Friday, February 15, 2008

Fr. Schall on Sapienza Address

~from Ignatius Insight here's Fr. Schall with a restrospective look at what would have been Pope Benedict's Sapienza Address
In what sense does the pope speak to all mankind? The tendency is to claim that moral and ethical matters are closed circuits. There are as many different kinds of speakers as there are cultures and religion. The claim of universal truth and intelligible dignity that the Church makes is written off as "arrogant" or as "opinion." The pope thus is said to draw his "judgments from faith and hence cannot claim to speak on behalf of those who do not share this faith." This objection, the pope affirms, brings up the "fundamental question" namely: "What is reason?" Reason is precisely the grounds for directing all thought to the same measure and standard, something that, in argument and reflection can be known to everyone from whatever background.

What is "reason" is itself related directly to the questions, as Benedict put it: "'What is a university?' 'What is its task?' ... I think one could say that at the most intimate level, the true origin of the university lies on the thirst for knowledge that is proper to man. The human being wants to know what everything around him is. He wants truth." We have, all of us, a knowing faculty and we want to know. There are traditional and articulated ways and institutions in which this desire "to everything around us" can and should be pursued. Benedict is ever concerned that "reason" be not restricted to methods that exclude the higher things, the things that are not matter and hence not "measurable" by quantity. To insist that the only kind of knowledge is that based on measurable quantity is to exclude from the beginning the really deepest and most important things in our lives. As Fides et Ratio indicated, the Church is directly concerned that philosophy and reason be what they are, neither more or less.

"Yet truth means more than knowledge," Benedict continues in a passage obviously related to book six of Plato's Republic:

The purpose of knowing the truth is to know the good. This is also the meaning of Socratic enquiry: What is the good which makes us free? The truth makes us good and goodness is true: this is the optimism that shapes the Christian faith, because this faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, of creative Reason, which in God's Incarnation revealed itself as the Good, as goodness itself.

This is a remarkable passage. The faith is an "optimism" in its own right. It is grounded in the good. The Logos is "creative reason." Things can be understood as true, as what exactly is our destiny and purpose. This purpose in the good is not irrational or mad, but precisely reason responding to Logos, to reason.

Creative reason does not appeal to us as if we had no questions to ask of it. It only appears in fact when we are precisely asking the questions of our reason—those about our origin, purpose, meaning, and destiny. These latter questions do not initially arise from revelation but from living and thinking about what is. Creative reason presents itself not as something alien to us but as something that attracts us as good and as true. Were our freedom not intimately bound up with our reason, we could not be beings who really do know and choose to be what we are. "Here it was a matter of giving the correct form to human freedom, which is always a freedom shared with others. Law is the presupposition of freedom; it is not its opposite." We observe the law, particularly the natural law, because we understand it as reasonable. Our freedom is not to do whatever we want, but to do what is right. This freedom is "shared with others" for we all have the same destiny and know the same truth if we choose to do so.
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