Why Do Popes Bother?

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Last fall, Pope Benedict issued the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. With a handful of exceptions, the response of the American Catholic blogosphere (and the Catholic commentariat in general) was crickets.

It seems that unless a papal document somehow touches on an issue of the culture wars, near-silence is the response.

So, why do popes bother?

The question is rhetorical, of course. The fact of the matter is, Catholics ought to be reading these documents, and not just “professional Catholics” or clerics, but all of us. Look at whom Verbum Domini is addressed to, for example: bishops, clergy, the consecrated, and the lay faithful. Virtually every other major magisterial text is similarly addressed (curiously, one of the more technical ones which does get greater attention — JPII’s Veritatis Splendor — is addressed only to bishops), yet all too often, even informed, orthodox Catholics seem to fail to read them.

Why is that?

Look at the documents of Vatican II… both before and after they were elected to the See of Peter, Popes John Paul II and Benedict were emphatic that the renewal of the Church which the Council hoped for would not happen unless the members of the Church actually read the documents and internalized them. Even in his apostolic letter closing the Great Jubilee (Novo Millenio Ineunte), John Paul called for the further implementation of the Council, again, with the actual reading of the texts. Have these calls been heeded?

With Lent nearly upon us, now seems an appropriate time to prayerfully discern which one of these gifts of the Magisterium we might take up and read.

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  1. Why do Popes bother?

    Well, because eventually all of their writings will be posted on TAC! 🙂
    With the advent of the internet and Catholic blogs, my guess is that Papal writings are probably reaching more readers than any other time in the history of the Church. This is a very new development and it will take time to see what the impact of this will be.

  2. Actually have been reading Verbum Domini for about six weeks now as spiritual reading. Taking so long as might only read a paragraph need to stop and think/meditate. Also like to look up the biblical references. Suspect I might take most of this year to finish it.

  3. Phillip – Cardinal Arinze recommends doing exactly that with the CCC.

    Chris – Thank you for reminding us on what is really important. That’s a great idea about implementing some type of Lectio Divina during Lent. Too often I find myself distracted by secular topics, i.e. politics. God help me during the upcoming election cycle.

  4. I actually read through the whole CCC. Wasn’t given it as spiritual reading by my spiritual director. Read alot of the footnotes but to my shame didn’t look up many of the biblical references. What can I say, I was young.

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