Msgr. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais: Faith Imperiled by Reason - Benedict XVI’s Hermeneutics
CHAPTER VIII -Christ the King Re-envisioned by Personalism

The political kingship of Jesus is the consequence of his divinity. If this man, Jesus Christ, is God, then he is king. Not only the Church is submitted to him as to the head from whom she receives all spiritual influence, but civil society itself, in the temporal order which is its own, must be submitted to his government. Indeed, Christ does not himself directly exercise this temporal government, but he leaves it to his retainers who exercise it in his name (Pius XI, encyclical Quas Primas, December 11, 1925)

1. Political implications of man’s ultimate end

Well, all human things, spiritual with temporal, are ordained to the only and unique last end, eternal beatitude, otherwise called, because of sin, eternal salvation. And Christ was incarnated and suffered his passion precisely so as to lead men to this ultimate end.

It follows from the singularity of the last end that civil society, or the city, is willed by God, not only so as to assure for men here below ‘the good life according to virtue’ (Aristotle), but ‘so that, by this virtuous life, they may reach to enjoyment of God.’[186] It follows that the temporal common good, the proper end of the State, must be ordained to the last end of man, eternal beatitude. This ordination is only indirect because temporal means are not proportionate for obtaining a supernatural effect. From this ordination follows that the State’s duty ‘of procuring [in the temporal order] the good life of the multitude, according as it is necessary to make them obtain celestial beatitude; that is to say that it must prescribe what leads them there and, in the measure possible, forbid what is contrary to it.’[187] In this consists the State’s ministerial function in regard to the Church, since celestial beatitude, or the salvation of souls, is the proper end of the Church.

Even if the application of these principles depends on the historical conditions of societies, whether unanimously Christian, or religiously plural, or laicized, or non-Christian, the principles remain. They are in particular the foundation of two sentences of Pius IX. The first, in his encyclical Quanta Cura, attributes to the well-constituted State the office of reprimanding ‘the violators of the Catholic religion.’[188] The second, in the Syllabus, does not recognize for immigrants into Christian countries any right to exercise freely their dissident cult (DS 2978). These sentences suppose a Christian state; they are conditioned for that state, but the principles which underlie them are timeless and remain.What will Vatican Council II do?

– Christ the King will also be purified in a historicist and personalist vision. This is no longer existentialism, this French personalism, with Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950) and Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), both Catholics.

2. Religious liberty purified by the help of Emmanuel Mounier

A first revision, postulated by philosophical progress, affects the human person; then a second, postulated by the meaning of history, will affect the State, in the ties that the person and the State have with religion. Let us first consider the person.

– Thesis. Felicité de Lamennais (1782-1864) was condemned in 1832 by Gregory XVI’s encyclical Mirari Vos, for having understood that for each freedom of conscience and of opinions must be recognized, for the advantage of religion, and that the Church must be separated from the State (Dz 1613-1615). In this freedom of conscience was included the freedom of cult for each.

– Antithesis. To Lamennais was lacking the necessary tool for introducing freedom of cult ‘into Christianity.’[189] Gregory XVI, attributing a ‘putrid source of indifferentism’ to this freedom, did not know how to see the Christian root of that same freedom. This tool, which must purify religious liberty from all stench of indifferentism, was procured by Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950): it is the dignity of the human person.

The freedom of cult, Vatican II will say, is one of the ‘values most prized by our contemporaries’; ‘proceeding from the human genius, which is a gift of God, it is very good.’ It is only there ‘to retie them to their divine source’; but ‘tainted by the corruption of mankind, it has been diverted from the requisite order; it thus has need of correction’ (Gaudium et Spes, # 11, § 2).

Joseph Ratzinger took up again this synthesis twenty years later: religious liberty is one of the ‘least tested values from two centuries of liberal culture’[190]; today it may be ‘purified and corrected’ (Congar and Ratzinger), if, in place of making it rest on the moving sand of freedom of conscience, founded on religious indifference, it be founded upon the solid rock of ‘the nature of the person’ (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, August 6, 1993, # 50). According to Mounier, the person constitutes himself by his free action, responsible ‘by virtue of his own choices.’ According to Maritain, the dignity of the person demands ‘his freedom of exulting in its risks and perils.’

– Synthesis. The result of this correction is the religious liberty proclaimed by Vatican II (declaration Dignitatis Humanae, # 2). The person who, in religious areas, ‘acts according the consciousness of his duty’ or who, in the exercise of his religious cult, is supposed to be in search of truth—even if it is not so in fact—is worthy of respect and consequently has a right for freedom in exercising his cult. This synthesis is the product of a double process: purification of the past condemnation, that supported by Gregory XVI and Pius IX, and assimilation of the present philosophical thesis, that of personalism from the 1950s. This double process of purification-assimilation the same method of hermeneutics, from Dilthey to Gadamer.

It is however evident that for the objective criterion of Christ, the Council has substituted the subjective criterion of the ‘truth of man.’ It was John Paul II who clarified this criterion in Veritatis Splendor, #40. He made reference to Gaudium et spes, #41, which speaks of the ‘essential truth of man’ (§ 1), and which says that ‘the Gospel [...] scrupulously respects the dignity of the conscience and its free choice’ (§ 2). In the end, the moving sand of the conscience remains the foundation.

3. Jacques Maritain’s vitally Christian lay civilization

If we consider now the State in its ties to religion, the same process is applied, thanks to the idea of ‘historic climes’ from the philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), the apostle of a ‘new Christianity’ which would be the modern ‘analog’ to medieval Christianity.

– Medieval Christianity was characterized by the maximum constraint for a theocratic social order, by a univocal application of principles at the cost of the person, an application which lasted fifteen centuries, from Constantine to Robespierre.

– To this past historical ideal must today succeed a ‘new Christianity,’ which will be analogically a Christianity, taking new circumstances into account. This Christianity will be characterized by maximum freedom in service of the person and his ‘freedom for exultation.’ This is the only ‘concrete historical ideal’ of our modern epoch.[191]

– The origin of this thought with Drey and Dilthey is striking.

– On[e] supposes moreover that, just like the philosopher, the State is become agnostic: it does not constitute an instance capable of recognizing the divinity of Jesus Christ.[192]

– It follows that the social reign of Christ can be, must be no more what it has been. Now there must be ‘a lay society of Christian inspiration’ (Maritain). This will be an open, even positive, laity, spiritual animated by ‘the ethical values religions’ (Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae, n. 4; Benedict XVI, December 22, 2005). In a world religiously plural, the dignity of the person appeared already to Mounier ‘the only base adapted to a generous union of good wills.’[193]

4. Sophistic refutations

In adopting this political personalism, the conciliar Church adopts Masonic ideology and renounces the preaching of Christ, king of nations. Man takes the place of God. But the trouble of examining Benedict XVI’s argument is worthwhile.

– The separation of Church and State appears to Benedict XVI to be ‘the new recovery of the Church’s deepest patrimony’ (Speech of December 22, 2005).

– Answer: the deepest patrimony of the Church is the submission of the State to Christ the King.

– ‘In praying for emperors but refusing to adore them, the Church has clearly rejected state-religion’ (Ibid.).

– Answer: it has rejected the false state-religion!

– ‘The martyrs of the primitive Church died for their faith in the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ, and precisely thus they died for liberty of conscience and for the freedom to profess their faith’ (Ibid.).

– Answer: they died for the freedom of the true faith and against liberty of conscience! The Church’s authentic patrimony is not ‘freedom’ but the truth of Jesus Christ and the Church.

– ‘Freedom of religion must be considered [...] as an intrinsic consequence of the truth which cannot be imposed from without, but which must be adopted by man only through the process of conviction’ (Ibid.).

– Answer: although the faith must not be imposed on a person who has reached the age of reason (for the Baptism of children is a legitimate and praiseworthy custom), however, there is one good constraint, that which protects the Catholic Faith against the contagion of error and which preserves the unity of the Christian city in peaceful communion of this faith, communion which is the source of true temporal peace.[194]

– ‘The modern State accords a place to citizens of diverse religions and ideologies, behaving towards these religions in an impartial fashion and assuming simply the responsibility for an ordered and tolerant coexistence between citizens and for their freedom to exercise their religion’ (Ibid.).
This type of modern State, offered by ‘the American revolution’ and by the inspiration of the Enlightenment, would found itself on the separation of the two powers, spiritual (of the Church) and temporal (of the State), according to the words of Christ: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matt 23, 21).

– Answer: however what must not be forgotten is what Caesar owes to God! The distinction of the two powers does not logically imply their separation, but rather their subordination: that Caesar has obligation to Christ, and not to Allah or to Buddha. Otherwise, as well deduce from the distinction of body and soul their separation, and that would be death. What legal implication of Christ and his Church’s truth there must be is the constant teaching of the popes, of Leo XIII, for example in his encyclical Immortale Dei from November 1, 1885:
Heads of State must keep the name of God holy and place among the number of their chief duties that of favoring religion, of protecting it by their kindness, of shielding it with an authority that teaches law, and of decreeing nothing which may be contrary to its integrity.[195]

Then, Leo XIII clarified that by religion he meant ‘the true relation.’ Finally he exposed the doctrine of tolerance: false religions are an evil which one can tolerate ‘in view of a good to be attained or an ill to be prevented,’[196] if necessary by according a civil right to their cult, but without ever recognizing a natural right for them.[197] For this would be to deny the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The conciliar right of the person for religious freedom is thus a lack of faith. In upholding this right, Benedict XVI lacks faith.

[186] Saint Thomas Aquins, De Regno, l.1, ch. 14.
[187] Ibid., ch. 15.
[188] Dz 1689. This passage has been suppressed in editions after the Denzinger.
[189] See Yves Congar, True and False Reform in the Church, Paris, Cerf, 1950, p. 344.
[190] J. Ratzinger, ‘Why the Faith is in Crisis,’ debate with Vittorio Messori, Jesus, November 1984.
[191] See J. Maritain, Integrated Humanism, Paris, Aubier, 1936, p. 134-135.
[192] See the relation Mgr. Emil De Smedt’s discussion on the Council from May 28, 1965; and the debate between Cardinal Ratzinger and Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre on July 14, 1987 (see Mgr. Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Marcel Lefebvre, Étampes, Clovis, 2002, p. 576).
[193] See F. J. Thonnard, Handbook of the History of Philosophy, Desclée, 1966, # 657, p. 1091.
[194] See the schema of Cardinal Ottaviani at Vatican Council II concerning the relations between Church and State (analyzed in The Salt of the Earth 39, winter 2001-2002, p. 74 and sq., notably p. 93).
[195] EPS-PIN, # 131-132.
[196] Ibid., # 154; Dz 1873.
[197] Leo XIII, encyclical Libertas, June 20, 1888, Dz 1932.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
CHAPTER IX - Benedict XVI’s Personalist Faith

How to explain this lack of faith? Here is a theologian, a cardinal, a pope, who is disinterested in the reality of the incarnation, who practices a ‘pocketing’ of the materiality of the redemption and who denies the royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ. – It is that he has a personalist faith. I will attempt to demonstrate this.

1. Faith, encounter, presence and love

You never find, when Joseph Ratzinger speaks of faith, any mention either of the object of faith (revealed truths) or of the motive of faith (the authority of a supremely true God). This is not denied, but it is never evoked. In place of this, you find the initial impact, the encounter, the interpersonal relation with Jesus and the meaning that this encounter gives to life. Nothing of this is false, but this is not faith; it is a personalist view of faith. The theologian of Tübingen comments thus upon ‘I believe [...] in Jesus Christ’: The Christian faith is an encounter with the man Jesus, and it discovers in such an encounter that the meaning of the world is a person. Jesus is the witness of God, or better, he is the presence of the eternal himself in this world. In his life and by his total gift of himself for men, the meaning of life is revealed as a presence, under the form of love, which loves me also and which causes life to be worth the pain of living.[198]

Encounter, presence, love,...this is not faith, and it hides the object of faith. In our Credo, Joseph Ratzinger, writes, the central formula does not say, ‘I believe in something,’ but ‘I believe in You.’ – The affirmation is true; we do believe in Jesus Christ, a living person (his divinity must still be believed); but is not the denial (‘I do not believe in something’) heretical? For it denies the object of faith, the articles of faith, the twelve articles of the Apostle’s creed.

Having become Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger thus describes Catholicism:

It is a matter of entering into a structure of life, and this englobes the plan of our life in its totality. Here is why, I believe, one can never express it in words. Naturally, one can designate essential points.[199]

And faith is to believe in an event, but hardly in a conceptual content:

To become Christian, he says, the essential thing is to believe in this event: God entered into the world, and he acted; it is thus an action, a reality, not only a configuration of ideas.[200]

An elder and friend of Benedict XVI has furnished this very realistic testimony concerning Joseph Ratzinger’s anti-conceptualism:

Ratzinger has always been angry against this impulse which pushes one to consider truth as an object which one possesses and must defend. He does not feel at his ease with neoscholastic definitions, which appear to him as barriers: that what is contained in the definition should be truth and what is outside only error. [...] The truth is a Thou who loves first of all. According to him, God cannot be known because he is the summum bonum which a person seizes and demonstrates by exact formulae, but because he is a Thou who comes to the encounter and makes himself known.[201]

This faith without the truths of faith, without dogmas, or at least which depreciates them, is the personalist reduction of what had been Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood faith. His faith became, in the manner of Max Scheler and Martin Buber, encounter with the ‘Thou’ of Christ. His faith is also a ‘fundamental decision to perceive God and to welcome him,’ as with Gabriel Marcel, for whom faith is a strictly personal event, and in this sense incommunicable.

The Catholic faith is thus set aside. Faith, firm adherence of the intellect to revealed truths, is passed over in silence. The authority of God who reveals is fatally replaced by the religious experience of each.

2. Philosophical experimentation and mystical experience

For the rest, is the faith-encounter a mystical experience? ‘God exists, I have met him,’ André Frossard titled his narration of his conversion to the Christian faith, an undeniably authentic grace. But to rely essentially upon an encounter or on an impression of an interrogation—this can lead to illusion. The true mystic goes beyond emotions: the mystery of the incarnation was accomplished in the Virgin Mary without her feeling what it was; all was done in pure faith. The taste of Christ which communicates the gifts of wisdom and understanding is not perceptible to sense: thus, it is founded on true faith and corroborates truth faith. As to what are the riches that grace gives mystically to faith, it is necessary to reaffirm what Father Marin Sola teaches:

The sole objective source of all supernatural knowledge is the truth of faith: Accedentem ad Deum oportet credere (he who wishes to reach God must believe),’ Saint Paul says (Heb. 11, 6). From this is born the essential dependency and the subordination of speculative theology or mystical theology in regard to the revealed deposit and the authority of the Church. By the intuitive view from the gifts of the Holy Spirit, mystical theology can seize truth more or more quickly, but it cannot attain more of it than what the revealed deposit has always contained implicitly.[202]

This established, it must be said that faith which wants ‘to experiment with God’ in concepts of either existentialist or personalist philosophy has nothing to do with mystical theology! For the depth of the mystery is one thing, before which the mystic stops admiringly, but another is the intensity of emotion by which the idealist is stopped in his interpersonal relation with Christ.

Saint Pius X, in Pascendi, has, however, underlined how emotion and experience are more likely to trouble the faith which gives them basis.

Let us return, in fact, for a moment, he writes to the bishops, to this pernicious doctrine of agnosticism. The whole issue being concluded concerning God on the side of intelligence, the modernists try hard to open another on the side of sentiment and action. A vain attempt [...]. What commons sense says is that emotion and everything that captivates the soul, far from favoring the discovery of the truth, hobbles it [...]. As far as experience goes, what does it add to it? Absolutely nothing, besides a certain intensity which influences a conviction proportionate to the reality of the object. Well, these two things do not cause sentiment to be anything but sentiment; they do not take away its character, which is to trick it if intellect do not guide it; on the contrary, they confirm and aggravate this character, because the more intense a sentiment, the more it is a sentiment.[203]

The difference between the true believer, mystical at times, and the false believer, multiform idealist, consists in this: the mystic effaces self before the mystery and makes himself only an adorer; the idealist affirms himself as the ‘I’ correlative to the ‘Thou,’ as the subject who enters into an interaction with the object of his faith. Personalism affirms itself also as a subject who enters into interrelation with another subject, the Wholly-Other. – On the contrary, the contemplative theologian, and likewise the preacher or teacher, like Saint Thomas Aquinas, ‘does not have the goal of making a confidence to his hearers of the sentiments which rise in the soul of the doctor of contemplated truth, but to set free that very truth.’[204]3. Divine authority replaced by human authority.

If, with the philosophies issued from Kant, one admits that the subject is a part of the object, then the believer is part of faith. By the same blow, the formal motive of faith (divine revealing authority) makes way for human experience, deprived of authority and source of illusion. You see how Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi from November 30, 2007, in # 7, no longer understands the beautiful definition that Saint Paul gave for faith: ‘Fides est substantia sperendarum rerum, argumentum non apparentium (faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the proof of things which are invisible’ (Heb. 11, 1). What, then, is that ‘proof of things invisible’ if not the authority of God who reveals these things? And is it not on this divine authority alone that the certitude of the believer rests? We adhere, says Vatican Council I, to divine truth ‘propter auctoritatem Dei revelantis’ (because of the authority of God revealing – Dz 1789 and 1811). Well, it is very necessary to note that all this escapes Benedict XVI.

There is a temptation, in the actual encyclicals as in modern preaching, to present the evangelical message as the preacher’s personal witness, provided by his personal reactions. This is a confusion. Only the Apostles were ‘witnesses’; only they had witnessed what they had touched, seen and heard. Hear, for example, the witness of Saint John the Apostle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the word of life. For the life was manifested: and we have seen and do bear witness and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father and hath appeared to us. That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you: that you also may have fellowship with us and our fellowship may be with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice and your joy may be full. [1 John 1, 1-4]

But the Apostles’ successors, the bishops and priests who assisted them in the holy preaching, are not witnesses of the evangelical facts, like the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ; they are simply messengers, transmitters, of a sacred deposit which they have received and which they must deliver as it was. The force of conviction for the faith which they put into proclaiming the divine message is indeed necessary for moving the passions and will of their hearers, but it will not affect the content of this divine message, any more than their state of soul in its intersubjective relation with God.

Take care, Mgr Marcel Lefebvre said to his priests, to tendency, this shortcoming of considering faith as a science and seeking to penetrate the great mysteries of the faith by our human intelligence, trying to understand these mysteries in the same way as those which are attached to medicine or to the other human sciences. This would be a great obstacle, in place of a help for souls’ belief. For the faith consists in adhering to these truths because of the authority of God who reveals them to us, and not because of the knowledge that we can have of it.[205]

To adhere to the mysteries of God because of the light of my own search, or because of the heat of my interpersonal relation with Christ, the link between my ‘I’ and his ‘Thou’ is to acquire an opinion of the mystery, in place of adhering to it very firmly with divine faith:

Those who address the Church to demand the faith, says Mgr. Lefebvre to priests, already have that conviction that the faith which you must give them comes from God. If thus they already submit themselves to the authority of God, they will demand no more than one thing: that someone teach them what God has said. [...] Then it will be necessary to affirm the truths of faith. The faithful await this because, in this affirmation of the faith, it is God’s entire authority which passes through you. It is not your gratuitous opinion. It is not your authority that you set out, but God’s authority.[206]

[198] J. Ratzinger, The Christian Faith of Yesterday and Today, p. 36-37.
[199] J. Ratzinger, The Salt of the Earth, 2nd ed., Flammarion, 2005, p. 19.
[200] Ibid., p. 21.
[201] Alred Läpple, ‘Testimony,’ in 30 Days, 24th year, 2006, #1-2, p. 60.
[202] Marin Sola, O.P., The Homogenous Evolution of Dogma, 2nd ed., Fribourg (Switzerland), Lib. Saint-Paul, t. 1, 1924, p. 375.
[203] Pascendi, # 54, Dz 2106.
[204] DTC, ‘Thomas Aquinas’: see the section on the ‘objectivity of his doctoral teaching.’
[205] Mgr. Lefebvre, homely at Jurançon, July 29, 1979.
[206] Ibid
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
CHAPTER X - Skeptical Supermodernism

To conclude, I would like to say that today we are dealing with a modernism renovated and perfected. The modernists considered dogmas to be products of religious experience, and as mere symbols serving to renovate this experience unceasingly. A century later, the immanent providence of all the divine mysteries is no longer affirmed. They are simply put between parentheses so as to seek for them only an existentialist or personalist vital significance.

No longer are denied either dogmas or the decisions of the past magesterium, but they are revisited so as to have for them a ‘conscious understanding’ which was lacking to past popes and doctors, an understanding (Verstehen) purificatrice from past, pretended circumstance and assimilatrice of present circumstance. No one becomes an atheist or heretic openly; no, simply, thanks to the tool of modern philosophy, the real Trinity is rethought, the real incarnation is disincarnated, the real redemption is sublimated, Christ the real King is relativized; will the real God be replaced next?

1. An inaugural anti-program

Immanuel Kant, imbued with his agnosticism, wrote in 1793 a work entitled Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, in which he already considered dogmas as mere symbols of moral ideas.

A hundred years after, following liberal Protestants Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Adolf Harnack (1851-1930), a priest, Catholic but soon excommunicated, Alfred Loisy (1857-1940) held the same theories, denounced by Pius X in 1907, in Pascendi.

And then, a hundred years after Pascendi, in 2007, there are Catholic theologians, one of whom has become pope, who, imbued with the philosophy of Kant and that of the 19th and 20th centuries, of Hegel, Dilthey, Husserl, Heidegger, Scheler, Jaspers, Buber, Marcel, Mounier and Maritain, have the ambition of purifying, correcting, enriching the doctrine of the faith and of engendering its progress by its actualized philosophical reinterpretation.

In the Middle Ages, Saint Thomas Aquinas happily resolved what seemed then an antinomy: to effect a synthesis of the Christian faith and the philosophy of Aristotle. In the 20th century, it seems it feel again to Vatican Council II and to its theologians, to make a synthesis between faith and the new philosophy. Should we be as happy with the ‘I” (or the ‘I-Thou’) philosophy as formerly with the philosophy of being? Are the philosophies of auto-coherence or of intersubjectivity as fruitful as that of the order of beings and ends?

These theologians, or rather these philosophers, have in part effected this process of synthesis in the Council, and as that has not been a success—they admit it—unrepentantly they wish to pursue its application. Benedict XVI has renewed the theory and has proclaimed again that program in his speech of December 22, 2005.

Well, if it is true, as Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his Principles of Theology, that Vatican II, through Gaudium et Spes, has announced a kind of ‘counter-Syllabus’ insofar as the conciliar text ‘represents an attempt at an official reconciliation of the Church with the world, such as it has become since 1789,’[207] then it is true that the speech of December 22, 2005, which proposed the theory of the reconciliation and mutual fecundation of revealed faith with agnostic reason, is the anti-program of Pope Benedict XVI’s inaugural quasi-encyclical.

In so doing, the advocates of such an anti-program disincarnate, uncrucify and uncrown Jesus Christ with more ferocity than Kant and Loisy. But their subjective faith is ‘in the hold of the flood of doubt’ of which Joseph Ratzinger spoke in his work, Introduction to Christianity.[208]

2. A resigned and demoralized skepticism

This faith believes by encountering God in place of believing simply in him. This faith believes by entering into interaction with God in place of adhering simply to his mystery. This faith frees itself by its experience of God, in place of relying upon the authority of God who reveals. This faith is made fragile by its human reason.

It is in the grip of doubt, for Joseph Ratzinger says that the believer, like the unbeliever, is always menaced by doubt concerning his position: ‘The believer will always be threatened by unbelief and the unbeliever will always be threatened by faith.’[209]

In a world without God, in peril of losing itself, can such a believer still propose eternal salvation and, as source of salvation, the ‘God of Our Lord Jesus Christ?’ Alas, no! He can only propose the guarantee of the values and norms drawn from the Enlightenment—which are the Rights of Man—a God considered nominally as the creative Reason of the universe and conventionally called the dispenser of the Rights of Man.

Is this hypothetic God different from the ideal God postulated, according to Immanuel Kant, by ethics? A God, as the same Kant avowed, ‘of whom no one knows how to affirm that he exists outside of man’s rational thought?’[210]

It is this provisional God of the Rights of Man that the Church must preach to the Muslims, according to the wish expressed by Benedict XVI on his return from Turkey, so as to make them effect an update of Islam thanks to the Enlightenment, in place of converting them to ‘the true Light which enlightens every man.’ (Concerning this wish, I refer my reader to my afterword.) At bottom, it is the religion of the Enlightenment which agrees the best with humanity today.

In the time of the Enlightenment, there was a search to establish universal laws valuable even if God did not exist; today, Joseph Ratzinger counsels, it is necessary to invert the order of this speech and say:

Even the one who does not succeed in finding the way of accepting God must seek to live and to direct his life as if God existed.[211]

There is the social solution for bringing order into the world: ‘Man must seek to life and to organize his life as if God existed,’ not because God does exist and because Jesus Christ is God, no. This is the last outcome of modernism. Modernism leads to skepticism, that is to say, to Christians who are no longer sure of what they believe; they content themselves with advising: act as if you believed!

It seems to me that this skepticism is no stranger to the pessimism which Joseph Ratzinger’s confidence made to Peter Seewald in 1996 reveals, and which was inspired by the conciliar idealism of the Church conceived as ‘the messianic people [...] who often keep the appearance of a little flock’ (Lumen Gentium, # 9b), a Church as ‘seed of unity’ and which must be ‘like the sacrament of unity for mankind’ (Lumen Gentium, # 1 and 9c):

Perhaps we must say goodbye to the idea of the Church reuniting all peoples. It is possible that we are on the sill of a new era, constituted very differently, of the Church’s history, in which Christianity will exist rather under the sign of the grain mustard, in little groups apparently without importance, but which live intensely in order to fight again evil and implant the good in the world; who open the door to God.[212]

At the Council, on the subject of the schema for the missions, presented in October 1965, Father Maurice Queguiner, superior general of the society of foreign missions in Paris, had reacted to such an opinion: ‘It is important,’ he said, ‘to drive back in an explicit manner the opinion of those who condemn the Church to be no more than a little entity, the least in the world’ (146th general congregation). This was a man of faith, a missionary.

3. Faced with skepticism, the remedy is found in Saint Thomas Aquinas

The lack of faith which, on the contrary, Benedict XVI suffers, is explained by his hermeneutic. His mutual reinterpretation of faith by idealist reason and of reason by modernist faith is only complicity.

His philosophy is no longer an instrument of faith in search of understanding, but the partner of faith, in order to impose on it his emotional whims. By his agnosticism, ignoring nature and its finalities, it replaces nature with the person and suppresses final and efficient causes, returning to full barbarism.

As far as his faith, it is only a symbolic rereading of dogmas according to the postulates of modern sensibility. Thus, Christ is more a man sublimated than a God incarnated. Sin does not offend God and the sinner does not redeem himself. Redemption, without defined end or agent, no longer effects justice towards God. God being no long the last end of the city, Christ the King is a historic error to be repaired by democracy and laicity. Such is the result of Benedict XVI’s hermeneutic.

A century before, in his inaugural encyclical E Supremi Apostolatus, his predecessor Saint Pius X described ‘the profound malady which torments mankind’: ‘it is,’ he said, ‘as regards God, abandonment and apostasy.’

But ‘the hermeneutics of the Council and of Benedict XVI,’ as I call them by convenience, lead to something more serious than simple loss of faith; they lead to the establishment of another religion, made of a shaky faith in God and of a faith reassured by man and by is inalienable and inviolable dignity. Man takes the place of God (2 Thess. 3, 3-17) both within and without the sanctuary. The mystery of iniquity develops in broad daylight.

God wishes that we should oppose ourselves to this diabolical disorientation. Let us arm ourselves. Against the revisions of hermeneutics and the doubts of agnosticism, let us equip ourselves with a great, preventative remedy.

To keep the faith stable and supernatural, ‘firm assent of the intellect to the divine truth received from without, by the very authority of this divine truth,’ the great protective remedy is Saint Thomas Aquinas, from whom comes this beautiful definition of faith.

In fact, it is because this objective, Catholic faith harmonizes perfectly which the philosophy of being set forth by Saint Thomas Aquinas, that Pope Saint Pius X prescribed to future priests ‘the study of the philosophy which the Angelic Doctor has bequeathed to us’ (Saint Pius X, Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici, June 29, 1914).

Faced with the impiety of those who pretend, by hermeneutics, ‘to detach from ossified layers of the past the deepest patrimony of the Church,’ let us take again into account the motto of the order of venerable Claude François Poullart de Places, of whom we are the heirs by the intermediation of venerable Father Henri Le Floch and of His Excellency Mgr. Marcel Lefebvre:

A pious clerk, without knowledge, has a blind zeal; a knowing clerk, without piety is at risk of becoming a heretic and a rebel against the Church.

Let us combine in ourselves piety (respect for the Church’s Tradition) with science (Thomist theology), so as to be neither blind men nor rebels. May the Virgin Mary, Immaculate in the faith, aid us in this:

She is the shield of faith, the pillar of the supernatural order. – She is neither liberal, nor modernist, nor ecumenist. She is allergic to all errors and with greater reason to heresies and to apostasy.[213]

This is also a question of taste: to skeptical furor, we prefer Thomist fervor.

[207] J. Ratzinger, The Principles of Catholic Theology, Téqui, 1982, p. 426.
[208] J. Ratzinger, The Christian Faith of Yesterday and Today, Cerf, 2005, p. 11-12.
[209] Ibid., p. 11.
[210] Immanuel Kant, Opus Postumum, Convolutum VII.
[211] J. Ratzinger, ‘Europe in the Crisis of Cultures,’ conference at Subiaco on April 1, 2005 (just before being elected Pope), Sienne, Cantagalli, 2005.
[212] J. Ratzinger, The Salt of the Earth, Flammarion-Cerf, 1997, p. 16.
[213] Mgr Marcel Lefebvre, Conference at Mortain, 1947; A Spiritual Itinerary, Écône, 1990.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Epilogue: Hermeneutic of the last ends

Forty years separate Joseph Ratzinger’s Christian Faith and Benedict XVI’s Spe Salvi (encyclical of November 30, 2007). Has the theologian pontiff retracted his past opinions? Has he changed his method?

1. Retractions

Yes, Benedict XVI seems to have changed his opinion concerning the redemption and passion of Christ:

Man has for God a value so great that he made himself man so as to be able to sympathize with man in a very real manner, in flesh and blood, as is shown to us in the account of the passion of Christ. [Spe Salvi, # 39]

This stain (of sin) has already been destroyed in the passion of Christ. [Spe Salvi, # 47]

If ‘the East ignores the purifying and expiative suffering of souls in the next life’ (# 48), as Benedict XVI says, this would signify that for him the West does not ignore it at all.

But, alas, the offering of daily pains, that he recommends in Spe salvi, is seen by him more as a compassion than as a properly so-called expiation, which would have an ‘unhealthy’ aspect:

The thought of being able to offer up little everyday pains [...], attributing to them a meaning, was a form of devotion, perhaps less in practice today, but not so long ago still very widespread. In this devotion, there were certainly things exaggerated and perhaps even unhealthy, but it is necessary to ask whether something essential, which could be a help, was not in some way contained in it. What does the word ‘offer’ wish to say? These persons were convinced that their little pains could be attached to Christ’s great compassion and thus would enter the treasury of compassion which mankind needs, (and) [...] contribute to the economy of good, of love between men. Perhaps we could ask ourselves truly is such a thing could not become again a judicious perspective for us. [Spe Salvi, #40]

The timidity of that ‘perhaps’ and the nostalgia denoted by those repeated uses of the past tense only goes to reinforce the evidence of change in religion: the offering of pains is no longer either reparative or expiative, for that was exaggerated and unhealthy; it is only a care for compassion, a spirit of solidarity, that is to say, of fraternal participation in the sufferings of men, which humanity needs in order to leave the solitude of the lack of love. It is under this title of solidarity alone that the new religion ‘could perhaps’ salvage this offering of pains, though duly review and corrected by a ‘hermeneutic right.’

To wish to flee or to suppress suffering, Benedict XVI adds, is ‘to sink into an empty existence,’ where is found ‘the obscure feeling of a lack of meaning and of solitude’:

It is not the act of dodging suffering, of fleeing before sorrow, which cures man, but the capacity of accepting tribulations and of maturing through them, of finding meaning in them by union with Christ, who suffered with an infinite love. [Spe Salvi, # 37]

But what is this ‘meaning?’ Why did Christ suffer? Benedict XVI is quiet about this.

– Jesus Christ suffered to expiate our sins: there is what the new religion rejects; it absolutely excludes the treasury of Christ’s superabundant merits and satisfactions.

At base, Benedict XVI notes down no repentance, he never reaches acceptance of the mystery of the redemption, the mystery of ransom by suffering. The demands of divine justice always cause him fear; he is victim of the emotionality of his time. And this emotionality continues by a progress which must lead the doctrine of the faith to ‘new syntheses,’ as the Council said:

Mankind passes from a rather static notion of the order of things to a more dynamic and evolutionary conception; from there is born a new problem, immense, which provokes us to new analyses and new syntheses. [Gaudium et Spes, # 5, § 3]

By this, the Church officially opened its doors to Marxism. It is in fidelity to this spirit from the Council that leading theologians embraced Teilhard de Chardin’s evolutionism and existentially reinterpreted the mystery of the redemption. Thus, the Bishop of Metz, Paul Schmitt, dared to declare at Saint-Avold in September of 1967:

The mutation of the civilization in which we live influences changes not only in our behavior, but even in the conception that we make for ourselves of creation as much as of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ.[214]

And it was as a reader and disciple of Joseph Ratzinger in his Introduction to Christianity that the bishop of Arras, Gérard Huyghe, in the collective catechism entitled The Bishops Speak the Faith of the Church, dared write, in 1978:

The door of entrance into the mystery of Jesus’ suffering must not be mistaken. In other times this mystery was presented as a simple (and fearful) juridical method. God (the Father!), having undergone an infinite offense (why?) by the sin of man, would only agree to pardon men after an infinite ‘satisfaction’ (what a horrible word). [A citation of Introduction to Christianity follows: Could God demand the death of his own Son?] God wishes no one’s death, either as chastisement, or as means of redemption. It was not the act of God that death entered into the world through sin.

There is only one door for opening it, only one door of love. Thus, we can dismiss all explanation of the passion in which Christ is not deeply integral to the human condition [...], with the condition of unhappy man. [...] This love joins man, the whole man whatever he is, even if he be executioner, and radically changes his destiny.

If the key of love be not taken, the right meaning, the correct and spontaneous feeling, is offended: how can anyone open himself to a God who is not a Father, who does not love, a Moloch who expects his ration of blood, of sufferings and of victims?[215]

Thus the hermeneutics practiced by Joseph Ratzinger have poisoned the catechesis of redemption. You see how a German bishop, Mgr. Zollitsch again in a television broadcast of May 2009 preached the redemption as a divine solidarity with unhappy, wounded humanity.[216] A week later, he outlined a retraction in his diocesan bulletin. But Benedict XVI, on his side, has never shown sign of repentance.

2. Limbo reinterpreted by hermeneutics

The Fathers’ interpretation or hérmènéia, we have seen, only lent the philosophy of being to the faith as an instrument, without posing any opinion, philosophic or otherwise, besides the faith. On the contrary, modern hermeneutics argue for feelings: it poses in antithesis to traditional faith the sentimental impression of the contemporary epoch and infers from this ‘new syntheses.’

Limbo is the victim of this. The common doctrine of the Church, not defined, certainly, but commonly admitted, teaches that the souls of infants who die unbaptized are, by reason of the original sin from which they have not been purified, deprived of the beatific vision of God, but are, by reason of their lack of all personal sin, exempt from the fires of hell, in a state or place called limbo.

Well, here is the point of departure for hermeneutic reasoning: Parents [of infants who die without baptism] suffer great grief [...] and it is found more and more difficult to accept the fact that God is just and merciful if he excludes from eternal happiness children who have no personal sins, whether they are Christians or non-Christians [sic].[217]

This sentimental premise is amplified in a theological assertion which looks for its justification in a scriptural text cited out of context:

Where sin has abounded, gra[c]e has superabounded (Rom. 5, 20). There is the absolute [sic] teaching of Scripture; but the doctrine of Limbo seems to restrain this superabundance [# 91].

But are there not other scriptural texts which affirm, ad rem, the universality of original sin and the necessity of Baptism for salvation?

Tradition and the documents of the magisterium which reaffirmed this necessity must be interpreted [# 7].

There must be a hermeneutic reflection concerning the manner in which the witnesses of biblical Tradition [sic], the Fathers of the Church, the magisterium, the theologians have read and employed biblical texts [# 10].

In other words, traditional hérmènéia is too simplistic; it deduced Limbo too abruptly from the assertion that only baptism effaces original sin. Hermeneutics must be preferred, in which the reaction of the subject, believing in the word of God in the 21st century, his ‘new reflection’ and his new ‘vital bond’ with it, result in a ‘synthesis of fidelity and dynamism’ which will be the ‘correct interpretation’ (see the speech on December 22, 2005).

Thus, hermeneutics purify hérmènéia from its primitive naivety and enrich it with the values of its emotive reactions—for which it makes an effort to find the echo in the Bible, by citing texts from it completely out of their context; a disgrace! – This is why the status of reason is not at all the same in the Thomist reading of Revelation and in the hermeneutic rereading. In the first, reason, purified of all subjectivity is a simple instrument for making the faith more explicit; in the second, reason, impregnated with subjectivity, sets itself up as a partner for faith and imposes on it its whims. Instead of magnifying glasses, hermeneutics recommends tinted and distorted glasses.

Well, the shape of these glasses, their tint, the whim of this reason are, fatally, the dominant shape, tint, whim of the epoch. This contemporary whim is neither science nor scientism; it is sentimentalism.

O theologians who twist texts, false spirits full of shrewdness, emotional enemies of truth, flowing with feelings and arid of faith! You reread and revisit the Tradition of the Church with your prejudices of today and you declare haughtily that this revision rediscovers ‘the deepest patrimony of the Church.’ On the contrary, you ought to find this patrimony in the Tradition of the Church, its constant practice and its invariable teaching, by bringing forth the high principles and by them condemning your prejudices of today.

3. Death, a remedy

Traditionally, death is the separation of the soul and the body, and the end of human life upon earth: it is the greatest temporal evil and the most feared. Death is not against nature, since all composite being is dissoluble and since God only preserved our first parents in the terrestrial paradise from it by a gratuitous preternatural gift. But it is, in fact, the penalty of sin: ‘Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God commanded Adam, for the day on which you eat of it, you will die the death” (Gen. 2, 17).

This vision of death must be revised by existentialism. One of Saint Ambrose’s sermons, is only existentialist sermon, appears opportunely:

Death, the bishop of Milan says there, is not natural, but it is become so; for from the beginning, God did not create death; he gave it to us as a remedy [...] for transgression; the life of men becomes miserable in its daily work and by insupportable tears. A term must be set for his unhappiness, so that death may render to him what life had lost.[218]

In fact, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) affirms, ‘Better is death than a bitter life: and everlasting rest than continual sickness’ (Eccl./Sir. 30, 17). – Still, eternal rest, whose enemy, like the enemy of life, is sin, must be merited.

And Benedict XVI underlines the existentialist paradox of death:

On the one hand, we should not wish to die [...], while on the other we also do not desire to continue this limited existence, and the world was not even created in this perspective [Spe Salvi, #11].

I would say that this paradox does not exist. Provided that it be without too terrible infirmities, what man does not want to continue living? The paradox is false because it fails to mention that death is the wages of sin: ‘stipendium enim peccati mors’ (Rom. 6, 23). Without doubt, it is more positive to see death as the remedy of our temporality than as a sanction for our malice. Religion is thereby rendered more acceptable for our fragile generation. But why hide from ourselves that Jesus, by the cross, has made of death a remedy, a truth: the expiation for sin?

4. Eternal life, immersion in love

Eternal life, Benedict XVI teaches, is not ‘an interminable life,’ an idea ‘which causes fear’; it is, as Saint Augustine said, ‘the happy life.’ In what does this consist?

It is a matter, Benedict XVI explains, of the moment of immersion in the ocean of infinite love, in which time—before and after—no longer exists [...], an immersion always renewed in the immensity of being, while we are simply filled with joy [Spe Salvi, #12].

Why this condition ‘it is a matter of?’ What is that ‘ocean of infinite love?’ What is that ‘immensity of being?’ One is not very reassured by these images nor by their dimensions. It is only on the following page that we learn that heaven is ‘to live with God forever.’ – It is true that eternal life, begun on earth by sanctifying grace, is a life with God; but what has changed in heaven? Is it only the ‘forever?’ Benedict XVI does not even feel capable, if not of giving a definition of heaven, at least of giving an exact description of it! Why does he conceal from us that the life of heaven is the vision of God himself, the vision facing God, God seen face to face, ‘facie ad faciem’ (1 Cor. 13, 12), that is to say, without created intermediary? It is Saint John, the Apostle of love, who teaches: ‘We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is’ (I John 3, 2). Saint Paul explains that in faith, knowledge, as ‘through a glass, in a dark manner’ (I Cor. 13, 12), will be succeeded by the immediate vision of God. It is this view which will beatify the souls of the elect.

But is this view perhaps too precise for the spirit of Benedict XVI, recalcitrant in all definition? In any case, the pontiff clarifies one precondition for the happy life: it is not to live isolated from others, as Henri de Lubac showed, he said. From the Fathers, Lubac would have proved that ‘salvation has always been considered a communal reality’ (Spe Salvi, #14).

[The happy life] thus presupposes an exodus from the prison of my own self, because it is only in the opening of this universal subject [others] that also opens the sight of the source of joy, of love itself, of God [Spe Salvi, #14].

5. Collective salvation according to Henri de Lubac

The French theologian honored by Spe Salvi has in fact reinterpreted the dogma, ‘ no salvation outside of the Church,’ by invoking a collective salvation: no salvation for the individual without a community of salvation. This would remain quite traditional. But it is not only this. There will be no need for every infidel to enter in good time into the bosom of the Church; it suffices that each and every one of them make up a part of that humanity which is on the way to unity thanks to Christianity:

How then would there be salvation for the members, if by some impossibility the body was not itself saved? But the salvation for this body—for humanity—consists in receiving the form of Christ, and this is only done by means of the Catholic Church. [...] Is it not she, finally, who is charged with realizing, for as many as lend themselves to her, the spiritual unification of all men? Thus, this Church, which, as the invisible body of Christ, identifies itself with final salvation, as a visible, historical institution is the providential means of this salvation. ‘In her alone is mankind remade and recreated’ (St. Augustine, ep. 118, #33, PL 33, 448).[219]

Saint Augustine does not, however, speak of the unity of mankind, but of its recreation and this is more than a nuance. Does Father de Lubac judge it easier to impress the form of Christ upon the collectivity of humanity than to impress it by Baptism upon each of millions of souls to be saved? This would be a brilliant Platonic solution.

Another solution, more elegant, is proposed by the scurrilous[220] Jesuit: each of the millions of human beings has been and has still his role in the preparation of the Gospel throughout the centuries, despite the groping ‘of research, of laborious elaborations, of partial anticipations, of correct natural inventions, and of still imperfect solutions’ (p. 172). These living stones of the scaffolding for the building of the body of Christ will not be rejected ‘once the edifice is achieved’ (p. 172):

Providentially indispensible to the building of the Body of Christ, the ‘infidels’ must benefit in their manner from the vital exchanges of this Body. By an extension of the dogma of the communion of saints, it thus seems just to think that, since they are not themselves places in the normal conditions for salvation, they could nevertheless obtain this salvation in virtue of the mysterious ties which unify them to the faithful. In short, they could be saved because they make up an integrated part of the humanity which will be saved.[221]

This is no longer Platonism; this is theological fiction: to an imaginary preparation for the Gospel within paganism, a meritorious virtue of grace is attributed, in favor of the obscure artisans of this preparation. But can the recompense of an imaginary elaboration be anything other than an imaginary grace?

The sentimental care for enlarging the door of salvation, because the Church has become a little flock, makes reason a vagabond in the imagination. Benedict XVI makes a similar attempt to lessen the pains of Purgatory. Let’s see.

6. Purgatory diminished

Benedict XVI welcomes ‘the old Jewish idea of an intermediary condition between death and resurrection,’ that is, a state ‘in which the judgment is yet lacking’ and in which souls ‘already undergo punishment [...] or on the contrary already rejoice in the provisional forms of beatitude’ (Spe Salvi, #45).

This is, very simply, to repeat Pope John XXII’s error, condemned ex cathedra by his successor Benedict XII, defining that the souls of the just, ‘immediately after their death and purification [...], for those who should have need of it, [...] have been, are and will be in heaven, in the Kingdom of heaven, and in the heavenly paradise with Christ, united to the company of the holy angels.’[222]

In this [intermediary] state, Benedict XVI continues, are possibilities for purification and healing which make the soul ripe for communion with God. The primitive Church took up these conceptions, from which finally the Western Church [he wants to say Catholic] developed little by little the doctrine of Purgatory [Spe Salvi, #45].

To this heresy of the intermediary state (mixture of the old Jewish sheol and the Limbo of the Patriarchs) and to this theory of Purgatory with its old Jewish origin, Benedict XVI proposes a modern alternative which decidedly pleases him better:

Certain recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which burns and at the same time saves may be Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment; before his eyes all falsehood vanishes. It is the encounter with him which, burning us, transforms us and frees us to become truly ourselves [Spe Salvi, # 47].

There is no question of a lingering debt to be acquitted, nor of a temporal penalty to be purged; he ignores that it is about this purification: might it be from sin? Whatever it may be, it is a liberation for the sake of becoming oneself anew; it is an existentialist transformation: Christ’s regard, the beating of his heart heals us thanks to transformation indeed sorrowful, ‘as by fire,’ as Saint Paul said (I Cor. 3, 12-15). Nevertheless, it is a happy suffering, in which the holy power of love penetrates us like a flame [Spe Salvi, #47].

I thought that the suffering of Purgatory was first a certain penalty of displeasure: the delay of access to the beatific vision, and besides that a penalty of fire, inflicted by God to purify the soul from its inordinate attachments to creatures. Is this explanation, which accords so well with the nature of sin—aversion from God and adherence to creatures—to clear for Benedict XVI? It is simply that the fire of love avails more to destroy ‘the filth’ of the soul, than a fire inflicted by the sovereign judge! Purgatory becomes quite sympathetic, since the same fire of love there destroys, as on earth, the stains on the soul.

– However the saints are not of this opinion; they have the faith, and they understand, like Saint Theresa of Lisieux, that ‘the fire of love is more sanctifying than the fire of purgatory’: that it is not thus the same fire.

Indeed, the advantage of the theory patronized by the pontiff is that this instantaneous purification through Christ’s regard enormously shortens Purgatory, with regard to our hurried generation. Here is a handy Christianity. Here is an ‘easier’ religion, such as was conceived by an English reformer. Here is the ‘reign of God,’ Kant would say, ‘in which the faith of the Church is overcome and replaced by religious faith, that is, by simple rational faith.’[223] For the rest, Kant adds, ‘if Christianity should cease to be likeable [...], one would necessarily see [...] the heart of the majority of men incited to aversion and revolt against it.’[224] (Texts cited by Spe Salvi # 19, without the pontiff’s remarking that Kant justifies this and, in so doing, without condemning him.)

Benedict XVI however clarifies something concerning this instantaneous Purgatory:

We cannot calculate with this world’s chronological measures the duration of this burning which transforms. The transforming moment of this encounter escapes all terrestrial chronometry. It is the time of the heart, the time of passage into communion with God in the body of Christ [Spe Salvi, #47].

Thus it is confirmed that Purgatory is a moment, a passage. There is no longer any question of remaining ‘in purgatory until the end of the world,’ as Our Lady dared to say to Lucia at Fatima, May 13, 1917, concerning a certain Amelia.[225] Decidedly, this new religion is more reassuring.

7. A humanistic particular judgment

God’s judgment is hope, Benedict XVI affirms: as much because he is justice as because he is grace. If he were only grace which make everything earthly insignificant, God would still owe to us an answer to the question concerning justice. If he were pure justice, in the end he could be for us no more than a motive of fear [Spe Salvi, #47].

I regret to contradict these reflections which seem to make good sense. No, if divine justice is desirable, it is not because it gives recompense to the ‘earthly,’ but to our merits, that is to say, our good works accomplished in the state of grace. But Benedict XVI precisely does not believe in merit:

God’s reign is a gift, and rightly because of this it is great and beautiful, and it constitutes the answer to hope. And we cannot—to employ classical terminology—‘merit’ heaven thanks to ‘our good works.’ It is always more than what we merit. [...] Nevertheless, with all our consciousness of the ‘super-value’ of ‘heaven,’ it remains not the less always true that our acts are not indifferent before God [Spe Salvi, # 35].

Let us remind ourselves of the anathema of the Council of Trent”

If anyone say that man, justified by his good works, does not truly merit [...] eternal life [...], let him be anathema.[226]

Likewise, if the divine justice of judgment ‘causes us fear,’ it is not because it could be ‘pure justice,’ but rather because it can inflict pains upon us, the eternal pain of those who die in the state of mortal sin and the pains of Purgatory for the rest.

But all these distinctions exceed Benedict XVI, as we will again note; his theology is diminished and hazy; the distinction between natural and supernatural is too large and too clear for his eye.

8. The fundamental option, economy of mortal sin

According to the tradition doctrine of the faith, by a single mortal sin, in fact the soul loses sanctifying grace (DS 1544) and merits eternal hell; while venial sin only merits a temporal penalty, perhaps expiated by any good work.

This distinction, however, is not conformed to the feelings of our contemporaries. (By whose fault? – The conciliar clergy’s!) They judge that, setting aside war criminals and the authors of genocide, with whom ‘everything is a lie’ and who have ‘lived for hate,’ and setting aside the saints ‘who let themselves be totally penetrated by God’ and have ‘totally opened themselves to their neighbor,’ there is ‘the norm,’ that of ‘the most part of men,’ in whom good and bad are present at the same time and sometimes evil more than good. But despite this:

In the greatest depth of their being remains a final, interior opening to truth, to love, to God. However, in the concrete choices of life, this is covered [...] by compromises with evil. Much filth covers purity, the thirst for which nonetheless endures and which, despite this, emerges always anew out of any baseness and remains present in the soul [Spe Salvi, # 46].

In this theory, there are no longer the just man and the unjust (theologically), no longer the state of grace and the state of mortal sin. All sin or state of sin gives way to salvation, provided that the fundamental option be guarded by God, by ‘the thirst for purity,’ ‘the interior opening to truth, love, God.’ In this case, ‘the Christian experience built upon Jesus Christ’ is a ‘foundation which can no longer be removed’ (#46). Such a soul could be saved by passing through the fi re which consumes evil deeds (Ibid., I Cor. 3, 12).

In the final account, Benedict XVI republishes the Protestant error of ‘man at once just and sinful.’ He also republishes the theory that was however condemned by his predecessor John Paul II in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor (# 63-68), that of the fundamental good option, which keeps particular, sinful choices from interrupting the relation with God. Against this error, John Paul II reaffirmed the distinction between mortal and venial sin (VS 69-70). Benedict XVI’s religion is decidedly more convenient.

9. Hell, a state of soul

“Hell is other people,” said John-Paul Sartre. Benedict XVI takes the counter-stance against this diabolical egoism. Hell is irrevocable egoism, that of those who ‘have totally destroyed in themselves the desire for the truth and availability of love.’ He explains:

In such individuals, there would no longer be anything remediable and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: it is this which is indicated by the word hell [Spe Salvi, # 45].

Here is an equivocation. It is necessary to clarify that the one in a state of mortal sin already is in a state of damnation, but that this damnation is not irrevocable as after death. This then is hell, place and state of souls damned at once by their fault and by the sentence of the just Judge. If this distinction is lacking, the equivocation of mixing the state of the sinner’s revocable damnation and the state and place of hell’s irrevocable damnation remains.

And for want of knowing of what one is talking, one puts hells into the conditional: it ‘would be’ the state of a man irremediably closed to truth and bent back on himself. It is disquieting for the egoists that we all are, but who is entirely egoist? To sum up, who can be truly in hell? By such a manner, hell is a state of soul.*As a fruit of his hermeneutics, Benedict XVI’s religion is a religion which presents itself as very likeable, but it is a religion in the conditional.

[214] Offi cial Bulletin of the Diocese of Metz, October 1, 1967, cited by Itinéraires, # 118.
[215] The Bishops Speak the Faith of the Church, Paris, Cerf, 1978, p. 229-230.
[216] See Mitteilungsblatt of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, Stuttgart, May 2009.
[217] The Hope of Salvation for Children Who Die Unbaptized. Reflections of the International Theological Commission, published by Benedict XVI’s oral authorization in April 2007, # 2.
[218] Homily on the Death of his Brother Saturus, II, 47, CSEL 73, 274, cited by Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, # 10.
[219] H. de Lubac, Catholicism, the Social Aspects of Dogma, Cerf, 1938, p. 164-165.
[220] Translator’s note: the bishop’s word choice here was ‘sulfureux,’ meaning sulfurous or possibly lurid. Since ‘the sulfurous/lurid Jesuit’ made little sense, scurrilous or suspect seemed to be about the best interpretation.
[221] H. de Lubac, op. cit., p. 173.
[222] Mox post mortem et purgationem […] in illis qui purgatione hujusmodi indigebant […] sunt et erunt in caelo, coelorum regno et pardiso coelesti cum Christo, sanctorum angelorum consortio aggregatae (DS 1000).
[223] Immanuel Kant, The Victory of the Good Principle over the Evil and the Foundation of a Kingdom of God on Earth (1792), in Philosophical Works, Gallimard, La Pléiade, t. 3, 2003, p. 140.
[224] Kant, Das Ende aller Dinge – The End of All Things (1795), in Philosophical Works, Gallimard, La Pléiade, t. 3, 2003, p. 324-325.
[225] See Lucia Retells Fatima, DDB-Résiac, 1981, p. 159.
[226] Council of Trent, session VI, chapter 16, can. 32, DS 1582.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Christianity and Enlightenment

1. A fragile equilibrium

I have mentioned the wish expressed by Benedict XVI, after his return from Turkey, on December 22, 2006, before the members of the Roman curia, of seeing Islam update itself with the help of the Enlightenment, a process effected in the Church by Vatican II, ‘at the end of a long and difficult search,’ the pontiff avowed, explaining:

It is a matter of the attitude that the community of faithful must adopt when faced with the convictions and demands which are affirmed in the philosophy of the Enlightenment.

On the one hand, we must oppose ourselves to the dictatorship of positivist reason, which excludes God and the life of community and of public organization, thus depriving man of his specific criteria for measurement. On the other hand, it is necessary to welcome the true conquests of Enlightenment philosophy, the Rights of Man and in particular the liberty of the faith and of its exercise, by recognizing in them equally essential elements for the authenticity of religion.[227]

Leaving to the reader the care of appreciating the justice of the free exercise of ‘faiths,’ the advantage of ‘the authenticity’ of Islam, and the degree of realism in the opening of Islam to the Enlightenment rather than the conversion of Muslims to the true Light ‘which enlightens all men’ (John 1, 9), I will consider the nature of the welcome, by the Church of Vatican II, for the quintessence of the Enlightenment: the Rights of Man. Joseph Ratzinger describes this recent welcome as an ‘acquisition’ and a ‘balance’:

The problem of the 1960s was of acquiring the better values expressed by two centuries of ‘liberal’ culture. These are in fact the values which, even if they are born outside the Church, can find their place, purified and corrected, in its vision of the world. It is what has been done. But it is necessary to admit that some hopes doubtless too naïve have been deceived. It is a matter of finding a new equilibrium.[228]

This text is an implicit citation of Yves Congar’s texts which I have quoted in my introduction, to which I send my reader. Father Congar proposed as early as 1938 (and in his work from 1950 for a ‘true reform of the Church’[229]), Christianity’s assimilation of ‘valuable contributions’ from the modern world, after the Church has ‘decanted and at need purified’ them. This is what the Council attempted, but in fact has this synthesis not been assisted to an unstable and not yet attained equilibrium? In fact, does not the one who says the word equilibrium suppose an engagement of forces between two antagonists?

This is what seems to me to emerge from one of Joseph Ratzinger’s conferences treating exactly of a mutual purification and a correlation of Christianity and the Enlightenment.[230] – I summarize this text:

1. On the one hand, religion should make positivistic rationality hear reason by causing it to admit, in science as in politics, ‘the challenge and the chance of faith in God, who is in person the creative Reason of the universe.’[231] Positivist reason should not even be asked to accept natural right
—whose legislator is God, author of human nature:

This instrument [J. Ratzinger judges] is unhappily blunted, and it is why I prefer not to lean upon it in this debate.

The idea of natural right presupposes a concept of nature where nature and reason interpenetrate each other, in which nature herself is rational. This vision of nature collapsed when the theory of evolution triumphed. Nature as such may not be rational, even if there are in it rational behaviors. There is the diagnostic which is addressed to us from this very moment, and which seems impossible today to contradict [p. 25].

But is human nature not rational for God who conceived it and affixed to it its ends? Is it not ration for man, who, by his natural reason, apprehends his natural inclinations as good and thus as ends to be attained by his action?[232]

It is necessary to suppose that Joseph Ratzinger is incapable of grasping such an argument, no so much because he adopts the evolutionary antithesis which he sets forth, but because he refuses the idea of finality and the notion of final cause.

However, he does consent to admit as a base for natural right what would be the Rights of Man:

As the ultimate element of natural right, which would wish to be in its depth a reasonable right—in any case, in modern times—the Rights of Man are put in place. They are incomprehensible without the presupposition that man as man, by virtue of his simple membership of the species ‘man,’ is a subject of rights, which his being itself bears in itself for values and norms—which are a matter of discovery and not of invention [p. 25].

My readers will be indignant, I hope, at this ‘human species’ without knowable nature, which serves as a foundation, not for rights (to what really is right, because this is suited to human nature and its ends), but as a foundation for a ‘subject of rights,’ who says only ‘I have the right,’ without knowing first to what he has a right nor from what he holds this ‘I have the right.’ He will be indignant too at this ‘values’ which, without being the order owed to the end suited to the nature, are all the same ‘values maintained by themselves, issued from the essence of the human and thus inviolable by all those who possess this essence’ (p. 21). He will be indignant then at those ‘norms’ which apparently have no author, not even that God who is however ‘the creative Reason of the universe.’ He will be indignant at last that those ‘values and norms’ must be, according to Joseph Ratzinger, completed, limited by a list of the ‘duties of man.’ Is this the Decalogue? Instead of the norms of natural right following naturally from the commandments of God, one has duties as a man, antagonistic and regulatory to one’s rights:

Perhaps today the doctrine of the Rights of Man must be completed by a doctrine of the duties of man and the limits of man, and that is what could, in spite of everything, help to renew the question of knowing whether there can be a reason to nature and thus a reasonable right. [...] For Christians, they would deal with creation and with Creator. In the Indian world, it would correspond to the notion of dharma, to the internal causality of being; in Chinese tradition, it is the idea of the celestial orders. [p. 25].

Is the Creator no longer the supreme and unique legislator of nature? He is only the police for the Rights of Man? Between the Christian faith (or other religious traditions) and the Enlightenment (and its Rights of Man), the assimilation dreamed up by Yves Congar, the acquisition wished by Joseph Ratzinger, the equilibrium called for by Benedict XVI prove itself to be a trial of strength.

2. On the other hand, Christianity (like all religions)—cured of its ‘pathologies’ (p. 27) by a purification of its tendency to be, in place of a force for salvation, ‘an archaic and dangerous force which builds false universalisms [the reign of Christ, or Jihad] and foments thus intolerance and terrorism’ (p. 22)—would ratify the Rights of Man, duly purified and limited, as ‘the translation of the codified convictions of the Christian faith into the language of the secularized world,’ according to the expression of Jürgen Habermas in the same dialogue.[233]

2. Mutual regeneration and polyphonic correlation

In summary, Joseph Ratzinger declares: “I feel myself in general agreement with Jürgen Habermas’ account concerning a post-secular society, concerning the will for mutual learning and concerning self-limitation on the part of each’; he explains himself:

– There are extremely dangerous pathologies in religions; they make it a necessity to consider the divine light of reason [sic] as a sort of organ of control which religion must accept as a permanent organ for purification and regulation [...]

– But there also exist pathologies in reason [...], a hubris (passion) of reason, which is not less dangerous [...]: the atomic bomb, man as product. This is why in an inverse sense, reason also must be recalled to its limits and learn a capacity for hearing in regard to the great religious traditions of humanity. [...]

– Kurt Hubner recently formulated a similar need and declared that with such a thesis there was not question of a ‘return to faith,’ but of a ‘liberation in relation to a historical blindness, which supposes that [faith] no longer has anything to say to modern man from the fact that it is opposed to its humanistic idea of reason, of Aufklärung and of liberty’; I would thus willingly speak of a necessary form of correlation between reason and faith, reason and religion, called to a purification and to a mutual regeneration. [...]

[As for other cultural or religious components], it is important to integrate them in an attempt for polyphonic correlation, in which they will open themselves to the essential complementarity between reason and faith. Thus could be born a universal process of purification in which, in the fi nal account, values and norms, known or intuited in one manner or another by all men [sic], will gain a new force of radiance. What maintains the world in unity will in this way rediscover new vigor [p. 27-28].

*Thus, Benedict XVI’s hermeneutics goes much further even than I discerned at the beginning: more than a reinterpretation, it is a regeneration; and it goes beyond the only links of the Catholic religion with Western rationality. It consists first in a mutual purification of faith and reason, which corrects the intolerant drift of the first and the blind autonomy of the second. It finally consists in a mutual regeneration of faith and reason, which would enrich faith with the liberal values, duly limited, of the Enlightenment, and which would win reason over to a hearing of the faith duly decoded and transcribe in secularized language. And this process would stretch out universally to all religious faiths and to all rationalities.

Without realizing a one world ethos (p. 27), thus vigor would be given to the values which must support the world.

*Does it not seem to my reader that what maintains the world is neither Max Scheler’s ‘values,’ nor the Enlightenment’s man as ‘subject of rights,’ but Jesus Christ, author, reformer and elevator of human nature? ‘For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus’ (I Cor. 3, 11). Before this conviction which the Christian faith grants, the whole equilibrist construction of a theologian in his room – salva reverentia – collapses like a castle of cards, as the New World Order will collapse which it wishes to serve. For secularized reason, the faith has only one true word: ‘Omnia instaurare in Christo (to restore all things in Christ)’ (Eph. 1, 10).

227] DC #2373, February 4, 2007, p. 108.

[228] J. Ratzinger, Why the Faith is in Crisis, debate with Vittorio Messori, Jesus, November 1984, p. 72.
[229] Y. Congar, True and False reform in the Church, Paris, Cerf, 1950, p. 345-346.
[230] J. Ratzinger, ‘Democracy, Right and Religion’ in The Prepolitical Foundations for the Democratic State, Dialogue with Jürgen Habermas, Munich, January 19, 2004, translation by Jean-Louis Schlegel, in the review Esprit, July 2004, p. 5-28.
[231] Speech of December 22, 2006, to the Curia, DC # 2373, February 4, 2007, p. 107.
[232] See I-II, q. 94, a. 2.
[233] See J. Ratzinger, speech of December 22, 2006, DC 2373, p. 107
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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