The following excerpts are from Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times , Peter Seewald’s book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI:

On the Abuse Scandal

Yes, it is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too. Many priests declared that they no longer dared to extend a hand to a child, much less go to a summer camp with children . . . .

He [the Archbishop of Dublin] said that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950s; admittedly it was not perfect”there is much to criticize about it”but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid-sixties, however, it was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather, a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.

Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice or courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love.

On the Possibility of Papal Resignation

If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.

On Papal Pronouns

I use both the “I” and the “we”. For on many, many matters I am not simply expressing ideas that have happened to occur to Joseph Ratzinger, but I am speaking out of the common life of the Church’s communion. In these cases, I am speaking, as it were, in intrinsic fellowship with my fellow believers”and I am expressing what we are in common and what we can believe in common. In this sense, the “we” has its legitimate role, not as a plural of majesty, but as a real expression of the fact of coming from others, of speaking through and with others. But where one says something personal in the role of “I”, then the first person singular has its role to play as well. So both are used: the “I” and the “we”.

On the Tridentine Mass

Liturgy, in truth, is an event by means of which we let ourselves be introduced into the expansive faith and prayer of the Church. This is the reason why the early Christians prayed facing east, in the direction of the rising sun, the symbol of the returning Christ. In so doing, they wanted to show that the whole world is on its way toward Christ and that he encompasses the whole world. This connection between heaven and earth is very important. It was no accident that ancient churches were built so that the sun would cast its light into the house of God at a very precise moment . . . .

[S]omeone didn’t just one day invent the liturgy, but that it has been growing organically since the time of Abraham. These kinds of elements from the earliest times are still present in the liturgy.

Concretely, the renewed liturgy of the Second Vatican Council is the valid form in which the Church celebrates liturgy today. My main reason for making the previous form more available was to preserve the internal continuity of Church history. We cannot say: Before, everything was wrong, but now everything is right; for in a community in which prayer and the Eucharist are the most important things, what was earlier supremely sacred cannot be entirely wrong. The issue was internal reconciliation with our own past, the intrinsic continuity of faith and prayer in the Church.

On the Tridentine petition for the conversion of the Jews

[T]his petition does not affect the liturgy in general, but only the small circle of people who use the old missal. So there was no question of any change in the main liturgy. But in the old liturgy this point seemed to me to require a modification. The old formulation really was offensive to Jews and failed to express positively the overall intrinsic unity between the Old and New Testament. For this reason, I believed that a modification of this passage in the old liturgy was necessary, especially, as I have already said, out of consideration for our relation with our Jewish friends. I altered the text in such a way as to express our faith that Christ is the Savior for all, that there are not two channels of salvation, so that Christ is also the redeemer of the Jews, and not just of the Gentiles.

But the new formulation also shifts the focus from a direct petition for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense to a plea that the Lord might bring about the hour of history when we may all be united. So the polemical arguments with which a whole series of theologians assailed me are ill-considered; they do not accurately reflect the reality of the situation.

On AIDS and Condoms

[T]he sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which , after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

On the Eucharistic Drama

I wanted it to be clear: Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention! This is not just some social ritual in which we can take part if we want to.

On the Future of Christianity

[T]he Christian origins are still part of the broad cultural climate of many Western countries. But we are heading increasingly toward a form of Christianity based on personal decision. And it will decide in turn the extent to which the general Christian character remains at work. I would say that the task today is on the one hand, to consolidate, enliven, and enlarge this Christianity of personal decision, so that more people can consciously live and profess their faith again. On the other hand, we have to acknowledge that we are not simply identical with the nation as such”and yet that we have the energy to impress upon it, and present to it, values that it can accept, even when the majority are not believing Christians.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s review of the book, “Open, Disarming, and Inevitably Misunderstood,” can be found here .
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