Monday, November 07, 2005

Workshop: Fundamental Theology: October 31-November 5, 2005:

The Challenge as Seen by Benedict XVI:

“Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution? Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith.”
“Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.
“And I think that the gift, the light of the faith , must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let us call it epochal, struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity.”
“And it seems to me, that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.”

Context in which we find ourselves to do “Fundamental Theology:” Dictatorship of relativism. Cause: hegemony of reductivist positivism.

“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be `tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,’ seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.
“We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An `adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.
“We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love…. Make truth in love [facientes veritatem in charitate]

Necessity of the Mystical (Mystagogia):

Proposition 16” of the “propositions” of the Synod on the Eucharist (October 23, 2005)

Mystagogic Catechesis

[Mystagogy is consciousness of mystery as opposed to the problematic solved by concepts = “systematic understanding”]

“Not neglecting the systematic understanding of the contents of the faith, the ancient tradition of the Church reminds that the Christian journey is experience born from the proclamation and deepened in catechesis, which finds its source and summit in the liturgical celebration. [Mystagogic consciousness develops with the experience of self-giving: the common experience is “knowing” but not being able to say].Faith and sacraments are two complementary aspects of the Church's sanctifying activity. Awakened by the proclamation of the Word of God, faith is nourished and grows in the encounter of grace with the risen Lord in the sacraments[3]. Faith is expressed in the rite, and the rite reinforces and strengthens faith. Hence the exigency of a mystagogic endeavor lived in the community and with its help, which is based on three essential elements: -- Interpretation of the rites in the light of biblical events, in conformity with the tradition of the Church; -- Appreciation of the sacramental signs; -- Meaning of the rites in respect of the Christian commitment in life. It would be desirable to develop the mystagogic method above all with children receiving first communion and confirmation.”

Ratzinger: Interview[4]:

“Why publish a `universal catechism’ in 1992? Were previous catechisms inadequate?

Ratzinger: “The reason is that today we are in a situation exactly like that at the time of the council of Trent, which, held in the middle of the 16th century, marked the dawn of modern times.
“Now we are close to the end of a millennium and in an entirely new historical period, indicated by schemas of thought, science, technology, culture and civilization, breaking completely with all that we knew previously.
“This is why it was necessary to reformulate the logic and the sum total of the Christian faith. This is the fruit of a reflection, over some years, by the universal Church to rethink, re-articulate and bring up-to-date her doctrine.”

“You are, like the Pope, extremely worried by the crisis of faith in modern society. And the new situation in Europe only aggravates the diagnosis since in your last work on Europe you go as far as to say that nihilism is rapidly taking the place of Marxism. How do you analyze this divorce between faith and modernity?

Ratzinger: “It is explained by the encroachment of relativism and subjectivism, an inevitable consequence of a world overwhelmed by the alleged certainties of natural or applied science. Only what can be tested and proved appears as rational. [Sensible] Experience has become the only criterion guaranteeing truth. Anything that cannot be subjected to mathematical or experimental verification is regarded as irrational.
“This restriction of reason has the result that we are left in almost total darkness regarding some essential dimensions of life. The meaning of man, the bases of ethics, the question of God cannot be subjected to rational experience, verified by mathematical formulae. And so they are left to subjective sensibility alone. Thisis serious because if, in a society, the bases of ethical behavior are abandoned to subjectivity alone, released from common motives for being and living, handed over to pragmatism, then it is man himself who is threatened.
The great ideologies have been able to give a certain ethical foundation to socity. But today, Marxism is crumbling and liberal ideology is so split into gragments that it no longer has a common, solid, coherent view of man and his future. In the present situation of emptiness, there looms the terrible danger of nihilism, that is to say, the denial or absence of all fundamental moral reference for the conduct of social life. This danger becomes visible in the new forms of terrorism.”

That is to say…

Ratzinger: “Even though perverted, the political, social terrorism of the 1960’s had a certain kind of moral ideal. But today, the terrorism of drug abuse, of the Mafia, of attacks on foreigners, in Germany and elsewhere, no longer has any moral basis. In this era of sovereign subjectivity, people act for the sole pleasure of acting, without any reference other than the satisfaction of `myself.’
“Just as the terrorism that was born from the Marxism of yesterday put its finger on the anomalies of our social order, in the same way the nihilistic terrorism of today ought to show us the course to be followed for a reflection on the bases of a new ethical and collective reason”

…Are you not tempted, in this period of ideological emptiness, by a sort of Christian reconquest?

Ratzinger: “No, in the dialogue that I wish with all political and intellectual forces n order to define this minimum ethic, the Catholic Church is not seeking to impose a new kind of respublica Christiana. It would be absurd to want to go back, to return to a system of political Christendom. But it is true that we feel a responsibility in this world, and we desire to make our contribution as Catholics. We do not wish to impose Catholicism on the West, but we do want the fundamental view of Christianity and the liberal values dominant in today’s world to be able to meet and make one another mutually fruitful.”

Notes From Underground:” Recovery of the Patristic and Mediaeval Sources on Revelation and Faith:

Autobiographical Anecdote of Benedict XVI: Intellectual Formation.

“Glottlieb Soehngen had immediately read my habilitation thesis; he had accepted it enthusiastically and even quoted from it frequently in his lectures. Professor Schmaus, the other reader, was a very busy man, and so he left the manuscript untouched for a couple of months. From a secretary I found out that he had finally begun reading it in February. At Easter of 1956 he put out a call to German-speaking experts in dogma for the purpose of holding a congress in Koenigstein… During the Koenigstein congress Schmaus called me aside for a brief private conversation, during which he told me very directly and without emotion that he had to reject my habilitation thesis because it did not meet the pertinent scholarly standards. I would learn details after the appropriate decision by the faculty. I was thunderstruck. A whole world was threatening to collapse around me. What was to become of my parents, who in good faith had come to me in Freising, if I now had to leave the college because of my failure? And all of my future plans would likewise collapse, since these, too, were all contingent on my being a professor of theology. I thought of applying for the position of assistant pastor in the parish of Saint Georg in Freising, which came with a house; but this solution was not particularly consoling….

(What had happened?)

“In my research I had seen the study of the Middle Ages in Munich, primarily represented by Michael Schmaus, had come to almost a complete halt at its prewar state. The great new breakthroughs that had been made in the meantime, particularly by those writing in French, had not even been acknowledged. With a forthrightness not advisable in a beginner, I criticized the superseded positions, and this was apparently too much for Schmaus, especially since it was unthinkable to him that I could have worked on a medieval theme without entrusting myself to his direction. The copy of my book that he used was in the end full of glosses of all colors in the margins, which themselves left nothing to be desired by way of forthrightness. And while he was a t it, he expressed irritation at the deficient appearance of the graphic layout and at various errors in the references that had remained despite all my efforts.
“But he also did not like the result of my analyses. I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of `revelation,’ by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as `revelation.’ Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, `revelation’ is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scripture but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (`by Scripture alone’), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given.”

The Point: The empirical and experimental experience of the words of Sacred Scripture is not the content of Revelation. Only the Person of Jesus Christ is. Hence, we need to understand an epistemology of the subject besides an epistemology of objects. How do we know an “I” as distinct from an “it” as “thing.”

Existential experience:

“In `existential experience,’ on the contrary, the decisive factor is not control but letting oneself be controlled and the new way of `going where one would rather not go’ that is thus made possible… Let us quote Hans Urs von Balthasar on this subject: `It can be said with certainty that there is no Christian experience that is not the fruit of the overcoming of one’s own self-will or, at least, the determination to overcome it. And with this self-will we must include also all our willful efforts to evoke religious experiences on the basis of our own initiative and by our own methods and techniques.’ `It is only when we renounce all partial experiences that the wholeness of being will be bestowed upon us. God requires unselfish vessels into which to pour his own essential unselfishness.’[6]
“I regard the last point as essential. To say that God is Trinitarian means, in fact, to confess that he is self-transcendence, `unselfishness,’ and, consequently, that he can be known only in what reflects his own nature. From this there follows an important catechetical conclusion: the being-led to a religious experience, which must start in the place where man finds himself, can yield no fruit if it is not , from the beginning, directed to the acquisition of a readiness for renunciation. The moral training that, in a certain sense, belongs to the natural sciences, as does the asceticism of transcendence, becomes more radical here because of the meeting of the two freedoms…. The possibility of `seeing’ God, that is, of knowing him at all, depends on one’s purity of heart, which means a comprehensive process in which man becomes transparent, in which he does not remain locked in upon himself, in which he learns to give himself and, in doing so, becomes able to see. From this perspective of Christian faith, we might say that religious experience in its most exalted Christian form bears the mark of the Cross. It embraces the basic model of human existence, the transcendence of self. The Cross redeems, it enables us to see. And now we discover that the structure of which we are speaking is not just structure; it reveals content as well.”[7]

The Biblical Example: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. They talk “thing” (water). He suggests water of eternal life. She, unknowingly, asks for it. He challenges her to transcend herself by telling the truth about herself: Bring me your husband. She answers: I have no husband. She reveals self. He then reveals Self: “I, who speak with you, am he.” I.e., to know self-gift, one must become self-gift. One experiences Christ and knows Him when one experiences self as self-transcending. Ratzinger will say importantly below: “One must know oneself as one really is if one is to know God” And one knows self only when there is the existential experience of self-gift, of telling the truth about self which is already the faith of entrusting self to the Other. Keep in mind that the only “I” you can experience is your own “I.” You experience that when you freely determine self, i.e., master self, get possession of self and therefore are able to make the gift if you so choose. Then, when you do that, you experience yourself as imaging God and therefore you are like Him who is the image of God as pure Relation: Logos. You know yourself as image, and you know Him who is the prototypical image. You are then able to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God [by nature]” because I, too, am Christ the Son of the living God [by sacramental and participation].
Therefore, we do not know God they way we are in ourselves, but the way He is in Himself. And we do this by this internal experience of self-determination that is the act of faith as act of the whole person, and not merely an accidental act of the accidents (faculties) of intellect and will. The whole self must be given, which is symbolized in the changing of the name of Simon, son of John into Peter. The name of Jesus Christ is “cornerstone” (Acts 4, 11). The name of one who “knows” Him, who reads Him from within the self (intellegere: legere ab intus), knows Him as a Self, an “I.” This is knowing without objectification or reduction to abstraction.

Josef Ratzinger on John 4: The Samaritan Woman and the Experience of God

“This periscope seems to me to be a beautiful and concrete illustration of what we have just been saying. It opens with the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in the context of a normal, human, everyday experience – the experience of thirst, which is surely one of man’s most primordial experiences. In the course of the conversation, the subject shifts to that thirst that is a thirst for life, and the point is made that one must drink again, must come again and again to the source. In this way, the woman is made aware of what in actuality she, like every human being, has always known but to which she has not always adverted: that she thirsts for life itself [Zoë] and that all the assuaging that she seeks and finds cannot slake this living, elemental thirst. The superficial `empirical’ experience has been transcended.
“But what has been revealed is still of this world. It is succeeded, therefore, by one of those conversations on two levels that are so characteristic of Jon’s technique of recording dialogue, the Johannine `misunderstanding,’ as it is called by the exegetes. From the fact that Jesus and the Samaritan woman, though they use the same words, have in mind two very different levels of meaning and, separated thus by the ambiguity of human speech, are speaking at cross-purposes, there is manifested the lasting incommensurability of faith and human experience however extensive that experience may be. For the woman understands by “water’ that of which the fairy tales speak: the elixir of life by virtue of which man will not die and his thirst for life that is familiar to her, whereas Jesus wants to reveal to her the true life, the Zoë.
“In the next stage, the woman’s full attention has been attracted to the subject of a thirst for life. She no longer asks for something, for water or for any other single thing, but for life, for herself. This explains the apparently totally unmotivated interpolation by Jesus: `Go and call your husband!’ (Jn. 4, 16), It is both intentional and necessary, for her life as a whole, with all its thirst, is the true subject here. As a result, there comes to light the real dilemma, the deep-seated waywardness, of her existence: she is brought face to face with herself. In general, we can reduce what is happening to the formula: one must know oneself as one really is if one is to know God. The real medium, the primordial experience of all experiences, is that man himself is the place in which and through which he experiences God. Admittedly, the circle could also be closed in the opposite direction: it could be said that it is only by first knowing God that one can properly know oneself.
“But we anticipate. As we have said, the woman must come first to the knowledge of herself, to the acknowledgement of herself. For what she makes now is a kind of confession: a confession in which, at last, she reveals herself unsparingly. Thus a new transition has occurred –to preserve our earlier terminology, a transition from empirical and experimental to `experiential’ experience, to `existential experience.’ The woman stands face to face with herself. It is no longer a question now of something but of the depths of the I itself and, consequently, of the radical poverty that is man’s I-myself, the place where this I is ultimately revealed behind the superficiality of the something. From this perspective, we might regard the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman as the prototype of catechesis. It must lead from the something to the I. Beyond every something it must ensure the involvement of man himself, of this particular man. It must produce self-knowledge and self-acknowledgment so that the indigence and need of man’s being will be evident.
“But let us return to the biblical text! The Samaritan woman has achieved this radical confrontation with her own self. In the moment in which this occurs, the question of all questions arises always and of necessity; the question about oneself becomes a question about God. It is only apparently without motivation but in reality inevitable that the woman should ask now: How do things stand with regard to adoration, that is, with regard to God and my relationship to him? (cf. Jn 4, 20). The question about foundation and goal makes itself heard. Only at this point does the offering of Jesus’ true gift become possible. For the `gift of God’ is God himself, God precisely as gift – that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. v10-24). At the beginning of the conversation, there seemed no likelihood that his woman, with her obviously superficial way of life, would have any interest in the Holy Spirit. But one she was led to the depths of her own being the question arose that must always arise if one is to ask the question that burns in one’s soul. Now the woman is aware of the real thirst by which she is driven. Hence, she can at last learn that it is for which this thirst thirsts.
“It is the purpose and meaning of all catechesis to lead to this thirst. For one who knows neither that there is a Holy Spirit nor that one can thirst for him, it cannot begin otherwise than with sensory perception. Catechesis must lead to self-knowledge, to the exposing of the I, so that it lets the masks fall and moves out of the realm of something into that of being. Its goal is conversion, that conversion of man that results in his standing face to face with himself. Conversio (`conversion,’ metanoia) is identical with self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the nucleus of all knowledge. Conversio is the way in which man finds himself and thus now the question of all questions: How can I worship God? It is the question that means his salvation; it is the raison d’etre of catechesis.”

Pentecost contrasts with Babel in that the Apostles are speaking Christ with the giftedness that the Spirit gives them. And those hearing, are moved by the same Spirit to self-transcend, and therefore hear.

The Father is Self-gift. The Son is Self-gift. The Spirit is the Self-gift of the Father and the Son. Hence, the Spirit is the Personification of the Gift of self, the true meaning of “Love.” First, in God, who gives Self in Creation, and then in Redemption. Only one who has received the Spirit can “know” Christ, “re-cognize” Him by “cognizing” Him in the existential experience of giving themselves like the Samaritan woman. She received the water of life (Zoë) that is the Holy Spirit and engendered Christ in her such that she could re-cognize Him in “I who speak with thee am He” (Jn. 4, 26). At Pentecost, the apostles speak and the 3,000 hear the same Word. Moved by the Spirit, they “understand” each other (intellegere = legere [to read] ab intus [from within]). That is the task of the apostolate today known as the “new evangelization.”

This is the formation of his mind: to understand (to know) is to become one being with the subject to be known. This is not achieved by experience through the external perception, which reduces the perceived reality to an object. St. Thomas suggested that “whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver.” That is, it is not sensed nor intellectually grasped as it is in itself, but as the knower is in himself. Hence, since we are both matter and spirit, we spiritualize what is apparently just matter, and we materialize what is just spirit. That’s why we need images and examples to understand very abstract things.

But more is involved here. Abstractions are not real since they don’t exist “outside” the mind. Only individuals exist and are real. God is real as a Communio of Three “I.” as Father, Son and Spirit. The Father is “I,” the Son is “I,” and the Holy Spirit is “I.” But each “I” is a relation in opposing directions. The Father is the act of engendering the “I” of the Son. The “I” of the Son is the obeying and glorifying of the “I” of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the personification of the “I-gift” of the other two. God is not a substance in the sense that we use the word as category for a created thing. God is an irreducible plurality of three “I’s” that are so one that one cannot be without the others.
Since we are trying to understand God, and God is not part of the world, and “He” is three “I’s,” we cannot render him an object as another object. Hence, we cannot know the Son as an object. We must know Him as Subject.

Theological Epistemology:

The Tower of Babel (objectified knowing) and Pentecost (experiencing the subject [self in consciousness]). Both of them NOW.

“But let us come at last to the main question. What is the real Christian message of Pentecost? What is this `Holy Spirit’ of which it speaks? The Acts of the Apostles gives us an answer in the form of an image; perhaps there is no other way of doing it, since the reality of the Spirit largely escapes our grasp. As the story is told, the disciples were touched by fiery tongues and found themselves speaking in a manner which some (the “positivists”) regarded as drunken stammering, a meaninglessness, useless babbling, while others, from all parts of the then known world, each heard the disciples speaking in his own tongue.
In the background of this text is the Old Testament story of the tower of Babel; the two stories, taken together, provide us with a penetrating insight into the theology of history. The Old Testament account tells us that human beings, their sense of independence augmented by the progress they had made, attempted to build a tower that would reach heaven. That is, they believed that by their own powers of planning and constructing they could even build a bridge to heaven, make heaven accessible to themselves by their own efforts, and turn human beings into gods. The result of their effort was the confusion of tongues. The human race, which sought only itself and looked for salvation in the satisfaction of a ruthless egoism by means of economic power, suffered instead the consequence of egoism, which is the radical hostility of each to his fellows, so that no one can understand anyone else and therefore even egoism inevitably remains unsatisfied.
The New Testament account of Pentecost picks up these same ideas. It implies the conviction that contemporary mankind is sundered to its very roots; that is characterized by a superficial coexistence and a hostility which are based on self-divinization. As a result, everything is seen in a false perspective; human beings understand neither God nor the world nor their fellows nor themselves. The `Holy Spirit’ creates such an understanding because he is the Love that flows from the cross or self-renunciation of Jesus Christ.
We need not attempt here to reflect on the various dogmatic connections that are implied in such a description. For our purpose it is enough to recall the way Augustine tried to sum up the essential point of the Pentecost narrative. World history, he says, is a struggle between two kinds of love: self-love to the point of hatred for God, and love of God to the point of self-renunciation. This second love brings the redemption of the world and the self.
In my opinion it would already be a giant step forward if during the days of Pentecost we were to turn from the thoughtless use of our leisure to a reflection non our responsibility; if these days were to become the occasion for moving beyond purely rational thinking, beyond the kind of knowledge that is used in planning and can be stored up. To a discovery of spirit, of the responsibility truth brings, and of the values of conscience and love. Even if for a moment we were not to go a step further into the properly Christian realm, we would already be touching the hem of Christ and his Spirit.”

The Tower of Babel: “Dictatorship of Relativism”
(exclusiveness of the experimental method)

1) There are three levels of experience: empirical, experimental and “existential.

Empirical and Experimental (2): Nihil in intellectu nisi in sensu: “that immediate and uncritical perception by the sense that is common to all of us. We see the sun rise; we see it set. We see a train pass. We see colors; and so forth. This manner of experience is, certainly the beginning of all knowledge, but it is always superficial and inexact. And therein lies its danger. Because of its immediate certainty, it can be an obstacle to deeper knowledge…”[10] Galileo confronted “empirical” empiricists (Aristotelians) as a Platonists insisting that thought trumps immediate experience. “Galileo rejected what everyone can see. The same is true of the laws of gravity, which never actually occur in reality as Galileo formulated them but are a mathematical abstractions and, for that reason, also contrary to our immediate experience. Modern natural science is built on the rejection of pure empiricism, on the superiority of thinking over seeing” (my underline)….

“It is only when the intellect sheds light on sensory experience that his sensory experience has any value as knowledge and that experiences thus become possible.”

Ratzinger makes the major point here that “the structure of the experience of faith is completely analogous to that of the natural sciences; both have their source in the dynamic link between intellect and senses from which there is constructed a path to deeper knowledge.

But we must point, here, also to a crucial difference. In a scientific experiment, the object of experience is not free. The experiment depends, rather, on the fact that nature is controlled… [Heidegger calls it “set-up”; Brague says: “Because we have removed from it everything that might be a a freedom (vagueness, contingency, etc.), it can become the object of science.” “In this connection, L. Kolakowski has made the interesting observation that the way in which the natural sciences deal with nature is actually a form of necrophilia. They dissect it as though it were a dead object and, in this form, are able to control it. If we apply this thought also to the human sciences, we might conclude that their way of dealing with human beings is likewise a kind of necrophilia. The fact that a similar way of dealing with faith and with God must of necessity lead to a God-is-dead theology need hardly be elaborated.”

(Let me add: This is where right thinking feminists insist on the damage done by male dominated epistemology)[11].

Key Turning Point of Vatican II: Is Jesus Christ an Exception to Man, or the Revelation of Man?

a) The Human Person: Major advertence: Scholastic theology considered Jesus’ Person as existential relation “from above,” i.e., from the side of the Trinity. But that same theology took the meaning of person from Boethius in substantialist (to be in self, and not in another [accident]) terms. The meaning of man taken from Greek and Latin philosophy as substantialist was “from below.”

“In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as Naturae rationalis individual substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greek mind which thinks in substantialist terms.”

The Great Caveat: Christ as Exception to Man: “Scholastic theology developed categories of existence out of this contribution given by Christian faith to the human mind. Its defect was that it limited these categories to Christology and to the doctrine of the Trinity and did no make them fruitful in the whole extent of spiritual reality. This seems to me also the limit of St. Thomas in the matter, namely, that within theology he operates… on the level of existence, but treats the whole thing as a theological exception (my underline), as it were. In philosophy, however, he remains faithful to the different approach of pre-Christian philosophy. The contribution of Christian faith to the whole of human thought is not realized; it remains at first detached from it as a theological exception, although it is precisely the meaning of this new element to call into question the whole of human thought and to set it on a new course.”
This brings us to the second misunderstanding that has not allowed the effects of Christology to work themselves out fully. The second great misunderstanding is to see Christ as the simply unique ontological exception which must be treated as such. This exception is an object of highly interesting ontological speculation, but it must remain separate in its box as an exception to the rule and must no be permitted to mix with the rest of human thought…. This seeming exception is in reality very often the symptom that shows us the insufficiency of our previous schema of order, which helps us to break open this schema and to conquer a new realm of reality. The exception shows us that we have built our closets too small, as it were, and that we must break them open and go on in order to see the whole.”

The Result: Man does not image the divine Persons as Relations in his very being. Jesus Christ is not the prototype of man, but an exception. There would then be such a thing as “pure nature” or the “natural man” to whom the supernatural is added as a “second tier” to safeguard the gratuitousness of the supernatural. Holiness would not (as in fact it has not been) an intrinsic orientation of the very being of the human person, and therefore there is no de facto universal call to holiness.

* * * * * *

Vatican II Integrates Christ and the human person in Gaudium et Spes #22:

“In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling…. He who is the `image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin.”

The Positive Meaning of the Human Person in the Light of Christology: “Man, the only earthly being that God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et spes #24).

In the light of this, Benedict XVI, on June 6, 2005, outlined the theology of the body as the enfleshed person imaging the Trinitarian Relations:

“Marriage and the family are not a casual sociological construct, fruit of particular historical and economic situations. On the contrary, the question of the right relationship between man and woman sinks its roots in the most profound essence of the human being, and can only find its answer in the latter. It cannot be separated from the always ancient and always new question of man about himself: Who am I? And this question, in turn, cannot be separated from the question about God: Does God exist? And, who is God? What is his face really like? The Bible’s answer to these two questions is unitary and consequential: Man is created in the image of God, and God himself is love. For this reason, the vocation to love is what makes man the authentic image of god: He becomes like God in the measure that he becomes someone who loves.

From this fundamental bond between God and man another is derived: The indissoluble bond between spirit and body. Man is, in fact, soul that expresses itself in the body and [the] body that is vivified by an immortal spirit. Also, the body of man and of woman has, therefore, so to speak, a theological character, it is not simply body, and what is biological in man is not only biological, but an expression and fulfillment of our humanity. In this way, human sexuality is not next to our being person, but belongs to it. Only when sexuality is integrated in the person does it succeed in giving itself meaning.”

This notion of “finding self by the sincere gift of self” carries on in, and is the defining center of, the Social Doctrine of the Church, to be found thematically presented in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana).

* * * * * * *

Images Employed by Benedict XVI That Illustrate His Thought.

1) “If the Eye Were Not Solar, It Could Not Recognize the Sun” (Goethe)

Catechesis is Catechumenate. Christianity is “Way,” Before it is “Book.”

“We must familiarize ourselves with God’s style, so as to learn to bear His presence within us. In a theological expression: the image of God must be liberated within us, that image which gives us the capacity to have a communion of life with him.
Tradition compares this to a sculptor’s way of acting, when, piece by piece, he chips away at the stone until the shape he has in mind becomes visible.
Catechesis should also always be a process involving a type of assimilation with God, since in reality we can recognize only that for which a correspondence is found in us.”

2) The Lamb, The Lion and The Dog: (The Dictatorship of Relativism:” The Hegemony of Objectifying (reductive) Thought: Rationalism).

“In the magnificent Romanesque cathedral of the little Apulian town of Troy, my interest was attracted, above all, by a somewhat enigmatic relief of the year 1158 that adorned the chancel. This relief shows three animals in whose hostile relationship the artist clearly intended to depict the condition of the church of his time. At the bottom of the group is a lamb that has been pounced upon by a greedy lion which holds it fast with his powerful claws and teeth. The lamb’s body has already been mangled. The bones are plainly visible and one sees the parts of the body have already been devoured. Only the infinitely sad expression on the animal’s face tells the viewer that the half-consumed lamb is still alive. In contrast to the powerlessness of the lamb, the lion is the expression of a brutal power to which the lamb has nothing to oppose but its helpless fear. It is clear that the lamb symbolizes the church, or better, the faith of and in the Church. What we see in this sculpture is a kind of `Report on the State of the Faith’ that seems to be deeply pessimistic. The true Church, the Church of faith, seems to have been already half-devoured by the powerful lion in whose claws she is held captive. She has no choice but to suffer her fate in defenseless woe. But this sculpture, which depicts with fitting realism the, humanly speaking, hopelessness of the Church’s plight, is likewise the expression of a hope that is convinced of the invincibility of the Faith. This hope is reflected in a remarkable way. A third animal, a small white dog, leaps upon the lion. Its strength seems totally disproportionate to that of the lion; nevertheless it attacks the lion with teeth and paws. It may itself still fall victim to the lion, but its intervention causes the lion to lose its grip on the lamb. While the symbolism of the lamb is relatively clear, this is not so of the other two animals. What does the lion symbolize? What does the little white dog symbolize? I have not been able to consult a history of art to find an answer to this question, nor do I know it. But another question must also be answered. What does the dramatic struggle of these three animals have to do with theology? The more I think of it, the more it seems to me that the sculpture is not making a theological statement, but a rather a challenge, an examination of conscience, a deliberately open question. Only the lamb is clearly defined. But the other two animals, the lion and the dog – do they not stand for the two divergent orientations of theology, for its contradictory goals? The lion – does it not embody the historical attempt of theology to dominate faith? Does it not embody that violentia rationis – that despotic and brutal reason that Bonaventure would castigate a century later as distortion of theological thinking? And the courageous little dog – surely it symbolizes the opposite way, a theology that knows it is at the service of the Faith and is therefore prepared to make itself laughable by criticizing the want of moderation and the authoritarianism of reason alone. [Consider also Ratzinger’s use, in “Introduction to Christianity, of Kierkegaard’s story of the clown calling the people of the village out to the circus to help put out the fire, which eventually burns up both circus and village]. But if this is so, what a pointed question the relief in the chancel of Troy poses to the preacher and the theologian of all ages! It holds a mirror up to those who speak and to those who hear. It is an examination of conscience for pastors and for theologians alike, for either of these can prey upon the Church or be a shepherd to her. It follows, then, that that his sculpture, as never-to-be-answered question, can apply to all of us.”[14]

2) David, Dressed in the Armor of Saul, Sent Out to do Battle with Goliath ( The Church Turned Back on Herself: Clericalism and Objectified Thinking).

“There are some very real grounds to fear that the Church may assume too many institutions of human law, which then become the armor of Saul making it difficult for the young David to walk. We must always ascertain if institutions which were once useful still serve a purpose. The only institutional element the Church needs is the one given to it by the Lord: the sacramental structure of the people of God, centered on the Eucharist.”[15] (This is why Opus Dei is not an primarily an institution in the Church, but “a little bit of the Church” herself: laymen, priests in communio living the Mass on the occasion of secular work).

* * * * * * *

“The more organism we created, however up-to-date they may be, the less space we leave for the spirit, the less space there is for the Lord, and still less for liberty. From this point of view, I think we must embark on an examination of conscience in the Church, at all levels and without reserve. At all levels, such an examination of conscience should bring concrete results as well as ablation (elimination), which would allow the Church’s true face to shine through once again.”[16]

“The more we give ourselves to do in the Church, the less liveable it becomes because everything human is limited and all human things are contrasted by other human things. The more the Church stops to listen and the more central all that comes from Him – the Word and the Sacraments he gave us – is within it, the more it will be the dwelling place of the heart of men.”[17]

The Subjacent Anthropology to the Church’s Theological Epistemology: Prayer, the Act of Self-Gift, as Necessary Condition to Experience God as Person and therefore to do theology by Reflection on that Experience.

Revelation and faith are two parts of the same reality. The “what” -or content of faith - is the “who” of the believer [refer back to Ratzinger’s autobiography in “Milestones” (108) where “The receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it”]. This act of self-gift is made possible by the sacrament of baptism (or a previous grace of the Spirit) whereby the self becomes image of God and therefore capable of experiencing in self the Perfect image of the Father, Jesus Christ (Col. 1, 15). Person is revelation (“Ego eimi” of Christ). Person is faith ("ego eimi" of believer). Therefore, the whole transcends faculties and concepts, yet includes them.

Direct experience of the self in the unique act of self-transcendence that is the profound meaning of Christian faith. Hence, Christianity, more than "religion," is an anthropology - that of Christ.

The development of reason, theological and otherwise, within this experience of faith. Experience: without faith, reason cannot be reason.

[1] J. Ratzinger, Let God’s Light Shine Forth, ed. R. Moynihan, Doubleday (2005)34-35.
[2] Homily of His Eminence Card. Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, Monday 18 April, 2005.
[3] Then-Cardinal Ratzinger called the sacrament of Baptism a “death-event.” He said, “©onversion in the Pauline sense is something much more radical than, say, the revision of a few opinions and attitudes. It is a death-even. In other words, it is an exchange of the old subject for another. The `I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted nto a new subject. The `I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater `I;’” “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 51.
[4] “And Marxism Gave Birth to… NIHILISM,” Henri Tinq: Catholic World Report January 1993, 52-55:

[5] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Ignatius 107-109.
[6] Both quotes are from von Balthasar “Gotteserfahrung biblisch und patristisch,’ in IKZ 5 (1976) 500.
[7] J. Ratzinger, “The Anthropological Element in Theology,” Principles of Catholic Theology op. cit., 349-350.
[8] Ibid., 353-355.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “Mind, Spirit and Love: A Meditation on Pentecost,” Dogma and Preaching, Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 69-70.
[10] J. Ratzinger, “The Anthropological Element in Theology… Stages of experience,” Principles of Catholic Theology, Ignatius (1982Ger. 1987 Eng.) 346-355.
[11] “The attempts to add understandings of women to our knowledge of nature and social life have led to the realization that there is precious little reliable knowledge to which to add them. A more fundamental project now confronts us. We must root out sexist distortions and perversions in epistemology, metaphysics, methodology and the philosophy of science – in the `hard core’ of abstract reasoning thought most immune to infiltration by social values…. Human experience differs according to the kinds of activities and social relations in which humans engage. Women’s experience systematically differs from the male experience upon which knowledge claims have been grounded. Thus the experience on which the prevailing claims to social and natural knowledge are founded is, first of all, only partial human experience only partially understood: namely, masculine experience as understood by men. However, when this experience is presumed to be gender-free – when the male experience is taken to be the human experience – the resulting theories, concepts, methodologies, inquiry goals and knowledge-claims distort human social life and human thought…. (Contributors to this volume) show how men’s understanding of masculine experience shape Aristotle’s biology and metaphysics, the very definition of `the problems of philosophy’ in Plato, Descartes, Hobbes and Rousseau, the `adversary method’ which is the paradigm of philosophic reasoning, contemporary philosophical psychology, individuation principles in philosophical ontology, functionalism in sociological and biological theory, evolutionary theory, the methodology of political science, Marxist political economy, and concept ions of `objective inquiry’ in the social and natural sciences. On the other hand, many of the contributors also begin the feminist `reconstructive project.’ They identify distinctive aspects of women’s experience which can provide resources for the construction of more representatively human understanding. Some of the essayists focus extensively on this reconstructive project, showing us what is required in social practice and in scientific inquiry to make women’s experience into a foundation for a more adequate and truly human epistemology, metaphysics, methodology and philosophy of science.;” Sandra Haring and Merrill B. Hintikka, Discovering Reality D. Reidel (1983) Introduction IX-X.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall 1990) 449.
[13] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe?” The Catholic World Report March 1993, 59.
[14] J. Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth Ignatius (1992) 202-203.
[15] J. Ratzinger, 30 Days, No. 5 – 1998, p. 22.
[16] J. Ratzinger, 30 Days, No. 1-- 1992, p. 3.
[17] J. Ratzinger, Ibid. Compare this affirmation with the opening remarks of Benedict’s homily at the Mass for his inauguration: “My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history. Instead of putting forward a programme, I should simply like to comment on the two liturgical symbols which represent the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry… the Pallium…, an image of the yoke of Christ… the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life….The second symbol… is… the fisherman’s ring. Peter’s call to be shepherd… comes after the account of a miraculous catch of fish… `Master, at your word I will let down the nets’… And then came the conferral of his mission: `Do not be afraid… Put out into the deep sea of history and … let down the nets, so as to win men and women over to the Gospel – to God, to Christ, to true life.”


Anonymous said...

Nice Blog!!!   I thought I'd tell you about a site that will let give you places where
you can make extra cash! I made over $800 last month. Not bad for not doing much. Just put in your
zip code and up will pop up a list of places that are available. I live in a small area and found quite

Marcos Pantin said...

Fr. Robert, I have to give a 12 hours course on Fundamental Theology (former Apologetics) for English speaking adults this summer. So I need an outline and notes in English (I live in Venezuela and all the information I find is in Spanish). I found your place through Google. Could you please give me a hand?
I am the Chaplain of Guayacan Study Centre and Los Arcos School for boys in Caracas. Thanks a lot.
Fr. Marcos Pantin.