Sunday, May 04, 2008

A New Pentecost

~from Catholic World Report. George Neumayr reflects on Pope Benedict's apostolic visit to the USA
Some reporters regarded his treatment of the relationship between faith and reason—the theme of the Catholic “vision of reality” to which he repeatedly returned—as nothing more than feckless theological abstraction. But what they failed to see was that the crises he came to address, both the one inside the Church and the one outside of it, resulted from ideological novelties they indulge, relativistic theories that shattered the relationship between faith and reason and drove Jesus Christ and his Church to the margins of society.

The profound and the pastoral are intrinsically linked, and the Pope’s call for a renewal of an “intellectual culture” that rests on a sound and comprehensive account of nature, man, and God, an account in which revelation reinforces and purifies reason while building upon it, is central to “charity.” As the grim chapters of history illustrate, false philosophy and theology have real, not abstract, consequences; errors about man’s ultimate destiny, while they may at first seem like harmless differences of “opinion,” show up immediately and destructively in politics and culture.

Deliberating on the good of man without consulting the God who determined it—in other words, the mode of public life that has held sway for decades—produces not human utopias but civilizational chaos, spiritual torpor and poisonous conceits: a concept of “freedom” that enslaves, “rights” that devour each other, and a rhetoric of “human dignity” that degrades.

Reporters and commentators, of course, focused little on the import of the Holy Father’s speeches, directing most of their attention to his reaction to the abuse scandal, even as they showed no interest in the skeptical, secularized Catholicism that advanced it. Doubts about the seriousness of sin—doubts stimulated by uncertainty about the existence of God and the natural moral law—created the deepest conditions for it. Hence, the Pope’s speech to Catholic educators, in which he exhorted them to recover the Catholic intellectual tradition in its integrity, was not separate from his call for a “holier” episcopate and priesthood in light of the scandal, but was very much connected to it.

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