Peter Seewald’s first interview with Cardinal Ratzinger in November 1992 was providential for him (it lead ultimately with his return to the Catholic Faith) and also for the Church, since it in turn lead to a series of book length interviews with one of the greatest theologians in Church history, and ultimately to a so far riveting biography. Seewald clearly has a great love for his subject, and his subject would appear to have great confidence in his biographer, granting him many hours of interviews. And just as importantly, Seewald has a great understanding of the historical, ecclesiastical and theological context of Ratzinger’s life.
Frequently the reader is treated to very informative “digressions” into historical events, intellectual movements and key thinkers which have formed the warp and woof of his life. Quite rightly I think, he treats one particular event – the Second Vatican Council – as the fulcrum of this amazing life: the formational years as a boy and as a “master student” in the seminary appear as a providential preparation for his later work as a theological adviser, and then as a peritus, in the Council.
The three sections of Volume One trace this natural progression: The Boy, The Master Student, The Council. Volume Two, covering the post-conciliar period of his life will be framed as, in the author’s words, “a 50-year battle for the Council’s legacy”. It is a wonderful book about a fascinating subject (only marred at times unfortunately by typos and weak translating).