Thursday, August 31, 2017

Relativism is a False Humbug Religion

In the history of religion primitive experience gives way to mythical religions which are superseded in three ways: mysticism (based on firsthand experience with the divine), monotheism (based on a divine call), and enlightenment (based on reason).

"Even the third of the entities we found, which we called 'enlightenment', referring to the move to an attitude based on a strictly rationalistic conception of reality, has its own absolute value: the absolute value of rational ('scientific') knowledge. When science becomes the dominant element in a view of the world (and this is just what we mean by 'enlightenment' here), this absolute value becomes exclusive; it develops into the theory that scientific knowledge is the only valid knowledge and becomes a denial of the absolute value of religion, which is in itself on a different level of reality. In that case, the believer, or even someone who practices religion, will have to point to the limitations of this absolute claim. It moves within the limits of certain categories, within which it is strictly valid; but to maintain that it is only within these categories that man can know anything at all is an unfounded presupposition, which in any case is shown by experience to be untrue. But we must bear in mind that this third way is only indirectly involved in a decision about religion; the real questions concerning relations between religions arise between the first and the second way ('mysticism' and 'monotheistic revolution')."

Truth and Tolerance, Joseph Ratzinger, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004, 31-32.

Cf. We Are All Learners: "Faith Cannot be Presupposed!"
Freedom Comes From Truth, Michael Novak 1994 Prize Lecture

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"A Moment of Silence" Prayer Cannot Include Everyone

Because some people are praying for god (or the devil as the case may be) to kill and destroy us and to show and enable them to do the same, for example.

Not all religion is benign! Not all prayer is good. It depends on the content and the direction (to whom it is oriented and for what purpose). The Church does not sanction every prayer, even every internal prayer. Some people actually worship the devil.

Some prayer is bad, and some may be at least banal. It is an sacrilege, therefore, to open up the prayer of the faithful: "and for the prayers which we hold in the silence of our hearts,...Lord hear our prayer." People might be praying for every manner of evil, in collusion with the devil. The Church cannot join her prayer and worship to that.

The Church, in her prayer, e.g. the Pater Noster, is very specific for what and to Whom she prays. She is not vague, ambiguous or sloppy in her intention or in her orientation. Her prayer does not include everything, only what is good, and right and true, and she makes that explicit, through Jesus Christ our Lord!

"We can pray with each other only if we are agreed who or what God is and if there is therefore basic agreement as to what praying is: a process of dialogue in which I talk to a God who is able to hear and take notice. To put it another way: shared prayer presumes a shared understanding of the addressee and thus likewise of the inner action directed toward him."
Truth and Tolerance, Joseph Ratzinger, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004, 108.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A German Shepherd: January 2013 Italian Documentary on Papa Ratzinger by Lucio Brunelli

With Andrea Tornielli and Sandro Magister, et alia.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Biblical Realism and Why the Catechism of the Catholic Church Excluded the Exegetes

The Catechism trusts the biblical word. It considers the Christ of the Gospels as the real Jesus. And it is convinced also that all of the Gospels speak to us of this same Jesus, that all of them, each one in its specific way, help us to know the true Jesus of history, who is the Christ of faith. This has invited furious attacks upon it: the Catechism--they say--has forgotten an entire century of exegesis; it knows nothing of literary genres, history of forms and history of redactions; it has remained in the "fundamentalist" interpretation of the Bible. It is enough to read the chapters on the Bible and its interpretation to see that these claims lack sense (nos. 101-141). The Catechism gathers, without making a show of a critical tool, the truly sure results of modern exegesis. I propose for that the chapter on the name of Jesus and the three principle christological titles Christ, Kyrios (lord) and Son, [nos. 430-455] which I consider one of the richest and profoundest texts of our book.

But the multi-layered and plastic nature of the image of Jesus of the Gospels, which we know from the new scientific investigation, does not obligate us to reconstruct another Jesus, leaving the texts aside and starting from a combination of presumed sources, who it is claimed would be purely historical, thereby erasing the image of Jesus of the Gospels as a product of the faith of the community. Furthermore there would have existed according to the communities a plurality of Christs, which cannot be mixed. However, it is not clear how from this minimum of historical reality and of these conflicting community creations the common christological faith which has transformed the world could suddenly arise.

Recently, the great Jewish intellectual Jacob Neusner has energetically opposed these reconstructions and the cheapening of the Gospels which they assume. I do not have space here to examine his arguments one by one; I cite only his statement of purpose, in which he summarizes his well founded decision: "I write for believing Christians and believing Jews; they know Jesus by way of the Gospels". That is exactly the position of the Catechism; a book which transmits the faith of the Church and does not want to canonize private theories cannot take another starting point. This has nothing to do with fundamentalism, because a fundamentalist reading excludes every type of ecclesial mediation and only gives value to the letter in itself. When, in his book on Jesus,  Neusner says that he cannot enter into discussion with historical Jesus, product of the imagination of the erudite, because such fabricated historical figures would be many and quite varied, he thereby calls attention to a problem more and more clearly noticed by the scientific exegesis itself. The current of canonical exegesis which is gaining traction in America firmly insists that the first duty of all interpretation is to understand the given text as such. It cannot free itself from this duty undoing the text into its supposed sources and ultimately occupy itself only with them. Naturally, exegesis can and must also investigate the internal history of the texts and from there study its development. But its true fundamental duty cannot disappear because of that, that is, to delve into the text itself, as it now exists, as a whole and for what it wants properly to affirm.

He who, from faith, reads the Scripture as Bible, must take a further step. By its very nature, the historical interpretation, will never be able to go any further than mere hypothesis. In reality, none of us was present then: only the natural sciences realize the reproduction of phenomena in the laboratory. The faith gives us contemporaneity with Jesus. Faith can and must embrace all of the historical knowledges (conocimientos), being enriched thereby. But the faith makes us know something which is more than an hypothesis; it gives us the right to put ourselves into the hands of the revealed word as such...

When I ask myself what is the cause that our churches are emptying, that the faith is silently extinguishing, I would like to reply that the central motive is the process of emptying of the figure of Jesus, along with the deist formulation of the concept of God. The substitute for Jesus which is offered, more or less romanticized, is not enough. It lacks reality and closeness. The Jesus of the Gospels, whom we come know again in the Catechism, is contemporary, because He is the Son, and is accessible because he is human. His human history is never purely past; all of it is taken up in him and in the community of his disciples as present and it touches me.

"The Gospel and The Catechism" (February 1994) Speech given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before the Pontifical Commission of Latin AmericaSer cristiano en la era neopagana, Joseph Ratzinger, Madrid: Encuentro, 1995, 82-84 (plinthos translation from Spanish)

Cf. The Term "Fundamentalism" Confuses Religious Contents"Biblical Interpretation in Crisis", 1988 Erasmus Lecture.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Primacy of God

It seems to me that today's preachers speak little about God. The "God" topic is often marginal. There is more talk about political, economic, cultural, psychological problems. It is thought that God is known; that the practical problems of society and of the individual are more urgent. In other words, it does not seem that to speak of God is to speak of a "practical" reality, of something that has to do with our real needs. And here Jesus corrects us: God is the most practical and the most urgent reality for man. As disciples of Christ, we must give to the world the most urgent reality: the presence of God. This announcement is opposed to the occult deism which is also very widespread among us Christians: God seems too distant. He does not interfere in our life--so it is thought--, let us speak, then, of real things. No, says Jesus: God is within reach of our voice. God is near: this is the first word of the Gospel, and it, if we believe, will transform our life. Starting from the mandate of Jesus all of this should be announced with renewed strength in our world.

"The Gospel and The Catechism" (February 1994), plinthos translation from Spanish.
Speech given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before the Pontifical Commission of Latin America

Friday, August 18, 2017

Last Intelligent Word on Amoris Laetitia by Leading Expert on Pope Benedict: Aidan Nichols, OP

The Dominicans to the rescue of the faith again, against widespread heresy among Christians.

The author of the comprehensive The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI, the Dominican theologian Father Aidan Nichols, is calling for a change in canon law to clarify the limits of papal infallibility and the procedure on the Church's response to papal error.

Leading theologian: change canon law to correct papal errors

Fr Aidan Nichols said that Pope Francis's teaching had led to an 'extremely grave' situation

A prominent theologian has proposed reforming canon law to allow a pope’s doctrinal errors to be established.

Fr Aidan Nichols, a prolific author who has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge as well as the Angelicum in Rome, said that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia had led to an “extremely grave” situation.

Fr Nichols proposed that, given the Pope’s statements on issues including marriage and the moral law, the Church may need “a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error”.

The Dominican theologian said that this procedure might be less “conflictual” if it took place during a future pontificate, rather as Pope Honorius was only condemned for error after he had ceased to occupy the chair of Peter.

Fr Nichols was speaking at the annual conference in Cuddesdon of an ecumenical society, the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, to a largely non-Catholic audience.

He said the judicial process would “dissuade popes from any tendency to doctrinal waywardness or simple negligence”, and would answer some “ecumenical anxieties” of Anglicans, Orthodox and others who fear that the pope has carte blanche to impose any teaching. “Indeed, it may be that the present crisis of the Roman magisterium is providentially intended to call attention to the limits of primacy in this regard.”

Fr Nichols has written over 40 books of philosophy, theology, apologetics and criticism. In 2006 he was appointed to Oxford University’s first lectureship since the Reformation in Catholic theology.

He has not publicly commented on Amoris Laetitia until now, but was a signatory to a leaked letter from 45 priests and theologians to the College of Cardinals. The letter asked the cardinals to request a clarification from the Pope to rule out heretical and erroneous interpretations of the exhortation.

In his paper Fr Nichols mentioned some of the same concerns as the letter: he noted, for instance, that Amoris Laetitia could seem to imply that the monastic life was not a higher state than marriage – a view condemned as heretical by the Council of Trent.

The exhortation has also been interpreted as meaning that the divorced and remarried can receive Communion without endeavouring to live “as brother and sister”. This contradicts the perennial teaching of the Church, reaffirmed by Popes St John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Fr Nichols said that this interpretation, which Pope Francis has reportedly approved, would introduce into the Church “a previously unheard-of state of life. Put bluntly, this state of life is one of tolerated concubinage.”

But Fr Nichols said the way in which Amoris Laetitia argued for “tolerated concubinage” (without using the phrase) was potentially even more harmful. He quoted the exhortation’s description of a conscience which “recognizes that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the demands of the Gospel” but sees “with a certain moral security…what for now is the most generous response.” Fr Nichols said this seemed to say “that actions condemned by the law of Christ can sometimes be morally right or even, indeed, requested by God.”

This would contradict the Church’s teaching that some acts are always morally wrong, Fr Nichols said.

He also drew attention to the statement – presumably referring to attempts to live continently – that someone “may know full well the rule yet…be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin”. Fr Nichols noted that the Council of Trent had solemnly condemned the idea that “the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace.” Amoris Laetitia seemed to say that it is not always possible or even advisable to follow the moral law.

If such general statements about moral acts were correct, Fr Nichols said, “then no area of Christian morality can remain unscathed.”

He said that it would be preferable to think that the Pope had been merely “negligent” in his language, rather than actively teaching error. But this seemed doubtful, given the reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had suggested corrections to Amoris Laetitia, and was ignored.

Cardinal Raymond Burke has publicly discussed making a formal correction of the Pope. However, Fr Nichols said that neither the Western nor Eastern Codes of Canon Law contain a procedure “for enquiry into the case of a pope believed to have taught doctrinal error, much less is there provision for a trial.”

Fr Nichols observed that the tradition of canon law is that “the first see is judged by no-one.” But he said that the First Vatican Council had restricted the doctrine of papal infallibility, so that “it is not the position of the Roman Catholic Church that a pope is incapable of leading people astray by false teaching as a public doctor.

“He may be the supreme appeal judge of Christendom…but that does not make him immune to perpetrating doctrinal howlers. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly given the piety that has surrounded the figures of the popes since the pontificate of Pius IX, this fact appears to be unknown to many who ought to know better.” Given the limits on papal infallibility, canon law might be able to accommodate a formal procedure for inquiring into whether a pope had taught error.

Fr Nichols said that bishops’ conferences had been slow to support Pope Francis, probably because they were divided among themselves; but he said that the Pope’s “programme would not have got as far as it has were it not the case that theological liberals, generally of the closet variety, have in the fairly recent past been appointed to high positions both in the world episcopate and in the ranks of the Roman Curia.”

Fr Nichols said that there was “a danger of possible schism”, but that it was unlikely and not as immediate a danger as “the spread of a moral heresy”. The view which Amoris Laetitia apparently contains would, if it passed without correction, “increasingly be regarded as at the very least an acceptable theological opinion. And that will do more damage than can easily be repaired.”

He concluded that the law of the Church will live on, because of those who “give the law life by faithfulness in love”.

Cf. Amoris laetitia and Auschwitz

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Friday 13, February 2015 Rev. Prof. Vincent Twomey on Ratzinger and Mission

Racial Discrimination is Alive and Well in USA!

I don't say that because of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA. Actually, I do think Robert E. Lee is a national icon and the Confederate Flag is a great symbol of American freedom and democracy (and Christianity) and is not a symbol of slavery and racism any more than the Civil War was a war about slavery but rather about the northern disenfranchisement and domination of the South.

The place I do see obvious discrimination in America is in most of our urban areas. After close to two centuries of "freedom" for the blacks, show me one prosperous non-white town in America where all of the businesses and properties and all of the government posts are even a majority in black hands. Non-existent! It's all white! All of the prosperity is white! The welfare system is worse than slavery with the subculture which it encourages and perpetuates, designed and built by "urban planners" to perpetuate the misery. Actually, what we are doing now with abortion is black genocide! Our black American population has been decimated by abortion! In my neighborhood, predominantly black, most of the blacks are not American but first and second generation Caribbean and African.

I have spent the past 30 years ministering in urban America and in neighborhoods, towns and cities which are majority "non-white" the fire departments, the road repair workers, the PSE&G and other blue collar public service agencies' workers are often mainly white. Totally disproportionate! Police forces and school districts are better representative of their respective populations, though even in that there are places that are still unjustly majority white serving a black population, as we see in Furgeson. Show me one place in America where the opposite is the case, viz. that the blue collar public service workers are non-white in a mainly white place. Does not exist in these USA! Racism, plain and simple.

Trump is right that the grave injustice of our inner-cities needs to be righted, though I am not sure he has the recipe to do it (which Giuliani had and achieved within one decade in NYC!).

P.S. Slaughter of the Cities. Clintonian/Obama-ish communism is the cause of that disaster.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The only true democracy of the Church is the communion of saints! Ablatio!

The Church is not only the small group of activists who find themselves together at a certain place to initiate a communitarian life. Nor is it simply the great host of those who gather together on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist. Finally, the Church is also much more than the Pope, bishops and priests, those who are invested with the sacramental ministry.

All these whom we have named are part of the Church, but the radius of the company which we join through faith goes far beyond that, goes even beyond death. All the saints starting from Abel and Abraham are part of it, and all the witnesses to hope that the Old Testament recounts, and Mary, Mother of the Lord, and his disciples, down to Thomas Becket and Thomas More, to Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein and Piergiorgio Frassati.

And so are all the unknowns and the unnamed, whose faith no one has known except God, the men and women in all places and all times whose hearts reached to Christ with hope and love, to the ‘leader and perfecter of faith’, as the letter to the Hebrews calls him (12,2).

It is not the occasional majorities who form here and there in the Church who decide her path and ours. They, the saints, are the true determining majority according to which we orient ourselves. It is to them that we look to! They have translated the divine into the human, the eternal into time. They are our teachers in humanity, who do not abandon us in pain and in solitude, but even at the hour of death, are there beside us.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Una compagnia sempre riformanda" Ratzinger, Rimini 1 September, 1990

An ever-reforming company

(The speech of Cardinal Ratzinger during the Rimini conference under the general title 'L' ammiratore: Einstein: Thomas Becket' [The Man of Wonder: Enstein: Thomas Becket])

Dear friends! Thank you for your very warm welcome! You know the title of my lecture: 'An ever-reforming company'.

It doesn’t take much imagination to guess that the company of which I wish to speak is the Church.

Perhaps the word Church is omitted in the title only because it would provoke spontaneously a defensive reaction in most people today. They think, “We have heard too much about the Church, and what we hear is not pleasant at all”.

The word and the reality of the Church have fallen into discredit. And so, it is thought, even a permanent continuing reform will not seem to change anything.

Or perhaps, the problem is that up till now, we have not found out what kind of reform could make the Church into a company that is truly worth living in.

Let us ask above all: Why is the Church looked on with such disfavor by so many persons, even among believers, even among those who, up till yesterday, one could count as among the most faithful, or who despite suffering, still are faith in some way today?

The reasons are very diverse, sometimes even contradictory, depending on the positions taken. Some suffer because the Church has adapted too much to the parameters of today’s world. Others are annoyed because they consider it still too alienated from the world.

For the most part, the discontent with respect to the Church starts with the fact that it seems to be an institution like so many others, and as such, it is seen to limit one’s personal freedom. The thirst for freedom is the form which today expresses the desire for liberation, the perception of not being free, of being alienated.

Invoking freedom expresses an aspiration to an existence that is not limited by what is given - which would hinder my full personal development by presenting me from the outside with the road that I should follow.

But everywhere, one comes across barriers and street blocks of this type that bring us to a halt and prevent us from going farther. Thus, any barriers which the Church raises are seen as doubly heavy, because they penetrate into our most personal and intimate sphere.

But the norms of the Church are far more than traffic rules aimed at minimizing confrontations during human coexistence. These rules have to do with my interior course - they tell me how I should interpret and configure my freedom. These rules require that I make decisions that cannot always be taken without the pain of renouncing something.

But do they not perhaps mean to deny us the best fruits in the garden? Is it not true that the constraints of so many commandments and prohibitions do bar the way to an open horizon? And does all this not hinder thought as well as will from greatness? Should not liberation consist in getting out from such spiritual guidance?

And is not the one true reform perhaps to reject all such rules? Well, then, what would remain of this ‘company’?

Bitterness against the Church also has a specific reason. In fact, in a world that is governed by hard discipline and inexorable constrictions, a silent hope continues to be directed at the Church: that it can represent a small island of a better life, a small oasis of freedom to which one may retreat from time to time.

Anger against the Church or disappointment in it therefore has a specific character, because silently, more is expected of it than worldly institutions – the silent hope that in the Church, the dream of a better life can be realized.

Therefore, how much more one would wish to experience within it that taste of freedom, of being free, of leaving the cave, as Gregory the Great said, picking up from Plato.

Nonetheless, the moment that the Church, in its concrete aspect, becomes so far removed from such a dream, and takes on the flavor of a worldly institution and everything that is merely human, then she becomes the target of particularly bitter anger. And this anger cannot be less, if only because those who had placed their hopes in her cannot extinguish their dream.

Since the Church is not what it appears in their dreams, they seek desperately to make it over into what they want it to be: a place where one may express all the freedoms, a space in which our limits can be surpassed, where one may experience that utopia that has to be somewhere.

As in the field of political activity, they would wish to finally build a better world, ot they think that there should finally be a better Church – or at least, the first step towards one – a Church that is fully human, full of fraternity, of generous creativity, a dwelling of reconciliation among all and for all.

But how should this come about? How can such a reform be carried out?

Well, we must begin somewhere, it is said – often with the ingenuous presumption of the enlightened who are convinced that generations up to now never really understood the problem. Or that they were too fearful and unenlightened, whereas today, it is thought, we finally have both courage and intelligence. And that for all the resistance that reactionaries and ‘fundamentalists’ may oppose to this noble undertaking, it must be set into motion. That, at least, is the formula of the 'enlightened' for the first step.

The Church is not a democracy. Since it first appeared, it has not integrated into its internal constitution that patrimony of rights and freedoms that the Enlightenment elaborated and which have since been recognized as the fundamental rules for socio-political formation.

Thus it seems like the most normal thing in the world to recover once and for all whatever had been obscured or neglected in the past, and start to set up this fundamental patrimony of structures of freedom.

The path would lead, as they like to say, from a paternalistic Church which dispenses good, to a Church as community. They say that no one should be just a passive receiver of the good that makes one Christian. Instead, everyone must become active operators in Christian life.

And that the Church should never again be seen as coming down from on high. No! It is us who ‘make’ the Church, and we shall see to it that it will always be new. That way, it will finally become ‘our’ Church, and we shall be its active responsible subjects.

The passive aspect yields to the active. The Church will emerge through discussions, agreements, decisions. In the debate, that which can be demanded today emerges, something that can still be recognized by all as belonging to the faith, or as an orienting moral guideline.

New abbreviated ‘formulas of faith’ will be coined. In Germany, at a level that is sufficiently elevated, it has been said that even liturgy should no longer correspond to a prescribed rubric, but rather should just emerge on site, as needed – in a specific situation, and determined by the community for which it is being celebrated.

And even that improvisation should have nothing previously constituted - it should be something entirely self-generated, as an expression of the moment. In this, the words of Scripture would be seen as something of a hindrance, even they cannot be completely renounced.

One could say one faces a great freedom of choice. But there are not many Scriptural texts that can be adapted without ‘disturbing’ that ideal of ‘self realization’ to which, it now seems, liturgy is destined.

But in this work of reform, during which finally, it is said, even in the Church ‘self-determination’ or ‘self-management’ will replace that of being guided by others, questions promptly arise. Who exactly is responsible for making decisions? And on what basis are these decisions made?

In the political democracy, this question is answered by the system of representation: individuals choose a representative, who then makes the decisions for them. This responsibility is limited in time; it is circumscribed even by the party system, and encompasses only those fields of political action specifically assigned by the Constitution.

But even in this respect, questions remain: the minority must bow to the majority, even if this minority can be quite large. Besides, it is not guaranteed that the representative I have elected necessarily acts and speaks the way I wish – so that therefore, even the victorious majority, looking at things more closely, cannot in fact consider themselves entirely active subjects in political events. On the contrary, they must accept even ‘decisions taken by others’ if only not to endanger the democratic system in its entirety.

But more important for us is a more general problem. Everything that men do, can likewise be nullified by others. Everything that comes from a specific taste will not necessarily please everybody. Everything that a majority decides can later be abrogated by another majority. And so a Church that depends on the decisions of a majority becomes a Church that is purely human.

She becomes reduced to something doable and plausible, to what is done through its own actions, intuitions and opinions. Opinion takes the place of faith. Indeed, in the coined ‘professions of faith’ that I am familiar with, the meaning of the expression ”Credo’ – I believe – does not go beyond “This is what we think…”

The ‘self-made’ Church ultimately is ‘just herself’, and others who are ‘just themselves’, may never like this ‘just herself’ Church which soon reveals its own smallness – she would have retreated to the field of the empirical, and this way, cease even to be the ideal that was dreamed about.

The activist – who wants to do everything himself – is the opposite of the person who admires. The activist restricts the field of his own reason and thus loses sight of Mystery.

The more the Church extends the range of things that people decide for themselves and do for themselves, the narrower it becomes for all of us.

The great and liberating dimension of the Church is not in what we ourselves do, but in that which is given to all of us. That which does not come from our own will and invention, but from something that precedes us, something that comes to us from that which is unimaginable, from something ’greater than our heart’.

Reformatio, which is necessary in every age, does not consist in the fact that we can remodel ‘our Church’ anew all the time as it would please us, or that we can invent her - but rather that we constantly clear away our own personal constructs, in favor of the most pure light that comes from above, which is also the irruption of pure freedom.

Let me explain with an image what I mean. An image I take from Michelangelo, who for his part, has taken from ancient concepts of Christian mysticism and philosophy.

With his artist’s sight, Michelangelo saw in the stone before him the image hidden beneath, waiting to be liberated and brought to light. The task of the artist, in his view, was simply to take away that which still covered that image. Michelangelo thought of authentic artistic activity as bringing something to light, releasing it, not ‘making’ it.

The same idea applied to anthropology was already evident in St. Bonaventure, who explained the journey through which man becomes authentically himself, by using the image of the scultor.

The sculptor doesn’t ‘make’ something, explained the great Franciscan theologian. Instead, his work is an ablatio – which consist of eliminating, of trimming away what is not authentic. Thus, through ablatio. the ‘forma nobilis' emerges, the precious figure.

Thus it is for man: so that the image of God may shine in him, he must above all, and first of all, welcome that purification through which the sculptor, namely God, frees from him from all the debris that obscure the authentic aspect of his being, that make him appear as nothing more than a gross block of stone, whereas the divine image dwells in him.

If we understand it correctly, we can also find in this image the model and guide for ecclesial reform. Of course, the Church will always need new human structures to support it, in order thtn it may speak and function in every historical epoch. Such ecclesial structures and institutions, with their juridical configurations, far from being something evil, are on the contrary, simply necessary and indispensable.

But institutions age, and they risk presenting themselves as the essential things, thus distracting from what is really and truly essential. That is why institutions must always be ‘removed’ like scaffolding that have become superfluous.

Reform is always a new ablatio – a trimming off, so that the ‘forma nobilis’ may emerge once more: the face of the Bride, and with it, the face of the Bridegroom himself, the living Lord.

A similar ablatio, a ‘negative theology’, is a way towards a goal that is all positive. Only thus can the Divine penetrate, and only thus can there emerge a congregatio – an assembly, a gathering, a purification, that pure community that we yearn for. A community in which the ‘I’ is no longer against another ‘I’, a ‘self’ no longer against another ‘self’.

Rather, self-giving, that trusting abandonment which is part of love, becomes the reciprocal receiving of all that is good and all that is pure. Thus, for each of us, the word of the generous father applies, who reminds his envious son of what is contained in every freedom and every utopia that is realized: “Everything that is mine is yours” (Lk 15,31; cfr Jn 17.1).

Once again, true reform is ablatio which, as such, becomes congregatio. Let us try to grasp this basic idea in a more concrete way. In a first approach, we opposed the activist with the admirer, and we decided in favor of the latter. But what exactly does their opposition mean?

The activist, who always wants to be doing something, places his own activity above everything. This limits his horizon to only that which is doable, to what can become an object of his doing. Properly speaking, all he sees are objects. He is not, in fact, capable of seeing anything bigger than he is, because that could set a limit to what he can do. So he restricts the world to only that which is empirical. Man cuts himself off. And the activist builds his own prison, against which he himself will later protest to high heavens.

Instead, the true wonder is saying NO to being restricted to the empirical, within what is merely the here and now. True wonder prepares man for an act of faith which opens wide before him the horizon of the Eternal. Only the Eternal has no limits and is sufficiently wide for our nature, because only the unlimited is adequate to our calling as human beings in the likeness of God.

Where this horizon disappears, every residue of freedom becomes too small, and all freedoms which can be subsequently proposed, are an insipid surrogate which will never suffice.

The first fundamental ablatio that is necessary for the Church is always the act of faith itself. That act of faith that rips the barrier of the finite and opens up space for reaching out to the limitless.

Faith leads us ‘a long way, into limitless lands', as the Psalms say. Modern scientific thinking has increasingly caged us within the prison of positivism and has thus condemned us to pragmatism. Through it, many things can be achieved, we can even travel to the moon and farther in the limitlessness of the cosmos.

Notwithstanding all this, we remain at the same point, because we cannot go beyond the frontier of the quantifiable and the doable.

Albert Camus described the absurdity of this form of freedom in the figure of the emperor Caligula: everything was at his disposition, and yet everything was too narrow for him. In his mad desire to have increasingly more, increasingly greater things, he cried out: “I want the moon, give me the moon!”

Meanwhile, it has become possible for us to have the moon in some way. But until the true and real frontier opens, the frontier between heaven and earth, between God and the world, even the moon is simply another piece of ground, and reaching it does not bring us a step closer to the freedom and fullness that we desire.

The fundamental liberation that the Church can give itself is to stay in the horizon of the Eternal, to leave the limits of our knowledge and power. Faith itself, in all its greatness and amplitude, is therefore the constant essential reform that we need.

Starting with the faith, we must always put to the test those institutions that we ourselves have made in the Church. This means that the Church must be the bridge of faith, and that she – especially in her associations within the world – cannot be the end in herself.

The notion has become widespread, even in high Church circles, that a person is more Christian the more he is involved in church activities. There is an urge towards a kind of ecclesiastical therapy by activity, to make work – to try and assign everyone to some committee, or at any rate, some task within the church.

Somehow, so they think, there must always be some ecclesial activity. One must always talk about the Church, one must always do something for it or in it. But a mirror that reflects nothing but itself is no longer a mirror. It is no longer a window that allows looking towards a farther horizon, but it becomes a screen between the observer and the world, and therefore has lost its sense.

It may happen that someone uninterruptedly exercises ecclesial activities but is not necessarily Christian. Just as someone could lsimply live from the Word and the Sacraments and practice the love that comes from faith without ever being part of a church committee, never bothering about developments in church politics, never taking part in synods nor voting in one - and yet be a true Christian.

We do not need a more human Church but a more divine one, because only then can it be truly human. Thus it is that everything done by man within the Church should be recognized for the service that it is, but it must take its place behind what really counts and what is essential.

Freedom, which we reasonably expedt from the Church and in the Church, is not realized by applying the principle of majority rule. It does not depend on the fact that the widest possible majority must prevail over the narrowest possible minority.

Rather, it depends on the fact that no one can impose his own will on others, but that everyone must acknowledge being bound to the word and the will of the Only One who is our Lord and our freedom.

The atmosphere becomes closed and suffocating in the Church if the bearers of its ministry forget that the Sacrament is not a sharing of power, but rather an appropriation of the self, of myself, in favor of Him, in whose person I as a priest must speak and act.

Wherever greater responsibility corresponds to ever greater self-expropriation, then no one is a slave to another. The Lord dominates, and thus, the principle, the Lord is the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there freedom is (2 Cor 3,17).

The more apparatus we construct, no matter if these are the most up-to-date, the less space we have for the Spirit, the less space we have for the Lord, and the less freedom we have.

I think that we should, from this viewpoint, initiate in the Church at all levels an examination of conscience without reservations. At all levels, this examination of conscience should have sufficiently concrete consequences, and bring with it an ablatio that will allow the true face of the Church to appear once more.

This could give back to all of us a sense of freedom, and to find ourselves at home in the Church in a completely new way.

Let us look briefly, before proceeding further, at what we have brought to light so far. First, we spoke of a double ‘cutting away’, of an act of liberation, which is a double one: of purification and renewal.

We touched on the faith which can break down the wall of the finite and can free our vision towards the dimensions of the Eternal – not only our vision, but also the way.

Faith is not just knowing and acknowledging, but a functioning. It is not just a break in the wall, but a hand that saves, that draws us out of the cave.

From this, we drew the consequences, for institutions, in that the essential basic order of the Church always needs new concrete developments and concrete configurations – but that these configurations cannot become the essential thing.

Indeed, the Church does not exist for the purpose of keeping us all occupied like any other worldly association, nor to keep itself alive as such. It exists to be for all of us the access to eternal life.

Now we must take the next step, and apply all these reflections not only in the general and objective sense, as we have done till now, but in its personal application.

In fact, even here in the personal sphere, it is also necessary to effect a trimming off that liberates us. On the personal level, it will not always be the 'forma nobilis’, that is, the image of God inscribed in us, that will leap to the eye.

Instead, we see ourselves as the image of Adam, of a man who is not totally ruined but nonetheless degraded. We can see the incrustations of dust and filth which overlie the image. We all need the true Sculptor who will cut off all that distorts the image. We need forgiveness which constitutes the nucleus of every true reform.

It was certainly not by chance that in the three decisive stages of the Church being formed, as told by the Gospels, the remission of sins plays an essential role.

First, when Jesus entrusted the keys to Peter. The power given to him to bind and unbind, to open and close - which is what we speak of with regard to sins – is, at its core, a charge to allow entry, to give a welcome home, to forgive (Mt 16,19).

We find the same thing at the Last Supper, which inaugurated the new community based on the Body of Christ, and in the Body of Christ. It became possible from the fact that the Lord shed his blood “for many, for the remission of sins” (Mt 26,28).

Finally, the Risen Lord, in his first apparition to the Eleven, founds the communion of his peace on the fact that he gives them the power to forgive (Jn 20,19-23).

The Church is not a community of ‘people who do not need doctors’, but rather a community of converted sinners, who live on the grace of forgiveness, transmitting it in turn to others.

If we read the New Testament carefully, we discover that forgiveness in itself has nothing magic about it; but neither is it a pretense of forgetting, of ‘pretending as if it did not happen'. Rather, it is a process of change which is very real, one that the Sculptor accomplishes.

Taking sin away is really taking something away: the coming of forgiveness to us is shown by subsequent penitence. In this sense, forgiveness is both an active and a passive process: the powerful creative word of God upon us carries out the pain of change and becomes an active transformation. Forgiveness and penitence, grace and personal conversion, are not contradictory, but two faces of one and the same event.

This fusion of activity and passivity expresses the essential form of human existence. Indeed, all our ‘creating’ starts with our being creatures, with our participation in the creative activity of God.

And here we come to a truly central point: I believe that the spiritual crisis of our time has its roots in the obscuring of the grace of forgiveness.

But let us first observe the positive aspect of the present: the moral dimension is starting to be held up anew little by little. It is being acknowledged – or rather, it has become evident - that every technical progress is questionable and ultimately destructive, if each step forward does not also correspond to a moral growth.

It is recognized that there cannot be a reform of man and of mankind without moral renewal. But the invocation of morality remains ultimately listless and weak, because its parameters are hidden behind a dense cloud of discussions.

In effect, man cannot abide pure and simple moralism – he cannot live with it, it becomes for him a ‘law’ that provokes his desire to contradict it and thus, generates sin.

In general terms, one can say that moral discussion today tends to liberate men from blame, to the point of making sure that the conditions for its possibility never enter into discussion.

One is reminded of a mordant expression from Pascal: “Ecce patres, qui tollunt peccata mundi!” – Behold the fathers who take away the sins of the world. According to these ‘moralists’, there simply is no blame anymore.

Naturally, this way of freeing the world from blame is much too cheap. Within themselves, the men who are thus ‘liberated’ know quite well that all this is not true, that there is sin, that they themselves are sinners, and that there must be an effective way to overcome sin.

Jesus himself did not call to him those who had already been liberated on their own and who therefore believe they have no need of him, but he called those whom he knew to be sinners and therefore, who needed him.

Morality conserves its own gravity only if there is forgiveness, true forgiveness that is effective. Otherwise, it falls into pure and empty conditionalism.

True forgiveness only comes at a price, ‘an equitable exchange rate’, if the sin has been expiated, if there is expiation at all. The circularity in morality-forgiveness-expiation cannot be broken up: if one element is missing, everything falls apart.

The undivided nature of this circle determines whether there is redemption for man or not. In the Torah – the five books of Moses – these three elements are indivisibly tied to each other, and it is not therefore possible, to disembody as the Enligtenment thinkers did, from this central covenant belonging to the canon of the Old Testament, a moral law that is always valid while abandoning the rest of it to past history.

This moralistic modality of interpreting the Old Testament necessarily ends in failure – this was the precise error made by Pelagius, who has more followers today than one might think at first glance.

Instead, Jesus fulfilled the whole Law, not just a part of it, and therefore, he renewed it from the base. He himself, who suffered in espiating every human sin, is expiation and forgiveness contemporaneously, and is thus the only sure and always valid basis for our morality.

One cannot dissociate morality from Christology, because it cannot be separated from expiation and forgiveness. In Christ, every part of the Law is fulfilled, and therefore, morality becomes for us a true and fulfillable exigency. Starting with the nucleus of faith, then, the way to renewal is always open for the individual, for the Church in its entirety, and for mankind.

There is much to say about these. But I will try, very briefly, to emphasize once more, in conclusion, that which seems to be most important in our context.

Forgiveness and its realization in myself, through penitence and its consequences, is in the first place the center of everything personal in any renewal. But precisely because forgiveness concerns the individual in his most intimate nucleus, he is capable of accepting it integrally, and he can become a center of renewal for the larger community.

If, in fact, the dust and the filth are cleaned away that had made me unrecognizable as an image of God, then I am not different from anybody else who is also an image of God. Above all, I become similar to Christ, who is the human image of God without any limitations whtsoever, the model upon which all of us were created.

Paul expresses this process in rather drastic terms: ”The old image is gone, a new one has ermeged, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20). It is a process of death and rebirth – I am torn away from my isolation and am received into a new community-subject: my “I” is inserted into the ‘I’ of Christ and is thus united to that of all my brothers.

Only from the profundity of such a renewal of the individual is the Church born – the community which unites and sustains in life and in death. Only when we take all this into consideration will we see the Church in the correct order of its greatness.

The Church is not only the small group of activists who find themselves together at a certain place to initiate a communitarian life. Nor is it simply the great host of those who gather together on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist. Finally, the Church is also much more than the Pope, bishops and priests, those who are invested with the sacramental ministry.

All these whom we have named are part of the Church, but the radius of the company which we join through faith goes far beyond that, goes even beyond death. All the saints starting from Abel and Abraham are part of it, and all the witnesses to hope that the Old Testament recounts, and Mary, Mother of the Lord, and his disciples, down to Thomas Becket and Thomas More, to Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein and Piergiorgio Frassati.

And so are all the unknowns and the unnamed, whose faith no one has known except God, the men and women in all places and all times whose hearts reached to Christ with hope and love, to the ‘leader and perfecter of faith’, as the letter to the Hebrews calls him (12,2).

It is not the occasional majorities who form here and there in the Church who decide her path and ours. They, the saints, are the true determining majority according to which we orient ourselves. It is to them that we look to! They have translated the divine into the human, the eternal into time. They are our teachers in humanity, who do not abandon us in pain and in solitude, but even at the hour of death, are there beside us.

Here we touch on something very important. A vision of the world that cannot give sense to pain and make it precious does not serve for anything. It fails precisely where the decisive question of existence comes up.

Those who have nothing else to say about pain but that we should fight it are deluding us. Of course we should do everything to alleviate the pain of so many inoocents and to minimize suffering. But there is no human life without pain, and whoever is incapable of accepting pain exempts himself from that purification which alone can make us mature.

In communion with Christ, pain becomes full of significance, not only for myself, as a process of ablatio, in which God strips from me the debris that obscures his image, but beyond me, it is useful for everyone so that we can all say with St. Paul, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1,24).

Thomas Becket, who together with the Admirer and Einsetein has been our guide in our reflections these days, encourages us to a farther step. Life goes far beyond our biological existence. When there is no reason which is worth dying for, then life itself is not worth living.

Where faith has opened our eyes and made our heart larger, then another expression from St. Paul acquires all its power of illumination: "None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's” (Rom 14,7-8).

The more we are rooted in the company of Jesus Christ and all those who belong to him, the more our life shall be sustained by that irradiating trust to which St. Paul also gave expression: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, 9 nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8, 38f).

Dear friends, ti is with such faith that we should allow ourselves to be filled!

Then, the Church will grow as communion in our journey within true life, and she will renew herself day by day. Then she will become the great house with many dwellings. Then the multiplicity of the Holy Spirit’s gifts can work within her.

Then we shall see “how good and how pleasant, when all brothers live as one… Like dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion. There, the LORD has lavished blessings, life for evermore!” (Ps 133, 1-3).

And like the dew of Hermon that comes down on the Mount of Zion, there the Lord gives blessing and life eternal” (Ps 133,1-3).

Translation by Teresa Benedetta

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ratzinger Relativism Texts

Here are the texts in which Joseph Ratzinger explicitly treats "relativism."

*Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions especially "Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today" (address given in May 1996, Guadalajara),

*Preface to the New Edition of Introduction to Christianity "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow," 2000

*Presentation of Dominus Iesus (2000)

*Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, 2006 (2004 dialogue with Marcello Pera)

*Homily at Mass Pro eligendo romano pontifice, 2005.

Cf. The Dictatorship of Relativism, Gediminas T. Jankunas, New York: St Paul, 2011.

N.B. The only full length book by Ratzinger in that list is Truth and Tolerance, and even that, as with almost all of his books, is composed of a compilation of articles from various sources. Here are the titles and the contexts of those articles which comprise each of the chapters of that book.

I.1. "Der Christliche Glaube und die Weltreligionen," 1964 (on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Karl Rahner). 15-54
  2. "Der Christliche Glaube vor der Herausforderung der Kulturen," Salzburg 1992. 55-109

II.1. "Relativism, the Central Problem for Faith Today," Address to the Presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Bishops' Conferences of Latin America, Guadalajara, Mexico, May 1996. 115-137
    2.1. "Glaube zwischen Vernunft und Gefühl," Hamburg, 1998. 138-161
       2. "Verité du Christianisme," Sorbonne, Parish, 27 November 1999. 162-183
       3. "Die Einheit des Glaubens und die Vielfalt der Kulturen," Introduction to the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, 1999. 183-209

III.1. "Faith--Truth--Tolerance," Lugano and Naples 2002. 210-231
     2. "Freedom and Truth," Padua 1995. 231-258

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Labeling Faithful Catholics "Fundamentalists": A Relativist Bully Tack

Fundamentalism is religion of the book, which Catholicism is not. Catholicism is Word and Sacrament, with emphasis on the Sacrament. Pope Francis should know that neither Neo-Con nor Traditionalist Catholics are fundamentalists, and that Christian fundamentalists are categorically different from Islamic terrorists in their beliefs and in their morality.

Cf. Francis and Fundamentalism and Ratzinger defines "Fundamentalism.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Knowledge of God Vindicates Metaphysics

Once metaphysics touches on the higher ground of the knowledge of God, the metaphysical notions and perfections derived originally from its contact with being in experience, which have served the mind as its natural instruments in its quest for the ultimate [by way of analogy], are themselves fully vindicated.

This vindication is not a correction, but a fuller understanding; their notional content is not altered, but perfected, for they are not erroneous at the lower levels of metaphysics, but incomplete. In the final vision their real significance and absolute value are confirmed, and metaphysics itself, as a science, an effort of the human intellect, is fully confirmed in its interpretation of being.

"The Absolute and the Relative in the Metaphysical Order", Charles Denecke, The American Catholic Philosophical Association Proceedings For the Year of 1947, 51.

Illustration: Philosophy and the Liberal Arts, versus the Poets. From the Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad von Landsberg (d. 1195), destroyed at Strassburg in 1870. The inscriptions are as follows.
On the outer circle: Hec exercicia que mundi philosophia \ investigavit, investigata notavit, \ scripto firmavit et alumnis insinuavit. || Septem per studia docet artes philosophia. \ Hec elementorum scrutatur et abdita rerum.
 On the inner circle : Arte regens omnia quae sunt ego philosophia \ subjectas artes in septem divido paries.
Above the Seven Arts
(Grammar with scopae), Per me quivis discit, vox, littera, syllaba, quid sit.
(Rhetoric with stilus and tabula) Causarum vires per me, rhetor alme, requires.
(Dialectic with caput cants) Argumenta sino concurrere more canino.
(Music with organistrtim, cithara and lira) Musica sum late doctrix artis variatae.
(Arithmetic) Ex numeris consto, quorum discrimina monstro.
(Geometry) Terrae mensuras per mullas dirigo euros.
(Astronomy) Ex astris nomen traho, per quae discitur omen.
In the upper half of the inner circle
Philosophia, with her triple crown of Ethica, Logica and Physica, displays a band, bearing the inscription : Omnis sapientia a Domino Deo est; soli quod desiderant facere possunt sapientes.
Below these are the words : Septem fontes sapientiae fluunt de philosophia, quae dicuntur liberales artes. Spiritus Sanctus inventor est septem liberalium artium, quae sunt Grammatica, Rhetorica, Dialectica, Musica, Arithmetica, Geometria, Astronomia.
In the lower half of the same circle and above the philosophi, Socrates and Plato, runs the line : Naturam universae rei quem docuit Philosophia.
To the left of Socrates : Philosophi primum Ethica, postea Physica, deinde Rhetoricam docuerunt,
and to the right of Plato : Philosophi sapientes mundi et gentium clerici fuerunt.
Outside and below the two circles are four Poetae vel Magi, spiritu inmundo instincti, with the following explanation : Isti inmundis spiritibus inspirati scribunt artem magicam et poetriam id est fabulosa commenta ........ 559

Benedikt Konrad Vollmann
Universidad de Múnich

Comienzo mis reflexiones con una pintura del siglo XII. Esta formó parte del Hortus deliciarum, famoso códice de Herrad, abadesa de Hohenburg en Alsacia, lamentablemente quemado en Estrasburgo en 1870. Pero sus ilustraciones fueron copiadas antes y de ese modo conservadas. En el folio 32r se halló, como ven Vdes, en el centro de una gran rueda, es decir, en el cubo, la representación de una reina, a saber la Filosofía, con los dos filósofos Sócrates y Platón a sus pies. Los radios de la rueda están formados por siete figuras femeninas, las siete artes, y todas están incluidas en una banda con versos que forma en cierto modo el aro de la rueda. Por debajo del folio, excluidos del círculo de la Filosofía/Sabiduría, están sentados cuatro hombres escritores, vestidos como los filósofos Sócrates y Platón y, como éstos, escribiendo libros, pero situados en sus verdaderos tronos con cojines de asiento y alfombras, mientras Sócrates y Platón están sentados sobre una banqueta rústica. O sentados en los hombros o volando cerca de las cabezas de los cuatro escritores están pintados cuatro pájaros negros que susurran algo a los oídos de aquellos. Una inscripción explica cuáles son los hombres con los pájaros: poete vel magi spiritu inmundo instincti «los poetas y los magos que están movidos por el espíritu impuro». Así se explican los pájaros negros, es decir los cuervos o las cornejas: estos transmiten el mensaje del diablo de manera semejante a la paloma que comunica el recado de Dios a san Gregorio Magno.
    Hay una segunda inscripción: Isti inmundis spiritibus inspirati scribunt artem magicam et poetriam id est fabulosa commenta «Aquellos movidos por espíritus impuros enseñan la magia y escriben poemas, es decir ficciones mentirosas».
    Cuando, hace años, vi por primera vez esta imagen me pregunté que habría sentido la buena monja con tal condena de los poetas y de la poesía. ¿No conoce, pensé, la poesía cristiana de la antigüedad tardía y la gran cantidad de producciones de la Edad Media? Por fin, ella misma había mezclado la prosa de su libro con versos. Pero la respuesta es sencilla: para Herrad el versificador medieval no es poeta, porque no miente. Esta identificación de la poesía con la mentira no es una idea especial de Herrad; la encontramos también en otros autores contemporáneos como, por ejemplo, en el autor de una Historia Troyanaanónima del siglo XII, verso 12: Non ego sum, quoniam nil fingo, poeta vocandus, «No debo ser llamado poeta porque no finjo». Los poetas que fingen no son «nuestros» poetas sino los de la antigüedad, los cuales personifican la herencia negativa, destructiva de los ancestros paganos, como se ve en la ilustración de Herrad: Nosotros los cristianos hemos recibido de los antiguos una sabiduría pura y verdadera que, por supuesto, fue un don de Dios. Miren en el folio la banda que la Filosofía tiene en las manos: Omnis sapientia a domino deo est / Soli quod desiderant facere possunt sapientia, «Cualquier sabiduría proviene del Señor; todo lo que quieren hacer (los hombres) lo pueden hacer sólo mediante la sabiduría». Y ahora más claras son las inscripciones a los lados del trono de la Filosofía. Por la derecha: Spiritus dei inventor est septem liberalium artium «El espíritu de Dios es el inventor de las siete artes liberales». Por la izquierda: Septem fontes sapientie sunt limpide philosophiae qui dicuntur liberales artes «Siete fuentes de la sabiduría nacen de la filosofía limpia y se llaman artes liberales». Hay, pues, una herencia intelectual buena, positiva, proveniente de la antigüedad, inspirada en última instancia por el espíritu divino, y una herencia intelectual mala, negativa, inspirada en última instancia por el diablo. Esta tambien es ars «arte»; esta también comunica conocimientos y facultades prácticas que el inculto no tiene, pero aquellos conocimientos y aquellas facultades son dones del espíritu impuro, dones peligrosos y nocivos, como, por ejemplo, si un tal —mediante la magia— desvía la leche de las vacas del vecino a su propio ordeñadero, o si per artem magicam puede inmovilizar a un enemigo en una situación decisiva. Pero lo que es interesante para nuestra cuestión no es tanto la magia como tal, antes bien el hecho de que aquí la poesía — esto es la poesía antigua — está asociada a la categoría de arte diabólica y tratada como hermana de la magia.
    Para explicar esa condena de la poesía pagana se aducen por costumbre dos razones: el politeísmo y la licencia sexual de los poemas paganos. Esas son, sin duda alguna, las razones principales y las más importantes. Pero querría añadir otras dos que me parecen también significativas. La primera la traigo del pensamiento de Platón, el cual, como es sabido, expulsa a los poetas de su polis. La razón principal de su juicio desfavorable no es ni el politeísmo ni el libertinaje sino la dulzura atrayente de la poesía. La «musa dulzarrona» como él la nombra en Politeia 607a —he hedysmene Mousa — no conduce a la actividad virtuosa sino al placer, a la afeminación, a las lágrimas sentimentales sin esfuerzos positivos y sobre todo: la poesía mata el razonamiento necesario para la vida personal y social. Politeia 607a, «Si aceptas la musa dulzarrona, entonces el goce y el disgusto van a gobernar el Estado en vez de la ley y el razonamiento». Por supuesto, no es fácil renunciar a la seducción por la poesía, como dice Platón Politeia 605cd: «Cuando escuchamos a Homero o a otro poeta trágico sentimos un deleite y nos entregamos a éstos y los seguimos con simpatía». Renunciar a Homero y a los trágicos es un sacrificio, pero un sacrificio necesario para la salud del alma y de la comunidad.
    No digo que la abadesa de Hohenburg conociera la Politeia de Platón, pero es cierto que las ideas platónicas fueron recibidas por el cristianismo. Aun se puede decir que los pensamientos del antiguo filósofo respecto a la poesía fueron realizados por primera vez en la edad cristiana. Lo que fue en Platón un razonamiento intelectual sin efectos en la vida práctica llegó entonces a ser norma de vida —y norma de crítica literaria—. De nuevo Herrad no ha leído la Politeia, pero es estupendo observar cuántas tradiciones clásicas han llegado a la Edad Media por canales a menudo desconocidos para nosotros. Nuestra copia del Hortus deliciarum da un buen ejemplo de eso. Si dan Vdes otro vistazo a nuestro folio verán que los rasgos de Sócrates se asemejan a los de los famosos bustos antiguos del filósofo. Así también las alfombras y los cojines de los poetas/mágicos contrastados con la banqueta de los dos filósofos me parecen una huella de la polémica contra los poetas comenzada por los filósofos griegos, especialmente por Platón: poesía iguala al placer lujoso, filosofía iguala a la austeridad. Los diferentes modos de vivir corresponden a dos tipos diferentes de trabajo: estos se ocupan del mundo real, aquellos se fingen un mundo fantástico. La inscripción encima de los filósofos dice: Naturam universe rei queri docuit philosophia, «La filosofía ha enseñado a indagar la naturaleza de cualquier cosa». (Quiero disculpar a Herrad por haber confundido queri con quaerere; la falta ocurre a veces en el latín medieval).
    Espero haber probado la primera de mis afirmaciones: no es sólo el politeísmo y la sexualidad los que hacen de la poesía clásica una cosa sospechosa sino también la huida de la realidad en un mundo de ilusiones, de sentimientos falsos y de placeres enervantes.
    Con esta afirmación, esto es que la poesía de los fabulosa commenta es considerada peligrosa in se et per se y no sólo cuando menciona a los dioses o describe acciones obscenas, ya llegamos a un nuevo punto, es decir, al papel del diablo. De nuevo podemos partir de nuestra imagen. Es claro que la inscripción spiritu inmundo instincti se refiere en primer lugar a las escenas amorosas de la poesía antigua, mientras los pájaros me parecen aludir especialmente al modo de la influencia del diablo sobre el hombre. Se trata del problema gnoseológico que no sólo conmovía a los sabios sino también a la gente del pueblo. Las preguntas principales son dos. Primero: cómo puede ser que existen sueños verdaderos y sueños falsos, y segundo: cómo nacen pensamientos malos, fantasías malas que el hombre no quiere, contra las cuales lucha y que, no obstante, le persiguen: pensamientos de odio, de venganza, de libertinaje sexual. En el Medioevo la respuesta más general es: instinctu diaboli, por el influjo del diablo, que —como espíritu— posee una cierta afinidad al espíritu humano. En la literatura espiritual, sobre todo en la literatura monástica desde los padres del desierto el diablo es llamado muchas veces phantasma, «espectro», y leyendo esas obras tal vez no se sabe si el phantasma descrito allí es una figura visible para los ojos o si es sólo una fantasía interior de la persona afligida por el demonio. Pero sea lo uno o lo otro, es siempre el demonio él que posee y ejerce la capacidad de influir sobre la fantasía del hombre, la cual es —según las concepciones medievales— una de las tres facultades del cerebro junto a la facultad memorativa y a la facultad intelectiva. Santa Ildegarda de Bingen, casi contemporánea de Herrad y abadesa benedictina como ella, en su libro Physica, reflexiona varias veces sobre las relaciones entre fantasma y fantasía: reflexiona sobre la causa y el efecto del influjo diabólico o fantástico y sobre todo sobre una posible protección contra esos efectos a través de varias medicinas naturales como por ejemplo el helecho (en latín filix). Permítanme alegar algunas frases ildegardianas —la conexión con nuestro tema va a aparecer pronto—. Según Ildegarda es desde la seducción en el paraíso que existe una relacion clandestina entre el diablo y la mente humana y sobre todo entre el diablo y la fantasía que el diablo, llamado por magica verba, puede ocupar, a no ser que sean aplicados antídotos como plantas o piedras preciosas. Así es preciso usar del jacinto junto con una fórmula de conjuro, cuando alguien ha perdido el juicio: Sicut splendor, quem diabolus in se habuit, propter transgressionem suam ab eo ablatus est, sic etiam hec amentia que N. per diversas fantasias et per diversa magica fatigat a te auferatur, «Como el esplendor, que el diablo tenía, le fue quitado a él por su falta, así esta demencia que fatiga a uno por diversas fantasías y por diversos conjuros le sea quitado a él.» O se sirva de un carbúnculo porque «donde quiera que se halla un carbúnculo, allá los espíritus aéreos no pueden ultimar sus fantasmas completamente» aerei spiritus fantasmata sua ad plenum perficere non possunt. O en otro lugar: Et cum fulgura et tonitrua apparent in somnis bonum est ut homo jaspidem apud se habeat, quia fantasiae etgedrognisse (fallaciaeeum tunc fugiunt et dimittunt. «Y cuando en los sueños se muestran relámpagos y truenos, es bueno para el hombre tener un jaspe consigo porque entonces las fantasías y las falacias van a huir y fugarse».
    Aunque en los pasajes citados de Ildegarda no se trata de poesía, sirven, sin embargo, para confirmar la idea general de que el diablo puede apoderarse de la facultas phantastica o, en otras palabras, que la fantasía tiene una vecindad especial con la falsedad, con la mentira, con el embuste. Por ello comprendemos bien los pájaros negros cerca de los oídos de los poetas en la pintura del Hortus deliciarum.
    Pero, y eso es la cuestión fondamental para una crítica literaria cristiana: ¿Qué queda para una poesía cristiana cuando se quita la fantasía, la imaginación, el spiritus poetriae como dice el Archipoeta del siglo XII? Una respuesta la da san Isidoro de Sevilla en las Etimologías VIII 7,10: Officium autem poetae in eo est ut ea quae vere gesta sunt, in alias species obliquis figurationibus cum decore aliquo conversa transducat, «El oficio del poeta consiste en la tarea de trasladar de modo estético los acontecimientos reales —mediante una transformación encubridora— en visiones diversas.» La definición, que está sacada totalmente de las Divinae Institutiones de Lactancio (I 11,24), tiende ante todo a la justificación de la poesía pagana, pero puede también aplicarse a la poesía cristiana. El poeta no debe de abstenerse de usar su ingenio, sus facultades de invención. Por el contrario, si renuncia a «las transformaciones encubridoras» no es poeta, como Lucano: Unde Lucanus ideo in numero poetarum non ponitur, quia videtur historias conposuisse, non poema (Etimologíasloc. cit.). «Por eso Lucano no es enumerado entre los poetas porque compuso historias, no poemas.» Ingenio sí, mas dentro de límites rigurosos. Escribe Lactancio (en el lugar alegado) que los escritores que inventan todo nesciunt qui sit poeticae licentiae modus, quousque progredi fingendo liceat «No conocen el límite de la licencia poética, ignoran hasta dónde está permitido avanzar en la ficción.» En el centro de la poesía tiene que hallarse la verdad, ea quae vere gesta sunt. Esto vale aún para la fábula esópica en la cual totum utique ad mores fingitur, ut ad rem quae intenditur ficta quidem narratione, sed veraci significatione veniatur (Etimologías I 40,6), «Toda la ficción de la fábula tiende a la ética de modo que llegamos a lo intentado mediante un cuento fingido que, sin embargo, señala la verdad.» Por lo demás, la regla de la verdad vale también para la epopeya mitológica porque, como ha demostrado Euémero, los cuentos mitológicos contienen hechos históricos. Por ejemplo: Un hombre llamado Júpiter se ganó a una virgen llamada Dánae por el don de un saco de oro. El poeta entonces ha narrado —a causa de la decencia— el acontecimiento en modo indirecto, velado, figurationibus obliquis, fingiendo una «lluvia de oro» y un «Júpiter celeste». En efecto, ese núcleo histórico es indispensable para una poesía veri nominis. Según Lactancio aquellos que inventan sus cuentos totalmente no son poetas sino mentirosos (Divinae institutiones I 13).
    Con esa solución de una «ficcionalidad parcial», admitida la vía, habría sido abierta en dos direcciones: primero en el estudio de los clásicos paganos, y segundo en la producción de nuevos poemas de carácter semificcional. En efecto, la antigüedad cristiana y los inicios de la Edad Media se aprovecharon de esas posibilidades sólo parcialmente y además de modo diferente según las mencionadas épocas.
    Consideremos primeramente la actitud de la inteligencia cristiana en los últimos siglos de la antigüedad. Aquí debemos constatar que la mayoría de los literatos no podía o no quería disfrutar de una linea de compromiso como el dibujado por Lactancio e Isidoro respecto a la lectura de la poesía clásica. San Gregorio de Tours todavía había leído los primeros seis libros de la Eneida; algunas décadas más tarde, San Gregorio Magno censura severamente al obispo de Vienne, Desiderio, por haber estudiado la gramática —y eso es decir los clásicos— con sus clérigos. Desde los inicios del siglo VI la Galia e Italia comienzan a ser casi países sin libros. Para ser exactos, los libros todavía existían, existían las bibliotecas con los tesoros intelectuales de más de ocho siglos de cultura latina, pero faltaba el interés. Esa falta de interés intelectual no puedo explicarla con seguridad —no soy experto en esa materia—, sólo puedo ofrecer dos suposiciones: en primer lugar, la falta de escuelas y, por consiguiente, la incapacacidad de entender los clásicos, incapacidad debida a la creciente diferencia entre el latín culto y el latín coloquial. Y en segundo lugar, después de la desaparición de la respublica Romana faltaba un estímulo central que promoviese el interés por la literatura latina como herencia patria. Para los Símacos, los Nicómacos y para todos los Macrobianos de los siglos IV y V, los poetas antiguos formaban parte de su identidad personal y social. Aquella motivación extraliteraria de la literatura ya no existía en la Galia franca, ni siquiera en Italia, y tampoco en la península Ibérica. Aunque florecía aquí la vida literaria, esa no era ni romana ni pagana sino cristiana y española, como lo ha demostrado Louis Holtz en su artículo «Les poètes latins chrétiens nouveaux classiques dans l’Espagne wisigothique»[1]. Holtz prueba que, excepto Virgilio, los autores de la España visigoda se orientaban hacia los poetas nuevos, es decir a los poetas cristianos.
    Pero ¿cómo están las cosas en la otra vía, la de las producciones nuevas semificcionales? La respuesta a esta cuestión es más importante porque conduce al impacto inmediato del cristianismo en el nacimiento de nuevos géneros literarios y —resumiendo todo— a la actitud del cristianismo antiguo frente a la poesía. Podemos pasar por alto el único ejemplo, que yo sepa, de un poema de ficción clásica, esto es, la tragedia Orestes, compuesta por Draconcio. (Hay un paralelo también singular en el ambiente griego cristiano: la epopeya sobre Baco escrita por Nonno.) Pero esos son casos singulares. La mayoría de los poemas cristianos son de un tejido muy diferente. Conocemos bien los diversos géneros narrativos: la epopeya bíblica, el poema didáctico (especialmente el de temas teológicos y éticos), la vida versificada de un santo, el panegírico en versos, los «Gesta» de personas de Estado y los poemas satíricos y polémicos. Acordándonos de la definición de Lactancio y de Isidoro nos encontramos frente a un problema. Aquellos poemas corresponden perfectamente a la exigencia de verdad —scribere ea quae vere gesta sunt—, pero ¿dónde se cumple el otro oficio del poeta, la ficción, «la conversión en otras visiones a través de figuraciones oblicuas»? De hecho, la diferencia entre prosa y poesía cristiana se reduce al uso del verso, a la preferencia por un vocabulario poético en lugar de un vocabulario prosaico, al empleo de figuras y tropos, al incorporar descripciones y comparaciones.
    No cabe duda de que esa literatura llenó un hueco que fue dejado por la expulsión de la cultura pagana e igualmente es cierto que esas obras demostraron la altura de la cultura intelectual cristiana. A pesar de eso faltaba algo, faltaba el juego de la fantasía que anima los cuentos para los niños y la leyendas épicas, faltaba el sueño de un mundo mejor, de un mundo fabuloso en el cual todo termina bien, donde los buenos ganan y los malos pierden. En otras palabras, faltaba un mundo como el de la Metamorfosis de Ovidio o también de las epopeyas heroicas.
    Por muy rigurosa que fuese la autodisciplina, la renuncia ascética al placer de soñar y de fantasear se puede deducir de la asombrosa ausencia de la fábula de animales, género literario legitimado por la misma Biblia y por la teoría isidoriana. Encontramos un sólo género literario que corresponde a ambas exigencias de Isidoro, la exigencia de verdad y la de la ficción, y esto es un género nuevo, totalmente cristiano y totalmente ingenioso, la epopeya alegórica de Prudencio, plasmada en su Psicomaquia. Aquí lo tenemos todo: la verdad del mensaje y el juego de la invención, la abierta descripción de las batallas y las alusiones encubiertas que constituyen un desafío de descubrimiento para los lectores.
    En la edad carolingia un ensayo de ese tipo no se repitió, quizás porque era demasiado difícil o porque el modelo era demasiado perfecto. (Lo mismo vale también respecto a la epopeya bíblica.) Respecto a los otros géneros paleocristianos, los irlandeses, los anglosajones y los carolingios siguen las huellas de sus abuelos cristianos, pero se distinguen de éstos en su actitud respecto al estudio de los clásicos paganos. Aunque los primeros siglos de la Edad Media continúan el fervor religioso de la antigüedad cristiana, en el punto de la poesía clásica pagana son menos rigurosos. Ya no la temen como la habían temido los intelectuales de la edad patrística: la batalla contro los paganos se había ganado. Los pueblos nuevos, pueblos no latinos, observan a los antiguos casi como a una población ajena, extraña, pero interesante, de la cual se pueden aprender muchas cosas útiles. Por eso los irlandeses, los anglosajones, los francos entraban con gusto en la vía de Isidoro. Es claro que no producían epopeyas mitológicas o comedias de estilo terenciano, pero apreciaban la poesía clásica como objeto de estudio —estudios lingüísticos, retóricos, anticuarios— y como modelo de expresión poética. Por eso los carolingios se consideraban émulos y rivales de los antiguos, y no es de extrañar que se adornaran del título antiguo de poeta (poeta en lengua latina, no en lengua española) —en contraste con la ya alegada confesión del anónimo del siglo XII: Non ego sum, quoniam nil fingo, poeta vocandus.
    Aquí nos acordamos de la abadesa Herrad. La convivencia de poesía pagana y cristianismo, establecida por Lactancio e Isidoro y practicada por los carolingios, contradice evidentemente el dibujo de las artes en el Hortus deliciarum. En esto no hay el menor lugar para los que fingen fabulosa commenta; son todos diabólicos y peligrosos. Es evidente que en el siglo XII hay un endurecimiento de las posiciones, un nuevo rigorismo ajeno a la edad de los carolingios. ¿Cómo explicar eso? Creo que se trata de la reacción a dos fenómenos del siglo XII, fenómenos en primer lugar literarios, pero arraigados en un profundo cambio cultural.
    El primero de dichos fenómenos consiste en un redescubrimiento de la antigüedad como forma vivendi y por esta razón es por lo que hablamos de un «renacimiento del siglo XII». En las edades carolingia y otoniana la antigüedad era, como hemos dicho, el objeto de estudios, estudios serenos, casi con corazón frío. Ahora se descubre la antigüedad como modelo de goce de vivir. La expresión más vistosa de semejante actitud son las canciones de amor en latín, especialmente las provenientes de Francia. Otro género literario que huele al espíritu pagano y frívolo es la así llamada «Comedia elegíaca». Esta renuncia tanto a la veritas cuanto a la gravitas cristiana. Tiene por fin sólo el entretenimiento, el placer —y la derisión de los tontos—. Como en la poesía de amor, se adivinan también en las comedias las raíces antiguas: las primeras de ellas, el Geta y la Aulularia de Vitalis de Blois, reelaboran tramas que se remontan finalmente a Plauto aunque son probablemente transmitidas en la Edad Media a través de refundiciones en prosa tardo-antiguas.
    Es fácil imaginarse cómo debían de reaccionar los hombres espirituales y sobre todo los monjes (y en nuestro caso las monjas) frente a tal revivir de sentimientos considerados no cristianos: cierran filas. Resulta excluido ahora también el uso moderado de los poetas clásicos tolerados por Isidoro y los carolingios a causa de la verdad parcial contenida en aquellos, una verdad que no es del todo absorbida por la ficción.
    Pero el problema de la ficción desde la mitad del siglo XI ya no es sólo un problema de los autores clásicos, es en efecto también un problema de la poesía contemporánea, y esto constituye la segunda piedra de escándalo para la crítica literaria cristiana: surgen en el siglo XI y ante todo en el siglo XII poemas totalmente ficticios, cosa condenada tanto por la teoría clásica antigua cuanto por la teoría cristiana. El fondo de donde nacen es el mismo en ambas culturas: el cuento popular. Este es el fondo de la novela antigua, como por ejemplo la novela de «Apollonio», y es el fondo de la ficción medieval: la leyenda épica secular, el cuento de hadas, el chascarrillo. Todas estas formas narrativas, por supuesto, vivían desde hace mucho en la tradición oral; su aparición en el mundo literario iguala a una revolución e iguala en cierto sentido a los inicios de la literatura moderna en la cual la ficción desempeña el papel principal: romance, novela, drama, comedia, etc.
    El origen popular de la «ficción» nueva se puede comprobar fácilmente por el hecho de que la mayoría de la obras de ficción de la Edad Media son obras en lengua vulgar: los poemas de Chrétien de Troyes, de Gottfried von Straßburg y de Wolfram von Eschenbach, o el Nibelungenlied, la Chanson de Roland y el Poema de Mío Cid.
    Los poemas de ficción en latín son escasos y dan la impresión de ser ensayos. Enumero como obras más conspicuas el chascarrillo Unibos y la épica caballeresca Ruodlieb, ambos del siglo XI; también dos epopeyas de animales, la Ecbasis captivi (siglo XI) y el Ysengrimus (mitad del siglo XII); además las ya mencionadas comedias elegíacas, el cuento de hadas Rapularius (hacia 1200), la versión latina de un cantar alemán sobre el duque Ernesto (1212-1218) y, hacia 1250, el rezagado recientemente descubierto Hugo de Macôn con su De militum gestis memorabilibus. Las poesías de ficción en latín compuestas después de este tiempo ya pertenecen al movimiento humanístico. La Edad Media tardía no humanística volvió de nuevo a la gravitas anterior —y perdió su papel de literatura guía limitándose a poesías religiosas y obras de carácter científico—. En el campo de las bellas letras esta fue reemplazada por las modernas literaturas en lengua vulgar que, en mi opinión, cumplen mejor que la literatura latina medieval las exigencias de Lactancio e Isidoro: búsqueda de la verdad humana bajo la envoltura de la ficción.
    Fuera del mundo literario, en cambio, encontramos hoy día la dura oposición entre «realismo» y ficción, oposición que resulta de una exageración inhumana en ambos lados. La gravitas medieval, dirigida a la vida eterna como última finalidad, fue remplazada por una despiadada seriedad en la persecución de objetivos materiales. Y, por otra parte, encontramos una ficción desenfrenada, que se ha apartado tanto de la realidad cuanto de las obligaciones morales. Nosotros somos testigos de ambos desarrollos funestos, de una caza brutal del provecho y de una ficción ilimitada y destructiva. Después de haber dudado mucho tiempo, los psicólogos admiten ahora que las emisiones televisivas de un mundo virtual lleno de brutalidades o de héroes de science fiction pueden borrar en los menores los límites entre realidad y un mundo de ilusión con efectos desastrosos para ellos mismos y para la sociedad. Para lograr la salud mental sería deseable un equilibrio entre la gravitas cristiana y el iocus de los antiguos. Este sería el objetivo de un humanismo cristiano que necesitamos hoy tan urgentemente: la herencia feliz del cristianismo y de la cultura latina clásica.

NOTAS:[1] En De Tertullien aux mozarabes. Antiquité tardive et Christianisme ancien. I-III. Mélanges offerts à Jacques Fontaine [...] à l’occasion de son 70e anniversaire, París, 1992, II 69-81.
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