View Articles

Monday, June 30, 2008

0025: Fides et Ratio

Entry 0025:

Five years prior to the publication of 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 12 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 20th anniversary of his Pontificate. At the time, Alessandra Stanley properly 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 has expressed his awareness that the year 2008 marks 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, the Pope 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 10th 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 forcefully expresses that the Church does not canonize any philosophical system. But in developing the exposition the observation is plainly made equivalent to saying that, beyond the various systems and schools of thoughts, the ‘philosophy of being’—and more concretely the doctrine of the actus essendi—is an inherent, essential ‘tool’ of the power of reason. In other words, the actus essendi is an all-embracing point of reference on which the power of reason must rely to correctly exercise its functions. Accordingly, the Pope says, (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 being’ “is capable of assimilating every new authentic value emerging from the history of every culture whatsoever.” For John Paul II, 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.”