Before moving on to the chapter on hope and love, I want to comment on a reference by the Pope Emeritus in his book.
He notes that when his Ratzinger Report was published, in 1985, that he was accused of being negative and pessimistic. Benedict writes that pessimism is considered a heresy by many in the world. This is a heresy connected to the false hope I recorded in another post on this idea from the Pope Emeritus. See the posts of the past few days on this subject.
The world responded in horror at this brave man wrote about the rupture of tradition, the relativism and permissiveness taking over society and so on. Most Catholics thought that the then Cardinal Ratziner was unduly critical and negative. Some, like this author, saw him as part of the problem. However, the greatest reaction was one of either dismissal or outright hatred for this holy cleric.
Here is an old review from the NYT in part:
Cardinal Ratzinger represents a third view, that of a man who is greatly disappointed. ''What the Popes and the Council Fathers were expecting was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which . . . seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction,'' he says. ''There had been the expectation of a new enthusiasm, and instead too often it has ended in boredom and discouragement. There had been the expectation of a step forward, and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence. . . . The period following the Council scarcely seemed to live up to the hopes of John XXIII, who looked for a 'new Pentecost.' ''
Cardinal Ratzinger attributes the damage pro-duced in the years since the council to the unleashing of ''latent polemical and centrifugal forces'' inside the church, and to the church's confrontation with the cultural revolution in the West represented by the triumph of middle-class individualism, rationalism and hedonism. Vatican II is not to blame. It was not a break with the past but an attempt to renew the language in which the Church presents its ancient message and to authorize sets of internal reforms to adapt its activity to modern conditions. Those who insist there was a break between a ''pre- and a post-conciliar Church'' ignore the far greater continuity between the council and earlier tradition. The blame for the disappointment of hopes for renewal belongs to those who have gone far beyond both the letter and the spirit of Vatican II, he thinks. The answer to the present crisis is a ''return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican II,'' a ''restoration,'' not in the sense of a return to the past but of a ''search for a new balance after all the exaggerations of an indiscriminate opening to the world, after the overly positive interpretations of an agnostic and atheistic world.''
After eliciting this general assessment, the interviewer takes Cardinal Ratzinger through a series of discussions in which he identifies the many problems the church faces today - a reductionist view of the church as a human construction rather than a divine institution; the loss of the sacred identity of the priest; the surrender by bishops of their individual authority to the bureaucratic structure of national episcopal conferences; individualism in theology and selectivity in catechesis; a loss of faith in God and Christ; a loss of the sense of original sin; permissiveness in morality, particularly the separation of sexuality from procreation; the denial of the proper role of women; the decline in Marian faith and piety; a trivialization of the liturgy; a dangerous neglect of the role and power of the Devil; too much accommodation in ecumenism and a liaison with Marxism in liberation theology. All in all, a most unhappy scene is painted, very rarely illuminated by some faint signs of vitality and hope. It is, he says, a ''confused period where truly every type of heretical aberration seems to be pressing upon the doors of the authentic faith.'' As disparate as these topics are, a common viewpoint and method are visible in the Cardinal's discussion of them. By far the greatest part of the treatment is devoted to dangers, abuses and fears. There is usually some brief warning against going too far in reacting to them and at times an equally brief indication that he believes there are also some positive aspects of the phenomenon under discussion. No names of those distrusted or criticized are ever given, nor is there any verifiable indication of how widespread a particular trend may be; frustratingly general words like ''some,'' ''certain'' and ''many'' abound. It is a very one-sided description, perhaps inevitable given the fact that, as a member of the Cardinal's Vatican congregation puts it, his daily work involves him with ''the pathology of faith.''
And, from another article on the Report:
On the vexed question of catechesis, Ratzinger made a profound contribution during two famous conferences on this theme at Lyons and Paris in January 1983. Here he spoke about the crisis in catechesis and its origins.
The problem, Ratzinger said, was that "the certainty of faith had been substituted by faith in historical hypothesis. The guarantee provided by such hypotheses has become, in a great number of catechetical texts, absolutely more important than the certainty of faith itself and this, too, has been scaled down to something vague and without precise contours. But life is not an hypothesis, and neither is death! Faith has become enclosed in the glass case of an intellectual world which has built itself up and, in the same way, can fall to pieces."
The Cardinal also criticised the ballooning growth of pedagogical methods for transmitting the faith, the unbalanced rapport between dogmatic exegesis and historical exegesis, and the erroneous, individualistic conceptions of faith that had The impact of the Prefect's contribution at these conferences was enormous. It represented the first authoritative critical reflection undertaken in the Church on post-conciliar catechesis and began a rethinking of its problems. This came to a head at the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 which approved the production of a universal Catechism. The work is to be completed by 1990. The task is in the hands of a Commission headed by Cardinal Ratzinger.
Now to the problems in moral theology. In February 1984 Ratzinger participated in two important conferences in Dallas, Texas, on the themes "Bishops, theologians, and morals" and "Dissent and proportionalism in moral theology".
In the first of these he touched on the correct understanding of conscience: "Conscience is understood by many to be sort of deification of subjectivity, a rock on which even the magisterium can founder. It claimed that in the light of conscience no other reason applies. Finally, conscience appears as the supreme level of subjectivity; but conscience is an organ, not an oracle; it requires growth, exercise and development."
And on the subject of morality, the Cardinal had this to say: "Morality is not an abstract code of behaviour; it presupposes a community of life within which morality itself is clarified and can be observed. Historically, morality does not belong to the realm of subjectivity but rather it is guaranteed by the community and has reference to the community.
In the second conference he referred to the relations between bishops and moral theologians: "The bishops witness to the moral values of the Catholic Church and the theologian finds in them his point of departure; but the function of the moral theologian is not simply to serve the teaching authority of bishops. He also must be in dialogue with the ethical questions of the time. "
And then, on the key issue of dissent, the Prefect pointed out that "it is important to distinguish between personal dissent and the dissent of a teacher or a specialist theologian. Particularly grave damage can be done, not because someone teaches his own personal dissent, but that he teaches it in the name of the Church."
Perhaps the most evident signs of corruption have been in the area of sacramental life. The practising Catholic laity come into contact with this regularly. They see the outward effects of it in the decadence of everyday liturgical practice and the reduction, piece-by-piece, of the indispensable sacrificial role of the ordained priest. In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Ratzinger dealt head-on with the suggestion that the laity could offer the sacrifice of the Mass without a priest:
"The ultimate meaning of the Christian life is communion with Christ and the Trinity. The normal means of entering into this relationship with the paschal mystery of the Lord is through the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. But if a Christian, or a group of Christians, were prevented for a long period of time from having access to this sacramental presence of the Lord, this does not mean they are excluded from participation in the [Easter] mystery. [The Japanese, Korean and even some of the English martyrs are paradigm cases. On the other hand, a Eucharist which has been severed from the apostolic succession would give way to a form of destructive self sufficiency.
Not long after this, on 15 September 1986, the Congregation knocked on the head Professor Schillebeex's proposal that an "extra- ordinary ministry" of the Eucharist was a "dogmatic possibility."
In recent times, Ratzinger has also played a decisive role in the field of Ecclesiology (or the theory of the Church). First, the Cardinal has rejected the notion that the Church is just a sociological phenomenon - like a social movement, a professional organisation or a political party. In a conference held at Foggia on the eve of the Extraordinary Synod of 1985, Ratzinger spelled out the Church's position this way:
"Christ gives himself only in his body and never as a mere ideal. The Church is not an idea, it is a body; and the scandal of this becoming flesh, which was a stumbling block for so many of the contemporaries of Jesus, remains today in the Church. The ecclesiology of communion is at the very heart of the doctrine of the Church of Vatican II. No-one is able to make himself "Church" on his own. No group can simply gather together, read the New Testament and say - 'We are now the Church because the Lord is there wherever two or three are gathered together in His name'. An essential element of the Church is that of receiving, since the faith derives from listening and is not the product of anyone's personal decisions. This receiving structure we call sacrament."
Most leaders in the Church, however, had fallen into the false optimism of deceit-ignoring the real problems in the Church.
That the Pope Emeritus refers to this report in the context of the prophet Jeremiah proves an essential point: truth is rarely wanted in a secularized Church.
As one who wears the scars of battles within the Church, and as one who has repeatedly said that any ideas or false prophecies on a Triumphant Church on earth in the future, I identify with what the Pope Emeritus has written and did write.
I have been called an Eeyore in the Church. However, I feel that, although in the foyer of the mansion of the greats, I am in good company.
To be continued....