Notre Dame Press Books Explore Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Theological Legacy

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on December 31, 2022, at age 95, and join the Church around the world in mourning this great loss.

Before he was elected pope in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had a distinguished career as one of the most important theologians of the last century. It was widely held that “Benedict was the most influential intellectual force in the Church in a generation,” write Ian Fisher and Rachel Donadio in The New York Times.

“At once a luminous scholar and a devoted laborer in the vineyard of the Lord,” said the University of Notre Dame’s president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., “Pope Benedict gave witness to the complementarity of faith and reason for a world which so often misunderstands both.”

The University of Notre Dame Press has published a number of studies that explore the depth and breadth of Pope Benedict’s writings. For readers interested in learning more about the Pope Emeritus’s theological oeuvre, we recommend the following books:

Explorations in the Theology of Benedict XVI, edited by John C. Cavadini

“This is quite simply the best exploration of Pope Benedict’s theology available in English.”

—Paul J. Griffiths, author of Regret

In Explorations in the Theology of Benedict XVI, a multidisciplinary group of scholars treat the full scope of Benedict’s theological output, including the Augustinian context of his thought; his ecclesiology; his theologically grounded approach to biblical exegesis and Christology; his unfolding of a theology of history and culture; his liturgical and sacramental theology; his theological analysis of political and economic developments; his use of the natural law in ethics and conscience; his commitment to a form of interreligious dialogue from a place of particularity; and his function as a public, catechetical theologian.

Global Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: Peace, Reconciliation, and Care for Creation, edited by John Chryssavgis, foreword by John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

In celebration of the 2021 visit to the University of Notre Dame by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as well as the thirtieth anniversary of his election, this groundbreaking volume gathers together and introduces eleven important joint statements from the patriarch, addressing diverse topics from climate change to ecumenical dialogue. Included is “Dialogue of Truth” with Pope Benedict XVI in Istanbul (2006). On the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict to Istanbul after his election on April 19, 2005, this Common Declaration marked the resumption and renewal of the official theological dialogue between the two sister churches that had suspended its regular sessions ten years earlier. 

Available April 1, 2023.

Intractable Disputes about the Natural Law: Alasdair MacIntyre and Critics, edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham

Both as cardinal and as Pope Benedict XVI, one of Josef Ratzinger’s consistent concerns was the foundational moral imperatives of the natural law. In 2004, then Cardinal Ratzinger requested that the University of Notre Dame study the complex issues embedded in discussions about “natural rights” and “natural law” in the context of Catholic thinking. To that end, Alasdair MacIntyre provided a substantive essay on the foundational problem of moral disagreements concerning natural law, and eight scholars were invited to respond to MacIntyre’s essay, either by addressing his work directly or by amplifying his argument along other yet similar paths. The contributors to this volume are theologians, philosophers, civil and canon lawyers, and political scientists, who reflect on these issues from different disciplinary perspectives.

Where are the Helpers?: Charity and Spirituality, edited by Paul Josef Cordes, foreword by Pope Benedict XVI

On December 25, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI published Deus caritas est (“God Is Love”), the first encyclical of his papacy. In Part I, Benedict XVI analyzes human and divine love in terms of eros and agape; presenting love as a fundamental force. Caritas, the “practice” of love of neighbor, is the theme of the second part of the encyclical. As Cardinal Cordes explains, “the encyclical represents the Magna carta of our work: to orient and to inspire the charitable work of the Catholic Church.” In this volume, Cardinal Cordes offers his own studies and other reflections that investigate the meaning of Christian help, comment on the theological, spiritual, and canonical guidelines of Deus caritas est, and illustrate concrete ways to help the needy and, in doing so, experience the goodness of God.

Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition, Second Edition by E. Christian Brugger

Why is the Catholic Church against the death penalty? This second edition of Brugger’s classic work Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition traces the doctrinal path the Church has taken over the centuries to its present position as the world’s largest and most outspoken opponent of capital punishment. In the new preface to the second edition, E. Christian Brugger examines the contribution of Pope Benedict XVI to Catholic thinking on the death penalty.

This piece first appeared at undpressnews.nd.edu.

For more information, contact: Kathryn Pitts, pitts.5@nd.edu, 574.210.6155.