I am only about half way through reading the new encyclical, and so am a long way off offering deeper and overall reaction and analysis.
At this point, I can say a couple of things only, the first is that we meet here many of the themes that those of us familiar with Ratzinger’s work have met before, yet somewhat more synthesised.
The second is that the encyclical is a much more demanding text than Deus Caritas Est, Benedict’s first encyclical. It contains some paragraphs of rather dense exegetical work that may lose many readers in the first chapters, and a lot of philosophical and historical reflections that might have a similar effect upon those looking for a purely devotional work. In this it tends to resemble an extended academic lecture.
Yet there are places where both the content and the style is inspired and inspiring. I am, of course, enjoying the task of reading it. Like W. G. Ward, I would be very happy to have an infallible papal pronouncement for breakfast every morning along with my coffee and copy of The Age. This one will keep me going for many more cups of coffee, and for the moment, the Saturday Age lies next to my bed unwrapped but unread.
I did skim through the paper, however, and noted that there was no news whatsoever that a new encyclical had been released. How fickle the media is. They were falling over themselves when the first encyclical came out–expecting papal damnations of the modern world and liberal theology. Instead they were bemused to find that it was about love.
I suppose that in this despairing world where everyone is holding out some newfound “hope” that promises the “kingdom of good” (to use a phrase from the new encyclical) from all sorts of sources, the Pope saying that ultimately our only real hope of salvation is in Jesus Christ is not news.