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The chief interest of this book lies in the two men it brings together, Peace offering stirs new debate - two prominent Catholics who disagree (John L. Jr. Allen, Nov 13, 1998, National Catholic Reporter)
In a gesture of rapprochement with a theologian whose relations with the Vatican have sometimes been strained, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the church's top doctrinal official, was the featured speaker at an Oct. 27 symposium marking Fr. Johann Baptist Metz's 70th birthday.

While some hailed Ratzinger's action as an olive branch for church dissidents, liberal Swiss theologian Fr. Hans Kung blasted Metz for sharing a stage with Ratzinger without pressing him on issues of church reform.

Metz is known as one of Germany's leading theological minds and the father of "political theology," arguing that Christianity must be involved in political and social struggles. His work in the 1960s and 1970s was foundational for liberation theology, a movement criticized by both Ratzinger and the pope for allegedly stressing this-worldly political progress at the expense of eternal salvation.

Metz's conflict with Ratzinger is also personal; in 1979, as cardinal of Munich, Ratzinger blocked Metz from a teaching appointment at the local university. Later, Metz signed a statement criticizing the Vatican's attempts to erode academic freedom in European universities.
Cardinal Ratzinger, of course, has gone on to become Pope Benedict XVI and one of the main reasons that liberal Catholics were so appalled by his elevation was precisely because of the key role he played in breaking the liberation theology movement, which had essentially sought to supplant Catholic dogma with Marxist ideology and turn the clergy into political activists. So this appearance with one of the leaders of the movement, and one whom he'd disciplined at that, is a famous/infamous incident.

We can gain some needed insight into why Cardinal Ratzinger waged the fight against liberation theology in a fine profile by a former student, From Theologian to Pope: A personal view back, past the public portrayals. (Francis Schussler Fiorenza, Autumn 2005, Harvard Divinity Bulletin)
In my view, one can best understand Ratzinger by locating him within the movement known as la nouvelle theologie (the new theology). This movement, associated primarily with the Jesuit School of Studies in Lyon, France, and especially the work of Henri de Lubac, has several characteristics. It sought to reform the dominant neo-scholastic theology of its time by going back and retrieving both the theology (especially Augustine) and the liturgical practices of the patristic period. This retrieval focused not on the historical criticism of the scriptures, but on the multiple senses of the scriptures that the fathers of the church elaborated. In addition, this retrieval sought to modify the post-Tridentine liturgy through a retrieval of the liturgical practices of the early church.

Theologically, this movement emphasized the integration of nature and grace in such a way that it underscored the importance of a "Christian culture." Locating Ratzinger within this movement is important because its shows how his theological development is in some ways similar. Just as Henri de Lubac became increasingly critical of the post-Vatican II directions, so too did Cardinal Ratzinger. The shift is not due to some personal traumatic event, but rather to the ambiguities of the movement itself.

The theologians representing la nouvelle theologie interpreted Thomas Aquinas from the perspective of Augustine. Ratzinger sought a much more direct retrieval of the Augustinian tradition. He wrote his first dissertation on Augustine's understanding of the people of God and his "habilitation" (a second dissertation) on St. Bonaventure's theology of history. His theological writings often underscored Augustine's emphasis on spirituality, the role of the cross, and Christian charity toward the neighbor. His sermons explicated the scriptures with reference to patristic images and themes. In this way, Ratzinger's writings contrasted sharply with the more arid scholasticism of his day. For this reason, he was perceived as a progressive theologian. But the Augustinian emphasis made Ratzinger much less favorable toward Metz's work on secularization and political theology, for example, and led him to question Rahner's understanding of Christianity.

Ratzinger's indebtedness to la nouvelle theologie comes to the fore in regard to the patristic interpretation of scripture and the retrieval of Augustine, but also in an emphasis on liturgical renewal and a focus on the centrality of the Eucharist for the life and missions of the church. These emphases are constant in Ratzinger's writing, and in this regard he is actually much more of a "traditionalist" than Pope John Paul II, who on occasion orchestrated Eucharistic celebrations as mass-media events with contemporary, even rock, music. John Paul II's liturgies often replaced Gregorian chant and polyphony with music and dances from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Ratzinger has been critical of such celebrations, and his own inaugural Mass clearly demonstrates a return to a more traditional celebratory form, just as his writings on the liturgy have questioned some of Vatican II's reforms, for example, the celebrant facing the people.

Understanding the theological vision of the relationship between nature and grace as well as Christianity and culture that was central to la nouvelle theologie is crucial for understanding what Ratzinger's goals and direction as pope will be. In one of his earliest writings on the topic of nature and grace, Ratzinger argues that the focus upon grace perfecting nature should not overlook the cross of Christ and should not neglect that grace also challenges and stands in critique of nature. Ratzinger makes this explicit in his understanding of the relation between Christian faith and culture. In his view Christian faith is not something that exists simply as a set of propositional doctrines; nor does it exist as sheer abstract religion. Instead, religion and culture are concretely intertwined and cannot be separated. Therefore, one cannot simply think of Christianity independent of culture. Instead, one has to ask: How is the Christian community a distinctive Christian culture? Because the Christian faith entails a stance about the meaning of human nature and the affirmation of certain values, it entails a culture of meaning and values. Christianity exists as a social and cultural community called the people of God. Such a community is its own distinctive culture whose beliefs and values stand in tension with other cultures.

From there, one can readily compare Ratzinger's position with the theological appropriation that Hans Frei and George Lindbeck of Yale have made of the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Clifford Geertz in order to understand Christianity as a community with its specific narratives and language -- indeed within a specific cultural linguistic framework. Ratzinger's theological vision is in some ways similar, though he gives a much more foundational role to a metaphysical view of human dignity and to the importance of truth claims. In his view, democracy, pluralism, and human rights rest upon such claims. Ratzinger has argued that such a view of Christianity points to the possibilities for dialogue in a democratic and pluralist world. Such a vision, he argues, is pluralist but not relativist, because it affirms basic values.

Such a vision underlies some of the more recent controversies. His confrontation with liberation theology makes the important point that religion can become an ideology of political policy unless it is mediated through a political ethics and assessed in terms of Christian values. Likewise, he insists that in inter-religious dialogue, one has to keep in mind the possibility of the ideological distortions and consequences of religious beliefs. Hence, such a dialogue involves more than mutual acceptance; it requires mutual critique as well. Ratzinger has developed a rather nuanced, complex vision of the relationship between Christianity and culture that the more polemic controversies do not allow to come to the fore.

It is this vision of Christianity as community with a distinctive culture that stands behind Ratzinger's choice of Benedict as the name to express the direction of his papacy. Just as Benedictine monasteries were resources of Christian culture, seeding Christian culture throughout Europe, so too today the Catholic Church should be a community of a clearly identifiable Christian culture and tradition. Only as such can the Catholic Church act positively, as a sort of countercultural community, and take a creative and critical role to contemporary cultures. Such a theological vision differs sharply from views that seek to develop a transcultural vision of Christianity, whereby it can distance itself from its cultural heritage and identity. Ratzinger fears that such transcultural visions would entail a loss of the distinctive Christian identity.

Likewise, any attempt to engage in religious and cultural dialogue has to proceed out of a community with its own clearly defined cultural identity. In contrast to some of the negative portrayals of him, Benedict XVI does envision the Catholic Church in dialogue with others, but he is convinced that such dialogue should not rest on some generic understanding of religion and culture. Instead, it should stem from a community that brings its vision into the dialogue.
And John Allen, who we also cited above, has gone so far as to argue that:
In Philosophy 101 one learns that all of Western thought, in a certain sense, can be divided into followers of Plato and of Aristotle. Likewise, the basic options in Roman Catholic theology after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) can be expressed in terms of a choice between two German-speaking sons of Ignatius Loyola: Karl Rahner and Hans urs Von Balthasar. [...]

Expressing the difference between Rahner and von Balthasar is not easy, but one way to do so is in terms of attitudes towards �the world.� Rahner stressed the presence of grace at the deepest level of every human being � the so-called �supernatural existential.� Von Balthasar saw an �analogy of being� between God and humanity, which placed more distance between the two and thus left room, he felt, for greater realism about sin. Rahner was a basic optimist about culture, so much so that von Balthasar once accused him of negating the necessity of the crucifixion.
Given that Metz is a disciple of Rahner and that Cardinal Ratzinger sided with Von Balthazar, conflict between the two was inevitable and, given the dichotomy in their beliefs, necessary.

Much of the back and forth in the lectures, question and answer session, and discussion here is too steeped in theological nuance for it to be comprehensible to the average reader, at least this one, but one portion of Cardinal Ratzinger's address offers a truly compelling defense of the "risk of freedom," even if that risk means that we must accept a significant amount of imperfection and evil in the world, against those on the Left who would forsake it in favor of an imagined security and quest for perfection:
[W]e cannot forget that there is a risk to freedom and all its consequences, as has been impressed on us by Auschwitz, that most terrible of the signs of this reality, which no optimism can talk or think its way around. The question of whether this has made the risk of freedom too high, its price too dear -- whether it really would have been better for it not to have existed -- is beyond our limits, beyond our horizon, and beyond the limits of our ability to understand. What holds here is what man said in God 's presence at the end of the Book of Job: "See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth...I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 40:4, 42:5f.).

In any event, we have to reckon with the fact that there is a failed freedom, unreconciled and irreconcilable, the irrevocable evil -- a negative entropy of the spirit, so to speak, which "rigidifies" from below, which misuses the time that is given to it and leaves it a wreck. On the other hand, however, the central assertion of New Testament faith is that there is the possibility that fallen freedom and misused time can be taken hold of and reconciled in a love that takes its place, so that the wounds of injustice and of evil become signs of peace in the suffering that shoulders them. The homecoming, of which the Apocalypse speaks at the end of time, is no idyll, but rather presupposes the struggle against evil, injustice, and hatred.
After the 20th Century we, of course, have the advantage on the liberation theologians, of knowing with certainty that those societies which attempted to realize perfect utopias at the cost of forsaking freedom, ended up being among the most evil and unjust Man has ever created, while those that sought to vindicate freedom have turned out to be as decent as any societies in human history. We also know just how far the seeming best we can do is from achieving the homecoming of which Cardinal Ratzinger spoke. That moment quite clearly will indeed await the end of time. It would be hard to overstate how important was the choice that was presented within Catholic theology nor how vital it was that the choice of Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II prevail. Thankfully, it has.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C+)

  

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Joseph Ratzinger (2 books reviewed)
Religion
Joseph Ratzinger Links:

    -Benedict XVI (The Holy See)
    -Pope Benedict Online
    -Ratzinger Fan Club / Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club
    -ETEXTS: Ratzinger Online (Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club)
    -ARCHIVES: Pope Benedict XVI (Brothers Judd Blog)
    -BOOK SITE: The End of Time: The Provocation of Talking about God (Paulist Press)
    -ARTICLE: Peace offering stirs new debate - two prominent Catholics who disagree (John L. Jr. Allen, Nov 13, 1998, National Catholic Reporter)
In a gesture of rapprochement with a theologian whose relations with the Vatican have sometimes been strained, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the church's top doctrinal official, was the featured speaker at an Oct. 27 symposium marking Fr. Johann Baptist Metz's 70th birthday.

While some hailed Ratzinger's action as an olive branch for church dissidents, liberal Swiss theologian Fr. Hans Kung blasted Metz for sharing a stage with Ratzinger without pressing him on issues of church reform.

Metz is known as one of Germany's leading theological minds and the father of "political theology," arguing that Christianity must be involved in political and social struggles. His work in the 1960s and 1970s was foundational for liberation theology, a movement criticized by both Ratzinger and the pope for allegedly stressing this-worldly political progress at the expense of eternal salvation.

Metz's conflict with Ratzinger is also personal; in 1979, as cardinal of Munich, Ratzinger blocked Metz from a teaching appointment at the local university. Later, Metz signed a statement criticizing the Vatican's attempts to erode academic freedom in European universities.

    -ESSAY: Debating Karl Rahner and Hans urs Von Balthasar (JOHN L. ALLEN JR., 11/28/03, National Catholic Reporter)
In Philosophy 101 one learns that all of Western thought, in a certain sense, can be divided into followers of Plato and of Aristotle. Likewise, the basic options in Roman Catholic theology after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) can be expressed in terms of a choice between two German-speaking sons of Ignatius Loyola: Karl Rahner and Hans urs Von Balthasar. [...]

Expressing the difference between Rahner and von Balthasar is not easy, but one way to do so is in terms of attitudes towards “the world.� Rahner stressed the presence of grace at the deepest level of every human being — the so-called “supernatural existential.� Von Balthasar saw an “analogy of being� between God and humanity, which placed more distance between the two and thus left room, he felt, for greater realism about sin. Rahner was a basic optimist about culture, so much so that von Balthasar once accused him of negating the necessity of the crucifixion.
-Pope Benedict XVI (Wikipedia)
    -Works of Pope Benedict XVI (Wikipedia)
    -Pope Benedict XVI (Jewish Virtual Library)
    -ENCYCLICAL: DEUS CARITAS EST (THE SUPREME PONTIFF BENEDICT XVI)
    -EXCERPT: Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by JOSEPH RATZINGER & MARCELLO PERA
    -SPEECH: Europe: Its Spiritual Foundation: Yesterday, Today and in the Future (Cardinal Ratzinger, May 13, 2004, Italian Senate)
    -ARTICLE: Cardinal Ratzinger Seeks a Bridge With Nonbelievers: Warns That Secular Culture Can Slip Into Dogmatism (DEC. 14, 2004, Zenit.org)
    -ARTICLE: Pope explains Christian roots in choice of name (Ian Fisher, APRIL 29, 2005, The New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Ratzinger on Europe: All Inner Worldly Changes, Both for Good and for Ill, Originate in the Souls of the Dons, Both Academic and Clerical (James V. Schall, Homiletic & Pastoral Review)
    -MASS OF THE EASTER VIGIL (HOMILY OF CARD. JOSEPH RATZINGER, Altar of the Confessio in St Peter's Basilica, Holy Saturday, 26 March 2005)
    -SPEECH: Cardinal Ratzinger On Europe's Crisis of Culture: Here is a translation of the lecture given in Italian by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XIV, in the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy, the day before Pope John Paul II died. (Cardinal Ratzinger, April 1, 2005))
    -ESSAY: If Europe hates itself (Joseph Ratzinger, 5/14/05, Avvenire)
    -SPEECH: The New Evangelization: Building the Civilization of Love (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers, Jubilee of Catechists, 12 December 2000)
   
-ETEXT: FEAST OF FAITH: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Translated by Graham Harrison)
    -SPEECH: The Nature of the Priesthood (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, October 1, 1990)
    -ARCHIVES: "ratzinger" (Catholic Educator's Resource Center)
    -INTERVIEW: THE WORLD OVER: CARDINAL RATZINGER INTERVIEW: Raymond Arroyo with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Raymond Arroyo, 5 September 2003, EWTN)
    -INTERVIEW: Here is Why the Faith is in Crisis: with Cardinal Ratzinger (November 11, 1984, Jesus magazine)
    -PROFILE: What Benedict XVI Means (George Weigel, May 5, 2005, The Catholic Difference)
    -PROFILE: A Pope of Quiet Surprises (George Weigel, 11/07/05, Newsweek)
    -PROFILE: Rome's Radical Conservative (Michael Novak, 4/20/05, New York Times)
    -PROFILE: The Vatican’s enforcer (JOHN L. ALLEN JR., 4/16/99, National Catholic Reporter)
    -PROFILE: The Conquest of Rome: The stealth campaign for Ratzinger began 18 months ago. An inside look at how he won (JEFF ISRAELY, April 24, 2005, TIME)
    -PROFILE: Looking Forward: The Promise of Benedict XVI (George Sim Johnston, May 2005, Crisis)
    -PROFILE: >From Theologian to Pope: A personal view back, past the public portrayals. (Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Autumn 2005, Harvard Divinity Bulletin)
    -ESSAY: Reading Genesis with Cardinal Ratzinger: The author answers Catholic creationists by arguing that contemporary exegetes have sufficient reason to go beyond a literalist reading of Genesis. (Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, Homiletic & Pastoral Review)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: A Tale of Two Cardinals (Garry Wills, April 26, 2001, NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: The Wait Is Over: Jews' Messiah Now Kosher: Vatican affirms Jewish position; scholars scramble to decipher new doctrine. (Eric J. Greenberg, 01/25/2002, Jewish Week)
    -ESSAY: The Vicar of Orthodoxy: The Pope's dogma is a circular system that's immune to reasoned query (ANDREW SULLIVAN, April 24, 2005, Time)
    -ESSAY: A Place for Dissent: My argument with Joseph Ratzinger (Charles E. Curran, Commonweal)
    -ESSAY: The End of the Enlightenment (John Kelley, May 3, 2005, CommonDreams.org)
    -ARTICLE: Cardinal Ratzinger, guardian of church doctrine, elected 265th pope (John Thavis and Cindy Wooden, 4/19/05, Catholic News Service)
    -REVIEW: of Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Marcello Pera (Maximilian Pakaluk, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Without Roots (Susan Salter Reynolds, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Without Roots (Pranay Gupte, The New York Sun)
    -REVIEW: of Without Roots (Emanuel L. Paparella, Newropeans)
    -REVIEW: of Without Roots (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Richard John Neuhaus, January 1998, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Century. By Joseph Ratzinger. An Interview with Peter Seewald (Thomas D. Williams, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Paul J. Griffiths, First Things)
    -REVIEW: of TRUTH AND TOLERANCE: Christian Belief and World Religions, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Translated by Henry Taylor (PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., American Catholic)
   
-REVIEW: of God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Russell Shaw, Crisis)
    -REVIEW: of The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Eduard Perrone, Crisis)
    -AD2000: a journal of religious opinion
    -Adventist Review
    -American Catholic
    -Catholic Culture
    -The Catholic Difference
    -Catholic Education Resources
    -Catholic News Service
    -Catholic Online
    -Chiesa.org
    -Commonweal
    -Crisis Magazine
    -Daily Catholic
    -Denver Catholic Register
    -EWTN: Everlasting Word Television Network
    -First Things
    -Michael Novak Net
    -National Catholic Reporter
    -ZENIT: The World Seen >From Rome

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