Is this change of role a volte-face in theological direction, or is it, rather, the pursuit of the "extreme center" by changing means? What is the significance of Ratzinger's thought and its development over time for the future of the church?
This important and illuminating book gets to the very heart of these crucial questions by focusing on Ratzinger's status as one of the preeminent Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Aidan Nichols provides a full-scale investigation of his theology as it develops from the s onward. The book presents a chronological account of the development of Ratzinger's writing which reflects a wide range of historical and theoretical interests such as: Augustine's ecclesiology, early Franciscanism and the idea of salvation history, Christian brotherhood, the unfolding of the Second Vatican Council the Apostle's Creed, explorations of the concept of the Church, preaching, liturgy and Church music, eschatology, the foundations of dogmatic and moral theology, and the problem of pluralism.
The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI is a comprehensive introduction to a major theologian in his own right, quite apart from his significance in the politics of the Church. For those attempting to chart the future of the Catholic faith as it struggles with the role of religion in war, women's reproductive rights, inter-religious dialogue, homosexuality, the roles of bishops and theologians, and international human rights issues, Nichol's work is indispensable as both a compass and an oracle.
The path of the Christian will be the same as that of Christ: Conversion and being forgiven reveal themselves as central; this is the Christian way. Ratzinger's emphasis on these - on the Cross of Christ and on grace understood fundamentally as healing - is extremely significant; and it is not the typical emphasis of many Roman Catholic theologians.
It is closer, rather, to Reformed theology. This should not surprise because Joseph Ratzinger, as a university professor in Germany, has, for many years, plied his theological trade side-by-side with colleagues from neighbouring theology faculties on the Evangelical-Protestant side; I think of Bonn, Munster and Tubingen especially, covering the ten-year period from to Corkery He is very knowledgeable about, and quite sympathetic towards, Martin Luther Ratzinger I shall make this a little more visible in the remaining parts of this paper by, first, looking just a little more at his theological roots and their effects.
Then, drawing on his Reformation-echoing polemic against works, I shall explore the influence of this on: In an article after Ratzinger's election as Pope, a former student of his, the North American, Francis Fiorenza, referred to an early essay by him on nature and grace in which he had taken the line thus Fiorenza.
Towards the end of the essay, Ratzinger had attempted a brief synthesis. In it he pointed out that that which is genuinely human in us, while it was. Here he was pointing to our twilight character: As such it needed reversal, transformation. But even if it did not, Ratzinger, following Bonaventure, might still have remained cautious about ascribing too much to it. This is because Bonaventure, lacking the creaturely optimism of his colleague, Thomas Aquinas - although in his writings he did attempt to accord a certain excellence to human nature Ratzinger - found himself nervous of over-ascribing to nature what might properly be due to God and tended, in the end, towards a certain collapsing of nature into grace for fear that he might otherwise be guilty of eclipsing the divine at the expense of the human Ratzinger Thus Bonaventure pulls back from ascribing excellence to the human and prefers to emphasise instead human dependence, indebtedness and nothingness.
Avery Dulles pointed to Ratzinger's Augustinianism when writing about the Extraordinary Synod of , which Pope John Paul II had convened to assess the achievement of the Second Vatican Council on the twentieth anniversary of its ending. Of two schools of thought present at the Synod, Dulles said, the first, "supernaturalistic" in viewpoint, tended "to depict the church as an island of grace in a world given over to sin;" he called this outlook "neo-Augustinian" Dulles Dulles spoke of those who had this supernaturalistic outlook as considering that the world had fallen under the power of the Evil One, that collaboration with it was less to be recommended than taking a stance against it and that the Church had become contaminated by the world in the years following the Council Dulles It is not difficult to recognize these sentiments in Ratzinger, who responded as follows to a question about "restoration" that was put to him in the year that the Extraordinary Synod took place: If by 'restoration' is meant a turning back, no restoration of such kind is possible But if by restoration we understand the 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, well, then a restoration understood in this sense This is a typical Ratzinger response.
Purification, about-turn, de-contamination are needed. Today he says that Europe needs this because what Europe is experiencing is ultimately a crisis of faith. With Augustine, Ratzinger sees sin, ultimately, as loss of faith in God Corkery Faith is its antidote, fides purgans, faith that purifies, converts, turns us towards God and away from what is ungodly. It is a gift, un-manufacturable by us, bestowed through encounter with Jesus Christ.
It is through encounter with him, not through any efforts of our own, that we are purified, forgiven, freed. This is Joseph Ratzinger at his best. But does it not also echo Luther's and Calvin's repudiation of the doctrine of salvation by works and does it not echo, furthermore, the recent summing up by Professor Ruth Whelan of Jean Calvin's pastoral theology as "the unconditional mercy of God" Whelan The saving encounter with Jesus Christ, emphasized by Ratzinger perhaps not in classical evangelical language but in his stress on the fact that Christian life begins with conversion, reveals other aspects of his theology that show its closeness, also, to Reformation concerns.
It has been observed that Ratzinger eschews "moralism", an approach to ethics that. In such an approach, Christianity becomes Pelagian; and we are thought to be saved by the good that we do and by the obedience that we practice Rowland Ratzinger, ever nervous of any flavour of works-righteousness, takes a completely different line, suggesting that being a Christian arises through an encounter - an encounter and an on-going relationship with Jesus Christ - and that it does not result from taking up a lofty idea or making an ethical choice.
Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction But I remember reading, in one of his earliest works, words similar to the above. He spoke simply of the Christian as having love Ratzinger He made it clear that he was not talking here about an adequate love - in us it will always be lacking - but, he quickly added, this is where faith comes in because it.
Ratzinger's basic point was - back in the mids also, forty years before the first encyclical letter of Benedict XVI on love appeared - that we must be careful to recognize on whom it is that we depend and avoid all suggestion of adequacy on our own parts. His talk of love may have many different nuances to that of Luther or Calvin , of course, but it hardly amounts to works-righteousness. I am aware that one can be simplistic about the Reformation and that care must be taken not to reduce it to its more memorable dicta.
I certainly do not wish to do that, not least when I recall its elimination of any role for "works" in the matter of salvation. Nevertheless it is fair to say that, for the great Reformation figures - Luther, Calvin - insistence on a salvation that depended utterly on God's mercy and not at all on human efforts was paramount.
Indeed, from what we know of their contexts, such insistence was vital. And to attribute it to Ratzinger today also is equally vital because it echoes throughout his theology, fashioned, as this was, in the context and presence of his neighbouring, Reformed theologians. Sometimes they - and he - are accused of an approach to humanity and the human world that is very rejecting, very pessimistic, and this pessimism is attributed, perhaps too easily, to the Augustinian heritage on which they draw.
Ruth Whelan allows "that Calvin opens the Institutes of the Christian Religion with a damning indictment of our humanity" but says that when he speaks of our "turpitude" often translated into English as "corruption" or "depravity" "it is important to replace Calvin's damning indictment of our 'turpitude' in the context of his time" Whelan And that context was one of fear, and of an enormous sense of inadequacy, on the part of people.
Calvin wanted to take these things seriously, to speak to people where they were, but his pastoral purpose in so doing was to move them to rely on the unconditional mercy of God and to free them from the tyranny of thinking that there was anything that they could do to save themselves Whelan Joseph Ratzinger would not disagree. So much for so-called "Augustinian pessimism", often said to be Calvinist and, more often lately, Ratzingerian!
Leaving that aside, what is clear, however, is that, according to Joseph Ratzinger's anthropological perspective, we human beings, left on our own, would not amount to much. Thus there can be no over-confident talk about our making our own future, bringing about a just society, producing the "new man" and the future made by our own hands Ratzinger Yet political and liberation theologies are built on such ideas, Ratzinger is convinced Ratzinger b: One good example - and one on which Ratzinger has spilled a lot of ink - is found in his writing about the theology of the liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez.
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In an essay on his book , A Theology of Liberation, which Ratzinger describes as a "paving the way" work that made the expression "theology of liberation" popular and gave it its contours Ratzinger While Gutierrez makes, initially, the necessary distinction between the theological and the political levels, this is lost with his interpretation of Jesus in the following words: For Jesus the liberation of the Jewish people is nothing other than an aspect of a universal and permanent revolution Ratzinger Now at this point the theological line in the thought of Gutierrez meets definitively with his political objectives: In this creating of the new world man shapes and creates himself Ratzinger This is an expression of "makeability", indeed of "salvation by works", from which everything in Ratzinger must shrink.
Here the idea of the redemption of man through a historical act surfaces: There is a Pelagianism here with which Ratzinger could never be happy. Luther's polemic against 'works' and, indeed, Calvin's reminders that salvation is a matter of the sovereign mercy of God alone, can hardly be far from his mind, even if he would not be in agreement with either of them on all points in this regard Ratzinger c: As I have written elsewhere, I am not in agreement with all that Ratzinger has said - and done - in relation to liberation theology Corkery Added to this was, from his studies of Bonaventure's theology of history, an awareness of the danger of looking forward to any form of inner-worldly salvific state - in other words, any form of utopia Ratzinger ; Corkery b and Kissler Towards working for the future, Ratzinger believes, we must "do what we can", conscious that it is God, not we, who brings it about.
We are just of penultimate significance. I mentioned the influence, from Bonaventure, that makes Ratzinger wary of any talk about immanent salvation, about inner-worldly states of well-being. In his day, Bonaventure, against the background of Joachim of Fiore's "utopian" vision and the influence of this on many of Bonaventure's own confreres, had to negotiate a path between what could be legitimately held about the future and any immanent notions of that future envisaged by the Calabrian abbot and his followers.
For Ratzinger, the student of Bonaventure's theology of history seven hundred years later, the emphasis settled decidedly on a wariness about all inner-worldly salvific states Corkery b: Ratzinger was conscious that these fragile arrangements would depend on human agreement, always, to maintain and support them, and that such could be "interrupted" by the decisions of persons at any time to do just the opposite.
Hence his insistence that any human contribution is always no more than a "doing what we can" and that a mentality of "making" is misleading in relation to future plans and projects. He applies this insight relentlessly whenever the matter of the creation of any just social order comes up. It surprised me - when I discovered it - to see that he applies it to the matter of ecumenism as well.
Reflection on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
He said that it was important here. In the background here was Ratzinger's concern that ecumenical successes in the heady period immediately after the Second Vatican Council might have led people to expect too much from deft negotiations on the parts of Church authorities or from learned persons such as the theologians, Karl Rahner and Heinrich Fries, whose proposals regarding the unity of the Churches he once spoke about as "[A]a forced march towards unity" Ratzinger c: The fear of unity by human effort - unity by means of "works" - was lurking too, as the following remark confirms: In any case it should be clear that we do not create unity, no more than we bring about righteousness by means of our works, but that on the other hand we should not sit around twiddling our thumbs Ratzinger b: In the end it is clear: These things are God's alone to give.
What human beings can achieve is, at best, something of just penultimate significance. The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal, Seraphic Doctor and Saint, Vol.
The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI new edition: An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger
St Anthony Guild Press. The social dimensions of grace and 'dis-grace' in the theology of Leonardo Boff. Theology in the Making: Veritas Publications , pp. Joseph Ratzinger's theological ideas: Joseph Ratzinger on liberation theology: What did he say? Why did he say it? What can be said about it? Patrick Claffey and Joe Egan eds.
Peter Lang , pp. The Extraordinary Synod of Dulles, The reshaping of Catholicism: Joseph Ratzinger as Ecclesiologist and Pastor. From theologian to pope: Harvard Divinity Bulletin autumn: A theology of liberation: Das Wesen des Christlichen. Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Review of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the earth: