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Cardinal Martino on Pope's Speeches in Bavaria

9/21/2006 - 6:00 AM PST


"Polemical Target: The Self-limitation of Western Reason"

ROME, SEPT. 21, 2006 (Zenit) - Cardinal Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has written an in-depth article on Benedict XVI's recent speeches in Bavaria.

The cardinal's article appears in the Sept. 25 edition of L'Osservatore Romano. Here, Catholic Online is reprinting a translation of that article, done by the Cardinal Van Thun International Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church.

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The "Quaestio de Veritate," Christianity and Other Religions
The Speeches Delivered by Benedict XVI During His Trip to Bavaria

By Cardinal Raffaele Martino

Many of the statements made by the Pope in the course of his journey to Bavaria, from the 9th to the 14th of September, concerned truth, starting from a question that is often present in the speeches and homilies of the Pontiff: Can Christianity still be considered reasonable in the eyes of today's man? We believe in God, "is it reasonable?" he asked himself during the homily at Islinger Feld on the morning of September 12. In fact, the West seems to suffer from a "hardness of hearing" and what is said about God "strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age," he said on Sunday, September 10, during the holy Mass at the outdoor site of the Neue Messe in Munich.

According to Benedict XVI, the clarification of the relationship between Christianity and truth, and therefore between Christianity and reason, is important first of all for the re-evangelization of the Western world and is also equally important for establishing a relationship between all religions based on dialogue and tolerance. These aspects must be addressed separately, even though they are connected.

Christianity is the faith in Creative Reason, not Unreason. At Islinger Feld, the Pope asked himself -- "What came first?" -- and provided the two possible answers: "Creative Reason, the Creator Spirit who makes all things and gives them growth, or Unreason, which, lacking any meaning, yet somehow brings forth a mathematically ordered cosmos, as well as man and his reason." However, this second answer is illogical because then our reason would be only a casual product of evolution, therefore the product of an irrational process. Christian faith, concludes the Pope, believes "that at the beginning of everything is the eternal Word, with Reason and not Unreason."

The same concept is reiterated in the "Lectio magistralis" at the University of Regensburg: "Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature."

The polemical target of these statements by the Holy Father is the self-limitation of Western reason. Christianity does no longer seem reasonable to the Western man because he has adopted a reductive, positivistic idea of reason that accepts as true only what is mathematical and empirical. The Pope described and exposed the limits of this type of rationality in his lecture at the meeting with the representatives of science at the University of Regensburg.

If "only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific" in the West today, then we understand where that "hardness of hearing" where God is concerned comes from. Western positivistic reason drastically curtails the range of our relationship with reality and is incapable of opening itself to the rationality of faith, which requires a metaphysical drive. In the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg, in fact, the Pope stressed the need of "broadening our concept of reason."

This is crucial also for the dialogue between religions because positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it claim to be universally valid and therefore capable of dominating the entire planet through technological development. But, in this way, they prevent a genuine dialogue of cultures and religions. They lead to a "cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme criterion for the future of scientific research"; these were the words pronounced by the Pope in Munich [at] the Neue Messe on September 10.

When he condemned the "mockery of the sacred," the Pope was not just referring to the mockery of Christianity, but to the mockery of any religion. "The tolerance which we urgently need," added Benedict XVI on that occasion, "includes the fear of God -- respect for what others hold sacred." In this way, the Pope criticizes the arrogance of a Western reason that has been reduced to technology and reaffirms the importance of tolerance and dialogue based on mutual respect between religions.

In fact, still at the University of Regensburg, the Holy Father said that "the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine [exclusion that is caused by positivistic reason] from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

In Munich, on September 10, the Pope expressed the same concept: "People in Africa and Asia admire, indeed, the scientific and technical prowess of the West, but they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision." And [he] concluded: "They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith, but in the contempt for God."

When we reaffirm the relationship between Christianity and truth, then, this not only does not prevent dialogue with other religions, but opens a deeper dialogue because, citing an excerpt from a book written by the present Pontiff when he was still cardinal, "If truth is offered, this means a leading out of alienation and thus out of the state of division; it means the vision of a common standard that does no violence to any culture but that guides each one to its own heart, because each exists ultimately as an expectation of truth" [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, "Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions," Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2004, p. 66].

[Translation of Italian original by; adapted]


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Bavaria, Martino, Muslim, Pope, Speeches, Germany, Islam

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