Monday, October 20, 2008

On The Tenth Anniversary of
Fides et Ratio (II)

Entry 0041: On the Tenth Anniversary of Fides et Ratio 

Ten years after the publication of the encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, the Pontifical Lateran University, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the World Conference of Catholic University Institutions of Philosophy, organized a conference in Rome to commemorate the anniversary.

On 16 October 2008, the participants were received in audience by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. In his speech the Pope spoke of the “constant relevance” of the encyclical, which, he said, “is characterised by its great openness to reason, especially in a period in which there is speculation about [reason's] weakness." Then the Pope added that in the encyclical "John Paul II underlined the importance of uniting faith and reason in a reciprocal relationship, while respecting the autonomy proper to each.”

“Reason,” said Pope Benedict XVI, “discovers that beyond its own achievements and conquests there exists a truth that can never be discovered by using its own parameters, but only received as a gratuitous gift. The truth of Revelation is not superimposed on the truth achieved by reason; rather it purifies and exalts reason, enabling it to expand beyond its confines to become part of a field of research as unfathomable as the mystery itself.”

Pope Benedict XVI concluded: “The passion for truth impels us to turn into ourselves to discover the profound meaning of our lives in the interior man. True philosophy must lead people by the hand and bring them to discover how fundamental knowing the truth of Revelation is for their own dignity.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Benedict XVI on Aquinas (III)

Entry 0039: Benedict XVI on Aquinas (III)

On 17 January 2008, Pope Benedict XVI had intended to visit the University of La Sapienza in Rome. The Roman Pontiff 
was not able to make the trip, but he asked one of his collaborators to read at the University the speech he had prepared for the occasion.

As he has done on similar occasions when addressing university professors and students, the Holy Father chose to reflect on the relationship of faith and reason. An extensive part of the speech was devoted to the enduring originality of the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Here is what the Holy Father said.

It is the historical merit of Saint Thomas Aquinas—in the face of the rather different answer offered by the Fathers, owing to their historical context—to have highlighted the autonomy of philosophy, and with it the laws and the responsibility proper to reason, which enquires on the basis of its own dynamic. Distancing themselves from neo-Platonic philosophies, in which religion and philosophy were inseparably interconnected, the Fathers had presented the Christian faith as the true philosophy, and had emphasized that this faith fulfils the demands of reason in search of truth; that faith is the “yes” to the truth, in comparison with the mythical religions that had become mere custom. By the time the university came to birth, though, those religions no longer existed in the West—there was only Christianity, and thus it was necessary to give new emphasis to the specific responsibility of reason, which is not absorbed by faith. Thomas was writing at a privileged moment: for the first time, the philosophical works of Aristotle were accessible in their entirety; the Jewish and Arab philosophies were available as specific appropriations and continuations of Greek philosophy. Christianity, in a new dialogue with the reasoning of the interlocutors it was now encountering, was thus obliged to argue a case for its own reasonableness. The faculty of philosophy, which as a so-called “arts faculty” had until then been no more than a preparation for theology, now became a faculty in its own right, an autonomous partner of theology and the faith on which theology reflected. We cannot digress to consider the fascinating consequences of this development. I would say that Saint Thomas’s idea concerning the relationship between philosophy and theology could be expressed using the formula that the Council of Chalcedon adopted for Christology: philosophy and theology must be interrelated “without confusion and without separation”. “Without confusion” means that each of the two must preserve its own identity. Philosophy must truly remain a quest conducted by reason with freedom and responsibility; it must recognize its limits and likewise its greatness and immensity. (Excerpt from the Lecture by the Holy Father Benedict XVI at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza,’ 17 January 2008.)