An historian’s viewpoint

Source: FSSPX News


Hervé Yannou, journalist for I.Media Agency and Le Figaro, interviewed Philippe Levillain, member of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, of the University Institute of France, and professor at the University of Paris-X. Excerpts were published in CIPA on March 14:

How are we to receive this document from the Magisterium?

P.L.: Media always harp about on the same theme, considering that these texts touch man’s freedom and the exercise of a full and entire liberty which the Church must acknowledge and live with. For thirty years, the media have been claiming for, and getting people used to the idea, that there could be a real revolution in the positions of the Holy See. The revolution they are asking the Vatican to comply with would boil down to endorsing libertarian aspirations. We do not see why these latter would need the Church in order to be better lived.


Could we expect this text to give other orientations to problems of society?

No, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected in twenty-three hours by the cardinals to accomplish this mission. What may cause a certain impatience, or even wonderment regarding the orientation of the pontificate is that John XXIII who was elected at the same age suddenly caused the unexpected to enter into Church history by convoking a council. In public opinion, there still remains the memory that a pope elected at an advanced age could suddenly sweep away and overturn the tradition of the Church. But we must not mistake tradition for traditionalism.


Is there a rupture between the Church and contemporary society?

Yes, there is a separation which is expressed through such words as “dechristianization” or “secularization”. The division is strong and it is making progress. But the great novelty is that we now are in a time of “post-secularization”, as Benedict XVI explained. Secularization has reached an apex and at the same time, we note a return to what is religious, which is not a return to the Catholic Church or to Churches, but to the religious factor in the context of triumphant individualism, of sects, and communitarianism. The pope observes this when he reaffirms the authenticity of the message of the Catholic Church and refuses to accept all the deviations requested of him.


Did Benedict XVI turn the rudder to the left or to the right?

Neither to the left nor to the right. The distinction between progress and reaction is useful but fallacious. The Roman Church has always tried to uphold a position in the face of a society which wonders about this latter institution. This text is a reminder of the high demands of the Church.