Crises of Faith and Morality, as Seen by Cardinal Ratzinger

According to a New Book Presented at Spanish College

ROME, MAY 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The present crises of faith and morality are closely connected, explained the author of a new book on the thought of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.

Father José Pérez Asensi released "The Ethics of Faith in the Work of Joseph Ratzinger" (published by Edicep) last week at the Spanish College in Rome. The book features the conclusions of the author's licentiate thesis entitled, "Moral Theology in the Work of Joseph Ratzinger."

Father Pérez told ZENIT that Cardinal Ratzinger is not an academic moralist but "a dogmatic theologian; however, he is the theologian who has explained in the clearest way that the crisis of faith and the crisis of morality that exist today are closely related in Europe, as well as in certain currents of dogmatic and moral theology."

The priest summarized Cardinal Ratzinger's theology with the phrase "the circularity of the faith."

"Cardinal Ratzinger tries to explain the whole dynamic of Christian life from the truth 'faith in Jesus Christ' and, in a very pedagogical manner, explains how faith in Jesus Christ has different moments," Father Pérez said.

Developing this key concept, the priest said that "in the first place, faith in Jesus Christ is a gift; in the second place, that gift helps us to stay with Christ; in the third place, it becomes the way of understanding reality. Cardinal Ratzinger very much emphasizes knowledge of the faith which helps us to understand God, ourselves and the world; it is different from scientific knowledge."

In the fourth place, he continued, "faith implies a free response and here is where Cardinal Ratzinger specifies the Christian way of life, the following of Christ; and a way of advancing on that path is the morality he proposes.

"The present Benedict XVI bases the following of Christ on what he calls the ethics of faith. That is why I have given the book that title. For him, Christian morality must be founded on faith in Christ which stems from an encounter with him, not only as a personal experience but also as a reality full of meaning."

Father Pérez continued: "Ratzinger bases his theology on two main ideas: the personal relationship between God and man with encounter and following, and the balance between truth, freedom, conscience and moral praxis.

"Benedict XVI's moral thought helps us, and it guarantees that spirituality and morality go together. It is a theology which is not reduced to a specialization, but is more global. It helps us to remember that to follow Christ includes both the spiritual religious moment, which means intimacy with Christ, as well as the moral moment, our response to Christ."

The priest added: "Cardinal Ratzinger's moral theology helps us to understand that the basis and nexus which guarantees our freedom and Christian truth is faith in Christ, which includes spirituality and morality that exist in connection with our search for the truth of man which is happiness and the service of brothers."