Joseph Ratzinger theologian. Not “modernist” but modern

Joseph Ratzinger theologian. Not “modernist” but modern

[Refutation of the thesis of Enrico Maria Radaelli’s book Al cuore di Ratzinger. Al cuore del mondo (At the Heart of Ratzinger. At the Heart of the World) ; Google translation of Joseph Ratzinger teologo. Non “modernista” ma moderno]

by Antonio Caragliu*

Antonio Livi, in his review of the last volume of Enrico Maria Radaelli reported in the previous post of Settimo Cielo [Ratzinger Rehabilitates Müller. But the Pope Emeritus Himself Is Being Hit with Accusations of Heresy], has the merit of being clear and of inviting us to consider some fundamental problems concerning the ever present and relevant theme of the relationship between faith and reason .

He challenges Joseph Ratzinger to assume “the epistemological presupposition of the impossibility of rational knowledge of God and of natural law”, thus disavowing the classical doctrine of the “preambula fidei” and becoming an accomplice of skeptical and subjectivist “modernism”.

Livi’s thesis does not convince me. It nevertheless leads us to ask an interesting question: what is the specifically modern character of Joseph Ratzinger’s theology?

Indeed, the pope emeritus explicitly claims the modernity of his theological reflection: “I have tried to carry on the Church on the basis of a modern interpretation of faith,” he says in the “Last Conversations” with Peter Seewald.

As Livi points out, the modernity of Ratzinger’s theology influences the consideration of the classical doctrine of the “preambula fidei”, or of those truths of rational and natural order that prepare for faith. But this different consideration, contrary to what Livi claims, does not contradict the principle of the rational cognizance of God, to which Ratzinger arrives through another way.

This other way comes to terms with the methodological atheism of the experimental sciences, which, regardless of the logical aspect of the question of the existence of God, mark the transition from classical to modern culture.

In dealing with this methodological atheism, Livi and Ratzinger take two divergent ways.

Livi takes the path of a metaphysics of “common sense”, defined by him as “the organic whole of those certainties about the existence of the institutions of immediate experience that are always and necessarily the basis of every other certainty, that is, of every another claim of truth in judgments, both of existence and of attribution “(A. Livi,” Philosophy of common sense, Logic of science and of faith “, Rome 2010, page 7). The clearly metaphysical path of Livi focuses on the determination of “primary evidences” that remain substantially foreign with respect to the investigation of reality made by the modern sciences.

Instead, Ratzinger chooses a path that I would call “ontological deepening” of the same epistemic presuppositions of modern science. An ontological study that draws on the origin of human rationality in a “creative Reason” of being.

In this regard it is worth pointing out how the knowledge that emerges in modern science is not so much a description of states of fact and of things (this is the error in which neopositivism and analytic philosophy persists), but knowledge of laws, or relationships between things, of functions.

A similar methodological approach disregards the determination of the cause of the existence of things.

Therefore Ratzinger’s ontological analysis does not orientate itself to the “entities” and to the cause of their existence – as does classical metaphysics or that of Livi – but to that legality and rationality which constitutes the inevitable transcendental presupposition of scientific research.

It is a modern way and at the same time extraordinarily adherent to the biblical faith.

Ratzinger writes in the “Introduction to the new edition of 2000” of his classic “Introduction to Christianity” which is the subject of the criticism of Radaelli and Livi:

The world is not reduced to the infinite wheel of suffering, to which man must try to escape. The world is positive “(” Introduction to Christianity “, Brescia 2005, p.21).

Between the ontological truth of the creative Reason and the transcendental presuppositions of science there is no logically necessary relationship. As stated above, scientific laws prescind from the question of the existence of God and the origin of reality. For this logical reason Ratzinger maintains that God’s remains “the best hypothesis, although it is a hypothesis” (J. Ratzinger, “Benedict’s Europe in the crisis of cultures”, Siena 2005, 123).

And in considering this logical reason, in my opinion, is the specifically modern character of Joseph Ratzinger’s theology.

A modern theology, but not for this skeptical, subjectivist and modernist.


*Lawyer of the Trieste Bar and member of the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists.

Get AQ Email Updates

One comment on “Joseph Ratzinger theologian. Not “modernist” but modern

  1. — see the first dozen articles. Ratzinger IS Teilhard.

Leave a Reply