Monday, June 30, 2008

On the Tenth Anniversary of
Fides et ratio (I)

Entry 0025: On the Tenth Anniversary of Fides et ratio

Five years prior to the publication of his encyclical lettter Fides et ratio, when addressing the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, John Paul II took advantage of the occasion to express his great appreciation for the efforts made by the Congregation in conducting a survey on the relationship between faith and philosophy. This is “a subject particularly close to my heart,” the Pope said on 19 November 1993. It actually took twelve years to complete the work that led to Fides et ratio. The encyclical letter was signed by the Pope on 14 September 1998 and released on 16 October 1998 to mark the twentieth anniversary of his Pontificate. At the time, Alessandra Stanley described the Pope’s encyclical as “one of his most personal pronouncements to date: a crystallization of his philosophical and theological thinking over a lifetime” (The New York Times, October 16, 1998).

The successor of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, was alert to the fact that the year 2008 marked the tenth anniversary of the publication of Fides et ratio. On 7 June 2008 in his Address to Participants at the Sixth European Symposium for University Professors, Pope Benedict XVI said:

For me it is a motive of profound joy to meet you on the occasion of the Sixth European Symposium for University Professors on the theme: Widen the horizons of rationality: Perspectives for Philosophy. ... I would like to express my gratitude to the organizing committee for this choice which permits us, among other things, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of the encyclical letter Fides et ratio of my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. Already on that occasion 50 civil and ecclesial philosophy professors of the public and pontifical universities of Rome manifested their gratitude to the Pope with a declaration which confirmed the urgency of relaunching the study of philosophy in universities and schools.

In Fides et ratio John Paul II states forcefully that the Church does not canonize any philosophical system. But in explaining the statement the observation is made equivalent to saying that the ‘philosophy of being’ is an inherent, essential ‘tool’ of the power of reason. Here is Pope John Paul II in his own words: (1) the ‘philosophy of being’ “is strong and enduring because it is based upon the very ‘act of being’ itself, which allows a full and comprehensive openness to reality as a whole;” (2) the ‘philosophy of being’ “can claim in advance all that is true in regard to reality;” and (3) the philosophy of the actus essendi is “a branch of knowledge that cannot be reduced to any other science whatever because is one that transcends them all by establishing itself as independent of them and at the same time as bringing them to completion in regard to their true nature.” (The first quote is from Fides et ratio, no. 97. The other two quotes are from The Angelicum Address, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 71 [1979]: 1472-1483, nos. 6-7).