Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apropos The Editorial "Quiet Down" - Inside the Vatican - Feb. 2012

Dr. Robert Moynihan
Editor - "Inside the Vatican"

Dr. Moynihan,

   You do an excellent job as editor of "Inside the Vatican" and you have had a profound sense of the mind of Joseph Ratzinger and now Benedict XVI as long as I have read "Inside the Vatican." You finally were able to say your pre-papal piece in "The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, Let God's Light Shine Forth" (2005) where you communicated many fine insights and, I believe, unpublished material. I am thinking of the interview you had with him on faith and the challenge of modernity in which modernity is not to be spurned but taken up into the light of faith and purified (34-35). This insight and its publication is/was huge.

   I was just glancing quickly at your most recent editorial for the February issue of "Inside the Vatican" and it struck me that a word might be said about the notion of Christendom. Christendom is an objectified incarnation of Christian faith and life whose blue-print was an abstract epistemology and prodigious rational development in  Theology, philosophy, law, science, technology, art - in a word everything that we have always identified with Europe and the Western world. That culture and the structures that it spawned and that have supported it are in evident decay. Your supporting call to faith seconding the pope is excellent. But I sensed a wistful lamentation to the passing of Christendom and was alarmed at your references to the "structures" to "keep the house in order" such as creating cardinals, establishing "ordinariates," authorizing the old liturgy, etc. 

To be honest, I do not think that Benedict XVI is trying "to keep the house in order." Rather, I think he is trying to put the Church on a new supernatural level that is totally incarnate in this world but built on the Person of Christ as prototype of the human person. In passing, I would suggest that Christendom is an archaism of the incarnation of the faith. It represents the classical epistemology in the clash between classicism and historical consciousness the latter which the pope is opting for by his year of faith experience and silence.

   All of this has much to do with what Benedict mentioned to you in the above reference to modernity. Modernity is all about the turn to subjectivity which has been construed to be about thought to the detriment of being and reality. But faith, in Ratzinger's intellectual development (his habilitation thesis), also is a subjective phenomenon as believing person receiving the Word-Person as our Lady receiving the Word of God and saturating Him fully with her humanity. But subjectivity and person in the theology and philosophy of Benedict are not thought but being itself. Rather than subjectivism, they are the most radical realism. His presentation of the Word as realism in his October 2008 keynote address to the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God was truly (in the words of Scott Hahn) "breathtaking." 

   But that is the point. The turn to the subject in the Magisterium of Vatican II and the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI are most ontological and real. Christendom is about objectified "things" and structures from the political through the philosophical, theological, architectural, etc. As you say, "For a thousand years, Christians attempted to build a civilization centered on Christ, and the result was Christendom. In Christendom, Christ (Who is the Truth)  was central to human life...." You then wistfully remark "that world has passed away" and you wonder how we can do that again in a world "that has rejected the truth." And you answer, correctly, by "deepening our own faith." 

   My objection is not for what you said but for what you didn't say. The implication of the positive picture you paint where "the faith influenced laws and customs, art and music... the great cathedral or the music of Bach" is that perhaps we would want to retrieve Christendom. I say: what we really want, and the Church is pointing us, is to a secularity that is not secularism. Secularity is the "theonomous" centrality of the human person as image of God and "other Christ." Secularism is life without God. Secularity is the full humanity of Christ protagonized by the divine Person of the Son. The defining center is not Christ as religious figure but Christ as the meaning of the human person whose dynamic is "finding self... by gift of self" which takes place in the exercise of professional and secular work and family life. The believing person comes alive as person in the experience of transcending self in faith.

What the times are begging for, and the year of faith can be its power source, is a new secular culture that is not secularized nor Christendom, nor nostalgic for Christendom. The pope is repeating this year of faith to achieve what pope Paul VI's year of faith (1967) did not: the understanding of Vatican II and "Humanae Vitae." This may be "the time for Vatican II" which Benedict referred to in his "Ratzinger Report" (40). It cannot be understood merely by study (which has not properly taken place) because Vatican II is a subjective faith experience of the Person of Christ, which when having taken place becomes the spur to study - and implementation. Its implementation is going in a very different direction from Christendom. Rev. Robert A. Connor, 330 Riverside Dr. New York, N.Y. 10025  - email: robertaconnor@gmail. com

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