Cardinal Ratzinger’s Milestones
1996, Cardinal Ratzinger published an in-depth interview of
himself titled Salt of the Earth1
and in 1997 an autobiography called Milestones: Memoirs
books are important if we consider the high post the Cardinal
holds in the Vatican. In this article, which will be printed
in two parts (Part
II to appear in The Angelus, May, 1999), we will review
Milestones to better understand the current crisis in the
Ratzinger was born into a very Catholic family April 16,
1927 at Marktl am Inn in Bavaria. He was the third of three
children, two boys and a girl. His father was a policeman
and staunchly anti-Nazi. When he was about 11, his pastor
"urged him to enter the minor seminary [at Traunstein
in Bavaria] in order to be initiated systematically into
the spiritual life" (ibid. p.25). After some
hesitations due to the family finances,...
decision was made, and at Easter of 1939, I entered the
seminary. I did so with joy and great expectations because
my brother had told me many exciting things about the
place and because I developed good friendships with the
seminarians in my class. However, I am one of those people
who are not made for living in a boarding school. While
at home I had lived and studied with great freedom, as
I wished, and had built a childhood world of my own. Now
I had to sit in a study hall with about sixty other boys,
and this was such a torture to me...(ibid.).
he entered the minor seminary, Ratzinger was about 12 years
old. It seems that his entry into the seminary was chiefly
urged by the village pastor and by his brother and a few
friends. But he was disappointed, and he candidly admits
that he was bored by seminary life. And he declares, with
a touch of pride, that he considers himself to be "one
of those people who are not made for living in a boarding
outbreak of the World War II (1939) brought about the transformation
of the minor seminary into "a military hospital, so
now, together with my brother, I again began to live at
home and walk to school. But the director found alternate
quarters for the seminary..." (op. cit., p.26)…
"It was the kind of happy life boys should have. I
came to terms, then, with being in the seminary and experienced
a wonderful time in my life. I had to learn how to...come
out of my solitary ways and start building a community with
others..." (op. cit., p.27). After the attack
against Russia (June 22,1941) the minor seminary's temporary
quarters were confiscated for a military hospital. "My
brother and I now came home for good. It was also clear,
moreover, that the war would last for a long time yet….My
brother was seventeen years old, and I, fourteen (op.
cit., p.28). And, as it happened, his brother was drafted
into the army as a radio operator, and in 1944 was sent
to the Italian front. "Despite the grimness of the
historical situation, I was facing a good year at home and
at the gymnasium in Traunstein. The Greek and Latin
classics filled me with enthusiasm…. Above all, I now discovered
literature...and read Goethe with delight..." (ibid,
young Ratzinger was enrolled in the boarding school or minor
seminary, the property of which had been confiscated, and
was thus able to stay at home and study what he wanted,
as he wanted. But in 1943, at age 16, he was drafted into
one of the anti-aircraft defense batteries along with other
seminarians, while at the same time being allowed to attend
a certain number of classes at the renowned Maximilians-Gymnasium
in Munich (op. cit., p.35).
1944, young Ratzinger, having reached military age, was
released from the anti-aircraft defense battery. After a
period of service in the Reich's labor detail, during which
time he managed to avoid being enrolled into the SS by publicly
declaring his intention of becoming a priest, he was at
last called to arms at the end of that year (op. cit.,
p.33). Apparently, he was enlisted in the Landsturm,
troops of the last hour comprising the young and the less
young, and fathers of families who, after a summary training
and with light armament, were generally employed in the
defense of fixed points (i.e., streams, bridges,
etc.). Nevertheless, Joseph Ratzinger never had to
engage in combat:
death finally strengthened our hope that things would
soon end. The unhurried manner of the American advance,
however, deferred more and more the day of liberation.
At the end of April or the beginning of May - I do not
remember precisely - I decided to go home (op. cit.,
remained of the German army at the end of the war (May 7,
1945) was in disarray. Despite the fact that he had been
at home for several days wearing civilian clothing, he was
identified by the Americans as a soldier, and was taken
prisoner. He was liberated June 19, 1945 and was able to
return home for good (op. cit., p.45).
a result of the war years, Ratzinger's education was irregular
and full of holes, since much had been left unavoidably
to his own personal initiative. It was thus that he imbibed
much of profane culture, not at all suited to someone destined
for the priesthood. In the account of these events, the
thing that strikes the reader is the noticeable absence
of any aspiration towards the supernatural, towards God.
He writes, for example, that right after the war "we
who had returned home were all the more grateful for the
gift of life and for the hope that again rose high above
all destruction" (op. cit., p.40), and that
at the seminary of Freising, where he continued his studies,
"we were all bound together by a great sense of gratitude
for having been allowed to return home from the abyss of
those difficult years (op. cit., pp.41- 42). But
the Cardinal never mentions to whom the gratitude was owed
- to God? It would appear to be a generic gratitude, an
ecumenical gratitude, of a kind that can be shared by believers
and unbelievers alike.
CURIOUS COURSE OF STUDY; PROFANATION OF SEMINARY STUDIES
the end of 1945, at 18 years old, Ratzinger finally entered
the major seminary at Freising, located in buildings still
partly requisitioned as a field hospital for foreign prisoners
of war (ibid.). "This was a very mixed group
indeed, the 120 or so seminarians who now came together
in Freising to set out on the road to the priesthood"
(op. cit., p. 41). The situation was still difficult,
but they managed.
and a will to make a new start, to be active in the Church
and for the sake of the world: these were the feelings
that characterized the seminary community. Together with
this came a hunger for knowledge that had grown in the
years of famine, in the years when we had been delivered
up to the Moloch of power, so far from the realm of the
spirit. Books were, I repeat, a rarity in a Germany that
was destroyed and cut off from the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, despite the bomb damage that had taken place
here too, a rather good reference library had been preserved
that could, so to speak, take the edge off our hunger.
Our interests were varied. We wanted not only to do theology
in the narrower sense but to listen to the voices of man
today. We devoured the novels of Gertrude von Le Fort,
Elisabeth Langgässer, and Ernst Wiechert. Dostoyevsky
was one of the authors everyone read, and likewise the
great Frenchmen: Claudel, Bernanos, Mauriac. We also followed
closely the recent developments in the natural sciences.
We thought that, with the breakthroughs made by Planck,
Heisenberg, and Einstein, the sciences were once again
on their way to God…. In the domain of theology and philosophy,
the voices that moved us most directly were those of Romano
Guardini, Josef Pieper, Theodor Häcker, and Peter Wust
(op. cit., pp.42-43).
experienced, then, "a hunger for knowledge," which
is quite normal in young people who had undergone the tragic
experience of war and defeat, but, note well, "We wanted
not only to do theology in the narrower sense." Moreover,
this "hunger for knowledge" seemed to be directed
towards the profane. Where was the inspiration to serve
God and to save souls by leaving everything else? On the
contrary, a large place was accorded to literature and to
contemporary philosophico-scientific thought, erroneously
qualified as research "on the way to God." Since
when has modem science been "on the way to God"?
Moreover, which "God"? In the case of Einstein
it consisted in a gross imitation of the pantheism of Spinoza:
is the sense of mystery, mingled with fear, which begot
religion…I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes
his creatures and who exercises a will like that which
we exert over ourselves. I can neither conceive nor desire
that an individual might survive his physical death. Let
weak souls, whether from fear or self-centeredness, fortify
themselves by such ideas. For me, the mystery of the eternity
of life, the consciousness of and insight into the admirable
structure of the world in which we live are enough, as
is the unceasing effort needed to comprehend even the
slightest particle of the Reason which is manifest in
cultural interests pursued at the seminary of Freising were
joined to the study of a theology infected by existentialism,
beginning with the writings of Romano Guardini. Among the
authors preferred by Ratzinger was the Jewish philosopher
Martin Buber. Ratzinger loved St. Augustine, but never St.
Thomas Aquinas: "By contrast, I had difficulties in
penetrating the thought of Thomas Aquinas, whose crystal-clear
logic seemed to be too closed in on itself, too impersonal
and ready-made" (op. cit., p.44). This aversion
was mainly due to the professor of philosophy at the seminary,
who "presented us with a rigid, neo-scholastic Thomism
that was simply too far afield from my own questions"
(ibid.). According to Cardinal Ratzinger, whose current
opinions appear unchanged from those he held as a seminarian,
the thought of Aquinas was "too closed in on itself,
too impersonal and ready-made," and was unable to respond
to the personal questions of the faithful. This opinion
is enunciated by a prince of the Church whose function it
is to safeguard the purity of the doctrine of the Faith!
Why, then, should anyone be surprised at the current disastrous
crisis of Catholicism, or seek to attribute it to the world,
when those who should be the defenders of the Faith, and
hence of genuine Catholic thought, are like sewers drinking
in the filth, or like gardeners who cut down a tree they
are supposed to be nurturing? What can it mean to stigmatize
St. Thomas as having a "too impersonal and ready-made"
logic? Is logic "personal"? These assertions reveal,
in the person who makes them, a typically Protestant, pietist
attitude, like that found in those who seek the rule of
faith in personal interior sentiment.
the two years Ratzinger spent at the diocesan seminary of
Freising, he studied literature, music, modern philosophy,
and he felt drawn towards the new existentialist and modernist
theologies. He did not like St. Thomas Aquinas. The formation
described does not correspond to the exclusively Catholic
formation that is necessary to one called to be a priest,
even taking into account the extenuating circumstances of
the time, that is, anti-Christian Nazism, the war and defeat,
and the secularization of studies within seminaries. It
seems that His Eminence, with all due respect, gave too
much place to profane culture, with its "openness"
to everything, and its critical attitude...Joseph Ratzinger
loved the professors who asked many questions, but disliked
those who defended dogma with the crystal-clear logic of
St. Thomas. This attitude would seem to us to match his
manner of understanding Catholic liturgy. He tells us that
from childhood he was always attracted to the liturgical
movement and was sympathetic towards it. One can see that
for him, the liturgy was a matter of feeling, a lived experience,
an aesthetically pleasing "Erlebnis," but
fundamentally irrational (op. cit. passim.).
what do we mean when we speak about the secularization of
the seminaries [i.e., the corruption of seminary
studies by the inclusion of a worldly curriculum]? We mean
that there was a reigning spirit of heterodoxy, clearly
manifested by the availability of literary and philosophical
works not at all suitable for the religious formation of
future priests. Did the seminarians enter in order to be
instructed in modern contemporary literature? Often improper
reading was done with the complicity and even the encouragement
of superiors. If there is any doubt on this score, it suffices
to read the testimony of the Jesuit Peter Henrici, nephew
of Balthasar and now bishop: "In the seminary exercises,
Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and Blondel were read; Kant and
Heidegger especially were the omnipresent guideposts."
At Louvain, "the Prefect of Studies advised the seminarians
to begin by reading the first two chapters of De Lubac's
The Supernatural, the most banned book of the Index"
(Communio, no.114, Nov.-Dec. 1990).
(From left to right) Martin Heidegger, Maruice Blondel,
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Alfred Loisy, Martin Baber,
Albert Einstein, Henri de Lubac, Immanuel Kant.
THEOLOGIAN THAN PRIEST
spending two years at the diocesan seminary of Freising,
Ratzinger, who had avoided the "strict Tridentine"
seminary of Eichstatt, asked and obtained from his bishop
approval to enroll at the Theological Faculty of the University
of Munich (op. cit. p.4 7 ff). There he was
under the influence of a teaching body clearly liberal and
modernist in outlook. One of Ratzinger's teachers had him
read the works of Henri de Lubac, an author who exercised
a considerable influence on him (op. cit., pp.98
ff). Some of the passages of Milestones are
Cardinal writes that liberal [i.e., modernist - Ed.]
exegesis, headed by Fr. Alfred Loisy, which had attempted
to call into question the credibility of the Gospels, had
set forth "a problem that is far from having been resolved
today" (op. cit., p.51). [Loisy believed dogma
was simply symbolic, a symbol of what Catholics believe,
and by faith he meant something purely subjective, not something
which was an accurate expression of objective reality. He
abandoned his priesthood in 1906, broke with the Church
after Pope Pius X published Pascendi Gregis, and
was formally excommunicated in 1908. - Ed.] With
such assertions the Cardinal seems to grant a certain merit
to the heresies of Loisy and the modernists which had already
been amply refuted by exegesis faithful to Catholic dogma.
The Magisterium already had resolved the "problems"
posed by liberal-modernist exegesis [e.g., Lamentabili],
of which the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith should
be a pillar.
In recalling his professor of exegesis, a man of liberal
tendencies, Ratzinger attests to his merits: "A characteristic
fruitfulness came from the balance between liberalism and
dogma" (op. cit., p.52). Note well his point:
the balance is not found in the defense of dogma against
liberalism, but by finding an equilibrium between liberalism,
which seeks to subject dogma to the critique of natural
reason, and dogma itself. How such an unnatural balance
could be struck, the Cardinal does not say. He tells us,
though, that he was heavily influenced by the idea of the
search for this balance (ibid.). We take him at his
word, because up to the present such an "impossible"
balance has characterized his actions as Prefect for the
Doctrine of the Faith. In order to justify this balance
between liberalism and dogma, Ratzinger also refers to the
concept of Tradition as a "living process" of
the work of the Holy Ghost, a concept to which we shall
Speaking about the way we are to understand the link between
the Old Testament and the New, as taught at the Theological
Faculty of Munich, the Cardinal states:
the most part, only after World War II did we begin to
understand that the Jewish interpretation [of Scripture
- Ed.], too, in the time "after Christ,"
of course possesses a theological mission of its own (op.
it is not clear what exactly "theological mission"
signifies, it is sufficiently clear for us to be able to
state that, by the light of the Catholic Faith, it is totally
unacceptable. For in fact, if the interpretation given to
the Scriptures by the Jews - who denied and still deny the
divinity of the Lord - is true, then the interpretation
which the Church has always given is false. Yet, according
to Cardinal Ratzinger, at Munich "theology was done
both critically and with faith" (op. cit., p.59).
the summer of 1950, after passing the final examination
in his theological studies at the University of Munich,
young Ratzinger entered the seminary of Freising [which
today no longer exists - Ed.]. At the end of October
he was ordained to the sub-diaconate and the diaconate,
and he had to ready himself to be ordained to the priesthood.
He writes: "The seriousness of this preparation demanded
the whole person, without any reservation, and yet I had
to try to combine it with the writing of my theme"
(op. cit., p.99). He is referring to a theological
essay competition he was working on. The theological work
that received the prize would be accepted as a dissertation
with mention summa cum laude. A professor from the
Theological Faculty of Munich had encouraged him to submit
a work on the chosen theme, "The People and the House
of God in Augustine's Doctrine of the Church." Ratzinger
found himself in a difficult situation because he had to
find the time to work both on his dissertation and his preparation
for priestly ordination. In other words, he was tom between
his ambition to become a theologian and his obligation to
be ordained. He sought a compromise:
brother, who was with me on the road to the priesthood,
did everything possible to relieve me of all practical
tasks relating to our preparation for priestly ordination
and our first Mass. My sister...used her free time to
produce in exemplary fashion a clean copy of the manuscript,
and so I was able to hand in my work by the required deadline.
I was very happy when I was finally free of such an engaging
and yet burdensome task, and I could now dedicate myself
completely for at least the last two months to preparing
for the big step: ordination to the priesthood, which
Cardinal Faulhaber would confer on us (ibid., p.99).
was able to devote himself completely to this preparation
for only two months, instead of the year he should have
had at his disposition preparing for his ordination.
that as it may, Ratzinger the priest served in this capacity
at Munich for only one year, as associate pastor of the
parish of the Most Precious Blood. On October 1, 1952, he
was summoned to the seminary of Freising:
the one hand, this was the solution I had desired, the one
that would enable me to return to my theological work, which
I loved so much. On the other hand, I suffered a great deal,
especially in the first year, from the loss of all the human
contacts and experiences afforded me by the pastoral ministry…I
now had to give a series of lectures to the last-year students
on the pastoral aspects of the sacraments, and although
the experience I could draw on was rather limited, at least
it was recent and fresh in my mind....Above all I had to
complete my doctorate, which at that time was no mean proposition
doctoral examination took place in July 1953, with good
ERRONEOUS CONCEPT OF REVELATION
26, the future cardinal was a doctor of theology. His next
step was to work towards obtaining the habilitation,
the degree that qualifies a person to hold a chair at a
German university. [It is obtained by writing a weighty
scholarly book that proposes and defends a thesis and then
receiving approval for it from an academic committee. -
Ed.] This degree he obtained Feb. 21, 1957, at nearly
30 years of age, but not without controversy. The "critical"
part of his thesis was, in fact, rejected, in such a way
that he was obliged to truncate and edit it, and present
to the committee just the "historical" part of
the original, centered on the analysis of the relation between
St. Bonaventure and Joachim of Flora, a monk of very doubtful
orthodoxy, whom Ratzinger describes as a "pious and
especially interests us is the reason for the opposition
he encountered from the competent professor, Professor Michael
Schmaus. The work by Ratzinger on the concept of revelation
as it occurs in the works of St. Bonaventure and the interpretation
of this concept were accused of being unfaithful to the
texts as well as manifesting "a dangerous modernism
that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept
of revelation" (ibid. p.l09). The charge was
serious: the subjectivist concept of revelation was typical
of modernists. Effectively, Joseph Ratzinger was being accused
of having heretical tendencies.
Ratzinger still denies the validity of Professor Schmaus’s
criticisms, but his defense is not convincing. He maintains
that in the writings of the medieval authors, including
St. Bonaventure the concept of revelation did not mean what
it does for us today, that is, "all the revealed contents
of the faith." In his opinion, in medieval times, "revelation"
always connotes the idea of action, that is, the word denotes
the act by which God reveals Himself, and not the objectified
result of this act.
this is so, the concept of "revelation" always
implies a receiving subject: 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 [emphasis added]. 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. (ibid., pp.l08,I09)
leave to Cardinal Ratzinger the responsibility for the assertion
that "in the language of the High Middle Ages"
the word revelation was understood to convey the
idea of action, in other words, that it only signified the
act by which God shows Himself and not the "objective
result." It is clear, though, that by such a distinction,
he wants to separate the act from its objective "result."
This is clearly absurd. It would be like separating the
act of speaking from what is said. What is
said in fact is nothing other than what was spoken in its
"objectified result, " to use the terminology
of His Eminence. By arbitrarily separating the act of revelation
(which comes from God) from its "result" Ratzinger
can then affirm that "the receiving subject is always
also a part of the concept of 'revelation.'" Note that
he does not say that revelation is for the receiving subject
(which is true: revelation certainly is not for plants and
animals!), because God reveals what we are able to understand
about Him and what He demands of us, for our salvation,
in His mercy towards us. Rather, he says that "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."
is something quite different. It is one thing to say that
revelation, which neither adds nor removes anything from
God and which He mercifully desires for our salvation, undoubtedly
exists as an objective fact by the act of God, regardless
of our perception of it or our opinion about it. It is quite
something else to say, on the contrary, that without the
participation of the "receiving" subject, there
is no revelation, and that hence revelation exists as
an objective fact thanks to the participation of the knowing
subject of man. Conceived in this way, revelation becomes
a fact of the consciousness of the subject, it is subjectivized,
and, as Professor Schmaus pointed out, without the participation
of an understanding subject, it is not what it is, it is
think a minute! None of the enemies of Christ believe that
He is the Son of God and thus they do not believe in revelation.
If they fail to receive revelation, then, if we apply Ratzinger's
logic, there is no revelation! In the case of pagans, there
is no "receiving subject." Many men do not know
or have refused or do refuse revelation. They either cannot
or do not want to "enter into possession" of this
revelation. Are we to conclude that, because of this negative
response, revelation ceases to be what it is and that it
loses its intrinsic worth? Ratzinger's logic results in
a conclusion which is absurd. It would be like saying that
a fountain did not exist because there was no one to drink
from it! Anyone with common sense can understand to what
absurdities the subjectivist concept of revelation must
comes from the Triune God, and it is contained in Sacred
Scripture and in Tradition, as the Magisterium of the Church
has kept them. It is the "deposit of the Faith"
immutable throughout the centuries. Ever since the Apostles,
the Church has simply recognized and guarded revelation,
while testifying that it is a supernatural source, that
is, an ensemble of acts and significations which are valid
for us, precisely, as objective results of the supernaturally
manifested goodness of God (cf. Denzinger, The Sources
of Catholic Dogma, 1785). And these acts and significations
have already been fixed and established once and for all
(Jude, chap.3) by the preaching of Christ and the Apostles,
preaching which comes down to us directly from Sacred Scripture
and Tradition, or indirectly from documents bearing witness
to a continuous belief vouched for in an uninterrupted line
since the first age of Christianity. Such is the case, for
example, for belief in the existence of Purgatory from the
earliest age of Christianity, a proof that Purgatory was
preached from the beginning by the Apostles.
HISTORICIST NOTION OF TRUTH
is for men, but its intrinsic worth does not depend upon
its being grasped by man, because human reason has nothing
to do with its coming. As truth, which, moreover is absolute
because supernatural, revelation has its own existence and
meaning in itself, in a way that is entirely independent
of "receiving subjects," that is, the men for
whom God destined it. But Cardinal Ratzinger obviously does
not believe in the existence of truth per se, that
is, he does not believe in the principle of right reason
as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas teaches that
supernatural truth is independent of the subject seeking
to know it. Truth has an objective, intrinsic value completely
independent of any external circumstance or knowing subject.
acquire truth, strictly speaking, means to recognize it
in the thing, as it is in itself and not, on the contrary
to create it in the thing by the very act in which we know
it. And this applies all the more when the "thing"
being known is the revelation that comes from God! By writing
that there is no revelation if no one perceives it, for
which reason the perceiving subject is always a constitutive
element of the concept of revelation, Cardinal Ratzinger
shows that he is using the concept of truth promoted by
the insane modern philosophy that does not conceive of truth
as independent of the thinking subject. According to this
perverted philosophy, our concept constitutes the
truth of what is thought, as if the mind created it by the
very act of thinking! To them, our intellect does not recognize
the truth which is already in the thing, but creates its
for Cardinal Ratzinger, the "perceiving subject"
must be considered as a constitutive element of the concept
of revelation. This is to affirm that revelation is not
true in itself, but exists only if the "perceiving
subject" "takes possession" of it. This contradicts
the perennial philosophy of the Catholic Church. While it
is true that whether a man "takes possession"
of revelation or not (i.e., whether he believes or
not) can affect the effectiveness of revelation at
a particular period in time, it certainly cannot affect
the revelation itself, which remains unchanged and independent
as absolute truth of divine origin.
subjectivist conception of truth erroneously maintains that
man's thought, by its own act, constitutes the very truth
of what is known and believed. Since the "perceiving
subject" is historically determined (i.e., influenced
by historical changes), the door is opened to the assertion
that the content of revelation cannot be tied to the initial
act in which it appeared, but it must depend necessarily
on the historically changing self-awareness which the "perceiving
subject" possesses. [This "perceiving subject"
can be individuals, groups, or the entire Church! - Ed.]
Clearly, there can be no end to the variations, since at
any point in time one must take into account the awareness
of the "perceiving subject," which progresses
ad infinitum. The door, then, is open to the false
conviction, widespread today, that revealed truth is still
open to subsequent understandings and hence subsequent and
new developments on the side of the "perceiving subject,"
which is the Church. To these supposed developments within
the "perceiving subject" must correspond developments
in revealed truth, as it is assumed that it is not
what it is without the participation of the subject.
subjectivist misconception reflects the idea, of Protestant
origin, of “salvation history," which is founded upon
the subjectivism of modern thought which we have been explaining.
To reiterate, the modern idea holds that truth, constituted
by the (changing) thought of the perceiving subject, becomes
itself by degrees, in relation to the advance of history
or to the subject's own awareness, and thus this becoming
of truth is an unending process, ever open to novelty, that
is, to new determinations of what is considered to be true,
according to the spirit of the age.
is the understanding of truth that was at the basis of the
aggiornamento willed by Pope John XXIII and effected
by Vatican II. This is the same notion Joseph Ratzinger
explicitly declares he held when he was preparing his controversial
this time the idea of salvation history had moved to the
focus of inquiry posed by Catholic theology, and this
had cast new light on the notion of revelation, which
neo-scholasticism had kept too confined to the intellectual
realm. Revelation now appeared no longer simply as a communication
of truths to the intellect but as a historical action
of God in which truth becomes gradually unveiled. (op.
should be remarked that this gradualist notion of salvation
in which "truth becomes gradually unveiled" contradicts
the specific characteristic of the orthodox conception of
revelation summarized correctly by Cardinal Ratzinger in
the phrase, "a communication of truths to the intellect."
Obviously, he finds this expression inadequate because it
is too objective. Contrary to his subjectivist theology,
the Church's definition leaves nothing to the feelings
of the "receiving subject."
Ratzinger's objection that neo-scholasticism had kept [revelation]
too confined to the intellectual realm is false. There is
no question of "intellectualism." Revelation is,
after all, just this: truths of supernatural origin
(an adjective which the Cardinal forgets to employ), having
been communicated and revealed to man, to which the reason,
with the help of God's grace, must give assent by accepting
them and putting them into practice, that is, according
to the meaning which has been given to them, not by us,
but by God Himself, and which is guaranteed by the Magisterium
of the Church assisted by the Holy Ghost.
nature, these truths are not adaptable to the world; rather,
it is the world that must be converted to them. It is in
this that the work confided by the Lord to the Church consists.
II of this article is to appear in The Angelus, May
(Translated from Courrier de Rome, Dec.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth;
The Church at the End of the Millennium, an interview
with Peter Seewald (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997).
Cited passages are taken from this English language version.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Milestones; Memoirs
1927-1977(SanFrancisco: IgnatiusPress, 1998). Passages
cited refer to this English language version.
Albert Einstein, Anthologie, in S. Bergia,
Einstein e la relativita, Bari, 1980, p.164.
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)