Papal Q&A

At NCR, John Allen writes about Pope Benedict’s use of the Q & A format:

Ironically enough, forty years ago Joseph Ratzinger insisted that the dialogue is not really a legitimate Christian literary form. In his 1969 book Das neue Volk Gottes, the future pope observed that there’s no equivalent in Christian writing to the great dialogues of Plato, arguing that’s because, at its core, Christianity is not about dialogue with the world but rather kerygma, proclamation.

I say that’s ironic because over the last quarter-century, no figure in global Christianity has done more to popularize the Q&A, essentially the modern form of Socratic dialogue, than Joseph Ratzinger. Indeed, one could make a good case that the Q&A has become the most distinctive form of literary expression under Pope Benedict XVI.

The latest entry came on Feb. 26, in the form of a back-and-forth with priests of the Rome diocese. The Vatican released a transcript of that session, which took place in Italian, on Feb. 27; my translation can be found here: The transcript of that session.

While he was still the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, then-Cardinal Ratzinger sat down for three book-length interviews published in Q&A form: The Ratzinger Report in 1984; Salt of the Earth in 1996; and God and the World in 2000. The first entry in that series was a global publishing phenomenon, which cemented Ratzinger’s reputation as a lightning rod; the latter two nuanced that image. . . .

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