Seven years have passed since the beginning of his pontificate. Tempi.it interviews George Weigel, writer and Wojtyla’s biographer. «The image of the Panzerkardinal is a false and foul caricature. This Pope fights the separation between reason and faith, on the wake of what Henri de Lubac wrote in Communio review».
Benedict XVI is a professor who was called to serve the Church, in a first time as a Bishop and then as a Pope. Is there any difference between Ratzinger and Benedetto XVI?
One of the happy developments of the past seven years has been the demolition of the image of the Panzerkardinal, which was always a vicious and false caricature, created by theological enemies who never learnt the meaning of “calumny” from the Catechism. The Benedict XVI that the world has seen – a man of deep faith, great intellectual gifts, and a winsome personality – is the Joseph Ratzinger that those who knew him before April 19, 2005 were privileged to have met.
The Pope’s teaching is mainly based on the union between faith and reason. Why does he stress on this point so much?
I should say that the Pope’s main teaching is on the necessity of friendship with Jesus Christ as the center of the Christian life. As for the stress on faith and reason, the Pope knows that the civilization of the West is in crisis, and that one reason for the crisis is the disjunction between faith and reason, which has led, not to mature reason, but to a season of irrationality and to the “dictatorship of relativism.” All of this was anticipated in the book written in the early 1940s by Ratzinger’s old Communio colleague, Henri de Lubac: The Drama of Atheist Humanism. Reason untethered from the God of the Bible is reason untethered from the Logos through whom all things were created: and that kind of “reason” soon becomes unreason, as post-modernism has shown. But this is not a benign secularism; it is aggressive and hegemonic, hence the “dictatorship of relativism:” the use of coercive State power to impose a relativistic morality on all of society. The Pope knows, and teaches, that if the West is to survive, it must re-connect Jerusalem and Athens.
The Pope mentions more and more the category of Christian Event. Against the reduction of Christianity either to a moral doctrine or to a feeling.
What the Pope insists upon is the reality, the realism, of Christianity. No Jesus of Nazareth, no Christianity no Resurrection. Christianity is not a story; Christianity is about events that converted people who then sought to convert the world and still seek to do so.
Benedict XVI has found himself to face pedophilia’s tragedy, the rebellion of some priests against the Catholic teaching and other evils within the Church. To mend the way the Pope points out the need «of reverting to do penance and to accept purification. What does it mean for our Church?
It means rediscovering the imperative of prayer and fasting as something we do throughout the year, not just during Lent. It means confronting the evils of a warped clericalism (as in Ireland) while simultaneously defending good priests and priestly fraternity.
The Pope in Germany said: «History has shown that, when the Church becomes less worldly, her missionary witness shines more brightly. Once liberated from material and political burdens and privileges, the Church can reach out more effectively and in a truly Christian way to the whole world, she can be truly open to the world. She can live more freely her vocation to the ministry of divine worship and service of neighbour». Do these words represent a pauperistic message or a call to take distance from the public square?
In Germany, the Pope was speaking about a specific instance of State support for religious institutions, which tends to dry up their evangelical fervor. The same thing sometimes happens when, for example, U.S. Catholic institutions get too closely tied to federal or State money in support of their charitable work, and thereby lose some of their Catholic identity.
How is the present Pope being able to fascinate so much the Orthodox world and even part of the Protestant Churches?
The same way John Paul II did: by his unapologetic and deeply mature presentation of the essentials of Christian faith.
Are there some differences or evolutions between this pontificate and John Paul II’s one?
On April 19, 2005, I said on American television that the pontificate of Benedict XVI would be in “dynamic continuity” with that of John Paul II. I think that’s what happened: these are the two popes who have brought the Second Vatican Council to a successful conclusion and have launched the Church into a new era, the era of the New Evangelization.