CHAPTERIICULTURE:THE THEOLOGICAL PEDAGOGY OF JOSEPHCARDINAL RATZINGER2.
1 Introduction Joseph CardinalRatzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is one of the important figures in thecatholic theological area. He is known for his orthodoxy throughout histheological enterprise. Commonly, orthodoxy means the objectification of faith.This objectification of faith does not de- privatize the faith but only de-personalize it. He was the center of attraction before and after the SecondVatican Council. In his special way of theologizing Cardinal Ratzinger seemsnot to be divided as a pre and post Vatican theologian. Many Critics do so.
They divides his theological career as pre Vatican liberal theologian and apost Vatican conservative- orthodox theologian But A detailed study of his theology expresses the reality that he wasstable in his theological pedagogy; but he had to become an apologetic againstthe theological extremism happened just after the Council. Before the VaticanCouncil, Cardinal Ratzinger was celebrated as a genius of liberal andprogressive ideas. There were not many accusations against his theologicalpedagogy.
Most of his ideas were novel to the then existing theological saga.He tried to move forth from the Tridentine methodology of anathema sit to apeaceful communion of Churches. But he is accused to be a brutal orthodox rulerof Catholic Kingdom as the prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith.Actually He fought against the aberrations of the decisions of the Council. There are a few critics of Ratzinger who opine that hewas stable in his ideas and theological methodology both before and after thecouncil.
But the radical and extreme liberal and orthodox interpretations ofthe thinkers just after the council made his theology alien to them. For theextreme liberalists his theology became conservative and orthodox and for theextreme orthodox, liberal. In my opinion Ratzinger always proposed a middle standwithout harming the orthodox core of the doctrines of Church. He was ready toaccept any of the progressive attitudes which did not curtail the deposit of faiththat is the objective data which constitutes Church’s body of doctrine.
Even if so, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger accused of some mistakesin using and accepting the categories of the pluralistic communion of theindividual churches. Even though he was correct in his theological expositions,his theology in its totality, was criticized as it was not ready to afford thedynamic categories of other cultures. 1Thistheme is dealt in this chapter. The main criticism leveled against him was hisimposition of Platonic categories over all the cultures. For the Asian andLatin American theologians he was a dictator of categories to theologize. Healso preserves an inherent pessimism in his writings.2Whatever he sees as different from his categories is condemned.
Thus many ofthe decisions of Ratzinger as the Prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine andFaith- the old agency for the Inquisition of the heretics were accused as themisuse of his authority. Even if so it is true that the Ecumenical Patriarch ofConstantinople awarded him a golden cross for understanding Catholicism andOrthodoxy well. 3 This chapter intends to explore thetheological nuances lay behind the controversy between Ratzinger and thetheologians of various cultural contexts. 2.2 Theological background of Cardinal JosephRatzingerJoseph Ratzinger was born in 1927 in Marktl Inn in theBavarian diocese of Passau. He was ordained priest in 1954 in Freisng of theMunich diocese. He attained his doctorate in St.
Augustine’s theology of andlater he became a lecturer in dogmatic theology in the most famous Germanuniversities like Munster, Tubingen, and Regensburg. Along with hisassignments, Ratzinger published scholarly works and essays which enjoyed widercirculation. He did not focus on any special area but he dealt with thecomprehensive understanding of the Christian faith. He always tried toestablish the core of Christian faith, without rejecting the modern progressivemovements. The Introduction toChristianity, his celebrated work, became classic reader for the studentsof Christian religion.
As an expert in the catholictradition he was appointed as the theological expert to participate in theSecond Vatican Council. Being one of the founders of Concilium which is called to be progressive wing of theology,Ratzinger was reputed to the category of open minded theologians of the world. But after the council, especiallywhen he was appointed as the prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine andFaith, he was accused of a change in his theological attitude. It isinteresting to hear his own assessment of this attitudinal change:It is not I who have changedbut others. At our very first meetings I pointed out two prerequisites to mycolleagues. The first one: our group must not lapse into any kind ofsectarianism or arrogance as we were the new true church, an alternativemagisterium with a monopoly on the truth of Christianity.
The second one:discussion has to be conducted without any individualistic fights forward, in confrontationwith the reality of Vatican II with the true letter and the true spirit of thecouncil not with an imaginary Vatican III. The prerequisites were increasinglyless observed in the following period up to a turning point – which set around1973- when someone began to assert that the texts of Vatican II were no longerpoint of reference of catholic theology. Indeed it was flatly stated that thecouncil still belonged to the traditional….. It was not possible to moveforward very much with such documents. They must be surpassed. Hence thecouncil was only a starting point.
But in those years I very soon disengagemyself from the directorate as well as from the contributors’ staff. I have always tried to remain true toVatican II, to this today of the Church without any longing for a yesterdayirretrievably gone with the wind and without any impatient thrust toward atomorrow that is not ours.4 These words of Ratzinger explicitly express his standpoint towards the aftereffects of the Second Vatican Council. He tried toresist those who were giving ample importance to orthopraxy, but teaches thatthe right conduct or orthopraxis should always be enrooted in the orthodoxy ofthe Church.
Right action always presupposes right belief. The bare actions withoutright belief are not Catholic. According to Ratzinger right belief alwaysaccepts the true meaning of the scripture, which read within the livingtradition of Church.5The theologians who are not based in the right belief not complement the churchbecause the error never complements the truth.6 Ratzinger never allowedthe theologians to divide the Church as pre and post. There is no pre and postconciliar Church but only one Church that commenced in the Pentecost by theliving presence of Holy Spirit. There is no break in this continuity.
VaticanII did not want to change the faith but to represent it in an effective way. Thusit becomes impossible for a Catholic to take a position for Vatican II butagainst Trent or Vatican I. One who accepts Vatican II will accept the wholetradition of the Church. This argument of Ratzinger directly expels thetheories of extreme progressivism. Against the traditionalists he argues thatit is impossible for a Catholic to favour Trent and Vatican I and stand againstVatican II simultaneously. So, every partisan destroy the whole which canexists only as an indivisible unity.7 Unlike the theologians who fell inthe storm of progressivism, Ratzinger stood with the true spirit of Vatican II.For him, the true tradition means defend the council.
Dismissing the criticismsagainst him as an extreme orthodox, Ratzinger portrays himself as a safeguardian who did not intend to restore the progressive ideas of Second VaticanCouncil with the extreme traditional thoughts, but as the well-wisher whostrived to limit the aberrations of the conciliar proposals. His prefect shipis a way to recover the lost values.2.3Formation of the Theological Categories of Joseph RatzingerRatzinger seems to be linear narrator throughout hisintellectual outcomes.
For him, there is an uninterrupted historicalprogression of the salvific plan of God. This cannot be violated. There is noscope for any new theology or new categories of interpretation but the depositof faith and the categories to interpret it righty are given solely to theownership of the Church. Orthodoxy is the guardian of faith. The task of thetheologian is to help the believers to comprehend the already revealedmysteries of God. So, for Ratzinger, the membership of the Church is not humanventure.
One becomes the member of the Church not through sociologicaladherence, but through incorporation in the body of Christ through Baptism andEucharist.8The body of Christ, the newly instituted Israel, is an undisrupted progressionof the people of God of the Old Testament. Church is not only a sum total ofbelievers,9but it is the real body of Jesus. Only the Church goes beyond the impassiblefrontier of death. Stating that the Church is not ours but of Christ,Ratzinger tries to emphasizes the mono-nature of the interpretative categoriesof the deposit of faith. “Christianity is not from us. It is a revelation thatis to say a message which has been entrusted to us as a deposit and which we donot have the right to reconstruct according to our whims.
10It is noteworthy that Ratzinger places the human aspect of the Church in asecondary phase.11The changeable part of the Church is secondary to the unchangeable part of theChurch. So the changes must be in tune with the permanent, unchangeable,God-given deposit of faith. Then we cannot consider Church as a democraticinstitution in which the decisions of the majority will reign over. Church, inits base, is sacramental and hierarchical. Here the will of God reigns. Not themajority of votes but the authority of Christ is the norm of the Church. Humanthoughts and deeds help the Church to enact the will of God here in this earth.
In this background, Ratzinger explains how to changethe human parts of the Church. He accepts the dictum Ecclesia Semper Reformata, which means the Church is to be reformedaccording to the signs of the time. Gaudiumet Spes makes this idea clear, stating that the fidelity of the bride,Church, to the bridegroom, Christ, does not imply the infidelity to her children.12Church is obliged to change her externality to help her children to find outher bridegroom through the changing means of the time. Quoting the RomanLiturgical formula of Peace (Lord Jesus Christ, look not upon my sins,but upon the faith of your Church) he teaches us how to make changes in thetraditional formulas of the Church. Some theologians argue that the personalpronoun ‘my’ should be replaced with ‘our’, the collective pronoun. But beforearguing for the change the theologians must try to understand what theimportance of the term ‘my’ is here in this formula. Here, ‘my’ stands for thepersonal conviction of one’s sinfulness.
It should not be just converted to’our’; because there is no other place in the liturgy where the same nuance isused. Can we change ‘my’ to ‘our’? Yes. But what is important is that in thenew emphasis of ‘we’ the personal conviction of sin should not be disappeared. So, before changing or integrating the faith, atheologian must consider the intention of the Church.13 Faithis not individual, but we believe together.
The purpose of a theologian in theChurch is not to become an individual scholar, but to serve the believingcommunity. No theologian wants to be a creator of faith, but his task is todeepen people in the deposit of faith. Many theologians consider dogma as anassault on their freedom. But, in reality, “dogmas are not walls that preventus from seeing but they are windows that open upon the infinite.” 14 Allthe theological expositions are cultured.
So we have to stick our thoughts onthe fundamentals of faith: credo (which indicates what is to believe), theprayer- our father (what we have to hope), the Decalogue (what is to do) andthe sacraments. Theologians should not be ignorant of these basic while theyare dealing with high theological problems. In short, Ratzinger cannot be considered as an extremeorthodox in his ideas.
He always tries to preserve the traditional values ofthe Church. He is very much interested in the integration of faith into othercultural categories. To the questions arouse on the integration of Christianfaith in the African culture, he states: “Then more and more significanceattacks to the debate as to whether the worship of the ancestors can be takeninto Christian faith-structure in any form. The veneration of Saints and prayerfor the departed souls create bridges here which make a fruitful exchange ofideas possible.”15This statement explicitly expresses the particularity of Ratzinger’s logic.Unlike the modern theologians Ratzinger’s theologizing always starts andenroots in the Catholic dogmas.
He never tries to bend the traditional dogmasaccording to the present situation but bends the situation according to theunchangeable faith of the Church. Ratzinger accepts that man is saved evenwithout a visible membership in the Church. He can be saved also by sincerelyfollowing the sound of his conscience. But this provision should move to theextreme of ‘anonymous Christians’ that leads less importance to the Baptism ofChurch. 2.
3Christianity and Other Cultures Whenever he deals with the conceptof Pluralism, Ratzinger has no doubt about the unique role of Christ as theuniversal savior. Christ is the one and only savior for the humanity. In his celebrated book, ‘Truth andTolerance,’ Ratzinger explains the two methods of understanding the place ofother religions and their cultures. Firstly, other religions can be consideredas the preparatory ways to Christianity. There are many instances in the HolyScripture where this preparatory nature of other religions has been stressed.The eternal covenant of God with Noah is the first instance. This is covenantof God is not only with the Hebraic community but also with the whole humanity.
The off-springs of Noah are considered to be new base for humanness in thisearth. The second instance is the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus (Mt2:1-23). It is interesting that the astronomy of the pagan religions, which ismeasured as the superstition for the Christian believers, lead to the infiniteand True God, Jesus Christ. This scriptural narration opens the possibility tosee other religions and their cultures as the preparatory ways for theChristianity.
The third instance is the debate of St. Paul with the people ofAthens (Acts. 17:16-34). It is to be noted that St. Paul starts his arguments,taking the very altar of the pagans into account. For him, the altar of Athenswhich is dedicated to ‘the unknown God’ is space to speak about the true God,he believes.
This means we have much space in other religions and culture tointegrate our Christian faith. Moving forth in the book True andTolerance, we see Ratzinger vehemently criticize the ideas of Dr.Radhakrishnan, a Hindu theologian and the Buddhist thinkers. Ratzinger putforward a historical pattern for the formation of religions: Primitive experienceMythical religionsThree ways of moving beyond mythMysticism monotheistic revolution enlightenment16In his understanding,the term ‘myth’ does not have a positive meaning. It seems to be understood asan added material, such as ways of expression, literary genres etc., to theprimitive experience of a particular religion.
In the first phase, theprimitive experience, a person or a community receives the glimpse of theexistence of the divinity. In the second stage of the formation of religions,this pristine first experience is slowly embodied by myths to preserve itforever and for better comprehension of the community it receives. There is thethird and final stage where the mythical religions try to move beyond the myth.Thus various phases of religious experience become active; namely, mysticism,monotheistic revolution and enlightenment.
Mysticism alwaystries to strip off the myth of the religious categories and absolute value isseen to experiences. Here a new foundation for myth is given. It becomes thesymbol of reality. Mysticism esteems the imageless, unmetaphysical andmysterious experience of the mystic as the only determinative and ultimatereality in the realm of religion. In the final stage of such experience themystic will no longer be able to say to his God, I am Yours, the expression heuses is I am Thee.17This is not correct. This is the attitude of Buddha for Ratzinger.
In themonotheistic revolution that we find in the formation of Israel community thereis no place for man mad myths, but the divine call through prophets isesteemed. In the third phase of enlightenment myth gives way to apre-scientific knowledge. It can also be equated to some sort of rationalknowledge. Enlightenment gives absolute value for the rational experience atall times. Criticizing Radhakrishnan’s theological model, Ratzinger includeshis ideas in the last category of enlightenment along with the whole Hindutradition. He blames the Radhakrishnan for teaching relativity, giving absolutevalue for the imageless spiritual experience. The Asian religions arecriticized that they do not consider God as a person and they do not separateI- Thou relation.18Christianity denies this.
It focuses on the divine call which is audible inChrist. Monotheism of Indiais also criticized. It is not of Israel. It is directed towards theaforementioned mysticism. Unlike the Israel community, which was formed througha revolution, Indian monotheistic religions were formed through evolution. Theytry to make a peaceful balance between many gods and do not take away any gods.In the Indian mysticism the inwardness of the mystic gets much stress.
Here theGod is passive. Here man moves upward. In Indian monotheism the oppositehappens. Here God is active, but man is passive.
We are only part of theactivities of god. 19ForRatzinger, the way of the Asian religion is not acceptable and he always sees aduality between mysticism and Revelation. 1 A.M. Ren, “A Critical survey of Joseph Ratzinger’sUnderstanding of Religious Pluralism from an Asian Perspective,” Ecumenical Trends 40 (2011)11.
7.2 J. L.
Allen, Pope Benedict XVI (New York, NY: Continuum Press, 2000) 216-217.3 D.V. TWOMEY, Pope Benedict: The Conscience of Our Age (San Francisco: IgnatiusPress, 2007)14.4 S. Attanasio- G.
Hanson, The Ratzinger Report: AnExclusive Interview on the Church. JosephCardinal Ratzinger with Vittorio Messori (San Francisco, Ignatius Press,1986) 19.5 The Ratzinger Report, 23.6 The Ratzinger Report,247 The Ratzinger Report, 28.
8 The Ratzinger Report, 47.9 F. Biot, “The Idea of Orthodoxy in Cardinal Ratzinger’sBook: Conversation on the Faith” Conc192(1987) 4. 124.10 J. Ratzinger, Conversation on the Faith, 112 as cited in F. Biot, “The Idea of Orthodoxy in Cardinal Ratzinger’sBook: Conversation on the Faith” Conc192(1987) 4. 128.
11″The Idea of Orthodoxyin Cardinal Ratzinger’s Book,” 124.12 Vatican Council II, Gaudimet spes, 4313 The Ratzinger Report, 50.14 The Ratzinger Report, 72.15 The Ratzinger Report, 196.16 J.
Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance. Christian Belief and World Religions (SanFrancisco: Ignatius Press, 2003) 26.17 Truth and Tolerance, 33.18 Truth and Tolerance, 34.19 Truth and Tolerance,35.