Funny thing, I've had this book The Ratzinger Report on my bookshelf for at least 15 years. My kids were very impressed when he became Pope Benedict XVI that I had a book of his with my maiden name written in it!
I finally started reading this yesterday and was surprised and delighted to find it more interesting and engaging than I had ever expected. All in God's good time, right?
The format is unusual. It is an interview with journalist Vittorio Messori. The text - and its subsequent translations - was afterwards approved by Cardinal Ratzinger
Here are a few notes and quotes:
Conservative vs. Liberal
We need to throw out the "formulations" of conservative/liberal or right/left when dealing with religious life [I think it's a very imperfect mold politically speaking as well]. Here is the quote...
"He is a man, then, wholly rooted in a religious life. And it is only by viewing things from his standpoint that one will really understand the meaning of what he says. From that perspective, all those schematic formulations conservative/progressive, right/left which stem from an altogether different sphere, namely, that of political ideologies, lose their meaning. Hence they are not transferable to the religious perspective which, to speak with Pascal, "is of another order which surpasses all the rest in depth and height." (from page 12)
Also see Schall on Liberal vs. Conservative
Two Errors about Vatican II
Vatican II has been highly misunderstood and manipulated by various people. Either of two extremes of rejection of Vatican II is incompatible with the faith. Let us rediscover the true Vatican II. Therein lies the solution to the crisis in the Church today.
"Vatican II today stands in a twilight. For a long time it has been regarded by the so-called progressive wing as completely surpassed and, consequently, as a thing of the past, no longer relevant to the present. By the opposite side, the 'conservative' wing, it is, conversely, viewed as the cause of the present decadence of the Catholic Church and even judged as an apostasy from Vatican I and from the Council of Trent. Consequently demands have been made for its retraction or for a revision that would be tantamount to a retraction...
Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points...
It is impossible to take a position for or against Trent or Vatican I. Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly also the two previous councils... It is likewise impossible to decide in favor of Trent and Vatican I, but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation... Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can exist only as an indivisible unity." (from pgs 28 and 29)
Purpose of Vatican II
"I should like to say that Vatican II surely did not want 'to change' the faith, but to represent it in a more effective way. Further, I should say that dialogue is possible only on the foundation of a clear identity. One can, one must be 'open', but only when one has something to say and has acquired one's own identity." (from page 35)
How to Reform the Church
"Whether Vatican II and its results will be considered as a luminous period of Church history will depend upon all the Catholics who are called to give it life. As John Paul II said in his commemoration of Borromeo in Milan: 'the Church of today does not need any new reformers. The Church needs new saints.'" (from page 43)
"Hence, true 'reform' does not mean to take great pains to erect new facades (contrary to what certain ecclesiologies think). Real 'reform' is to strive to let what is ours disappear as much as possible so what belongs to Christ may become more visible. It is a truth well known to the saints. Saints, in fact, reformed the Church in depth, not by working up plans for new structures, but by reforming themselves. What the Church needs in order to respond to the needs of man in every age is holiness, not management." (from page 53)