Monday, December 13, 2010

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the Dogma of Infallibility and the Truth of the Gospel

From Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, an Interview with Peter Seewald (Ignatius Press, 1997):

Referring to criticism of the Church, you once spoke of a classical "canon of issues": women's ordination, contraception, celibacy, the remarriage of divorced persons. This list is from 1984. The "Petition of the People of the Church" of 1995 in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland shows that this canon of issues hasn't changed one iota. The discussion seems to be going wearyingly in circles. Perhaps a few clarifications would help get beyond this impasse. It seems to me that many don't know exactly what they're talking about when they speak of the papacy and priesthood, that they actually don't know the meaning of these terms.

I would stress again that all of these are certainly genuine issues, but I also believe that we go astray when we raise them to the standard questions and make them the only concerns of Christianity. There is a very simple reflection that argues against this (which, by the way, Johann Baptist Metz has mentioned in an article on the "Petition of the People of the Church"). These issues are resolved in Lutheran Christianity. On these points it has taken the other path, and it is quite plain that it hasn't thereby solved the problem of being a Christian in today's world and that the problem of Christianity, the effort of being a Christian, remains just as dramatic as before. Metz, if I recall correctly, asks why we ought to make ourselves a clone of Protestant Christianity. It is actually a good thing, he says, that the experiment was made. For it shows that being Christian today does not stand or fall on these questions. That the resolution of these matters doesn't make the gospel more attractive or being Christian any easier. It does not even achieve the agreement that will better hold the Church together. I believe we should finally be clear on this point, that the Church is not suffering on account of these questions.


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