Benedict XVI Calls for Healthy Discussion

But Says Aim Should Be Finding Truth in Charity

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 4, 2009 ( There should be healthy discussion in the Church, especially regarding issues that have not been defined by the magisterium, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope made this affirmation today during the general audience, in which he reflected on the disagreement between Abelard and St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The Holy Father characterized the approaches to theology typified by these two personalities as «theology of the heart» and «theology of reason.» He explained how their contrasting emphases gave rise to an often fiery debate.

But, the Pontiff affirmed, there is a lesson in their experience that should be learned today.

«Above all,» he said, «I believe [the confrontation] shows the usefulness of and the need for a healthy discussion in the Church, especially when the questions debated have not been defined by the magisterium.»

The magisterium is an «essential point of reference,» Benedict XVI clarified, as both Bernard and Abelard showed. Though the latter received ecclesiastical condemnation, he «always recognized, without doubting,» its authority.Walking the line

The Pope said that Abelard’s condemnations should serve as a reminder that in theology there are two types of principles.

There are fundamental principles «that have been given to us by Revelation and that, because of this, always are of prime importance,» he said, and «interpretative principles suggested by philosophy, that is, by reason, which has an important function, but only instrumental.»

The Pontiff proposed that when this balance is upset «theological reflection runs the risk of being contaminated with errors, and then it corresponds to the magisterium to exercise that necessary service to truth that is proper to it.»

Another lesson

Benedict XVI pointed to another lesson to be learned from the saint of Clairvaux and Abelard: charity.

«The theological confrontation between Bernard and Abelard ended with full reconciliation between them,» he noted, «thanks to the mediation of a common friend, Peter the Venerable. […] Abelard showed humility in acknowledging his errors; Bernard used great benevolence.»

Thus, the Pope said, «There prevailed in both what should truly be in the heart when a theological controversy is born, that is, to safeguard the faith of the Church and to make truth triumph in charity.»

«May this also be the attitude with which there are confrontations in the Church,» the Holy Father encouraged, «always keeping as the aim the pursuit of truth.»

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