Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fr. John Flynn, Business Ethics and Christianity

Business Ethics and Christianity
Pope Offers Guidelines

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JUNE 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Confrontations over globalization no longer make headlines, but many concerns remain over the future of the world economy. In past months the question of growing economic inequality has come under increasing attention.

Globalization has delivered many benefits, argued a front-page article published May 24 by the Wall Street Journal. The article did concede, however: "As trade, foreign investment and technology have spread, the gap between economic haves and have-nots has frequently widened, not only in wealthy countries like the United States, but in poorer ones like Mexico, Argentina, India and China as well."

The experience of the last few years is showing that those with education and skills benefit from globalization. Others, without these advantages, are not so fortunate. While not forgetting the benefits of globalization for many millions of people, the Wall Street Journal also expressed concern that the growing inequalities could provoke a backlash that would damage trade and investment.

Earlier this year, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also warned of problems stemming from economic inequality. In a speech given Feb. 6 to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska, Bernanke defended the idea that the free market does not guarantee an equality of economic outcomes, allowing as it does the possibility for unequal rewards due to differences in effort and skill.

Slipping down the ladder

"That said, we also believe that no one should be allowed to slip too far down the economic ladder, especially for reasons beyond his or her control," he added in the text posted on the Federal Reserve Board site.

Outlining evidence from a variety of sources, the Federal Reserve chairman pointed out that over the last few decades economic well-being in the United States has increased considerably. At the same time, he observed that "the degree of inequality in economic outcomes has increased as well."

Bernanke admitted the difficulty of resolving the question of how to maintain a balance between a market system that uses economic incentives and stimulates growth, and the need to protect individuals against adverse economic outcomes.

Proposing solutions to this problem involves value judgments beyond the realm of economic theory, Bernanke concluded. He did, however, suggest a range of possible measures, ranging from education and job training, to helping individuals and families bear the cost of economic change, as ways to affront the problem of inequality.

A similar position was expressed in an opinion article by Danny Leipziger and Michael Spence, published in the Financial Times on May 15. The authors, respectively a vice president at the World Bank and a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, argued that in the globalization debate the most important issue is "who benefits and who loses."

"Globalization is a positive sum game in the aggregate but one that produces both winners and losers," they also observed.

Leipziger and Spence supported improvements in education to help workers affront the current situation. In addition, they called for better safety nets, more investment in infrastructure and assured access to services such as health care.

Dignity of the person

Amid the ongoing debate over issues of economics and ethics, Benedict XVI has addressed these issues on several occasions in recent months. On May 26 he spoke to a group of young people from Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry.

Every business, the Pope noted, should be considered first and foremost as a group of people, whose rights and dignity should be respected. Human life and its values, the Pontiff continued, should always be the guiding principle and end of the economy.

In this context, Benedict XVI acknowledged that for business, making a profit is a value that they can rightly put as an objective of their activity. At the same time the social teaching of the Church insists that businesses must also safeguard the dignity of the human person, and that even in moments of economic difficulties, business decisions must not be guided exclusively by considerations of profit.

The Pope also dealt briefly with the theme of globalization. This is a phenomenon, he commented, that gives hope of a wider participation in economic development and riches. It is a process not without its risks, however, leading in some cases to worsening economic inequality. Echoing the words of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI called for a globalization characterized by solidarity and without marginalization of people.

Other principles that need to guide the economy are justice and charity, Benedict XVI explained in a message, dated April 28, to the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Mary Ann Glendon. The letter was sent on the occasion of the plenary session of the academy, held April 27-May 1.

The pursuit of justice and the promotion of the civilization of love, the message stated, are essential aspects of the Church's mission in its proclamation of the Gospel. Justice and love cannot be separated, the Pope observed, because of the Church's experience of how the two were united in "the revelation of God's infinite justice and mercy in Jesus Christ."

Justice, he continued, must be "corrected" by love, a love which inspires justice and purifies our efforts to build a better society. "Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice," the Pope stated.

Labor market

The Pope took a closer look at some of the problems facing workers in a couple of speeches earlier this year. In a message dated March 28, sent to participants in the 9th International Youth Forum organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Benedict XVI commented that in recent years economic and technological changes have radically changed the labor market.

This has given hope to young people, the Pontiff conceded, but it also brings with it the need for greater skills and education, and the demand that workers be prepared to travel, even to other countries, in searching for jobs.

Work, he explained, is part of God's plan for humanity and through it we participate in the work of creation and redemption. We will live this better, the Pope urged, if we remain united to Christ through prayer and sacramental life.

Then, on March 31, Benedict XVI spoke to a gathering of Confartigianato, an association of Italian artisans. Work is part of God's plan for man, even if because of original sin it has become more of a burden, the Pope explained.

It is important, he exhorted, to proclaim the primacy of the human person and the common good over capital, science, technology and even private ownership. As Christians, we can testify to the "Gospel of work," in our daily lives, the Pope reminded them.

The Pontiff also had words for those directing workers, in an address to a group from the Italian group, the Christian Union of Business Executives on March 4. Justice and charity, the Pope said, are inseparable elements in the social commitment of Christians.

"It is incumbent on lay faithful in particular to work for a just order in society, taking part in public life in the first person, cooperating with other citizens and fulfilling their own responsibility," said the Pope.

"Unfortunately, partly because of current economic difficulties, these values often run the risk of not being followed by those business persons who lack a sound moral inspiration," he also noted. Values which, together with sound economic policies, could go a long way in finding solutions to the ethical challenges in a globalized world.

Interview With Father Vincent Twomey

The Conscience of Our Age
Interview With Father Vincent Twomey

MAYNOOTH, Ireland, JUNE 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The modern conception of conscience reduces it to an excuse mechanism, that it cannot err and that what one thinks is right is in fact right, said author Father Vincent Twomey.

Father Twomey, retired professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick's College, in Maynooth, is the author of "Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age," published this year by Ignatius Press.

In this interview with ZENIT, he comments on the Holy Father's role in providing a way to return to a deeper understanding of conscience.

Q: You were a doctoral student of Father Joseph Ratzinger. How has that experience uniquely prepared you to write this book?

Father Twomey: I joined professor Ratzinger's doctoral colloquium in the spring of 1971, and studied under his supervision for the doctorate, which I was awarded in 1979.

Since his election as archbishop of Munich in 1977, he has met with his former doctoral and postdoctoral students each year for a weekend colloquium, a practice that continued even after his election as Benedict XVI.

I think that, as a result, I have a personal knowledge of the Pope that is, perhaps, unique.
Sitting at his feet as a student, studying his writings, and participating in discussions with him over some 36 years has also given me a certain insight into his thought, which in turn has influenced my own theology profoundly.

Q: What do you think are the most defining characteristics of the writings of Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI?

Father Twomey: The most defining formal characteristics of his writings are originality, clarity and a superb literary style that is not easy to render in translation.

Ratzinger is more than a world-class scholar and academic: He is an original thinker.

He has the Midas touch, in the positive sense that whatever he touches, he turns to gold, in other words, whatever subject he examines, he has something new and exciting to say about it, be it the dogmas of the Church or a mosaic in an ancient Roman church or bioethics. And he writes with amazing clarity.

With regard to his style, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne is reported as commenting that Ratzinger is the Mozart of theology -- he writes masterpieces effortlessly.

With regard to its content, as Ratzinger once said himself, "God is the real central theme of my endeavors."

There is hardly an area of theology -- dogma, moral, political life, bioethics, liturgy, exegesis, music, art -- that he has not examined in-depth. And everything he examines, he does so from God's viewpoint, as it were, namely trying to discover what light revelation -- Scripture and Tradition -- can shine on a particular issue.

On the other hand, his theological reflection is firmly rooted in contemporary experience: the questions and existential issues posed by modernity and post-modernity, by contemporary thinkers and the epoch-making events of our times.

However, his pastoral and administrative duties as archbishop and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith were such that he had little time to write extensive monographs, with the result that most of his writings are of a fragmentary nature. But what fragments!

Each has the capacity to convey that insight into truth that touches the mind and heart of the reader -- and can effect in many a change of heart.

Q: You describe Benedict XVI as unafraid of making mistakes, and as "having the courage to be imperfect." Can you explain this further?

Father Twomey: Having the courage to be imperfect is more than being afraid of making mistakes, though it may include it.

Basic to his whole attitude to life and to theology is the assumption that only God is perfect, that human effort is always imperfect.

Perfectionism of any kind is inimical to man, but above all in the political sphere. Most political ideologies aim to create a perfect world, a perfect society and usually end up making hell on earth.

That is a frequent theme of his writings on political life. But also with regard to the human effort to do theology, as it were. That, too, will always be unfinished business, always capable of improvement, of correction and deepening.

We cannot know everything, least of all God and his design for man. I have described his writings as "fragmentary." Most of his writings are unfinished -- like his classic book, "Introduction to Christianity," and, more recently, his "Jesus of Nazareth." And yet he has the courage to publish them in their unfinished state.

This attitude gave Joseph Ratzinger that inner calm and detachment which the world is now experiencing in Benedict XVI. But it also is, perhaps, the secret of his gentle humor and wit.

Q: You suggest that there has been a distortion of the word conscience. What is this distortion and how has it affected the Church?

Father Twomey: The starting point is the traditional notion of an erroneous conscience, which in the wake of the turbulence that followed "Humanae Vitae," was falsely interpreted to mean, in effect for many, that it does not matter what one does, provided that one is sincerely convinced that it is right.

Sincerity now becomes the criterion of morality and, taken to its logical conclusion, it would be impossible to condemn a Hitler or a Stalin, since it could be claimed that they too acted according to their "lights," according to their sincere convictions.

The traditional insistence on the primacy of following your conscience, even if erroneous, led to a new notion, that of the "infallible conscience." This amounts to the claim that conscience cannot err, that what you think is right is in fact right.

This is to reduce conscience to an excuse mechanism. This notion receives its persuasiveness, if not its inspiration, from the prevailing relativism of modernity.

It is sometimes claimed today that each one can adopt whatever moral principles he or she decides best for them. These are the fruit of their conscientious choice, after having looked at the options.

This is indeed a very attractive theory. But it amounts to the claim that each person can determine for himself what is right or wrong, the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden.

Often, it is given the title "a la carte" Catholicism, picking and choosing what suits us. Morality is reduced to an ultimately irrational personal preference.

This prevailing notion of conscience has had a devastating effect on the Church and Christian living.

Q: You describe Benedict XVI as a guide for the conscience in today's age. In what ways do you believe this to be true?

Father Twomey: First of all, as theologian and later as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger has been the voice of the Church's conscience in affirming the objective truth when it was denied either theoretically or in practice.

It is astonishing that secular thinkers, those outside the Church, as it were, seem to recognize this more than those inside. Thus, for example, the French Academy honored him as the apt successor to Andrey Sacharov, the dissident atom physicist during the tyranny of the Soviet Union.

It was their recognition of a courageous thinker who was in effect the great "dissident" under the "dictatorship of relativism" that has swamped Europe and America over the past half-century.

Secondly, conscience is not only a central theme of his writings, he has also made a major contribution to correcting the false understanding of conscience outlined above, to which I devote a whole chapter in my book.

Q: How did the experience of growing up in Nazi Germany helped to prepare Joseph Ratzinger for the papacy? What particular lessons did he learn then that he still puts into practice today?

Father Twomey: The answer to this question is to be found in a comment he made in an interview in 1999: "As a result [of living through the Nazi period], I learned to have a certain reserve with regard to the reigning ideologies."

Evidently, he meant "ideologies" also to cover those found within the Church, which are fashionable since they reflect current ideological trends in society.

His experience of living under a political ideology and its bureaucracy made him sensitive to the need for the exercise of moral responsibility on the part of each one, but in particular on the part of those who hold public office in the Church or in the state. Moral responsibility is but another word for conscience.

His skepticism regarding episcopal conferences is rooted in the experience of how, as a collective, the German bishops, to put it mildly, had not quite matched up to the witness given by individual bishops such as Bishop Clemens von Galen of Muenster and Archbishop Michael Faulhaber of Munich.

He calls on all bishops to give personal witness and not wait for the collective conference to rubber-stamp some document prepared by an anonymous commission.

Likewise, his theology has been marked by a personal search for the truth, urged on by his conscience. All his life, he has exercised his personal moral responsibility, even when it earned for him the negative title of "rottweiler" or "grand inquisitor" -- or, indeed, "the enemy of humanity," as one journalist put it.

To speak the truth in love is to be in opposition, very often, to the prevailing fashions and so to make oneself unpopular.

Now, as Benedict XVI, he continues to exercise that moral responsibility, not least in the way he writes most of his own speeches, which speak to the heart of his audience because they are spoken from his own heart and not from a prepared schema.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Quick thoughts on money

Is it too controversial to say that money is primarily used for exchange within a political community? What if we say that interstate trade should be conducted solely through barter, and that money should not flow out of a state? What do we make of its use as a commodity in itself? Money is for the sake of promoting the good life within a community, and not for people within the state and outside the state to exploit in order to get rich? That is, money exists to faciliate the exchange of goods and services between members of a community, so that their bodily needs can be taken care of.

New from CUA Press

Just received their Fall/Winter 2007-8 catalog today.

Aquinas the Augustinian, ed. Michael Dauphinais, Barry David, and Matthew Levering (September, paper $39.95, 978-0-8132-1492-4)

The Perspective of the Acting Person: Essays in the Renewal of Thomistic Moral Philosophy by Martin Rhonheimer, ed. William F. Murphy, Jr. (February, paper $39.95, 978-0-8132-1551-2)

No doubt there will be a lot of discussion of the essays in this book among "traditional" Thomists.
The Age of Strict Construction: A History of the Growth of Federal Power, 1789-1861 by Peter Zavodnyik (October, cloth $59.95, 978-0-8132-1504-4)

The book focuses on the dispute over the spending power of Congress, the Supreme Court's expansion fo the Contract Clause, and the centralizing effects of the Jacksonian spoils system. The book also surveys the conflict over constitutional interpretation--originalism v. textualism--that has divided Americans from the time of the dispute over the first Bank of the United States until the present day.

The standard interpretation of American history holds that the federal government remained a weak and passive creature until the New Deal. The Age of Strict Construction argues that this interpretation is not valid--if measured against the original understanding of the powers of Congress and the Supreme Court, federal authority grew rapidly during the antebellum period. The most stunning aspect of centralization occured with the rise of a party system heavily dependent on federal largesse for patronage.

The book also details how the federal government quickly came to play an unexpectedly prominent role in the lives of citizens, as its policies in areas such as land sales and tariffs had a huge effect on the fortunes of individual Americans. It also explains how the Founders' classical ideas of a rural electorate immune to pecuniary considerations quickly succumbed to the changes brought on by the arrival of a market economy and the growth of cities.

The relationship between centralization and the sectional crisis of the 1850s is also explored. The book turns the long-running argument over the cause of secession--slave v. the growth of federal power--on its head by revealing how the two combined to cause southern states to leave the Union.

Widsom's Apprentice: Thomistic Essays in Honor of Lawrence Dewan, O.P. ed. by Peter A. Kwasniewski (September, cloth $49.95, 978-0-8132-1495-5)

A second edition of Joseph Ratzinger's Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. (October, paper, $19.95, 978-0-8132-1516-7).

And there's a new series coming out: The Library of Early Christianity

A new series of texts and translations featuring the early Christian literature of both the Eastern and Western churches (A.D. 150-800)

The Library of Early Christianity will be a permanent enterprise that publishes one new volume approximately every other year. The Library will publish texts in the original ancient languages of both East and West--Greek, Latin, Arabic, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, and Georgian--accompanied by contemporary English translations printed on the facing pages. In order to make the texs more accesible to the nonspecialist and to aid readers in comprehending the thought of ht influential thinkers of the early church, each volume will include an introduction,
notes, and a bibliography.

Editorial Director John F. Petruccione is associate professor in the Department of Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America.
The first two volumes are from Theodoret of Cyrus, The Questions on the Octateuch.

The Theological Genius of Joseph Ratzinger

The Theological Genius of Joseph Ratzinger An Interview with Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D., author of Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait) Carl E. Olson

Go to the original for the embedded links.
Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D., holds both a Ph.D. in Theology and is Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland. He is also a former doctoral student of Joseph Ratzinger, having studied under the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in the early 1970s. Twomey is the author of several books, including an acclaimed study of the state of Irish Catholicism, The End of Irish Catholicism?.

His most recent book is Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait), recently published by Ignatius Press. Rev. Twomey, both a former student and longtime friend of Joseph Ratzinger, wrote the book, in part, to answer the common question he heard often after the papal election, "What kind of person is the new Pope?" Having often heard and read false depictions of both the man and his thought, especially the image presented by the media as a grim enforcer, Twomey wished to set the record straight. Rev. Twomey offers in his book a unique double-presentation of the man, Pope Benedict XVI--a "theological portrait" that encompasses both an overview of the writings, teachings and thought of the brilliant theologian and spiritual writer, as well as the man himself, and his personality traits and how he communicates with others.

Carl E. Olson, editor of IgnatiusInsight.com, recently interviewed Rev. Twomey, and spoke to him about his former professor, the theological vision of Joseph Ratzinger, and what he expects from the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

IgnatiusInsight.com: How and when did you first meet Joseph Ratzinger? What was your impression of him?

Rev. Twomey: I first met Joseph Ratzinger early in the new year of 1971, when he interviewed me in Regensburg after I had asked him to be my doctoral supervisor. My first impression was of an unassuming man with piercing eyes, a gentle smile, and not the slightest touch of the arrogance of a Herr Professor.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What were some of the essential formative theological influences on Joseph Ratzinger?

Rev. Twomey: The immediate post-war situation of the Church in Germany exercised a huge influence on the fledgling theologian. The Church had emerged triumphant after the persecution under Hitler. There was a feeling of a new beginning, not least in theology, where the neo-scholasticism of the previous half-century was more or less abandoned in the search for a fresh approach.

Young theologians such as Henri de Lubac, who had a great influence on Ratzinger, turned to the Fathers of the Church for inspiration and found it. The Munich theologian Gottlieb Soehngen directed Ratzinger's doctoral dissertation on Augustine's ecclesiology and his postdoctoral dissertation on Bonaventure's theology of history. Augustine and Bonaventure are two major thinkers whose profound influence on Ratzinger cannot be underestimated. He came under the spell of Cardinal Newman thanks to his Prefect of Studies, Alfred Laepple, who at the time was writing his thesis on Newman's understanding of conscience and introduced his students to the writings of perhaps the greatest theologian of the 19th century, who was also steeped in the Fathers of the Church.

But, ultimately, it was Scripture that formed the basic thrust of all his theology. He once said something to the effect that, in the final analysis, his theology is a form of exegesis. And here his friendship with the great German exegete Heinrich Schlier must be mentioned; Schlier's attention to the precise terms of the original text of Scripture is echoed in Ratzinger's careful exegesis. Josef Pieper, the most important German Catholic philosopher, also exercised a great influence, as did Endre von Ivanka on the philosophy of the early Church.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What attracted him to Augustine and how has his early studies of the great Doctor of the Church informed how he addresses contemporary controversies?

Rev. Twomey: Ratzinger found the scholastics too cerebral. Augustine appealed to him as a man of passion, whose whole life was dedicated to the search to know the truth and articulate it. For neo-scholasticism, everything found its place in the "system", but Ratzinger was instinctively aware that truth is more than any system of thought could encompass, that it has to be discovered anew in all its freshness from one generation to the next.

Augustine was more than a controversialist, but he was still a remarkable controversialist, who was not frightened by any attack on the faith, be it within the Church or without. Confident in the truth revealed in Christ, he found the courage to take on all those who questioned that truth or denied it. Ratzinger shows a similar courage. He is not afraid to face up to the most difficult challenges to the faith, knowing that in trying to answer them we discover the truth in all its grandeur and compelling nature. More concretely, Ratzinger's studies of the ecclesiology of Augustine shaped his own understanding of Church--including the role of the Eucharist at the core of the Church--and her mission. They also prepared him for his later theology of political life, since Augustine's ecclesiology also involved clarifying the relationship between Church and State, between civil religion and faith.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What is unique or perhaps even surprising about Ratzinger's theological methodology? How does it differ from some of the celebrated Catholic theologians of the 1960s such as Küng and Rahner?

Rev. Twomey: What is unique to Ratzinger's theological methodology is, in the first place, its originality and creativity. Despite all the influences I mentioned, Ratzinger retained his distance and so retained his independence as a thinker, even with regard to the great theologians he studied.

His methodology is to take as his starting point contemporary developments in society and culture, then he listens to the solutions offered my his fellow theologians before returning to a critical examination of Scripture and Tradition for pointers to a solution. He is not satisfied to analyze a topic, but, having dissected the issue, he then attempts a systematic answer by seeing the topic in the context of theology as a whole. Unlike Küng, who is always in tune with the latest fashion, Ratzinger is not afraid to be unfashionable. Unlike Rahner, who produced a full systematic theology, Ratzinger's theology is fragmentary--filled with brilliant insights into almost every subject of theology and yet not a fixed "system".

Using the best findings of academic theology, Ratzinger goes beyond them to create something new and original. He is more than an academic. He is an original thinker, whose scattered writings on a host of subjects are "seminal", awaiting development by others. Finally, unlike either Küng or (especially) Rahner, Ratzinger writes with a clarity and, at times, literary beauty, that never fails to impress.

IgnatiusInsight.com: In the introduction to your book you wrote about how it was an "unsettling sight" to see, in April 2005, "the familiar face of my former teacher in hundreds of posters everywhere." In what ways, do you think, has being elected Pope brought out or highlighted little-known aspects of Benedict XVI's personality? Theological vision?

Rev. Twomey: Before he was elected Pope, it has to be admitted, few theologians or others were interested in his writings--he had been effectively sidelined. In addition, his task as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was such that he was seen in a very negative light as the Grand Inquisitor, or Dr No. Theologians, it would seem, are as influenced by the media as anyone else. Few were even aware that, while Prefect, he had continued to publish as a private theologian. It came as a great surprise to many that, in his homilies and talks since his election, the main topic he stressed was joy--the joy God intends to bring into the world through the Church. Now many are reading Ratzinger for the first time and are often quite overwhelmed. The media had presented Ratzinger's frowning face, when announcing some unpalatable decision of the Congregation. Since his election, the whole world has been captivated by his smiling face. That says it all.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you think are the most misunderstood aspects of Benedict's person and thought? How have some of those misunderstandings come about?

Rev. Twomey: Generally speaking, Ratzinger was written off as a conservative, if not a reactionary, primarily because few bothered to read his writings--but also because of his task as Prefect, which was to determine the boundaries of theological investigation and discipline certain theologians. His famous dialogue with Habermas in Munich in 2004 came as a huge surprise to Catholic intellectuals, who were unaware of how far Ratzinger was open to the heritage of the Enlightenment. It was not a surprise to secular thinkers, who had learned to treat Ratzinger with respect. The French Academy honored him as the apt successor to Andrey Sacharov, the dissident atom physicist during the tyranny of the Soviet Union. It was their recognition of a courageous thinker who was in effect the great "dissident" under the "dictatorship of relativism" that has swamped Europe and American over the past half-century.

IgnatiusInsight.com: A common mainstream media portrayal of Joseph Ratzinger, especially during his days as head of the CDF, was that he was rigid, dour, ultra-conservative, and closed to dialogue with those he disagree with. How far off the mark is that depiction? Why do you think, in particular, there continues to be this idea that Benedict is close off from ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, in spite of years of writings that emphatically state otherwise?

Rev. Twomey: As already mentioned, it is completely off the mark to portray Ratzinger as rigid, dour, etc. As I point out in my book, what marked Ratzinger as a professor was his ability to promote genuine, open discussion and dialogue, as well as his dry wit and gentle humor. He enjoys a good joke and a humorous story. All his life, he has been engaged in ecumenical dialogue. His critical appreciation for non-Christian religions can be traced back to his earliest writings as a young theologian. Perhaps it was the document Dominus Iesus, on the oneness of Christ and his Church and the relationship of the Church to the other Christian denominations and the non-Christian religions, and more recently his Regensburg lecture, that gave rise to the idea that Benedict is opposed to inter-religious dialogue. His true, positive yet critical attitude can be found in his book Truth and Tolerance.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Your book was already in production when Benedict gave his now famous Regensburg Address that created a furor around the world. What was your reaction to the address? What do you think of the criticisms of those Catholic critics who said that Benedict wasn't properly diplomatic, didn't understand that he was now Pope and not a professor, and that he doesn't really understand Islam thought and theology?

Rev. Twomey: My own reaction was positive, since the main thrust of the lecture was to criticize European thinkers for leaving God out of the picture, of using a limited notion of reason that excluded the Transcendent, much to the impoverishment of society, and how poorly Europe was prepared to enter into dialogue with Islam as a result. It should be remembered that the lecture at the University before an assembly of academics and scientists received a standing ovation. The lecture, surprisingly, has resulted in a genuine dialogue between Christian and Muslim scholars (now that the air has been cleared) as well as what seems to be the beginning of a dialogue between secular and Christian thinkers (the latter being the main concern of his lecture). The Pope's visit to Turkey, especially to the Blue Mosque, should have put an end to any doubts about his attitude toward Islam.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Three of the seven chapters in your book deal with the issue of conscience and its vital place in the theological work of Ratzinger. What are the origins of his theological interest in conscience? Why has it been such an integral part of his writings over several decades?

Rev. Twomey: In the background is the rejection of any kind of fixed system of thought or ideology (even of a theological nature, "orthodox" or liberal) and a corresponding insight into the highly personal nature of truth. As mentioned before, his exposure to Newman as a young student of theology brought him into contact with one of the great modern thinkers who had thought deeply about the nature and centrality of conscience as a "co-knowing" of the truth in an age ofgrowing skepticism about knowing truth.

But also his study of Augustine, the great explorer of the human soul and its relationship to God, alerted him to the subjective aspect of grasping objective truth. Augustine, too, had to overcome the skepticism of his day that denied the possibility of knowing the truth. More generally, "conscience" is the term used today to justify the subjectivity that underlines relativism, not only in the moral sphere--it is in the air. As a result, Ratzinger, who is highly sensitive to every current of contemporary thought, must of necessity confront the question as to the nature of conscience and has done so consistently. Finally, an erroneous notion of conscience has penetrated deeply into Catholic moral theology, which Ratzinger has on occasion subjected to a radical criticism.

IgnatiusInsight.com: In writing of potential liturgical changes that Benedict may implement--and which have been rumored for many months now--you wrote that Ratzinger knows that "restoration ... must of necessity be creative, rooted in theology, and concerned with essentials, not the accidentals." Based on your knowledge of the Holy Father and his writings, what are some of the creative actions you think he might take to help restore the beauty and reverence that many Catholics believe has been largely lost over the past four decades?

Rev. Twomey: The Pope will first teach by doing--by the way he celebrates the liturgy. If he issues the Moto Proprio on the Tridintine Mass, then it will not be an attempt to restore that rite but to insist on the continuity between that rite and the present rite, but also in the hope that future generations will learn from that wonderfully rich rite, as many liturgists are now learning from the Eastern Orthodox rites. Liturgy must grow organically; it takes time to ripen, as it were, and changes must be introduced gradually. (The great mistake with the new liturgy, it seems to me, was the way a completely new rite was suddenly imposed on the Church from above.) According to the Post-Synodal Instruction on the Eucharist, the Pope has requested the relevant Congregation to examine some changes. Liturgy is about great and marvelous things happening under the form of little actions and words. Each work and ritual is significant. Any change affects the whole.

IgnatiusInsight.com: In your opinion, where does Joseph Ratzinger stand in the pantheon of great Catholic theologians of the 20th century? What sort of influence might his theological works have on future generations?

Rev. Twomey: This question is difficult to answer. I see Ratzinger as one of the great original thinkers of the 20th century. His pastoral tasks as Archbishop of Munich and his disciplinary tasks as Prefect of the CDF and now as Pope, prevented and prevents him from that writing project which would have produced a magnificent opus. And yet he has produced a vast corpus of writings on almost every topic in theology--mostly of a fragmentary nature, but capable of inspiring future generations to develop his seminal insights.

What is unique to Ratzinger is his ability to speak to all levels of society and to inspire all. Rarely has a theologian been able to speak to people's minds and hearts in such a way that their lives can be changed as a result. His latest book, Jesus of Nazareth, produced, like most of his work, in his spare time, is likely to set the parameters for theological debate on the nature of exegesis and the person of Jesus Christ for generations to come.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pope's Address to European Professors

Pope's Address to European Professors
"A New Humanism for Europe. The Role of the Universities"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave to participants of the European Meeting of University Professors, gathered in Paul VI Hall. The four-day meeting ended today in Rome.

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Your Eminence,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends!

I am particularly pleased to receive you during the first European Meeting of University Lecturers, sponsored by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and organized by teachers from the Roman universities, coordinated by the Vicariate of Rome's Office for the Pastoral Care of Universities. It is taking place on the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which gave rise to the present European Union, and its participants include university lecturers from every country on the continent, including those of the Caucasus: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. I thank Cardinal Péter Erdő, President of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, for his kind words of introduction. I greet the representatives of the Italian government, particularly those from the Ministry for Universities and Research, and from the Ministry for Italy's Cultural Heritage, as well as the representatives of the Region of Lazio and the Province and City of Rome. My greeting also goes to the other civil and religious authorities, the Rectors and the teachers of the various universities, as well as the chaplains and students present.

The theme of your meeting -- "A New Humanism for Europe. The Role of the Universities" -- invites a disciplined assessment of contemporary culture on the continent. Europe is presently experiencing a certain social instability and diffidence in the face of traditional values, yet her distinguished history and her established academic institutions have much to contribute to shaping a future of hope. The "question of man", which is central to your discussions, is essential for a correct understanding of current cultural processes. It also provides a solid point of departure for the effort of universities to create a new cultural presence and activity in the service of a more united Europe. Promoting a new humanism, in fact, requires a clear understanding of what this "newness" actually embodies. Far from being the fruit of a superficial desire for novelty, the quest for a new humanism must take serious account of the fact that Europe today is experiencing a massive cultural shift, one in which men and women are increasingly conscious of their call to be actively engaged in shaping their own history. Historically, it was in Europe that humanism developed, thanks to the fruitful interplay between the various cultures of her peoples and the Christian faith. Europe today needs to preserve and reappropriate her authentic tradition if she is to remain faithful to her vocation as the cradle of humanism.

The present cultural shift is often seen as a "challenge" to the culture of the university and Christianity itself, rather than as a "horizon" against which creative solutions can and must be found. As men and women of higher education, you are called to take part in this demanding task, which calls for sustained reflection on a number of foundational issues.

Among these, I would mention in the first place the need for a comprehensive study of the crisis of modernity. European culture in recent centuries has been powerfully conditioned by the notion of modernity. The present crisis, however, has less to do with modernity's insistence on the centrality of man and his concerns, than with the problems raised by a "humanism" that claims to build a regnum hominis detached from its necessary ontological foundation. A false dichotomy between theism and authentic humanism, taken to the extreme of positing an irreconcilable conflict between divine law and human freedom, has led to a situation in which humanity, for all its economic and technical advances, feels deeply threatened. As my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, stated, we need to ask "whether in the context of all this progress, man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say, more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible and more open to others" ("Redemptor Hominis," 15). The anthropocentrism which characterizes modernity can never be detached from an acknowledgment of the full truth about man, which includes his transcendent vocation.

A second issue involves the broadening of our understanding of rationality. A correct understanding of the challenges posed by contemporary culture, and the formulation of meaningful responses to those challenges, must take a critical approach towards narrow and ultimately irrational attempts to limit the scope of reason. The concept of reason needs instead to be "broadened" in order to be able to explore and embrace those aspects of reality which go beyond the purely empirical. This will allow for a more fruitful, complementary approach to the relationship between faith and reason. The rise of the European universities was fostered by the conviction that faith and reason are meant to cooperate in the search for truth, each respecting the nature and legitimate autonomy of the other, yet working together harmoniously and creatively to serve the fulfilment of the human person in truth and love.

A third issue needing to be investigated concerns the nature of the contribution which Christianity can make to the humanism of the future. The question of man, and thus of modernity, challenges the Church to devise effective ways of proclaiming to contemporary culture the "realism" of her faith in the saving work of Christ. Christianity must not be relegated to the world of myth and emotion, but respected for its claim to shed light on the truth about man, to be able to transform men and women spiritually, and thus to enable them to carry out their vocation in history. In my recent visit to Brazil, I voiced my conviction that "unless we do know God in and with Christ, all of reality becomes an indecipherable enigma" (Address to Bishops of CELAM, 3). Knowledge can never be limited to the purely intellectual realm; it also includes a renewed ability to look at things in a way free of prejudices and preconceptions, and to allow ourselves to be "amazed" by reality, whose truth can be discovered by uniting understanding with love. Only the God who has a human face, revealed in Jesus Christ, can prevent us from truncating reality at the very moment when it demands ever new and more complex levels of understanding. The Church is conscious of her responsibility to offer this contribution to contemporary culture.

In Europe, as elsewhere, society urgently needs the service to wisdom which the university community provides. This service extends also to the practical aspects of directing research and activity to the promotion of human dignity and to the daunting task of building the civilization of love. University professors, in particular, are called to embody the virtue of intellectual charity, recovering their primordial vocation to train future generations not only by imparting knowledge but by the prophetic witness of their own lives. The university, for its part, must never lose sight of its particular calling to be an "universitas" in which the various disciplines, each in its own way, are seen as part of a greater unum. How urgent is the need to rediscover the unity of knowledge and to counter the tendency to fragmentation and lack of communicability that is all too often the case in our schools! The effort to reconcile the drive to specialization with the need to preserve the unity of knowledge can encourage the growth of European unity and help the continent to rediscover its specific cultural "vocation" in today's world. Only a Europe conscious of its own cultural identity can make a specific contribution to other cultures, while remaining open to the contribution of other peoples.

Dear friends, it is my hope that universities will increasingly become communities committed to the tireless pursuit of truth, "laboratories of culture" where teachers and students join in exploring issues of particular importance for society, employing interdisciplinary methods and counting on the collaboration of theologians. This can easily be done in Europe, given the presence of so many prestigious Catholic institutions and faculties of theology. I am convinced that greater cooperation and new forms of fellowship between the various academic communities will enable Catholic universities to bear witness to the historical fruitfulness of the encounter between faith and reason. The result will be a concrete contribution to the attainment of the goals of the Bologna Process, and an incentive for developing a suitable university apostolate in the local Churches. Effective support for these efforts, which have been increasingly a concern of the European Episcopal Conferences (cf. "Ecclesia in Europa," 58-59), can come from those ecclesial associations and movements already engaged in the university apostolate.

Dear friends, may your deliberations during these days prove fruitful and help to build an active network of university instructors committed to bringing the light of the Gospel to contemporary culture. I assure you and your families of a special remembrance in my prayers, and I invoke upon you, and the universities in which you work, the maternal protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom. To each of you I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing.

[Original text: English]

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