VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the second of five questions from the question-and-answer session Benedict XVI held with priests Friday evening at the prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. The session was part of the International Meeting of Priests that marked the end of the Year for Priests.
Part 1 of the session appeared Tuesday. Part 3 will appear Thursday.
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Q: Holiness, I am Mathias Agnero and I come from Africa, specifically from the Ivory Coast. You are a theologian-Pope, while we, when we succeed, barely read some book of theology for formation. It seems to us, however, that a break has been created between theology and doctrine and, even more so, between theology and spirituality. One feels the need that study not be wholly academic, but that it nourish our spirituality. We feel the need of it in the pastoral ministry itself.
At times, theology does not seem to have God at the center and Jesus Christ in the first “theological place,” but there are instead diffuse tastes and tendencies; and the consequence is the proliferation of suggestive opinions that allow the introduction in the Church of non-Catholic thought. How can we not be disoriented in our life and in our ministry, when it is the world that judges the faith and not vice versa? We feel ourselves disoriented!
Benedict XVI: Thank you. You touch upon a very difficult and painful problem. There really is a theology that above all seeks to be academic, to appear scientific and forgets the vital reality, the presence of God, his presence among us, his speaking today, not only in the past. St. Bonaventure already distinguished two forms of theology in his time; he said: “There is a theology that comes from the arrogance of reason, which seeks to dominate everything, makes God pass from subject to object that we study, while he should be subject that speaks to us and guides us.”
It is really this abuse of theology, which is arrogance of reason and does not nourish faith, but obscures the presence of God in the world. Then, there is a theology that seeks to know more out of love for the beloved, it is stimulated by love and guided by love, it seeks to know the loved one more. And this is true theology, which comes from love of God, of Christ, and seeks to enter more profoundly in communion with Christ. In reality, the temptations are great today; imposed above all is the so-called “modern vision of the world” (Bultmann, “moderns Weltbild”), which becomes the criterion of all that is possible or impossible. And thus, it is precisely with this criterion that everything is as always, that all historical events are of the same sort, excluded in fact is the novelty of the Gospel, the eruption of God is excluded, the true novelty which is the joy of our faith.
What should be done? I would say first of all to theologians: Have courage! And I would like to say a big thank you also to so many theologians who do a good job. There are abuses, we know it, but in all parts of the world there are so many theologians who truly live by the Word of God, nourish themselves by meditation, live the faith of the Church and wish to help so that the faith is present in our day. To these theologians I would like to say a big “thank you.”
And I would say to theologians in general: “do not be afraid of this specter of scientific nature!” I follow the theology of ’46; I began to study theology in January of ’46 and hence I have seen almost three generations of theologians, and I can say: the theories that at that time, and then in the ’60s and ’80s, were the newest, absolutely scientific, absolutely almost dogmatic, in the meantime have grown old and are not longer of any value! Many of them seem almost ridiculous. Hence, one must have the courage to resist what is apparently of a scientific nature, not subject oneself to all the theories of the moment, but to really think from the great faith of the Church, which is present in all times and opens to us access to truth.
Above all, also, we must not think that positivist reason, which excludes the transcendent — which cannot be accessible — is true reason! This weak reason, which presents only things that can be experienced, is really an insufficient reason. We theologians must use the great reason, which is open to the grandeur of God. We must have the courage to go beyond positivism to the question of the roots of being. This seems to me to be of great importance. Hence, one must have the courage of the great, ample reason, have the humility not to subject oneself to all the theories of the moment, to live from the great faith of the Church of all times. There is no majority against the majority of the saints: the true majority are the saints of the Church and we must be oriented to the saints!
Then, to seminarians and priests I say the same thing: think that sacred Scripture is not an isolated book: it is living in the living community of the Church, which is the same subject in all centuries and guarantees the presence of the Word of God. The Lord has given us the Church as living subject, with the structure of bishops in communion with the Pope, and this great reality of bishops of the world in communion with the Pope guarantees to us the testimony of the permanent truth. Let us have trust in this permanent magisterium of the communion of bishops with the Pope, which represents for us the presence of the Word. And then, let us also have trust in the life of the Church and, above all, we must be critical.
Certainly theological formation — I would like to say this to seminarians — is very important. In our time we must know sacred Scripture well, also, in fact, against the attacks of sects; we must be really friends of the Word. We must also know the currents of our time to be able to respond reasonably, to be able to give — as St. Peter says — “reason of our faith.” Formation is very important. But we must also be critical: the criterion of the faith is also the criterion with which to see theologians and theologies. Pope John Paul II gave an absolutely sure criterion in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Here we see the synthesis of our faith, and this Catechism is truly the criterion to see where there is an acceptable or not acceptable theology. Hence, I recommend reading, the study of this text, and thus we can go forward with a critical theology in the positive sense, that is, criticism against the tendencies in vogue and open to the true novelties, with the inexhaustible profundity of the Word of God, which reveals itself new in all times, also in our time.
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Question 1: www.zenit.org/article-29612?l=english