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Pope Benedict XVI: Joseph Ratzinger on politics.

Modern Western civilization, shaped not least by the Enlightenment, is the ever present background to Ratzinger's theological project. (1) It is both a stimulus and a partner in dialogue, a source of inspiration and an object of critique. Ratzinger is acutely aware of any change of mood in the world around him and so is capable of assessing the slightest blip in that mood, thanks to what one might call his finely tuned "theological seismograph." He is sensitive above all to the cultural changes caused by the shifting of those philosophical and theological tectonic plates under the surface of day-to-day politics, which invariably lead to political earthquakes. This sensitivity is what gave his opening lectures on the university at the beginning of each semester an excitement and a popularity, which attracted the most diverse of students. It is these underlying cultural tectonic plates that grab his attention as a theologian.

One of these tectonic plates is the living Christian tradition; another could be given the collective name of the Enlightenment and its aftermath. The influence of the Enlightenment is, in his estimation, both positive and negative. The modern world born of the Enlightenment is both the product of Western Christian civilization and at the same time has become the greatest threat not only to Christianity but to humanity itself. To distinguish the positive contribution of the Enlightenment project from its life-threatening errors (and so to save what is best in the Enlightenment tradition, such as liberal democracy) is one of the primary tasks he set himself in his reflection on politics. It is the main thrust of his contribution to the debate in Munich, January 2004, with Jurgen Habermas, one of Europe's main spokesmen for the Enlightenment today. (2)

Ratzinger's Political Science

What I want to sketch very briefly are some features of Ratzinger's "political science," as it were, or, more precisely, his theological understanding of political life. Foundational for Ratzinger's theology of politics (3) is the distinction between the sphere of faith and that of politics first expressed in the apodictic statement: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Mt 22:21). This, the true Christian revolution, amounted, in effect, to the liberation of politics from the sacral sphere, thus for the first time in history opening politics up to the sphere of human judgement and decision, the sphere of practical reason, personal responsibility--and so of ethics. (4) It implies the separation of state and Church, the former a community of necessity (we are born into it) characterized by compromise, the latter a community of freedom or conviction (we are baptised into it), one characterized by non-negotiable principles. It also defines the limits set to political authority: that authority does not extend into the most intimate, personal sphere, that of worship, faith, and morals.

Political life is, rather, defined by justice in temporal affairs. In its turn, freedom of worship can be seen as the basis of all human rights and the ultimate barrier to totalitarianism. According to Ratzinger, this was essentially the unique contribution of the martyrs to the progress of civilization. "As a religion of the persecuted, and as a universal religion that was wider than any one state or people, it [Christianity] denied the government the right to consider religion as part of the order of the state, thus stating the principle of the liberty of faith." (5) This he maintains was the soil out of which, in the course of history, the Enlightenment sprang. (6) The Enlightenment was born in "places where Christianity, contrary to its own nature, had unfortunately become mere tradition and the religion of the state." It is to the credit of the Enlightenment, Ratzinger adds, that it drew attention afresh to basic Christian values and gave reason back its own voice. (7) One of its products is modern, liberal democracy. (8) Accordingly, Ratzinger formulates the central question for politics as follows: "How can Christianity become a positive force in politics without being exploited politically, and without usurping the political sphere?" (9)

The second major theme running though all his writing on political life is justice as the goal of politics. "The Church's first task in this area is to keep alive in fidelity to her holy tradition, the basic criterion of justice and to detach it from the arbitrariness of power." (10) By this he means the primacy of ethics (the virtue of justice) over politics and so the primacy of moral responsibility, conscience, and integrity. "Ethics" here means what is objectively right and wrong, irrespective of the circumstances. By conscience here is meant man's God-given, innate moral sense, that sense of what is right and wrong that is intrinsic to human nature, though it may be dulled by one's cultural environment and personal history. (11) This is what he described on one occasion as "the basic memory of mankind." (12) According to Ratzinger, conscience is essentially powerless yet for that very reason limits power and protects the powerless. (13)

The third, and most fundamental theme is the danger to political life (and to humanity) by the closing of the Western mind to God, to borrow a phrase. By this is meant the danger posed to politics by the dominance of a truncated notion of reason that developed in the West over the last four centuries with the result that God is now excluded from public discourse and the existence of objective standards of morality is denied. (14) The self-limitation of reason to what is empirical, Ratzinger claims, is the distinguishing mark of modern Western civilization, with the result that religion has been banished to the private sphere. This theme is, in a sense, a metapolitical theme. It is at the level of cultural tectonic plates. And it touches on the other two. But all are interrelated.

The Threat Posed to Society by Modernity's Self-Limitation of Reason

Though now almost forgotten, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989--symbolized by the Fall of the Berlin Wall--was an event of major historical significance. It marked the end of the Cold War that had lasted over four decades and had divided the world in two, one side under the hegemony of the liberal capitalist West led by the US and the other under the sphere of influence of the communist Soviet Union. At the time, the end of the Cold War unleashed an understandable euphoria. Francis Fukuyama called it the end of history (namely the triumph of liberal democracy marking the end of what to him was the dialectical progress of history). President George H. W. Bush Sr. gave expression to that general euphoria when he spoke of a "new world order."

Cardinal Ratzinger's response was a raised eyebrow and a question mark: Oh, really? How can we talk about a new world order, if the West, despite differences in political and economic structures, in fact shares the same intellectual assumptions as the Marxist East? The question mark in the title of a collection of essays, written immediately before and after the Fall of the Wall, says it all: Turning Point for Europe?. Ratzinger argued that, unless society's underlying assumptions changed there would be no real turning point for either Europe or the rest of the world. "Marxism was only the radical execution of an ideological concept that even without Marxism largely determines the signature of our age." (15) Marxism, Ratzinger claims, is the product of three components: (1) the myth of progress (a deterministic understanding of history as the unstoppable march to a better world which, for example, was behind Fukuyama's neo-Hegelian interpretation of 1989); (2) the self-sufficiency of the scientific-technological mindset; and (3) political messianism (utopianism). Each of these components is the product of the practical and/or theoretical denial of God. More precisely, each component, in different ways, affirms the primacy of matter over spirit (which is what is meant by materialism). (16) And all three currents of thought, Ratzinger maintains, still characterize Western civilization as a whole.

Fifteen years later, Ratzinger noted that
   The essential problem of our times for Europe and for the
   world is that although the fallacy of the communist economy
   has been recognized--so much so that former communists
   have unhesitatingly become economic liberals--the moral
   and religious question that it [Marxism] used to address has
   been almost totally repressed. The unresolved issue of Marxism
   lives on: the crumbling of man's original certainties about
   God, himself and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience
   grounded in absolute values is still our problem today.
   Left untreated, it could lead to the self-destruction of the
   European conscience, which we must begin to consider as a
   real danger. (17)

Acknowledging the Enlightenment's positive values, Ratzinger is also is clear about the inherent contradictions of the Enlightenment project, or rather, more accurately, the menace its basic trajectory could prove for society today. Europe, he wrote,
   has developed a culture that, in a manner hitherto unknown
   to mankind, excludes God from public awareness. His existence
   may be denied altogether or considered unprovable
   and uncertain and, hence, as something belonging to the
   sphere of subjective choice. In either case God is irrelevant
   to public life. [What we are left with] is a purely functional
   rationality that has shaken the moral consciousness in a way
   completely unknown to the cultures that existed previously,
   since it maintains that only that which can be demonstrated
   experimentally is "rational." (18)

The threat posed by this self-limitation of reason, that is reason reduced to measuring what can be quantified (what is useful or expedient, what can be scientifically verified), includes the threat to Western society itself as well as to the rest of the world. It is, in the first place, the threat posed by the almost unlimited power put in man's hands by science and technology without supplying the corrective of any effective moral restraint. (19) In Spe Salvi, he quotes the secular philosopher, Theodor W. Adorno, who "formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom." (20) Technology has given man enormous powers without giving him any corresponding awareness of those moral restraints that alone can keep such powers in check and so keep them human. In the absence of a public consciousness of moral restraint (i.e., when morality has lost its self-evidential character), the only restrictions society considers are those of man's own (technical) ability. Society no longer feels bound by what man ought to do or ought not to do. If man's increasing knowledge about how to do things, Ratzinger once wrote,
   does not find its criterion in a moral norm, it becomes a power
   for destruction, as we can already see from the world around
   us. Man knows how to clone human beings and so he does so.
   Man knows how to use human beings as "storerooms" of organs
   for other men and so he does so. He does so, because this
   seems something demanded by his own liberty.... Even [Islamic]
   terrorism is ultimately based on this modality of man's
   "self-authorization," not on the teachings of the Qur'an. (21)

The body politic is profoundly affected in another way by the exclusion of God from public discourse: it is becoming an increasingly disorientated society. The exclusion of God has created a void at the core of Western society. This is evidenced in the spread of drugs, sexual licence, and terrorism--forms of escape from the boredom and banality of a life where nothing is sacred. Ratzinger once commented that, if people are convinced that all there is to life is what we experience here and now, discontentment and boredom can only increase--with the result that more and more will look for some kind of escape in a search for "real life" elsewhere. Escapism and various forms of "dropping out" become endemic. (22) "The loss of transcendence evokes the flight into utopia," he once pointed out in the 1970s, (23) after revolution and utopianism erupted on the European and American universities in 1968. (24) "I am convinced that the destruction of transcendence is actually the mutilation of man from which all other sicknesses spring. Robbed of his real greatness, he can only resort to illusory hopes." (25) One such illusory hope is the (fundamentally Gnostic) dream of a perfect society in the future to be achieved by tearing down the existing corrupt political structure and replacing it with a hoped-for perfect society ruled by justice and peace. This dream is bound to end in a nightmare, as recent history has all too often demonstrated.

Assuming that God does not exist, all that now counts is life in this world. Physical well-being--symbolized by the body beautiful, style, and wellness--becomes paramount. The only principle that matters is: look after your own interests; save your own skin. (26) As Cardinal Ratzinger summed up in the homily at the Mass opening the consistory that elected him pope (April 18, 2005): "letting oneself be 'tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine' [Eph 4:14], seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires." It is of note that even Fukuyama recognizes the danger of relativism for democracy. "Relativism--the doctrine that maintains that all values are merely relative and which attacks all 'privileged perspectives'--must ultimately end up undermining democratic and tolerant values as well." (27) If there is no objective morality, law has the ground taken from under its feet--as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out to the German parliamentarians in Berlin during his Address to the Bundestag (September 22, 2011).

Echoing Juvenal, Ratzinger once pointed out that "where there is no longer anything worth dying for, life is no longer worthwhile; it has lost its point. And this is not only true of the individual: a land [or country], too, has values that justify the commitment of one's life; if such values no longer exist, we lose the reasons and the forces that maintain social cohesion and preserve a country as a community of life." (28) Those universal values, though particular in their cultural expression, are basic to our very humanity. They are God-given and so transcend all positive laws, all political and economic power. They are objective values, which can be recognized by man's inner sense for good and evil that we call the voice of God in our hearts, if we are open to it. What Benedict once said of Christian discipleship applies, mutatis mutandis, to all men and women of good will: "one must be able, if necessary, to give up the whole world to save true values, to save the soul, to save the presence of God in the world (cf. Mk 8:b6-37)." (29)

Pope Benedict XVI's Addresses to Politicians and Representatives of Civil Society

The central concern that is common to all Pope Benedict XVI's major addresses to politicians (New York, London, Paris, and Berlin) (30) is the need for society, local and global, to recover the divine element in our humanity, which includes that moral consensus without which society flounders and humanity is endangered. At the United Nations' General Assembly in New York marking the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, Benedict pointed out to the nations of the world that human rights are fundamental to humanity only because of the insight inspired by faith that human rights are God-given (31) and so, for that very reason, are binding on all governments. Divorced from God, human rights lose their real significance as a measure against which all positive laws are measured.

The Pope also stressed at the United Nations the urgency of entering into dialogue with the Church and world religions to help reestablish that moral consensus that is needed for genuine cooperation among nations. In so doing, he observed that behind the differences in religious rites and ambiguity in practice, there is a profound harmony among the world religions regarding basic moral values (the wisdom traditions of humanity). (32) These moral values need to be recovered and made politically relevant, since they are being threatened today by the dominant scientific-technological mindset of Western civilization. That mindset has relegated God and morality to the private sphere, considering both to be purely subjective. The Pope's appeal to the United Nations to enter into dialogue with the world religions, and in particular with Christianity, the historical humus of modern democracy, (33) is one that he repeated in London and Berlin in his addresses to politicians and representatives of civil society. And this, it seems to me, is significant.

What he did not speak about at the UN, or in the Bundestag, or in Westminster Hall, were specific moral issues. (34) For example, the parliament at Westminster was the first in the world to introduce abortion (1967) and the first to introduce legislation to permit experimentation on human embryos for IVF (1990), against which evils he has often protested. And yet those topics went unmentioned in his historic address to parliamentarians gathered in Westminster Hall. Instead he praised Westminster for its long tradition of democracy before turning the attention of his audience to St. Thomas More, who, in 1535, was condemned to death a few yards from where he was speaking for putting God before Caesar, conscience before the state, ethics before politics. Benedict's main concern was to draw attention to the need for the state and civil society to engage in a dialogue with the Church and the other world religions so as to forge a new moral consensus. What he rules out a priori is direct political action by the Church. (35) In this context, one could also mention his fundamental objection to liberation theology, namely that it in effect had absorbed faith into politics (thereby reversing the basic thrust of the New Testament). (36)

The Regensburg lecture in 2005 was in effect an appeal to fling open the windows of the bunker created by the modern truncated notion of rationality, namely "the self-imposed limitation of reason to what is empirically falsifiable," and to let the light of God's word enter into our modern world. (37) The lecture was addressed to the world of science and scholarship (and so indirectly to the world of politics in the broad sense of the term). In it Benedict outlines the three stages of the de-Hellenization of Western thought that shaped the Enlightenment and produced the positivist limitation of reason. Tracey Rowland shows how in Regensburg Benedict tried to demonstrate that "Islam and modern secularism share the same voluntarist tendency." In both, the will is paramount, not reason. Both fail to recognize "a logos [divine reason] inherent in the order of being itself." Ratzinger "was pleading at least as much with contemporary militant secularists as with contemporary militant Muslims to recognize that they share a common philosophical starting point," (38) namely a purely instrumentalist understanding of reason. The object of the Regensburg lecture was to broaden the generally accepted concept of reason in Western civilization (and its application in every academic discipline, including theology) so that what is truly human can be recovered once again. (39) For this reason, the Pope argues, theology, properly understood, is central to the task of the university. Theology should keep the question of God--and so the meaning of human existence--before the minds of the academic world and with it the questions regarding the values that are essential to our humanity. (40) In turn, theology will be helped by the critical questions raised by the other disciplines. It too must be saved from turning religion into idolatry, piety into ritualism, and faith into an ideology. Faith and reason, properly understood, help to purify each other. (41) In sum, a more all-embracing concept of reason is needed if humanity is to be equipped to overcome the dangers that stem directly from the enormous, new possibilities placed in our hands by progress in science and technology. Before his election, he had warned: "the attempt, carried to extremes, to shape human affairs to the total exclusion of God leads more and more to the brink of the abyss, toward the utter annihilation of man." (42)

But the recovery of the full grandeur of reason, that is one that is open to God and objective morality, is also needed so that Western civilization can enter into a real dialogue of cultures and world religions. By excluding the ultimate questions, Benedict pointed out in his Regensburg Address, "the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason that is deaf to the divine and that relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures." This perception of Western civilization as an attack on all they hold sacred seems to be the principal motivating force behind Islamic terrorism, though the form that terrorism is taking is, paradoxically, shaped by the Western scientific-technological mindset. They know, and reject, the Western hubris that arises from this mindset, while at the same time they use the products of Western science and technology for their own ends. The tragedy is that Christians living in those societies are often the ones who pay the price for Western hubris, since they often are seen as representing "the West."

Commenting on the omission of any mention of God or Europe's Christian roots in the proposed European Constitution in the year before he was elected pope, Ratzinger, alluding to Samuel P. Huntington's counter thesis to that of Fukuyama, contended that: "If we come to experience a clash of cultures, this will not be due to a conflict between the great religions, which of course have always been at odds with each other but, nevertheless, have ultimately always understood how to coexist with one another. The coming clash will be between this radical emancipation of man [with its denial of God] and the great historical cultures [based on religion]." (43) In other words, two tectonic plates will collide. It seems to me that the collision is already taking place in the hearts and minds of people in every continent where the efficiency of scientific and technological mindset comes into conflict with the traditional moral values of humanity.

Implications for Contemporary Politics

Firstly: the primacy of God. We are talking about the need for transcendence, that which is always beyond human grasp yet grounds all our knowledge and activity. (44) We should perhaps talk more about the public recognition of the centrality of the search for God in order to renew modernity from within. This is how Western monasticism created modern Western civilization. Monasticism was the existential source of European culture, as Benedict stressed in his address to the world of culture at the College de Bernardins in Paris (2008). The monks transformed European culture not by setting out to create a new culture at a time when Roman civilization was imploding. The transformation of European culture was a by-product, as it were, of their search for God. Quaerere Deum: that was their motivating force and so they transformed European culture from within. The same search is needed today, albeit now in the universities, which are themselves the fruit of the original monastic search for God. The search for God is by its very nature a search for morality, the path to God.

What this means in the concrete was articulated by Vaclav Havel when he was a persecuted dissident in communist Czechoslovakia. He tried to convince intellectuals in the West at the time about the need to recover once again: "the 'pre-speculative assumption that the world functions and is generally possible at all because there is something beyond its horizon, something beyond and above it that might escape our understanding and our grasp, but for just that reason, firmly grounds this world, bestows upon it its order and measure, and is the hidden source of all the rules, customs, commandments, prohibitions and norms that hold within it." (45)

For politics to recover its sense of direction, what is needed is the recovery and public recognition of those moral norms that are universally valid. This, of course, will remain ineffective if not accompanied by the integrity of those who hold public office. Such integrity alone engenders trust. This can be achieved, not by devising structures (laws, institutions, ethical guidelines, and commissions), no matter how necessary they are, but by acting in accordance with conscience, properly understood. (46) For the professional politician, judge, administrator of justice, or manager, this means the priority of conscience above mere expediency: the priority of principle above pragmatism (admitting that pragmatism does have a role, one that determines the greater part of politics, but not at the expense of moral principles). (47) To live by the priority of moral principle over pragmatism requires moral courage. To adhere to your (genuinely moral) principles must needs bring you into conflict with the powers and principalities of this world--and may cost more than you would like. The model here is St. Thomas More, held up by Benedict as a model for all in public life during his speech in Westminster Hall. Other models include the men and women of the German resistance movement he mentioned in his speech to the Bundestag. By way of contrast, to quote Havel again (writing in February 1984), the real malaise of contemporary politics, both in the communist East and the liberal-capitalist West is that politicians consign their conscience to the bathroom. (48)

What is the task of the Church in the political sphere? Ratzinger's reply to that question is, in the first place, education (understood not simply as schooling, no matter how important that is). Education must be taken in the "great sense" it had for the pagan Greek philosophers. The Church "must break open the prison of positivism and awaken man's receptivity to the truth, to God, and thus to the power of conscience. She must give men the courage to live according to conscience and so keep open the narrow pass between anarchy and tyranny, which is none other than the narrow way of peace." (49) This in turn implies that the Church must maintain what he calls the balance of the dual system of Church and state (each autonomous in their own sphere) as the foundation of political freedom. This is needed to withstand the totalitarian tendencies of every political authority that claims to justify its own moral values based on its chosen political ideology. "Therefore the Church must lay claim to public rights and cannot simply withdraw into the realm of private rights. For that reason, however, she must also make sure that Church and state remain separate and that membership in the Church clearly retains its voluntary character." (50)

Above and beyond that, Ratzinger once wrote:
   Our greatest need in the present historical moment is [for]
   people who make God credible in the world by means of the
   enlightened faith they live. The negative testimony of Christians
   who spoke of God but lived in a manner contrary to him
   has obscured the image of God and has opened the doors to
   disbelief. [...] We need men whose intellect is enlightened
   by the light of God, men whose hearts are opened by God,
   so that their intellect can speak to the intellect of others and
   their hearts to the hearts of others. It is only by means of
   men who have been touched by God that God can return to
   mankind. (51)

In recognition of his contribution to politics and morals (but also probably in recognition of his own public witness and moral courage), Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was made an associate foreign member of the French Academy of Politics and Morals of the Institut de France in 1992. He replaced the nuclear physicist and Soviet dissident, Andrej Sakharov, who once wrote that "The closure of half of all the Churches deals no lesser blow to a country than the closure of all scientific institutes would do." Ratzinger/Benedict's contribution to political science has been to demonstrate the truth of Sakharov's pithy statement.


(1.) This is an edited version of the Annual Gerety Lecture given at the Immaculate Conception School of Theology, Seton Hall University, on October 23, 2013. The author is a former doctoral student of Ratzinger's.

(2.) Jurgen Habermas/Joseph Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization: On Religion and Politics, trans. Brian McNeil, CRV (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006).

(3.) For an introduction to Ratzinger's theology of politics, see V Twomey, "Zur Theologie des Politischen," Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger, Von Wiederauffinden der Mitte, Grundorientierung: Texte aus vier Jahrzehnten, Schulerkreis, ed. Stephan Otto Horn, Vinzenz Pfnur, Vincent Twomey, Siegfried Wiedenhofer, and Josef Zohrer (Schulerkreis: Freiburg-Basel-Vienna, Herder, 1997; 2nd printing 1998), 219-30. See also: Lothar Roos, Wemer Munch, Manfred Spieker, Benedikt XVI und die Weltbeziehing der Kirche (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh, 2015).

(4.) See Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, "Theology and Church Politics," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics: New Endeavours in Ecclesiology, trans. Michael J. Miller et al. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 148-59.

(5.) Ratzinger/Benedict, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, intro. Marcello Pera, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 47-48.

(6.) "Hence the modern idea of freedom is a legitimate product of the Christian environment; nowhere else could it have developed" (Ratzinger, "Theology and Church Politics," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 157).

(7.) Ibid., 48.

(8.) He has on occasion reminded his hearers that liberal democracy, whose deepest historical roots are to be found in the Western Christian experience, cannot simply be exported. As we know from tragic experience (e.g., Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi), so-called democracy based simply on the majority principle has helped to destroy these societies and brought untold suffering, corruption, and injustice. "The attempt to graft so-called western standards, apart from their Christian basis, onto Islamic societies ignores the inner logic of Islam as well as the historical logic to which those western standards belong; therefore, the attempt, in that form, was doomed to failure" (Ratzinger, "Theology and Church Politics," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 157). This prognosis seems to have been confirmed (tragically) by the so-called Arab Spring with its declared aim of establishing democracy in countries with a basically Islamic culture. See the important study by Martin Rhonheimer, Christentum und sakularer Staat: Geschichte--Gegenwart--Zukunft (Freiburg-Basel-Vienna: Herder, 2012), in particular 321-44.

(9.) Ratzinger, "Christian Orientation in a Pluralist Democracy?," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 203.

(10.) Ratzinger, Turning Point for Europe?, trans. Brian McNeil, CRV (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 54.

(11.) Ratzinger, On Conscience (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007). See also Peter Casarella, "Culture and Conscience in the Thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI," ed. John C. Cavadini, Explorations in the Theology of Benedict XVI (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), 63-86.

(12.) Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 41.

(13.) Cf. Ratzinger, "Conscience in Its Age," Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 160-72, esp. 167; D. Vincent Twomey, Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 105-20.

(14.) See for example Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 39-45.

(15.) Ibid., 129-30. Here Ratzinger was at one with many "dissidents" within the Soviet Union and its satellites, such as Vaclav Havel, see Living in Truth: Twenty-two essays published on the occasion of the award of the Erasmus Prize to Vaclav Havel, ed. Jan Vladislav (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1987), esp. "Politics and Conscience," 136-57.

(16.) See "Theology and Church Politics," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 151-52. Marxist ideology has its roots in a modern version of the ancient heresy of Monarchianism as interpreted by Hegel and Schelling; following Erik Peterson, Ratzinger draws attention to the fact that, like its modern counterpart, Monarchianism in the fourth century also gave rise to what is alien to Christianity, namely a political theology (cf. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, trans. J. R. Foster, new preface trans. Michael J. Miller [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004], 170-71).

(17.) Ratzinger/Benedict and Marcello Pera, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, trans. Michael F. Moore (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 73-74. See also Benedict's Address to Civil and Political Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, Presidential Palace, Prague, September 26, 2009.

(18.) Christianity and the Crisis of Culture, 30; see also Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 154-56.

(19.) Cf. Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 27.

(20.) Spe Salvi, [section] 22.

(21.) Christianity and the Crisis of Culture, 42. See the analysis of the contemporary assumption that technology transcends morality (as in Oppenheimer's attitude to making the atom bomb or in that of the inventor of napalm) in Josef Pieper, The Concept of Sin, trans. Edward J. Oakes, SJ (South Bend, IN: St Augustine's Press, 2001), 16-33.

(22.) See for example Turning Point for Europe?, 17-27.

(23.) "A Christian Orientation in a Pluralistic Democracy," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 199.

(24.) On the intellectual situation on the German universities that led to the student revolutions in 1968, see Ratzinger, "Theology and the Church's Political Stance," 151-52.

(25.) "A Christian Orientation in a Pluralistic Democracy?," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 199.

(26.) See Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (New York: Free Press, 1991), 173-74.

(27.) Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Penguin Books, 1992), 332.

(28.) Turning Point for Europe?, 39; the same point is made by Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, [section] 94.

(29.) Benedict, Christ and His Church: Seeing the Face of Jesus in the Church of the Apostles (London: Catholic Truth Society, 2007), 44.

(30.) See La legge di re Salomone: Ragione e diritto dei discorsi de Benedetto XVI, ed. Marta Cartabia and Andrea Simoncini (Milan/Vatican City: BUR Saggi/LEV, 2013).

(31.) One is reminded of the opening sentence of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "all men are created equal." See also Ratzinger and Pera, Without Roots, 74-75.

(32.) See Turning Point for Europe?, 28-31; Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, trans. Henry Taylor (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 64-65 .

(33.) See Ratzinger, "Theology and the Church's Political Stance," 160-63, where he summarizes A. A. I. Ehrhardt, Politische Metaphysik von Solon bis Augustin, 3 volumes (Tubingen, 1959-69), especially volume II, Die christliche Revolution (1959); see also Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952).

(34.) The Church's position on these issues was, perhaps, too obvious to be stated explicitly. At the UN, the Holy See's Permanent Observer Mission misses no opportunity to make known the Pope's views on such topics and defends them in the relevant debates.

(35.) See for example, Turning Point for Europe?, 56-59.

(36.) See for example his essay "Eschatology and Utopia," Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 223-38.

(37.) Here I allude to the Pope's Address to the Bundestag six years later:
   In its self-proclaimed exclusivity, the positivist reason which
   recognizes nothing beyond mere functionality resembles a concrete
   bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide lighting and
   atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either
   from God's wide world. And yet we cannot hide from ourselves the
   fact that even in this artificial world, we are still covertly
   drawing upon God's raw materials, which we refashion into our own
   products. The windows must be flung open again, we must see the
   wide world, the sky and the earth once more and learn to make
   proper use of all this.

(38.) Tracey Rowland, Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 121; see also John J. Conley, SJ, "Sacral Violence: Reconsidering the Regensburg Address," Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly 36, nos. 3/4 (Fall/Winter 2013): 19-22.

(39.) See Ratzinger, "Theology and Church Politics," 149-53.

(40.) On the proper role of theology in the university (as opposed to a purely positivistic approach to theology that would reduce theology to simply one discipline among others), see Ratzinger, "Theology and the Church's Political Stance," 157ff.

(41.) See Mark Johnston, Saving God: Religion after Idolatry (Princeton, 2011), who questions all three monotheistic religions. Commenting on the ambiguity of religion as both a great chance and a great danger to man, the young Ratzinger already ascribed to atheism the positive role of helping to purify religion's false (i.e., anthropological) notion of God: see his early article "Atheismus" in Wahrheit und Zeugnis: Aktuelle Themen der Gegenwart in Theologischer Sicht, ed. Michael Schmaus and Alfred Lapple (Dusseldorf: Patmos-Verlag, 1964), 94-100, here 96-97.

(42.) Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 50. Immediately after his Address to the Bundestag, Benedict spoke to representatives of the Berlin Jewish Community in the same Reichstag building, the epicentre of the Shoah:
   The Nazi reign of terror was based on a racist myth, part of which
   was the rejection of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God
   of Jesus Christ and of all who believe in him. The "almighty" of
   whom Adolf Hitler spoke was a pagan idol, who wanted to take the
   place of the biblical God, the Creator and Father of all men.
   Refusal to heed this one God always makes people heedless of human
   dignity as well. What man is capable of when he rejects God, and
   what the face of a people can look like when it denies this God,
   [this] the terrible images from the concentration camps at the end
   of the war showed.

(43.) Cf. Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 44.

(44.) There are many dangers in invoking the name of God in the political arena, not only by Islamist extremists but even by Christian politicians and statesmen. They too risk offending against the Second Commandment. A related danger is that of reducing God to a tribal god--implying that he is on the side of one's own nation representing the good, in its declared battles with what it sees to be the forces of evil (the enemy). This is a Gnostic perspective.

(45.) Vaclav Havel, Living in Truth, 137.

(46.) See Ratzinger, On Conscience, endnote 10. Addressing civil and political leaders and members of the diplomatic corps in the Presidential Palace, Prague, Benedict, September 26, 2009, said:
   The thirst for truth, beauty and goodness, implanted in all men and
   women by the Creator, is meant to draw people together in the quest
   for justice, freedom and peace. History has amply shown that truth
   can be betrayed and manipulated in the service of false ideologies,
   oppression and injustice. But do not the challenges facing the
   human family call us to look beyond those dangers? For in the end,
   what is more inhuman, and destructive, than the cynicism which
   would deny the grandeur of our quest for truth, and the relativism
   that corrodes the very values which inspire the building of a
   united and fraternal world? Instead, we must re-appropriate a
   confidence in the nobility and breadth of the human spirit in its
   capacity to grasp the truth, and let that confidence guide us in
   the patient work of politics and diplomacy.

(47.) What needs to be stressed here is the limitation to moral principles (as distinct from principles that are ideologically determined, such as forms of government, which are open to debate), since in all other issues, as Ratzinger points out, compromise is of the essence of politics.

(48.) Havel, Living in Truth, 144.

(49.) A Turning Point for Europe?, 55

(50.) "Church and Politics," 157.

(51.) Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 52.
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Author:Twomey, D. Vincent
Publication:Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture
Date:Sep 22, 2015
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