Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: Light of the World by Pope Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald

Here's my review of Light of the World, previously posted on

If I hadn't previously read John Paul II's wonderful interview book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, I might have given this book 5 stars. That's a tough standard to measure up to. Light of the World is still a good book and definitely doesn't require a theological background to understand. While many of the subjects covered are quite interesting, they aren't covered with the same depth as Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

The Pope

The Pope emerges as a down-to-earth, humble man, somewhat remarkable in his ordinariness. I was surprised to learn that he was the son of a police officer. He is at home in questions of both ordinary and extraordinary importance. He offers a view of God that is more than cheap moralism or oppressive reductionism.

The Church

Peter Seewald gives the Pope a chance to clear up some past scandals in the Church such as lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop. I feel satisfied with his explanation but that he lays partial blame at the feet of the Anglican Church.

There are a few disappointments. When speaking of the sex abuse scandal, he downplays the role of clerics in fostering clericalism, and instead casts blame on the laity for putting priests and religious up on a pedestal. This attitude denies the fact that the Church hierarchy is designed to put priests and religious up on a pedestal. And if religious leaders cannot be trusted, then there really isn't much of a Church.

Overall, though, Light of the World is informative and interesting, and a tiny window into the life and mind of the Pope.

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