Rise above Dialectics by Dialogue and Synthesis ?

Source: FSSPX News

In a short press conference granted to some journalists on the airplane that took him to Portugal on May 11, Benedict XVI gave an answer to a question formulated by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, concerning the preaching of the Gospel in a country well its way to an advanced secularisation as is Portugal. The Sovereign Pontiff's response runs along the same lines as his discours to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, in which he congratulated  himself on the new relations, established by Vatican II, between the Church and the modern States.

Fr. Lombardi: “(...) What can one say to a Portugal, in the past profoundly Catholic and a messenger of the faith in the world, but now well on its way to a profound secularisation, both in everyday life and on a legal and cultural level?  How to announce the faith in a context that is indifferent and hostile to the Church?”

Benedict XVI: “(...) We see that during these past centuries (from the 18th century up until our days) Portugal has always lived in a dialectic, which has today certainly become more radical and which has every appearance of sharing the current European spirit. This dialectic seems to me to be a challenge, but also a great opportunity.  During these centuries of dialectics between illuminism, secularism and faith, there have always been those who wanted to create ties and to create a dialogue, but unfortunately the dominant tendency has been one of adversity and reciprocal exclusion.

“Today we see that this dialectic is actually a chance, and that we must find the synthesis and a profound and expanding dialogue. In the multicultural situation in which we all find ourselves, one can see that a purely rationalist European culture would not have a transcendant religious dimension, and would not be capable of “establishing a dialogue with the great cultures of humanity, all of which possess this transcendant religious dimension, which is a dimension of the human being.

“(...) So I think that the duty and the mission of Europe in this situation are precisely to find this dialogue, to integrate the faith and modern rationality into a unique anthropological vision that completes the human being and thus allows the human cultures to communicate.  This is why I would say that the presence of secularism is normal, but the separation, the opposition between secularism and the culture of the faith is not normal, and we need to rise above it.  The great challenge of our times is to make these two come together, in such a way that they may find their true identity.  That, as I have said, is Europe's mission and the human necessity of our point in history.

Commentary: Benedict XVI's thinks that the dialectical opposition between the Church and the world must be surpassed by a new synthesis.  He sees here a challenge and even an opportunity.  Already in December 2005, in his discours to the Curia, he said that this has become possible thanks to the historical evolution of the Church and of the modern States: “The opposition of the Church's faith to a radical liberalism, (...)had provoked the Church, in the 19th century, under Pius IX, to severe and radical condemnations of this spirit of modern times.  Apparently, there was no possible room left for a positive and fruitful understanding, and the refusals of those who felt themselves to be the representatives of modern times were equally energetic.  Since then, however, (between the 19th century and Vatican II), the modern era had also undergone some developements.  It was realised that the American Revolution had offered a different model of the modern State from the one theorised by the radical tendencies that appeared in the second phase of the French Revolution.  (…) Thus, the two parties began progressively to open up to each other. In the period between the two civil wars, and even more after WWII, the Catholic statesmen have shown that there could exist a modern lay State, which is nevertheless not neutral as regards its values, but which lives by drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianism.  The Catholic social doctrine, which has developped little by little, has become an important model halfway between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the State. (...)”

In his response to the journalists on May 11, Benedict XVI, contrary to what he said in 2005, declares that this dialectic has “today become more radical and has every appearance of sharing the current European spirit”.  In spite of this, on May 12 at the Cultural Center of Belem, he invited the representatives of the world of culture and of different religions to dialogue with “the truths of others”, “an acquisition which the Church herself is in the process of learning”.  Likewise, on May 14 at Porto: “Today the Church is called to face new challenges and she is disposed to dialogue with the diverse cultures and religions, seeking to build up with all men of good will the peacful cohabitation of the peoples.”

His speech on May 11 clarifies this synthesis that the Pope says is his wish: it consists in “integrating the modern faith and rationality into a unique anthropological vision”.  The question is whether the Catholic faith can be integrated into modern rationality, in a unique anthropological vision, without being herself disintegrated.  Romano Amerio answered that the marking character of the modern world (and the rationality that dwells in it) is “independence and aseity , the refusal of all dependance except the dependance on oneself”.  Whence the challenge risks being transformed into an offense. (DICI n°215, May 22, 2010)