Vatican II emerged with a relational metaphysics embedded in Gaudium et spes #24: man finds himself by the gift of self. Carl Rahner remained with a substantialist metaphysics of the individual souped up with transcendental accessories. Rahner lost. Vatican II has been emerging in the last three pontificates and finding its voice in the common language of Francis. Life is self-gift. Get out of yourself. End clericalism and the self-referential. Go out to the existential peripheries. Think of others; forget self.
R. R. Reno’s “Rahner, the Restorationist” is a helpful example of the epistemological shift that must take place if we are to solve the crisis of Christ and modernity. Reno offers himself as a disenchanted Rahnerian who had high hopes that his conventional scholasticism – powered with transcendental accessories on the subjective side – could introduce a metaphysics of Being and conceptual apologetics with argumentative heft sufficient to take on modernity. In reality, Rahner had added the bogus transcendental method to a philosophy of the object that could not bear it. What was needed was a phenomenology of the subject that would release the believing/acting person as “being.”
Vatican II was this full turn to the subject as ontological. The shift that took place was described by Wojtyla as passing from one epistemological plane to another, from “it” to “I,” something like changing the key that a melody is played in. All the notes are different but the melody is the same. The Revelation is the same because it is the same Subject, Christ, but all the notes are different, and they are in tune with modernity, and will purify it. There is a metaphysics in Gaudium et spes #24, and Reno longs to see it. It will not bring about a new integralism because it is already beyond it. The ontological believing “I” that finds self by gift of self becomes the explanation of Humanae vitae, and the entire social doctrine of the Church. Finding self becomes the principle of subsidiarity, gift of self becomes the principle of solidarity. Instead of the still irreconcilable dualisms of supernatural/natural, grace/nature, faith/reason, clerical/lay, capitalism/socialism, conservative/liberal, there is only Christ, and man imaging Him. Christ, the God-man, is the meaning of reality. And man becomes real – “being” – by transcending himself as gift.
And it is all secular, not secularized. Christ is the meaning of secularity because freedom is the mastering of self so as to make the gift of self. Christianity has no interest in “Christendom” as it has no interest in clericalism. As Pope Francis remarked: “it is more comfortable to be an altar boy than the protagonist of a lay path.” A truly Christian society will be truly secular.