The Political Side of Benedict XVI
Book Analyzes Foundations of Pontiff's Social Thought
By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, MARCH 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- We are accustomed to looking at the Popes for
spiritual and theological guidance, but a recent book highlights the importance
and influence of the social and political thought of Benedict XVI.
In "The Social and Political Thought of Benedict XVI," Thomas R. Rourke analyzes
the Pope's record on these issues both before and after his election to the
Chair of Peter. Rourke is a professor in the department of political science at
Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
While more known as a theologian, Benedict XVI is a very profound political
thinker, and his social thought merits more attention that it has so far
received, Rourke argued.
He starts off by looking at the anthropological foundation of the Pope's
thought. In his book "On the Way to Jesus Christ" the then Cardinal Ratzinger
looked at the development of the concept of a person.
The contribution of the Bible and Christian thought enabled the original Greek
consideration on this to be considerably enriched, particularly in the aspect of
seeing a person as a relational being. This leads to a spirituality of
communion, which Rourke says is at the root of Benedict XVI's understanding of
Thus, in the community of the divine persons of the Trinity we discover the
spiritual roots of the human community. So, in the Pope's anthropology it is not
as though we are individuals who in a second moment enter into relations with
other people. Rather, relationship is at the core of a person's nature.
This brotherhood among persons is grounded in the fatherhood of God and so
differs fundamentally from a secular view of brotherhood, such as that espoused
in the French Revolution.
Added to this is the dimension of creation. Created in the image of God human
life is given an inviolable dignity, leading the pope to condemn a utilitarian
interpretation of our humanity.
While this anthropology might seem very abstract it is a necessary foundation
for political philosophy, explained Rourke. Our view of what the shared life of
people should be is necessarily grounded on an understanding of what a person is
and what a community is.
According to Rourke, Benedict XVI considers politics to be an exercise of
reason, but a reason that is also informed by faith. As a result Christianity
does not define learning as the mere acquisition of knowledge, but requires it
to be guided by fundamental values, such as truth, beauty, and goodness.
When reason is separated from a clear understanding of the ends of human life,
established by Creation and affirmed in the Ten Commandments, then it has no
fixed reference points for making moral judgments. If this happens then the way
is open to consequentialism, which denies that anything is good or bad in
One interesting line of thought in the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger is the
division between Church and state, Rourke comments. The separation by Jesus, in
Mark 12:17, of the two -- "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to
God the things that are God's," meant that Christianity destroyed the idea of a
Prior to Christianity the union of Church and state was the normal practice and
even in the Old Testament the two were fused. In fact, this was the cause of the
persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, as they refused to accept the
The separation of the two by Jesus was beneficial for the state, as it did not
have to live up to expectations of divine perfection, Cardinal Ratzinger
affirmed. This new Christian perspective opened the door for a politics based on
Furthermore, he contended that when we revert to a pre-Christian understanding
of politics we end up eliminating moral limitations, as happened in Nazi Germany
and in communist states.
In today's world, the future Pontiff warned that mythological understandings of
progress, science and freedom represent a danger. The element in common that
they have is the tendency to the development of an irrational politics that
places the search for power above the truth.
As Pope, he took up this theme again in his second encyclical on hope. He warned
that what we hope for as Christians should not be confused with what we can
achieve through political action.
Returning to what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his book, "Church, Ecumenism, and
Politics," Rourke added that the separation of church and state has become
confused in modern times in being interpreted as ceding the entire public square
to the state.
If this is accepted then democracy is reduced to a set of procedures, limited by
no fundamental values. Instead, the future Pope affirmed the need for a system
of values that goes back to the first principles, such as the prohibition of
taking innocent human life, or the foundation of the family on the permanent
union of man and woman.
Among the many other topics that Rourke examines is that of conscience. This
might seem to have little in connection to social or political issues at first
glance. Instead, it turns out to play a critical role.
It is in the inner forum of our conscience that we preserve the fundamental
norms upon which the social order is based. It is also a limit on the power of
the state, as the state does not have the legitimate authority to transgress
these norms. So it is that conscience is at the roots of limited government.
The destruction of conscience is the prerequisite for totalitarian rule, the
then Archbishop Ratzinger, explained in a lecture given in 1972. "Where
conscience prevails, there is a limit to the dominion of human command and human
choice, something sacred that must remain inviolate and that in its ultimate
sovereignty eludes all control, whether someone else's or one's own," he said.
Rourke clarified that in saying this, the future pope was not diminishing what
are the constitutional or institutional limits on power. The point being made is
more fundamental. Namely, that no institution or structure can preserve people
from injustice when those in authority abuse their power. In this situation it
is the power of conscience, wielded by the people, that can protect society.
This, in turn, connects with faith, which is the ultimate teacher of conscience.
Faith becomes a political force in the same way Jesus did, by becoming a witness
to the truth in conscience. "The power of conscience is then to be found in
suffering; it is the power of the Cross," explained Rourke in his summary of
what the 1972 lecture expressed.
"Christianity begins," Archbishop Ratzinger said, "not with a revolutionary, but
with a martyr."
Rourke's study includes an appendix that examines Benedict XVI's latest
encyclical on social matters, "Charity in Truth." While he had almost finished
the book when the encyclical was published Rourke noted that what the Pope wrote
was consistent with the themes in his previous writings.
The introduction clearly shows this, Rourke noted, by its linking of truth with
love and the idea that there is objective truth, contrary to the tendency
The encyclical concludes, Rourke commented, with the Pontiff's longstanding
affirmation that what is truly human flows from Christ and that Christ leads us
to discover the fullness of our humanity. This Christian humanism is what
Benedict XVI holds out as our greatest contribution to development. A compelling
and inspiring goal to strive for.
Thesis Seen as Key to Understanding His Papacy
Translation of '57 Work on
ROME, FEB. 14, 2008 To understand the papacy of
XVI, one should become familiar with his formation as a theologian,
affirmed the publishers of Father Joseph Ratzinger's thesis on St.
This month in the Antonian Pontifical University, an
Italian translation of young Father Ratzinger's study of St.
Bonaventure's theology of history, published in 1957 as part of the
priest's preparation for becoming a professor, will be presented by
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the
Father Pietro Messa, director of the Antonian's faculty of
medieval and Franciscan studies, which collaborated in the publication
of the translation, explained to ZENIT that current interest in this
study is motivated by a desire to understand the thought of the man who
is now Pope.
Cardinal Ratzinger himself discussed his thesis in a Nov.
13, 2000, address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, saying his
study of the 13th century theologian uncovered untold aspects about the
relationship of the saint "with a new idea of history."
In that discourse, Cardinal Ratzinger explained that in
the 12th century, Joachim of Flora offered a hypothesis of history "as
a progression from the period of the Father -- a difficult time for
human beings under the law -- to a second period, that of the Son --
with a greater freedom, more frankness, more brotherhood -- to a third,
the definitive period of history, the time of the Holy Spirit."
"According to Joachim," added Cardinal Ratzinger, "this
should be a time of universal reconciliation, of reconciliation between
the East and the West, between Christians and Jews, a time without laws
-- in the Pauline sense -- a time of true brotherhood in the world. The
interesting idea I discovered was that a significant current of the
Franciscans were convinced that St. Francis of Assisi and the
Franciscan Order marked the beginning of this third period of history,
and it was their aspiration to make it a reality. Bonaventure
maintained a critical dialogue with this current."
Father Ratzinger's work, emphasized Father Messa, "has
been resumed by numerous studies regarding the theology of St.
Bonaventure, as the bibliographical references included at the end of
this publication indicate, and this certainly shows its importance in
"Thanks also to this text," he added, "the research has
been able to advance and some conclusions have been outdated, both
because of the progress in the research and because currently we can
benefit from many more critical works than those used by Ratzinger in
Then and now
Regarding the role of Father Ratzinger's thesis in
Benedict XVI's pontificate, Father Messa said, "There are many elements
in this study that could have a correspondence in the magisterium of
the Pontiff," such as the centrality of Christ, supported by St.
Bonaventure and fully present in the papal magisterium.
The priest referred further to words from well known
Dominican theologian Father Yves Congar.
"Beginning from this study and the issue of the
relationship between the local Churches and the universal Church, which
played such a big role in postconciliar ecclesial debate, and of which
one of the protagonists was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Father Congar
wrote: 'Joseph Ratzinger, who has noted, we believe justly, some
differences between Bonaventure and Thomas, gives a lot of importance
to the role that the pope plays in Bonaventurian mysticism due to the
Taking that into account, Father Messa affirmed: "The
question of if and in what way this Franciscan aspect characterizes his
conception and exercise of the papacy is more than legitimate.
"Reading some of his writings and speeches, the hypothesis
of a 'yes' answer is reinforced. Thus it is not surprising, rather it
is fully understandable, that according to Benedict XVI, in order to understand the Petrine
ministry, one has to return to St. Francis."
Catholic Biblical Scholarship
By Peter D. Brown
Benedict XVI has never wavered in his belief that the Bible
itself is fundamentally one with the living tradition of
What can be done to improve Catholic biblical scholarship?
Benedict is keenly aware that there is no easy answer to this question.
Beginning with the encyclical Providentissimus Deus in 1893 and
culminating with the landmark Pius XII encyclical Divino Afflante
Spiritu in 1943 the Church has in principle embraced and indeed
enthusiastically encouraged modern biblical research. But this embrace
paradoxically has always had aspects of awkwardness and unease. The
openness to modernity was based on the desire to penetrate more deeply
into the riches of Scripture while maintaining and fostering the
treasures already possessed by the Church as seen in the traditional
reading of the Bible. In many ways, the struggle over the correct
approach to biblical interpretation is emblematic of the Church’s
attitude to the modern world in general: very welcoming of what is good
but very suspicious of that which undermines the Church and her
mission. Achieving the right balance between world openness on the one
hand and discernment of spirits on the other has been the central
challenge of the Church in the modern age. The Church cannot turn back
the clock with regard to the Enlightenment and modern thought but she
must at the same time hold fast to the Tradition that she has been
entrusted with handing down. This tightrope act between wholesale
embrace of modernity on one extreme and the wholesale rejection of
contemporary scholarship on the other has been an endeavor most
difficult to maintain.
Benedict, before his elevation to the papacy, had in fact
written and commented extensively on the relationship between the
Church and biblical exegesis. He is clearly not entirely happy with the
state of Catholic biblical scholarship. His views taken as a whole
however seem to reflect his nuanced approach to the modern age
generally and are thus not easily typecast as either “conservative” or
“liberal.” According to Benedict, to understand Catholic biblical
scholarship and its sometimes-strained relationship with the
Magisterium in the current age, it is necessary to go back to about the
dawn of the twentieth century. The Bible was under heavy attack in
those days at the hands of European scholars, particularly in Germany.
Their methods on any number of grounds had the effect of calling into
question nearly everything the Bible affirmed. Their criticisms were
highly sophisticated by the standards of their day. The critics were
well schooled in the biblical languages and profoundly familiar with
the biblical text and used this knowledge fundamentally to deconstruct
the canon of Scripture by relativizing its message. Instead of the
Bible of the people of God, the one of Divine origin and witnessing to
eternal truths, they endeavored to show that the Bible actually
represented a series of evolving human–based theological ideologies.
These theologies, far from representing immutable truths about God,
were in fact oriented to sociological or political goals that furthered
the temporal interests of the theologians themselves. The priests, for
instance, would write biblical literature that would promote sacrifice,
liturgy, Temple worship, and whatever else advanced their religious
agenda. Other religious factions would promote Israel’s kingly
traditions and write texts that provided the pretext for the Davidic
dynasty anointed by God and predestined to rule the world without end
under a future Messianic figure. As one might expect, these scholars
thought very little of Hebrew traditions and saw in the New Testament
(at least in the earliest historical strata of Paul) an attempt to
purge the Jewish religion of its outdated ceremonial practices and
anachronistic worldview. The “New Testament religion” for them was in
essence a commitment to personal moral excellence apart from
interference from priests, liturgies and ceremonial rigmarole. Only
later, with the emergence of the Church was the pure Gospel once again
“corrupted” with new variations on the same old hidebound rituals (such
as sacraments) and new religious authorities (like priests and bishops)
to impose burdens on the people with the effect of preserving
themselves in power. The rise of “early Catholicism” coincided with the
decline of the primitive kerygma. It is not difficult to see that this
scholarship was heavily jaundiced both with anti-Semitism and
anti-Catholicism as well as a kind of warmed over Lutheranism (i.e.,
the “real” gospel is a rejection of Jewish “works of the Law” — and by
implication a rejection of the Catholic hierarchy, liturgy and
sacraments as well.) But unlike Lutheranism, there was little sense of
transcendent truth that is an essential part of any authentic Christian
worldview. Many of the first generations of “higher critics” labored
under two key assumptions. The first was that all truth claims were
made to advance the interest of the person making the claim
(Nietzcheanism); the claim to possess truth was essentially a will to
power. The second was that ultimate truth itself was just an
eschatological ideal to which evolving truth claims and counter claims
constantly strived through history to attain (Hegelianism).
Given this, it is not too difficult to see why at the dawn
of the twentieth century the Magisterium and the newly formed
Pontifical Biblical Commission utterly closed the door to much higher
criticism, believing its philosophical and theological presuppositions
to be utterly incompatible with Church teaching. This attitude on the
part of the Magisterium toward modern biblical criticism, which
prevented Catholic scholars from pursuing whole lines of academic
inquiry, mostly characterized the Scripture scholarship for the first
half of the twentieth century in the Catholic Church. The fact that the
Magisterium ran an unusually tight ship in this time period had several
effects on the scholars’ attitude to Church authority. Rather than
seeing the Church’s teaching office as an aid to fruitful scholarly
inquiry, they came to see the Church as an intrusive pest, which had
gone far beyond its mandate of teaching on faith and morals. The Church
had issued numerous binding rulings on purely historical questions like
the dates of composition of biblical books, the identity of the
authors, and whether the authors used other sources in writing the
work. Catholic scholars looked longingly to their Protestant and
secular counterparts who seemed to have much greater freedom in nearly
every respect. Catholics felt, not unjustifiably, that their
scholarship was not being taken seriously since it could not directly
engage in the scholarly conversation that seemed to exist everywhere
but in the Catholic Church. Catholic exegetes, much like physicists
being forbidden to explore Einsteinian relativity, felt artificially
chained to the past. Beyond this, there were a number of exegetes who,
in testing the limits of Pontifical Biblical Commission rulings, were
stripped of their teaching posts. Benedict recounted this with some
sense of regret in his 2003 address to the biblical commission. 
The irony of all this was that “high criticism” was
causing shockwaves in the Protestant world, since believing Protestants
after all were committed to the authority of Scripture as well as its
historicity. Both had been greatly undermined by early uses of
historical criticism. Particularly difficult to deal with was the
sudden popularity of a German pastor and brilliant biblical scholar
named Rudolph Bultmann. Though he was undoubtedly influenced by the
rationalism of the German biblical guild, which I have summarized
above, he did not proceed from a desire to destroy the Bible’s
credibility. On the contrary, his goal was to make the real truth of
the Bible accessible to modern man, for whom miracles and other
supernatural occurrences were a stumbling block. In other words,
Bultmann wanted to adapt the gospel message to people who doubted the
supernatural order and just needed the transforming power of the
kerygma itself. The original gospel message was Pauline and it
emphasized deep personal and existential transformation with little
interest in historical facts about Jesus. The crucifixion and the
resurrection were all that mattered to Paul and the latter need not
have been an historical event itself. The truth of Paul was that faith
in the resurrection was all that mattered and not the fact of the
resurrection itself. Paul’s mystical experience on the road to Damascus
illustrated how the transforming power of the kerygma could be received
apart from any concern with the actual event of the resurrection. In
the early Church, Bultmann was fond of saying, Jesus need not so much
have risen from the dead as that he ”rose into preaching.”  The
gospel stories were nearly wholly legendary accounts of Jesus that the
Church had adopted only later ultimately because the evangelists could
never quite break from their Jewish obsession with historical
narrative. Bultmann never supposed that form criticism could peel back
the various layers of “legendary” material in the gospels and extract
the historical core. The legend for Bultmann was an essential part of
the gospel stories that could not be removed. His idea of
“demythologization” did not call for removing myth from the story —
this would presuppose that authentic historical information about Jesus
was actually recoverable and this view Bultmann all but rejected. He
wanted not to remove myth but to reinterpret it existentially and thus
refashion it to meet the needs of his audience — much as the gospel
writers themselves had allegedly transformed the primitive ahistorical
kerygma of Paul into purported events of history for their own pastoral
needs. Nonetheless, Bultmann assumed a great deal of creativity on the
part of the gospel writers — a creativity, which for various motives
was used to shape the “historical Jesus” into the “Jesus of faith.”
Naturally, this approach assumed that large portions of the Bible were
in fact little more than the accumulated theological imagination of the
early Church. This insinuation did not sit well with much of the
believing Protestant world, even to the part reared on the concept of
“faith alone.” “Faith alone” in Bultmann’s sense was “faith alone”
irrespective of the historical events upon which “faith” was ostensibly
based. Bultmann’s methodology signaled a wake up call for Protestant
scholars who had flirted with modern approaches but wanted to maintain
some connection to confessional Christianity. Demythologization had
brought to a head the problem of history for Christian believers. Could
the message of the gospel in and of itself have power to save if the
message was completely independent of things that actually happened?
Could Christianity remain in any sense Christian and completely
capitulate to the historical challenge of the Enlightenment by setting
the gospel permanently adrift from its historical moorings? The ensuing
confusion in the scholarly milieu moved many to a biblical
fundamentalism defined by a thoroughgoing rejection of all modern
exegetical science. Still others lost their faith entirely. But more
than a few scholars realized that the new scholarship could only really
be controverted on scholarly grounds. After all, they did not have a
Magisterium to silence Bultmann. The only real way to defend the basic
biblical narrative in academic circles was to master the modern
scholarly methods and use them to point out the many historical and
philosophical flaws in Bultmann’s “demythologization” methodology. His
a priori rejection of the supernatural was neither “scientific” nor
“rational,” by his own standards and his view that the early Church was
uninterested in the historical Jesus could not adequately explain how
the stories about Jesus originated in the first place.
About this time, Pius XII released his landmark 1943
encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu that was by all accounts the “magna
carta” for modern Catholic biblical scholarship. With the overall goal
of defending the Bible’s basic reliability and historical character, as
well as deepening the Church’s biblical knowledge, the pope allowed for
the first time scholars to subject the biblical text to literary
criticism as well as what he termed the “historical method,” which
certainly included historical criticism. Catholic scholars were
permitted to reinvestigate questions of authorship, datings of biblical
books and sources used by authors—all with the goal of defending the
Bible and more deeply penetrating into its mysteries. The Pope
obviously had no desire to open the floodgates of hypercritical
rationalism or introduce the “demythologization” of Bultmann into
Catholic exegesis—his desire was quite the opposite. It is debated even
today how far the Pope really wished to go in opening the door to
contemporary biblical science. But it is indisputable that by the 1940s
Rome’s attitude was changing. Far from the mostly defensive posture of
early Magisterial statements, there was a conviction on the part of
Pius XII that the Church in the long run had nothing to fear from the
many historical challenges to the Bible. There was an implicit
confidence that modern scholarly methods if neutrally applied would
ultimately vindicate the Bible’s many truth claims and above all the
historical accuracy of its portrait of Jesus.
Nonetheless, there were many bumps along the road into
modernity for Catholic exegesis. Catholic scholars, like Father Raymond
Brown, who came of age after Divino struggled to carve a niche for
themselves. On the one hand, they had no desire to embrace the more
corrosive criticism which had already worked its way through the
Protestant world and indeed Brown did much to keep the more extreme
“demythologization” out of Catholic scholarship. They knew that this
was not what Pius XII had in mind, and Brown, contrary to what many
think, did labor to remain faithful to Church teachings—at least as he
understood them. He was always very careful never directly to challenge
the Church on any point of defined dogma. On the other hand, though the
scholars were Catholic and indeed because they were Catholic, they did
not want to be seen as simply carrying water for the Magisterium. This
image of the Catholic scholar hampered in his pursuit of the truth by
backward, reactionary Church officials was one that had to be shaken if
Catholic scholarship could ever gain respectability. No one would take
their exegesis seriously if they were seen to be just uncritically
repeating past dogmas or recycling the mantras of fathers and doctors.
Brown labored above all to be “objective” while still being Catholic,
though like most modern scholars his methods always seemed to suppose a
tension if not a dualism between loyalty to the Church and the practice
of historical criticism.
Moreover, Brown undoubtedly picked up a degree of
bitterness from Catholic scholars of the previous generation. The older
scholars were happy with their new found academic freedom and the
ultimate vindication of modern scholarly methods but they undoubtedly
were angry that Divino was so late in coming and that many of their
productive years had been lost. Brown, and other scholars of his
generation, were conditioned to see the freedom to use critical methods
as hard fought gains which should never be surrendered to more
conservative, obscurantist elements in the Church who naively advocated
turning back the clock to a more “pre-critical” era. Like most of his
generation, Brown also came to believe that biblical fundamentalism was
a far greater threat to Catholic biblical studies than the abuses of
historical criticism. There is no doubt that in the course of their
struggle for independence and respectability of peers many scholars of
Brown’s generation and the one after were a bit more apt to cling to
critical theories than perhaps they otherwise would have been inclined
to. For them it was the season to establish and defend the legitimacy
of critical methods in the Church, and not the season to confront that
method’s many shortcomings. Catholic scholars had something to prove
and they quickly set about trying to prove it. If they occasionally
took issue with the interpretive tradition of their own Church, at
least they would never be accused of fudging matters so that their own
private theology took precedence over the critical meaning of the
biblical text. Brown himself labored for objectivity too because he
taught most of his career at a non-Catholic institution and was heavily
involved in the post-Vatican II ecumenical outreach. In no way should
one question his sincerity, but it is difficult to avoid the impression
that personal motivations and professional considerations were
partially at work in the way he approached the biblical text.
Even today many ask what good has come from “higher level
criticism.” Another way of asking this question is “has Pius XII’s
vision for Catholic biblical studies been realized?” or was it a
colossal mistake to allow critical methods to gain preeminence in the
Church? Many people would look at historical criticism and wonder
whether anything has been learned by the new techniques. A person could
not be faulted for believing that “historical criticism” as it has been
practiced has only served to cast doubt over many biblical teachings
that were once accepted without difficulty. Benedict himself has often
spoken critically of the “hermeneutics of suspicion” which seems to
corrode the modern approach to biblical text. But, for Benedict,
returning to a “pre-critical” era in which the knowledge gained over
the past two centuries is discarded is simply not an option for
Catholic biblical studies.  To run from history and historical
questions is ultimately to run from the incarnate nature of God’s word
— a maneuver no less repugnant to faith than denying the humanity of
Jesus. The very humanity of Scripture is the sole means to attain to
its divinity and yet it is just this humanity that makes possible the
useful employment of modern scholarly tools — inasmuch as the same
tools have been used to penetrate the depths of other ancient
literature. Moreover, one cannot effectively address Jesus to the
contemporary age if one ignores the fact that modern man does indeed
dare to ask if Jesus really was the sort of person that the gospels
make him out to be. And no one with even a casual exposure to popular
literature, movies and cable TV shows can deny that the Jesus of the
Bible is only one of many available for public consumption. The fact
that the Church for the first seventeen centuries flourished without
facing these sorts of historical challenges does not mean that they can
be avoided now. 
In truth, the situation in Catholic biblical scholarship
is a bit better than it was a generation ago. After years of throwing
every possible skepticism at the Gospel stories, most scholars today no
longer doubt the basic historical character of a good portion of the
Gospel accounts of Jesus’ many miracles, or the gospel accounts of his
passion. Even the Resurrection, formerly relegated to mystical
subjectivism, is frequently treated to be in some sense “historical,”
so as to account for the historical fact of the early Church’s faith.
Few believe that the basic portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels is a total
fabrication of the New Testament writers and the early Church. The
much-publicized Jesus Seminar, once darling of the media, does not
represent most Catholic New Testament scholarship. The very fact that
the more revisionist reconstructions of Jesus must resort to
hypothetical reconstructions of non-canonical texts (e.g. Q and the
gospel of Thomas) is a tacit concession to one striking fact: the
synoptic gospels, even when read critically, vindicate the traditional
portrait of Jesus at least in its broad contours. The Bultmannian
flight from history is seen today as quite passé and unnecessary.
Still the reflexive liberalism in Catholic biblical
studies persists in many quarters. As critical methods are clung to as
hard fought gains, more than a few have suspected that Catholic
exegesis suffers from an identity crisis.  The Catholic guild has
indeed seen the vindication of modern methods of biblical
interpretation developed mostly by Protestants but at great cost. The
virtual declaration of independence from the Magisterium in the 1960s
by Catholic scholars has resulted in reams of scholarship unhelpful to
the Church, whatever its merits otherwise. The struggle since that time
has been to use modern tools in a manner that shores up rather than
undermines the later tradition of the Church. What has long been needed
is an exegesis that combines the best of the ancient and modern
approaches while fully aware of the shortcomings of each—an approach
that is post-critical not pre-critical.
Benedict’s own corpus and comments on biblical
interpretation suggest definite ideas as to how modern approaches to
the Bible can be successfully integrated into “faith’s hermeneutic.”
 Indeed the importance of reconciling academic exegesis with its
ecclesiastical counterpart has been a salient theme of his writings on
scripture since at least Vatican II. Benedict surprisingly does not
think that Catholic scholars’ problem is that they are too critical. On
the contrary, they are insufficiently critical of limitations inherent
in their own methods.  Take for instance modern scholarship’s
assumption that the Bible can only be “objectively” interpreted apart
from the Church’s life and tradition. As a matter of historical fact
however there would be no Bible to interpret at all apart from a Church
to receive it, believe it, and center its liturgical worship around it
and the divine events it describes. A biblical criticism that does not
recognize the inextricable historical unity of Bible and Church adopts
a fundamentally unscientific and unhistorical posture toward
revelation.  The word of God’s natural home is in the midst of the
people of God, especially at worship. The limitations are as severe in
studying the Bible outside the Church as they are in studying a species
of trout outside its native pond. A biblical science that does not
realize this in a self-critical way is inherently limited in its
approach to sacred text. 
An objective posture toward interpreting the Bible,
Benedict reminds us, does not entail approaching the text without
prejudices but rather approaching it with the correct prejudices —
prejudices that befit the objective nature of the thing being studied.
Catholic exegetes must be at least methodologically open to the
possibility that God can indeed intervene in history and bring about
events which do indeed carry the meaning with which he vests them. They
should at least admit the possibility that such events can in principle
occur which have no exact precedent in history and cannot therefore be
compressed into existing categories of human thought and experience. In
other words, not every supernatural occurrence can be treated in purely
worldly terms.  This can be true while at the same time one
recognizes that the human words of scripture as well as the faith of
the Church can be a true source of knowledge about events of the past.
Not all knowledge of the past can be derived or authenticated from
historical science. An historical criticism that at least does not rule
out these possibilities a priori will be of tremendous benefit to the
people of God.
But we must also stop to absorb the shockwaves of
explosive statements of Benedict’s like this one: “the normative
theologians of the Church are the authors of Sacred Scripture.” 
This is a view that would revolutionize Catholic theology if even a
fraction of its impact were ever felt. In truth, the Church has never
so much denied this. The Church fathers themselves seem to have coined
the term “theologian” to describe none other than John the Evangelist,
the author of the “spiritual gospel.” But an honest look at the
tradition would suggest that in practice the “normative theologians” of
the Church might be more apt descriptions of St. Augustine or St.
Thomas Aquinas than men like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or Paul. The
biblical writers were the purveyors of the raw data of revelation by
which one could construct a theology to address practical or
speculative questions of later ages. The traditional exegesis of the
New Testament emphasized tapping the text for divine meaning. This was
good as far as it went for the fathers and doctors were very effective
in most cases in deriving or demonstrating doctrine right from the
inspired words of Scripture. The only disadvantage of this was that
they sometimes treated the narrative itself as an egg to be cracked
through to obtain the nutritious yolk of God’s word. The importance of
the egg itself was often missed. Often they did not read Luke as Luke
or Paul as Paul but were interested mainly in the bottom line of truth
apart from identification of truth with the author and his historical
situation. Both the Church fathers and the scholastics tended to take
isolated affirmations of Scripture and quickly press them into
theological service sometimes quite apart from the literary context or
the intentions of the original authors. Moreover historical questions
about the sources used by biblical writers and their particular
literary style in conveying truth were usually not even asked. The
unsystematic character (real or imagined) of patristic and medieval
exegesis has made it most difficult to incorporate the insights of the
ancients into the modern discussion, even when there has been a desire
to do so. 
But in treating the biblical authors as “normative
theologians” Benedict resembles not a sola Scriptura Protestant so much
as a prima Scriptura Catholic. Indeed, it is an implicit embrace of the
historical critical approach to biblical text, when this method is
neutrally applied. Perhaps the biggest gain of modern scholarship is
the realization that the gospel writers were not artless chroniclers of
facts but inspired theological commentators on the Christ event. And
asserting the theological content of the gospels need not be done at
the expense of their basic historical character. This was one of many
false dichotomies presupposed by the first waves of critical scholars.
There is no reason in principle why gospel narratives cannot be both
theological and historical. N.T. Wright speaks for a generation of
conservative yet critical Protestant scholars in affirming that the
gospels are “more than history and biography but not less.”
But reckoning with the reality that the gospel writers
shaped their material with motivations other than purely historical or
doctrinal offers much untapped potential. Good use of source criticism
can help us see not only the pieces but occasionally gain a glimpse of
the whole glorious puzzle as well. Luke for instance, is not giving us
merely a “blow by blow” factual account of Jesus’ life and times but is
in fact telling the story in such a way that he is deliberately
invoking themes of the Book of Isaiah. Indeed, Luke-Acts is in fact a
highly stylized, carefully compiled commentary on Jesus, wherein the
use of Isaianic citations and allusions is meant to drive home the
reality that the exodus and restoration of Israel that the prophet
described are being fulfilled in the Church in the first century. 
There is further evidence that Luke wishes us to connect the imminence
of Christ’s kingdom with Eucharistic table fellowship and indeed that
Luke sees the kingdom of God as in some sense Eucharistic. 
Paul’s writings too shine in dazzling new light when
viewed in the apostle’s own historical context. Paul emerges as more
the one profoundly interested in harmony between Jew and Gentile in the
Christian Church — the harmony to which emphasis on circumcision posed
a threat — and less the crusader against some proto-Pelagian brand of
works-righteousness. It seems increasingly likely that the center of
his theology was ecclesiological and not soteriological — a modern
critical insight which if true holds tremendous promise for recovering
a fully Catholic Paul that historically minded Protestants can accept!
And this Paul can be affirmed without sacrificing the crucial later
insights of St. Augustine on grace, election and original sin. 
It is clear that good use of biblical criticism holds
great promise not only for theology but for preaching and ministering
to the Word as well. But Catholic homilists often are unable to make
skillful use of the best of modern scholarship in unpacking the riches
of God’s word. This is because the visions of Pius XII and Benedict XVI
for Catholic biblical studies ironically have been realized more in
conservative evangelical circles than in Catholic ones. A Protestant
groomed in nearly any confessional tradition will naturally gravitate
to the biblical authors as normative theologians and will tend
immediately to appreciate the doctrinal, pastoral and homiletic
applications of his work. But in Catholic circles both in the U.S. and
Europe it must be candidly admitted that exegesis is usually practiced
far more as a technical philological and literary discipline than a
theological one. Early historical critics like Raymond Brown did
advance some biblical theology but often in a way that pointed out
holes below the water line in the bark of patristic and scholastic
theology while doing little to suggest how the leaky hull might be
patched up. Because of the mutual mistrust and the fragmentation in the
academy, Catholic exegesis has tended to pay only passing attention to
Catholic theology, while Catholic theology often makes precious little
use of the results of biblical scholars. Because of the
compartmentalization, very few contemporary theologians wade
comfortably both in fields of scripture and systematic theology.
Scripture as “the soul of sacred theology” remains a future hope rather
than a present reality.
But there is every reason to be optimistic for the future
of Catholic biblical scholarship. Benedict has never wavered in his
belief that the Bible itself is fundamentally one with the living
tradition of the Church — both in her later theology and her worship in
the liturgy. This oneness is an ontological fact rooted in the
incarnation of Christ and an historical fact rooted in the very nature
of revelation. It is, in short, not merely one of a chorus of scholarly
hypotheses. Benedict is quite aware that it will take some time for
scholarship to catch up so to speak with “faith’s hermeneutic.” When
this takes place the Church will have shown thather interpretive
traditions are not only the oldest and the most venerable but also the
only ones that can survive a thoroughgoing critical scrutiny. Catholic
readings of Scripture will be at once most in keeping with true
Christian teaching and living but also the most academically
respectable. When this occurs, the Church will have put to rest the
historical challenge to the veracity of the Holy Scriptures and will
have enriched her knowledge of the Bible immeasurably. Benedict’s
corpus suggests many philosophical and exegetical avenues for how this
might ultimately be done. As the ideas of Benedict begin to make their
mark on the Church, we may well be on the cusp of a golden age in
Catholic biblical study.
1 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Relationship between
Magisterium and Exegetes,” Address to Pontifical Biblical Commission in
L’Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English (July 23, 2003) 8.
2 R. Bultmann, “The Primitive Christian Kerygma and the
Historical Jesus,” in C.E. Braaten and R. Harrisville, The Historical
Jesus and the Kerygmatic Christ (New York: Abingdon, 1964) 15-42.
3 Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: The Ratzinger
Conference on the Bible and the Church ed. Richard John Neuhaus (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989) 114.
4 Biblical Interpretation in Crisis 133 “We can only give
the Gospel to our age if we have an answer to the fundamental ideas of
5 L.T Johnson, “So What’s Catholic about it?” in
Commonweal January 16, 1998.
6 J Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One: An Approach to a
Spiritual Christology, (San Francisco: Ignatius 1987) 44-45.
7 Biblical Interpretation in Crisis, 6- 16.
8 Brown for his part would wholeheartedly agree with this
critique. See Biblical Interpretation in Crisis, 123. But in evaluating
his own magisterial work Introduction to the New Testament at least one
of his peers found its ecclesial sense lacking. It was a good as
historical critical treatment but offered little in the way of
contemporary pastoral and theological applications of Biblical text.
See The Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship, 146.
9 Biblical Interpretation in Crisis, 129 see also J.
Ratzinger, The Nature and Mission of Theology. (San Francisco: Ignatius
2002) 45-50 for the dependence of all theology upon the Church.
10 Biblical Interpretation in Crisis, 17.
11 J. Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology (San
Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987) 321. In truth, this is the premise of
Benedict’s own approach as private theologian and not necessarily as
the leading Church official. However, a study of his writings finds
that he thinks that the primacy of Scripture is enshrined in Vatican II
as well and thus normative for the Church.
12 L.T. Johnson, The Future of Catholic Biblical
Scholarship, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2002). Use of the fathers and
doctors seems no more a salient feature of Johnson’s own writings than
the rest of Catholic exegesis however.
13 See for instance D. Pao, Acts and the Isaianic New
Exodus, (Grand Rapids: Baker 2002).
14 S. Hahn, “Kingdom and Church in Luke Acts: From Davidic
Christology to Kingdom Ecclesiology,” in Reading Luke: Interpretation,
Reflection, Formation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2005).
15 For a popular survey of the New Perspective on Paul see
N.T. Wright, What Paul Really Said (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1997).
Mr. Peter Brown has degrees from Yale University and
Franciscan University of Steubenville. Currently he works as a research
intern at Catholics United for the Faith and is a freelance writer and
lecturer on a wide variety of theological topics. He will soon be
pursuing doctoral studies in Scripture and Biblical theology at
Catholic University of America. He is married to Elizabeth who is
active in post-abortion speaking and ministry. They live in
Steubenville, Ohio. This is Mr. Brown’s first article for HPR.
On Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures by Joseph Ratzinger
Comments by George
November 22, 2006
Publication Date: November 20, 2006
On Monday evening, November 20, Pope Benedict XVI's newest
and the Crisis of Cultures, was introduced at a conference at
the United Nations co-sponsored by Ignatius Press, Edizioni Cantagalli,
the Path to Peace Foundation, and the Sublacense Life and Family
Foundation. Speakers included Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy
See Permanent Observer at the U.N.; Professor Marcello Pera, Senator of
the Italian Republic; and EPPC Senior Fellow George Weigel, whose
A close reading of Christianity and the
Crisis of Cultures suggests that, several years before his
now-famous lecture at the University of Regensburg, Pope Benedict XVI
was distilling a lifetime of reflection on the relationship between
faith and reason, and on the cultural consequences of a collapse of
both faith and reason, into a challenge of prime importance for the
In the controversy immediately following the Regensburg
lecture, attention was focused almost exclusively on the Holy Father's
analysis of certain theological tendencies in Islam and their unhappy
consequences in the world of politics. Yet that remarkably cogent
lecture, which is in a direct line of continuity with the book we are
presenting tonight, was in fact addressed at least as much to the West
as to Islam. Yes, the Pope warned that an unreasonable faith is a real
and present danger to the world -- a faith, for example, in which God
can be imagined capable of commanding the irrational, like the murder
of innocents. But so, the Pope argued at Regensburg, is a loss of faith
in reason: that, too, is a real and present danger. If, for example,
the West limits the concept of "reason" to a purely instrumental
rationality, or, in a fit of postmodern self-indulgence, denies the
human capacity to grasp the truth of anything with certainty, then the
West will be unable to defend itself. Why? Because it will be unable to
give an account of its political commitments and their moral
foundations, to itself, or to those who would replace the free
societies of the West with a very different pattern of human community,
based on a very different idea of God -- and, consequently, of the just
These, of course, are points that Joseph Ratzinger has
been making for years, indeed decades. In Christianity and the Crisis
of Cultures, he synthesizes his arguments into a series of finely-tuned
propositions on which all men and women of good will would do well to
reflect. Among the most important of these propositions I would list
the following, illustrating each with a brief citation from the book:
Proposition 1: We live in a moment of dangerous imbalance
in the relationship between the West's technological capabilities and
the West's moral understanding.
Thus Ratzinger writes, "Moral strength has not grown in
tandem with the development of science; on the contrary, it has
diminished, because the technological mentality confines morality to
the subjective sphere. Our need, however, is for a public morality, a
morality capable of responding to the threats that impose such a burden
on the existence of us all. The true and gravest danger of the present
moment is precisely this imbalance between technological possibilities
and moral energy" [p. 27].
Proposition 2: The moral and political lethargy we sense
in much of Europe today is one by-product of Europe's disdain for the
Christian roots of its unique civilization, a disdain which has
contributed in various ways to the decline of what was once the center
of world culture and world-historical initiative.
Thus Ratzinger writes, "...Europe has developed a culture
that, in a manner hitherto unknown to mankind, excludes God from public
awareness...God is irrelevant to public life...[This contemporary
European culture] is the most radical contradiction not only of
Christianity, but of all the religious and moral traditions of
Proposition 3: The abandonment of Europe's Christian roots
implies the abandonment of the idea of "Europe" as a
civilizational enterprise constructed from the fruitful interaction of
Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. This infidelity to the past has led, in
turn, to a truncated idea of reason, and of the human capacity to know,
however imperfectly, the truth of things, including the moral truth of
things. There is a positivism shaping (and misshaping) much of Western
thought today -- a positivism that excludes all transcendent moral
reference points from public life. Ratzinger asks whether such a
positivism in an exercise of what the Canadian philosopher Charles
Taylor describes as "exclusive humanism," and then asks whether such an
exclusivist humanism, is, itself, rational. His answer is a resounding
"No." As he writes, "This philosophy expresses, not the complete reason
of man, but only one part of it. And this mutilation of reason means
that we cannot consider it to be rational at all. Hence it is
incomplete and can recover its health only through reestablishing
contact with its roots. A tree without roots dries up..." [p.43].
And so, evidently, do civilizations.
Proposition 4: The recovery of reason in the West would be
facilitated by a reflection on the fact that the Christian concept of
God as Logos helped shape the distinct civilization of the West as a
synthesis of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome. If men and women have
forgotten that they can, in fact, think their way through to the truth
of things, that may have something to do with the European
forgetfulness of God which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn identified as the
source of Europe’s 20th century civilizational distress.
Thus Ratzinger writes, "From the very beginning,
Christianity has understood itself to be the religion of the Logos, to
be a religion in keeping with reason...[But] a reason that has its
origin in the irrational and is itself ultimately irrational does not
offer a solution to our problems. Only that creative reason which has
manifested itself as love in the crucified God can truly show us what
life is" [ pp. 47, 49]
Then, in light of these propositions, the Holy Father lays
down a challenge:
"In the age of the Enlightenment, the attempt was made to
understand and define the essential norms of morality by saying that
they would be valid etsi Deus non daretur, even if God did not
exist...[Today], we must...reverse the axiom of the Enlightenment and
say: Even the one who does not succeed in finding the path to accepting
the existence of God ought nevertheless to try to live and to direct
his life veluti si Deus daretur, as if God did indeed exist. This is
the advice Pascal gave to his nonbelieving friends, and it is the
advice I should like to give to our friends today who do not believe.
This does not impose limitations on anyone's freedom; it gives support
to all our human affairs and supplies a criterion of which human life
stands sorely in need " [pp. 50, 51-52].
In his fine introduction to Christianity and the Crisis of
Cultures, Senator Marcello Pera takes up Pope Benedict's challenge and
issues a clarion call for moral and cultural renewal throughout the
"This proposal should be accepted, this challenge
welcomed, for one basic reason: because the one outside the Church who
acts [as if God did indeed exist] becomes more responsible in moral
terms. He will no longer say that an embryo is a 'thing' or a 'lump of
cells' or 'genetic material.' He will no longer say that the
elimination of an embryo or a fetus does not infringe any rights. He
will no longer say that a desire that can be satisfied by some
technical means is automatically a right that should be claimed and
granted. He will no longer say that all scientific and technological
progress is per se a liberation or a moral advance. He will no longer
say that the only rationality and the only form of life outside the
Church are scientific rationality and an existence bereft of values. He
will no longer act as only half a man, one lacerated and divided. He
will no longer think that a democracy consisting of the mere counting
of numbers is an adequate substitute for wisdom" [pp. 18-19].
How might such decisions to live "as if God did indeed
exist" effect the needed changes in the civilizational morale of the
West -- and particularly the civilizational morale of Europe, the
progenitor of the West? In their jointly authored book, Without Roots,
Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera agreed, in a variant on Arnold
Toynbee's theory of historical change, that a "creative minority" of
men and women, convinced that the truths the West lives politically are
truths susceptible to rational defense, can be the agents of Europe's
rebirth as a culturally self-confident civilization, capable of giving
an account of its democratic political aspirations -- which is to say,
a civilization willing to face squarely and respond imaginatively to
the threat posed by the aggressive elements of the far different
civilizational project now housed within it.
With the dust settled after the Regensburg lecture,
perhaps we can see that Pope Benedict, in cooperation with men like
Senator Pera, has for some time now been trying to give the world a
precious gift: a vocabulary through which a serious, global discussion
of both the crisis of technological civilization in the West and the
crisis posed by jihadist ideology and its lethal expressions around the
world can be engaged by believers and nonbelievers alike -- the
vocabulary of "rationality" and "irrationality." If Europe begins to
recover its faith in reason, then at least some in Europe may, in time,
rediscover the reasonableness of faith; and in any event, a renewed
faith in reason would provide an antidote to the spiritual boredom from
which Europe is dying -- and thus open the prospect of a new birth of
freedom in Europe, and throughout the West.
Benedict XVI has been trying to remind the world that
societies and cultures are only as great as their spiritual
aspirations. It is not an act of ingratitude toward the achievements of
the Enlightenment to suggest that the soul-withering secularism -- the
exclusivist humanism -- that has grown out of one stream of
Enlightenment thought threatens the future of the West, precisely
because it prevents us from giving an account, to ourselves and our
children and grandchildren, of the noble political ends embodied in the
western democratic tradition. As Marcello Pera put it in Without Roots,
"Absolute [worldliness], supposing there is such a thing, is an
absolute vacuum in which neither the happy majority nor the creative
minorities can exist."
I dislike the role of Jeremiah, as I am sure Pope Benedict
does. But it is neither cynicism nor despair to note that two possible
Dark Ages loom on the horizon of the 22nd century: there is the Dark
Age of a technologically manufactured and morally stunted humanity,
created by the unwise deployment of the new, Promethean knowledge given
us by genetics; and there is the Dark Age in which an anti-humanistic
theism fills the vacuum created by atheistic humanism and extinguishes
the western experiment in freedom whose deepest roots run to the
Christian civilization of the Middle Ages. Neither is inevitable; both
can and must be resisted, with all the tools of wit and wisdom at our
disposal. We are fortunate to have, in Pope Benedict XVI, such a wise
guide through the thickets before us; and, if I may say, we are also
blessed to have a companion on the journey such as Senator Pera, who
can invite those who do not belong to the household of faith to the
pilgrimage toward a more humane future proposed by Benedict XVI.
8 Keys to Reading Joseph
Suggested by Archbishop Forte
ROME, JUNE 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Bruno Forte of
Chieti-Vasto recently presented eight keys for reading Joseph
Ratzinger's theological work.
The archbishop, a member of the International Theological Commission,
presented his ideas at the closing the first course of Specialization
in Religious Information, organized by the University of the Holy Cross.
The prelate began his address June 17 by presenting, as the first key,
an analysis of the historical and cultural context in which the
theological work matured of the man who today is Benedict XVI.
After 1968, when the "age of utopia" and its vision of an essentially
"useless" God came to the fore, Ratzinger's work began to develop its
anti-ideological conviction, said Archbishop Forte, 56.
Moreover, after 1989, when the "age of disenchantment" and the idea of
the "death" of God prevailed, Ratzinger's challenge was to "propose
horizons of meaning, joy and hope," the Italian archbishop said.
During this period, Joseph Ratzinger elaborated the concept of "Deus
caritas," which shows that the topic of his first encyclical was "long
in maturing," observed Archbishop Forte.
The second key is the task Joseph Ratzinger assumed with his theology:
"to give witness with the service of the intelligence to the Word amid
the words of men," that is, "a 'diakonia' [service] to truth in the
house of truth," namely, the Church.
In fact, "God is not found in solitude" but in a "community that
remembers and narrates and which, at the same time, interprets the
truth that has been transmitted to us," said Archbishop Forte.
The third key is the meaning of believing. Quoting Ratzinger himself,
in his "Introduction to Christianity," Archbishop Forte said that to
believe "means to give one's assent to that sense that we are not
capable of building ourselves, but only to receive it as a gift, so
that it is enough to accept him and abandon ourselves to him."
Illustrating the fourth key to the reading, the archbishop said that
the God in whom one believes, can only be a personal god, God the
Father, who is revealed in biblical history as the living God, that is,
the God of Jesus Christ. An unknown God cannot be loved. Only a
personal one can be loved, one who addresses us and who, at the same
time, we can address.
In this context, the relationship between man and God must be
characterized by the move from "dualism," which has opposed the human
and the divine, faith and reason, in many periods of the modern spirit,
to "meeting" and correspondence.
According to the fifth key of Ratzinger's thought, "the human and
divine meet but are not confused in Jesus Christ," noted the prelate.
God is not the answer to man's expectation, but is always superior; "he
is the beyond who overtakes, disconcerts and troubles us."
The sixth key is the vision of the Church as the place where God
dwells. "The Church must always live in docility to the Spirit and must
be ready to acknowledge resistances to the Spirit," Archbishop Forte
observed, indicating the importance of admitting faults of the past.
The seventh key, the vision of the beyond, eschatology, is a "dominant
theme in Ratzinger's thought" and affects first of all the identity of
the Christian: "a prisoner of the future of God," who must measure his
decisions on the horizon of the infinite God, according to the
In this connection, "the Christian lives in an anticipated and
anticipating experience of the last things," through faith and the
sacraments, but is also "critical reserve" because at times the
Christian goes against the current.
The last stage illustrated by Archbishop Forte was the image that
summarizes this theological work -- Mary -- synthesis of ecclesiology:
"a concrete and personal icon in which the coordinates of Christian
thought are expressed."
The archbishop concluded his address highlighting the differences
between Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. If Pope Karol Wojtyla was a
personalist anthropologist, he said, then Pope Joseph Ratzinger is a
theologian who is "almost a catechist," bearer of the possibility of
the meeting of different traditions and cultures.
The course of Specialization in Religious Information took place March
3-June 16. During the course, professors of several pontifical
universities and athenaeums of Rome alternated in addressing topics
relative to religious information, to offer some keys to its reading in
order to understand the Catholic Church better.
The Question of Suffering,
the Response of the Cross | By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
An excerpt from God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald by
[Seewald:] We are used to thinking of suffering as something we try to
avoid at all costs. And there is nothing that many societies get more
angry about than the Christian idea that one should bear with pain,
should endure suffering, should even sometimes give oneself up to it,
in order thereby to overcome it. "Suffering", John Paul II believes,
"is a part of the mystery of being human." Why is this?
[Cardinal Ratzinger:] Today what people have in view is eliminating
suffering from the world. For the individual, that means avoiding pain
and suffering in whatever way. Yet we must also see that it is in this
very way that the world becomes very hard and very cold. Pain is part
of being human. Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would
have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no
love without suffering, because it always demands an element of
self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama
of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.
When we know that the way of love––this exodus, this going out of
oneself-is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also
understand that suffering is the process through which we mature.
Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more
understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has
consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he
becomes hard and selfish.
Love itself is a passion, something we endure. In love experience first
a happiness, a general feeling of happiness.
Yet on the other hand, I am taken out of my comfortable tranquility and
have to let myself be reshaped. If we say that suffering is the inner
side of love, we then also understand it is so important to learn how
to suffer––and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders
someone unfit to cope with life. He would be left with an existential
emptiness, which could then only be combined with bitterness, with
rejection and no longer with any inner acceptance or progress toward
[Seewald:] What would actually have happened if Christ had not appeared
and if he had not died on the tree of the Cross? Would the world long
since have come to ruin without him?
[Cardinal Ratzinger:] That we cannot say. Yet we can say that man would
have no access to God. He would then only be able to relate to God in
occasional fragmentary attempts. And, in the end, he would not know who
or what God actually is.
Something of the light of God shines through in the great religions of
the world, of course, and yet they remain a matter of fragments and
questions. But if the question about God finds no answer, if the road
to him is blocked, if there is no forgiveness, which can only come with
the authority of God himself, then human life is nothing but a
meaningless experiment. Thus, God himself has parted the clouds at a
certain point. He has turned on the light and has shown us the way that
is the truth, that makes it possible for us to live and that is life
[Seewald:] The soldiers abuse Jesus in a way we can hardly imagine. All
hatred, everything bestial in man, utterly abysmal, the most horrible
things men can do to one another, is obviously unloaded onto this man.
[Cardinal Ratzinger:] Jesus stands for all victims of brute force. In
the twentieth century itself we have seen again how inventive human
cruelty can be; how cruelty, in the act of destroying the image of man
in others, dishonors and destroys that image in itself. The fact that
the Son of God took all this upon himself in exemplary manner, as the
"Lamb of God", is bound to make us shudder at the cruelty of man, on
one hand, and make us think carefully about ourselves, how far we are
willing to stand by as cowardly or silent onlookers, or how far we
share responsibility ourselves. On the other side, it is bound to
transform us and to make us rejoice in God. He has put himself on the
side of the innocent and the suffering and would like to see us
standing there too.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the Prefect of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
A widely acclaimed theologian and author, he has written many important
books on theological and spiritual themes. Ignatius Press has published
twenty of his books in English. His most recent Ignatius Press book is
Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, a masterful
study of the challenge of truth, tolerance, religion and culture in the
Joseph Ratzinger's Primer on Ecclesiology
Interview With Ave Maria University's Father Matthew
NAPLES, Florida, JUNE 23, 2005 (Zenit.org).- When
Joseph Ratzinger released his book "Called to Communion: Understanding
the Church Today," he called it a primer of Catholic ecclesiology.
In it, the future Benedict XVI outlined the origin
essence of the Church, the role of the papacy and the primacy of Peter,
and the Body of Christ's unity and "communio."
Father Matthew Lamb, director of the graduate school
theology and professor of theology at Ave Maria University, shared an
of some of those themes as they appear in Cardinal Ratzinger's book.
Q: What is Cardinal Ratzinger's understanding of the
and essence of the Church, as outlined in his book?
Father Lamb: Reading "Called to Communion" is a
for mind and heart.
At the time of its release, Cardinal Ratzinger
it a "primer of Catholic ecclesiology." As with his other theological
this book beautifully recovers for our time the great Catholic
of wisdom, of attunement to the "whole" of the Triune God's creative
"Catholic" means living out of the "whole" of this
presence. Such a sapiential approach shows how the New Covenant draws
and fulfills the covenant with Israel. Israel was chosen and led out of
Egypt in order to worship the true and only God and thus witness to all
In his preaching, teaching and actions, Jesus Christ
the messianic promises. At the last supper Our Lord initiated the New
in his most sacred body and blood. Ratzinger wrote in "Called to
"Jesus announces the collapse of the old ritual and … promises a new,
worship whose center will be his own glorified body."
Jesus announces the eternal Kingdom of God as "the
action of God" in his own divine person incarnate. As the Father sends
Jesus Christ, so Jesus in turn sends his apostles and disciples.
The origin of the Church is Jesus Christ who sends
Church forth as the Father sent him. The Apostles and disciples, with
successors down the ages, form the Church as the "ecclesia," the
of the "people of God."
Drawing upon his own doctoral dissertation on the
in the theology of St. Augustine, Ratzinger shows that the people of
are what St. Paul calls the "body of Christ." The essence of the Church
is the people of God as the Body of Christ, head and members united by
the Holy Spirit in visible communion with the successors of the
united with the Pope as successor to Peter.
The Church continues down the ages the visible and
missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit through preaching and teaching,
the sanctifying sacraments and the unifying governance of her communion
with the successor of Peter.
Q: In "Called to Communion," what were his thoughts
the role of the Pope in the Church?
Father Lamb: "You are Peter and on this rock I will
my Church … I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven." In
16:17-19, these true words of the Lord Jesus transcend confessional
From them Ratzinger brings out the role of the Pope.
Reflecting on the commission given to Peter he sees
he is commissioned to forgive sins. As he writes in "Called to
it is a commission to dispense "the grace of forgiveness. It
the Church. The Church is founded upon forgiveness. Peter himself is
personal embodiment of this truth, for he is permitted to be the bearer
of the keys after having stumbled, confessed and received the grace of
Q: What did Cardinal Ratzinger note about the
of Peter and the unity of the Church?
Father Lamb: He first shows the mission of Peter in
whole of the New Testament tradition. The essence of apostleship is
to the resurrection of Jesus. Ratzinger shows the primacy of Peter in
role, as attested by St. Paul who, even when confronting St. Peter,
him in First Corinthians 15:5 as "Cephas" -- the Aramaic word for
-- in his witness to the risen Lord.
As such he is the guarantor of the one common
All the synoptic Gospels agree in giving Peter the primacy in their
of apostles. The mission of Peter is above all to embody the unity of
apostles in their witness to the risen Lord and the mission he
As Ratzinger states in "Called to Communion," later
sees or bishoprics identified with apostles become pre-eminent and, as
Irenaeus testifies in the second century, these sees are to acknowledge
the decisive criterion exercised by "the Church of Rome, where Peter
Paul suffered martyrdom. It was with this Church that every community
to agree; Rome was the standard of the authentic apostolic tradition as
Q: How does the papacy facilitate communion or
in the Church?
Father Lamb: The papacy facilitates "communio"
by witnessing to the transcendent reality of the risen Lord. This was
in the first successors to Peter. Like him, they witnessed to the
Peter received -- many early popes were martyred.
The keys of the Kingdom are the words of forgiveness
God can truly empower. The papacy promotes communion by fidelity to the
truth of the gospel and the redemptive sacramental mission of
In "Called to Communion" Ratzinger writes: "By his death Jesus has
the stone over the mouth of death, which is the power of hell, so that
from his death the power of forgiveness flows without cease."
Later Ratzinger returns to this theme of the need of
apostles and their successors for forgiveness as they are given a
only the Triune God could fulfill.
His words in "Called to Communion," then, find a
after he was elected Benedict XVI: "The men in question" -- the
-- "are so glaringly, so blatantly unequal to this function" -- of
rock solid in their faith and practice -- "that the very empowerment of
man to be the rock makes evident how little it is they who sustain the
Church but God alone who does so, who does so more in spite of men than
Only through such forgiveness in total fidelity to
Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will full communion in
the Body of Christ come about. Ratzinger's "Eucharistic ecclesiology"
the Fathers of Church in uniting the vertical dimension of the risen
and blood, soul and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist with the
dimension of the gathering of the followers of Christ.
"The Fathers summed up these two aspects --
and gathering -- in the word 'communio,' which is once more returning
favor today," Ratzinger wrote.
Q: In his first statement, Pope Benedict said he
to pursue the commitment to enact the Second Vatican Council. What does
Father Lamb: It means that he is fully committed to
his predecessors in enacting the teachings of Vatican II. He sees the
as a "compass" with which to embark on the third millennium of
We do not need another Council -- the Church is still drawing upon the
riches of Vatican II.
He also indicates how this enactment is truly
or according to the "whole." For such an enacting can only occur "in
continuity with the two- thousand-year tradition of the Church." Only
communion with the whole Church as the body of Christ down the ages "do
we encounter the real Christ."
Cardinal Ratzinger vigorously counteracted those
and others who misread Vatican II as a break from the Church's past.
to ground such misreading in the texts of the Council itself, they
resorted to such terms as the "spirit" or "style" of the Council. The
pledges that he will follow his predecessors in promoting the genuine
of the Council within the whole of the Catholic tradition.
Q: In the same statement, Pope Benedict struck a
of collegiality. What is his understanding of the papacy and the role
plays in it?
Father Lamb: The relation between the pope and the
of bishops is the continuation of the primacy of Peter among the Twelve
As he stated: "As Peter and the other apostles were,
the will of the Lord, one apostolic college, in the same way the
of Peter and the bishops, successors of the apostles -- and the Council
forcefully repeated this -- must be closely united among themselves."
This unity and collegiality is, as the Pope remarks,
solely with proclaiming to the world the living presence of Christ."
first statement of the Holy Father illustrates how his theology is born
from his own profound friendship with Jesus Christ in his total
to the mission Jesus entrusted to his Church.
Q: What did Cardinal Ratzinger outline as the nature
bishop and priest in his book "Called to Communion"?
Father Lamb: The Eucharist and the other sacraments
not something any human person by his own powers can do truthfully. The
Word Incarnate in Christ Jesus is the only one who can truthfully speak
"This is my body" or "Your sins are forgiven." Only because Jesus sent
forth his apostles as he was sent by the Father do we have a Church
The Church as Eucharistic can only be found in
with the bishops as successors of the apostles. Gathered around the
the Church is Eucharist. It is always both local and universal, just as
it unites the vertical and horizontal.
Cardinal Ratzinger has emphasized that the
of the Church was present in Jesus Christ as the Word Incarnate. The
is Eucharist -- each local community celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of
the Mass is taken up within the whole Christ embracing all of the
throughout all time. At Mass we invoke the heavenly hosts as well as
Lady and all the saints, as well as praying for the dead.
No local community on its own can give itself a
any more than it is simply a celebration of itself cut off from the
Catholic Church. The consecration of bishops make evident how they are
in communion with the successor of Peter and receive their mission from
the Lord himself mediated down the ages in communion with the apostles
themselves who were called by Jesus.
Benedict XVI referred to this in his beautiful first
as Pope reflecting on his being called to be a successor of Peter: "We
have been thinking in these hours about what happened in Caesarea of
2000 year ago: 'You are Christ the Son of the living God,' and the
affirmation of the Lord: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build
Church … I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.'"
Like the Holy Father, each bishop is entrusted with
mission of fostering the unity and the catholicity of the Church
to his care. Without unity, as Ratzinger observes, there would be no
holiness, for this demands the gifted love that is the bond of unity.
The bishop must cultivate an ever-deepening union
Christ -- like the apostles he must be "Christ's contemporary" -- for
he would only be an ecclesiastical functionary.
Similarly, ordained priests share in the mission of
bishops just as chosen disciples shared in the mission of the apostles.
As genuine apostolic activity is not the product of their own
so it is with ordained bishops and priests.
It is Christ speaking and acting through them as his
when they teach true doctrine, celebrate the sacraments, and govern
They can call "nothing" their own. It is all Christ's presence and
just as all he had is from the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Ratzinger sums this up well in "Called to
"This is precisely what we mean when we call the ordination of priests
a sacrament: ordination is not about the development of one's own
and gifts. It is not the appointment of a man as a functionary because
he is especially good at it, or because it suits him, or simply because
it strikes him as a good way to earn his bread. …
"Sacrament means: I give what I myself cannot give;
do something that is not my work; I am on a mission and have become a
of that which another has committed to my charge."
As with the bishop, so the "foundation of priestly
is a deep personal bond to Jesus Christ."
Some of the Works written by Joseph Ratzinger,
Pope Benedict XVI
This list is by no means complete:
Werte in Zeiten des Umbruchs(En: 'Values in a Time
Changes'), Freiburg im Breisgau 2005, ISBN
Unterwegs zu Jesus Christus (En: 'On the Way to Jesus
Christ'), Augsburg 2003, ISBN 3-936-48421-X
Glaube - Wahrheit - Toleranz. Das Christentum und die
Weltreligionen (En: 'Truth And Tolerance: Christian Belief And World
2. Aufl., Freiburg i. Brsg. 2003, ISBN 3-451-28110-4
Gott ist uns nah. Eucharistie: Mitte des Lebens (En:
'God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life'). Hrsg. von Horn,
Otto/ Pfnür, Vinzenz, Augsburg 2001.
Gott und die Welt. Glauben und Leben in unserer Welt.
Ein Gespräch mit Peter Seewald (En: 'God and the World: A
With Peter Seewald'), Köln 2000.
Der Geist der Liturgie. Eine Einführung (En: 'The
Spirit of the Liturgy'), 4. Aufl., Freiburg i. Brsg. 2000.
Vom Wiederauffinden der Mitte. Texte aus vier
(En: 'Recovering the Centre. A Selection of the Writings of Four
Freiburg i. Brsg. 1997.
Salz der Erde. Christentum und katholische Kirche an
der Jahrtausendwende. Ein Gespräch mit Peter Seewald (En: 'Salt of
the Earth. Christianity and the Catholic Church at the Turn of the
A Conversation with Peter Seewald.'), Wilhelm Heyne Verlag,
1996, ISBN 3-453-14845-2
Wahrheit, Werte, Macht. Prüfsteine der
Gesellschaft (En: 'Truth, Values, Power: The Cornerstones of a
Society'), Freiburg/ Basel/ Wien 1993.
Zur Gemeinschaft gerufen. Kirche heute verstehen (En:
'Called to Communion. Understanding the Church Today.'), Freiburg/
Auf Christus schauen. Ein übung in Glaube,
Liebe (En: 'To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love')
Basel/ Wien 1989.
Abbruch und Aufbruch. Die Antwort des Glaubens auf die
Krise der Werte (En: 'Deconstruction and Awakening. The Answer of Faith
to the Crisis of Values'), München 1988.
Kirche, Ökumene und Politik. Neue Versuche zur
[Robert Spaemann zum 60. Geburtstag zugeeignet], (En: 'Church, Ecumen
Politics. New Endeavours in Ecclesiology' [dedicated to Robert Spaemann
on his 60. birthday]) Einsiedeln 1987.
Politik und Erlösung. Zum Verhältnis von
Rationalität und Irrationalem in der sogenannten Theologie der
(= Rheinisch-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften: G
Bd. 279) (En: 'Politics and Deliverance. On the Relations of Faith,
and the Irrational in so-called Liberation Theology'), Opladen 1986.
Theologische Prinzipienlehre. Bausteine zur
(= Wewelbuch, Bd. 80) (En: 'Principles of Catholic Theology: Building
for a Fundamental Theology'), München 1982.
Das Fest des Glaubens. Versuche zur Theologie des
(En: 'Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy'), 2.
Eschatologie, Tod und ewiges Leben (En: 'Eschatology,
Death, and Eternal Life'), Leipzig 1981. See: Eschatology (book).
Glaube, Erneuerung, Hoffnung. Theologisches Nachdenken
über die heutige Situation der Kirche. Hrsg. von Kraning, Willi
'Faith, Renewal, Hope. Theological Contemplations on the Present
of the Church'), Leipzig 1981.
Umkehr zur Mitte. Meditationen eines Theologen (En:
back towards the Centre. A Theologian's Meditations'),Leipzig 1981.
Zum Begriff des Sakramentes (= Eichstätter
Bd. 79) (En: On the Concept of the Sacrament'), München 1979.
Die Tochter Zion. Betrachtungen über den
der Kirche (En: 'Daughter Zion. Contemplations on the Church's Worship
of Mary'), Einsiedeln 1977.
Der Gott Jesu Christi. Betrachtungen über den
Gott (En: 'God of Jesus Christ.'), München 1976.
Das neue Volk Gottes. Entwürfe zur Ekklesiologie
(Topos-Taschenbücher, Bd. 1) (En: 'God"s New People. Concepts for
Ecclesiology') Düsseldorf 1972.
Die Einheit der Nationen. Eine Vision der
(En: 'The Unity of the Nations. A Vision of the Church Fathers'),
Das Problem der Dogmengeschichte in der Sicht der
Theologie (= Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschungen des Landes
Geisteswissenschaften, Bd. 139) (En: 'The Problem of Dogmatism from the
Point of View of Catholic Theology'), Köln u.a. 1966.
Die letzte Sitzungsperiode des Konzils (= Konzil, Bd.
4) (En: 'The Council's Last Session'), Köln 1966.
Ereignisse und Probleme der dritten Konzilsperiode (=
Konzil, Bd. 3), (En: 'Events and Issues of the Third Session of the
Die erste Sitzungsperiode des Zweiten Vatikanischen
Ein Rückblick (= Konzil, Bd. 1) (En: 'The First Session of the
Vatican Council. A Retrospective'), Köln 1963.
Das Konzil auf dem Weg. Rückblick auf die 2.
des 2. Vatikanischen Konzils (= Konzil, Bd. 2) (En: 'The Council in
Retrospective of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council'),
Die christliche Brüderlichkeit (En: 'The Meaning
of Christian Brotherhood'), München 1960.
Die Geschichtstheologie des heiligen Bonaventura
(En: 'The Historical Theology of Saint Bonaventura'), München u.a.
Volk und Haus Gottes in Augustins Lehre von der Kirche
(diss. 1951) (En: 'The People and Mansion of God as Presented in
Doctrine of the Church'), München 1954.
Dogma und Verkündigung (En: 'Dogma and
Einführung in das Christentum (En: 'Introduction
to Christianity') (1968, 2000)
(This list is not complete. It appears to begin only with 1978.
There is no mention of "Introduction to Christianity".)
God of Jesus Christ (1978)
The Ratzinger Report ISBN 0-89870-080-9 (1985)
Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy
Principles of Christian Morality (1986)
Journey Towards Easter: Retreat Given in the Vatican
in the Presence of Pope John Paul II (1987)
Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for
a Fundamental Theology (1987)
Eschatology - Death and Eternal Life, Volume 9 in the
series: Johann Auer and Joseph Ratzinger, Dogmatic Theology, ISBN
(Washington, D.C. 1988)
Mary: God's Yes to Man : Pope John Paul II Encyclical
Letter : Mother of the Redeemer (1988)
"In the Beginning...": A Catholic Understanding of the
Story of Creation and the Fall (1990)
To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love
Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of
the Year (1992)
The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood (1993)
A Turning Point for Europe?: The Church in the Modern
World-Assessment and Forecast (1994)
The Nature and Mission of Theology: Essays to Orient
Theology in Today's Debates (1995)
Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today
Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism: Sidelights on the
of the Catholic Church (1997)
Salt of the Earth: an interview with Peter Seewald ISBN
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Corrigenda (1998)
Ad Tuendam Fidem - to Protect the Faith (1998)
Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (1998)
Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and
the World (1999)
The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000)
God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald
God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life (2003)
Truth And Tolerance: Christian Belief And World
The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God
Pilgrim Fellowship Of Faith: The Church As Communion
Europa: I suoi fondamenti oggi e domani (2004)
Papal Copyright Goes to Vatican Publishing House
Includes Writings of Benedict XVI and Joseph
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican
House henceforth will officially oversee the copyright of the writings
of the Pope and the magisterial works of the Holy See.
The publishing house will also assume similar
over the books and documents written by Joseph Ratzinger, the Holy See
For his part, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican
of state, today issued a decree in which he entrusted the Vatican
House with "the exercise and protection, in perpetuity and for the
world, of all the moral rights of author and of all the exclusive
to economic utilization, without any exception or exclusion, of all the
acts and documents with which the Holy Father exercises his own
In carrying out this commission, clarified the
the director of the Vatican Publishing House, at present Salesian
Claudio Rossini, "acts in the name and interest of the Holy See," being
able to take recourse even to courts in the case of violation of rights.
Moreover, Cardinal Sodano issued a statement saying
the "Holy Father has entrusted the Vatican Publishing House with the
and protection of the copyright and of all exclusive rights to economic
utilization of the acts, works and writings written by him prior to his
elevation to the Chair of Peter."
The statement adds that, "without prejudicing the
acquired by third parties concerning contracts already concluded with
author, from now on the Vatican Publishing House is also entrusted with
the exercise and protection of the copyright concerning contracts still
55 books in German
In statements to ZENIT, Father Rossini explained
shortly after being elected Pope, John Paul II also entrusted to the
Publishing House the rights to the works he wrote as Karol Wojtyla.
"The difference is that, with Cardinal Ratzinger, we
faced with a very large quantity of books," the priest said. "A
house in Germany told me that there are more or less 55 in German,
in Italian, scattered in bookstores, there are around 43 volumes."
According to the new decree and the new statement,
wishes to publish books or anthologies of Ratzinger's or Benedict XVI's
texts will have to ask permission from the director of the Vatican
Father Rossini said that part of the royalties of
XVI's and Ratzinger's works, as was the case with John Paul II, are
to charitable works.
The Vatican Publishing House can be contacted at
Cardinal Ratzinger's Last Book Unveiled
Work on Europe Penned Before His Papal Election
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The last
by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, written before he was elected Pope, was
"L'Europa de Benedetto nella Crisi delle Culture"
Europe in the Crisis of Cultures) was presented today in the Wedekind
On hand were Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian bishops'
conference, and Marcello Pera, the president of the Italian Senate.
"Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner
by humanity until now, excludes God from the public conscience," states
The 143-page volume, published by the Vatican
House and the Italian Cantagalli Publishers, includes three lectures of
The lectures were given, respectively, in 1992, in
del Grappa, Italy, when he received the School and Catholic Culture
in 1997 when he addressed the Pro-Life Movement of Italy; and on April
1, 2005, on the eve of John Paul II's death, when speaking at the
convent of St. Scholastica in Subiaco.
The latter lecture he gave after being conferred the
Benedict for Europe prize by the Life and Family Foundation of Subiaco.
The three lectures have a common theme: the crisis
cultures and the figure of St. Benedict of Nursia.
When presenting the book, Cardinal Ruini said that
received in Europe its most effective cultural and intellectual
from the historical point of view."
Now, however, this link "is called into question and
the risk of being split by the internal logic of rationality that seems
to prevail in Europe: a scientific and functional rationality,"
In this context, "God does not exist or at least
be proved and, therefore, all reference to God must be excluded from
life," the prelate added.
"At the same time," he added, "the moral conscience
weakened as a valid category in itself: Given that morality is
indispensable to live, the latter no longer takes as reference what is
good or evil in itself, but only takes into account the assessment of
consequences of our behavior, useful or harmful."
According to Cardinal Ruini, the present comparison
place "between this merely scientific and functional rationality and
great historical cultures."
Thus one can explain the rejection of the Christian
of the European Union.
"Such a rationality," the cardinal said, "pretends
be universal, namely, valid for all and self-sufficient, and as such
that Christianity can be in its turn a determinant element in the
of today's Europe."