problem with this argument is the premise that Christ maintained the cultural norms of his time. In fact, the Gospels indicate that he repeatedly broke with tradition particularly in his regard for and his rapport with women,” Solenni said.
Fr. William Saunders, speaking on “Benedict XVI and the Compendium of the Catechism,” informed the audience that the current pope was very much responsible for the success of both the Catechism and the newly released Compendium of the Catechism.
“The Compendium is a beautiful summary, if you will, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The truths of the Faith are laid out in the traditional question and answer format and each chapter begins with a beautiful painting which itself teaches an important facet of the Faith,” he explained. “Pope Benedict knew that the Church needed a simple format for helping spread the Faith and to help catechize the ignorant. Everyone should read this little book and better understand, in a succinct and clear manner, the Roman Catholic Faith.”
In his talk, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell analyzed the Pope’s encyclical, Deus Caritas Est.”
“The pope points out that the love of Christ is not only demonstrated in Scripture but also later in Church History where Our Lord is encountered in His Word, in the Sacraments, and especially ‘in the Eucharist, where in the Church’s liturgy and her prayer, the followers experience the love of God and His presence and recognize that He has loved us first.’ This enables us to respond to the love of God. What is of particular importance for the believer is that he recognizes that God has already shown and proven His love. Loving our neighbor is certainly a path by which we come to encounter God and if we close our eyes to our neighbor, the Pope tells us that we will also be blinded towards God’s presence,” O’Donnell observed.
Next year’s Summer Institute has not been scheduled as of yet, but the topic of Marriage and the Family is tentative. Return to Christendom’s website for future information.