Remembering and reflecting on Joseph Ratzinger’s Gospel of Love

Central to the theological dimension of Ratzinger’s answer to questions about belief in God today was his articulation of the primacy of love when it comes to speaking about God, man, and their relation.

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is pictured in a 2002 file photo. (CNS photo from Catholic Press Photo)

It is no easy thing to sum up the thought of a man whose academic and ecclesial career spans some of the most tumultuous and epochal recent historical events in Church and world, whose written pages number in the tens of thousands or more, and whose legacy will, I think, be among the most significant of his generation.

There was in the immediate days and weeks after Benedict XVI’s passing into eternity a remarkable outpouring of reflections on his life and work. We have been saturated with personal tributes and memories, and big picture accounts attempting to situate his theological and intellectual legacy against the backdrop of his life and times.

Rather than replicate the genre of personal tribute and wide-focus accounts of Ratzinger the man and his legacy, I wish to supply here instead a more content-driven summary of a theological vision that was centred on interpreting the Gospel above all through the lens of God’s love made flesh in Jesus Christ. What follows, then, is very forensic account of Ratzinger’s “gospel of love” as it shaped his account of Christian faith.

God is love

“God is love” may appear a very straightforward and obvious statement to the Christian. And yet what does it mean, exactly? What did it mean against the backdrop of ancient philosophy and religion? What did it mean throughout the tumultuous events in Church and culture that Ratzinger witnessed in the 20th century? In many of his writings in the late 1950s and early 60s Ratzinger was preoccupied with questions of belief and faith in a modern age of doubt and change. His Introduction to Christianity (1968), as well as many of the essays in Principles of Catholic Theology (1982) were born of this concern.

Time and time again in this period and beyond he would return to the question of whether belief in God is still possible today, and what it might mean amidst wars, revolutions, and ideologies that were shaking faith in a manner beyond the normal existential doubts and questioning of the individual—both inside and outside the Church. Conscious, first, of rotting Tridentine structures that no longer mediated a living faith and, second, of the danger of post-conciliar aggiornamento which threatened to absorb Christ into the fast-emerging secular zeitgeist of Modernity, Ratzinger felt the need to articulate anew the core Christian kerygma.

Central to the theological dimension of Ratzinger’s answer to this suite of concerns was his articulation of the primacy of love when it comes to speaking about God, man, and their relation. To speak of the truth and the reason of God, for him, meant above all speaking of his love. As he would explain in Introduction to Christianity, what makes Christianity unique is that “the God of faith is basically defined by the category of relationship” (147). This “corrects philosophy and lets us know that love is higher than pure thought.” It lets us know that God in himself is not thought thinking itself or the ground of sufficient reason but rather the eternal exchange of love.

This new discovery made by Christianity, thought Ratzinger, sparked a revolution not just for how man understands God, but also for how man comprehends himself and the entire cosmos. For if God is love, then the “logos of the whole world, the creative original thought is at the same time love” (148). What we take to be the truth cannot be measured only by man’s finite reason (which Ratzinger of course long confirmed was an essential instrument opening man to truth), but must now also account for the fact that the highest truth has in the Incarnate Son been revealed as an infinite and eternal love.

From here, Ratzinger would as pope, in his first encyclical Deus caritas est, make St. John’s words about love his own: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). That is to say, abiding in God, abiding in truth, means abiding in love. “These words,” argues Ratzinger, “express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny.” That “we have come to known and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16) would remain for Ratzinger a “skeleton key” of his soteriological and anthropological thought.

Love as event and encounter with a person

Love, of course, is not love unless there is encounter, dialogue, and exchange. To abide in God’s love implies that God has shared this love with us and expects our response. And this is what the Incarnation is all about: an event, the appearance of a person, God incarnate, in history, that brings the love of God into the world for us as gift and invitation. The event of the Incarnation of the Logos, says Ratzinger, is an “the Event of the new and unexpected” that has brought “eternity into time and time into eternity” (The Feast of Faith, 26). In the Incarnation, eternity comes to man as a person.

For this reason, Ratzinger saw the categories of encounter, relationship, and dialogue as fundamental for understanding the nature God’s revelation of himself to man. The God who is love in his own being gives himself to be known by establishing a relationship of love with us. Christian faith, therefore, the essential meaning of what it means to be a Christian, is “not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea” (Deus caritas est, 1). It is not reducible to a moral code (what Ratzinger would often call “moralism”) or to a metaphysical truth in the abstract. No, it is rather, in the much-quoted opening passage from Deus caritas est, “the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and decisive direction.”

The very nature of revelation, for Ratzinger, is thus at its heart an exchange of being, an encounter between God and man that does not impart mere information about God but starts a dialogue that aims at “unity and transformation,” as he expressed it in his commentary on Vatican II constitution Dei verbum. The consequence of this real encounter, relationship, and dialogue that allows a unity of love between God means that being a Christian simply means “having love,” as he put it in an early homily. Or, as he explained it in a meditation on Holy Saturday: “In the authenticity of his being [man] lives by the fact that he is loved and is himself given the faculty to love” (“Three Meditations on Holy Saturday”).

Christocentric love

The love of the Incarnate Logos that man is now capable of “having” or abiding in, for Ratzinger, features very specific lineaments if it is to be called true.

This love that man finds himself belonging to is not self-referential and unredeemed eros, where the tendency of desire is to overwhelm and erase the other. Rather, the agape of God in Christ is “concern and care for the other” that “seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice” (Deus caritas est, 6). And yet God is the lover who loves with perfect eros, who desires us and our salvation, and who empties himself in his agape for us.

In the Crucified One, then, eros and agape come together in the supreme act of love on the Cross in a “turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him” (Deus caritas est, 12). This, says Ratzinger, “is love in its most radical form,” the deepest meaning of the claim that God is love. In receiving and contemplating this love, “the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.”

Faith and conversion to love

Love therefore must always take the shape of apprenticing oneself to the Cross of Christ, and so growing more deeply into the image of Christ. Man “comes to himself by moving out beyond himself” and this happens when there is a “coinciding of God and man” (Introduction to Christianity, 235). This movement Ratzinger time and time again speaks of in the language of faith as conversion. He says that the credo of faith can “be literally translated by ‘I hand myself over to’ ‘I assent to’.” This, he continues, “signifies an all-encompassing movement of human existence…” (88).

Metanoia (conversion) represents the progressive movement that proportions man to love by an affirmation of faith that unfolds in its fullness within the continued response of his freedom. Metanoia is not therefore “just any Christian attitude but the fundamental Christian act per se… To be a Christian, one must change not just in some particular area but without reservation even to the innermost depths of one’s being” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 60). It means “humility in entrusting oneself to the love of the Other, a love that becomes the measure and criteria of my own life,” as he expressed it in a lecture on evangelization in the year 2000 (‘The New Evangelization: Building the Civilization of Love”).

Finally, it is metanoia, then, that “forms Christians and creates saints” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 66-7).

The blueprint and precedent for this movement of conversion that makes Christians and saints Ratzinger finds in the person of Christ himself, specifically, in the “mutual indwelling” of the human and divine natures in Christ (an emphasis he takes from Maximus the Confessor) that reaches its apogee in the Son’s prayer of obedience to the Father on the Cross: “Not what I will, but what though wilt” (Mk 14:36). To be true, to be perfectly proportioned to God, the love encountered in Christ must move towards participation in Christ’s perfect kenosis in obedience to the Father. For Christ “is the one who has moved right out beyond himself and, thus, the man who has truly come to himself.”

His prayer to the Father is thus the opening of his human nature to complete union with God: “By imparting his own I, his own identity, to this human being, he liberates him, redeems him, makes him God” (Behold the Pierced One, 47). Ratzinger calls the prayer of Jesus “freedom’s laboratory,” and claims that “[h]ere and nowhere else takes place that radical change in man of which we stand in need, that the world may become a better place” (42).

Eucharist as union of love

Christian prayer presupposes that there is an actual exchange of being going on between God and man when in prayer, like Christ, man aligns his will and freedom with God. It implies, therefore, the possibility of a “radical change” in man in consequence of this dialogue that in the humanity of Christ that now extend to all humanity. The source of possibility for this dialogue and radical change as the terminus of man’s movement toward God lies in the fact that Christ’s prayer to the Father that brings about God’s perfect act of saving love does not remain a mere exemplum “out there” to which man must from a distance and by his own powers emulate and attain.

It is at this point that we encounter Ratzinger’s robust sacramental theology as key to his account of how a relationship with Christ can transform and capacitate human nature.

The radical change that has become possible for us has its origins in the radical change effected by Christ’s perfect sacrifice of love. All of the partial and ultimately futile efforts of man to reconcile himself with God in the Old Covenant are overcome in Christ’s sacrifice which brings about a real reconciliation of man with God in and through his body. “With his Resurrection,” says Ratzinger, “the new Temple [the new dwelling place of God] will begin: the living body of Jesus Christ, which will now stand in the sight of God and be the place of all worship. Into this body he incorporates men. It is the tabernacle that no human hands have made, the place of true worship of God, which casts out the shadow and replaces it with reality” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 25).

This living body of Jesus Christ that is the new temple into which man is incorporated, so finding the reality of God, of course refers us in a fundamental way to the Eucharist, the sacrament of his passion, death, and resurrection, by which we are made contemporaries and participants in Christ’s sacrifice, and so truly encounter him there. The Eucharist, first, is real union with Christ. “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation,” says Ratzinger. “More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving” (Deus caritas est, 13). Eucharistic communion is the “fusion of existences” (Called to Communion, 37), “peak” revelation, we might say (if revelation is understood as unity and transformation), and Ratzinger, following St. Paul, adduces nuptial imagery to explain the nature of this union: the eucharistic communion of God and man is analogous to “what happens when a man and wife become one on the physical-mental-spiritual plane.” (“Eucharist and Mission,” in Joseph Ratzinger: Collected Works, 338).

Therefore, in encountering and receiving the eucharistic Lord, man is made a contemporary and participant in the mystery of Christ’s saving event of love and so finds here nourishment that will make possible that radical conversion (or transubstantiation, we could say) of his nature into Christ’s. “The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of ‘nuclear fission’ … which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28)” (Sacramentum caritatis, 11).

The Church as communio

As a consequence, the Eucharist is also the principle of the communion of the entire Church, those who are now united together by participating in the eucharistic feast and who really belong to Christ’s body. Above all else, then, Ratzinger says time after time, the Church is the communion of those united with the eucharistic Christ. “The Church is communio,” he stresses, “she is God’s communing with men in Christ and hence the communing of men with one another—and in consequence, sacrament, sign, instrument of salvation. The Church is the celebration of the Eucharist; the Eucharist is the Church; they do not simply stand side by side; they are one and the same” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 53). Sacramental communion, participation in sacrifice and prayer, defines the being of the Church and the members that constitute Her.

Of course, Ratzinger was not unaware that the communion of the Church is sadly more often than not marred by her members’ failures of love so to the detriment of Her communion. His 1985 book-length interview The Ratzinger Report featured a frank recognition and assessment of the ill-health of the Church, as did his much earlier (1958) reflections on “pagans” in the Church, where he said: “The outward shape of the modern Church is determined essentially by the fact that, in a totally new way, she has become the Church of pagans, and is constantly becoming even more so. She is no longer, as she once was, a Church composed of pagans who have become Christians, but a Church of pagans, who still call themselves Christians, but actually have become pagans” (“The New Pagans and the Church”).

If I may be permitted an aside, we might wish to say that because the Church is the body of Christ with Christ as her head it follows that the guarantee of the Church’s subsistence over time is also one about her sanctity. But, actually, the inexorably corrupt and depraved face of the Church in her members is explained better by reference to the centrality of the principle of communion than by any canonical or juridical abstraction. The Church is sinful, the Church is marred, precisely because and when the human subjects who compose her refuse love and fail in the “metanoiac” movement of their freedom toward it.

The opposite of communion, which brings persons together, is what tears us apart; in Pauline terms, “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Gal 5:20-21). St. Paul knows what he is talking about. This is the human, all too human reality of the Church that occurs when her members are no longer “in Christ,” when we refuse the Spirit who will guide us into the truth of the love of Christ. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:22-24). It’s always, apparently, a work in progress.

Baptism as sacramental metanoia

Which takes us back to the centrality of metanoia in Ratzinger’s thought. For the price of the failure of metanoia is eucharistic and ecclesial communio torn apart by the “flesh.” But it is here that baptism emerges for Ratzinger as a fundamental set-piece in the sacramental efficacy of faith where, in the mystery of really going down with Christ into death, the believer can rise up and truly be proportioned to eucharistic and ecclesial communion by the power of grace. Baptism is “initiation into a way of life” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 129), a process of immersion into a sacramental way of life that aims toward and makes possible “a process of conversion” and a “confession of faith” (124). Baptism can be the essential engine of conversion because in it the mystery of everything accomplished in Christ is given to the person as the gift of a sacramental identity.

“Being baptized,” explains Ratzinger, “means assuming the name of Christ, means becoming a son with and in him… For it demands that our existence become ‘sonlike’, that we belong so totally to God that we become an ‘attribute’ of God… Baptism means, then, that we lose ourselves as a separate, independent ‘I” and find ourselves again in a new ‘I’. It is the sacrament of death and—by that fact, but also only by that fact—the sacrament of resurrection” (33). Made sons in the Son by Baptism, the believer is granted entry into “Jesus’ relationship with God” (32).

And this returns us again to the fundamental posture of Jesus Christ the Son in relation to the Father: a loving yes. “If being baptized in the name of the triune God means man’s entrance into the Son’s existence,” Ratzinger notes, “we know from what has been said that this demands an existence centred around a prayerful communion with the Father” (32). Or, “[i]f this ‘yes’ of the Lord really penetrates me so that it makes my soul reborn,” he says (as it does in baptism), “then my own ego is saturated with him, is marked by sharing in him: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20)” (The Yes of Jesus Christ, 102). It is from this precisely baptismal point of radical transformation and conversion, then, that a perfect eucharistic communion can be attained.

From love to joy

The effect of perfect love is joy: delight in the beloved, thanksgiving in the Cross of Christ, joy in the communion of the Church. For Ratzinger, the message of Christianity is therefore glad tidings that evokes joy, because in union with Christ man finds his salvation and transformation. “Christianity is, by its very nature, joy—the ability to be joyful” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 81). Christianity is this joy, thinks Ratzinger, precisely because it is the fruit of the affirmation that God’s love brings to the person, that allows man to see himself as God sees him. Joy, as something that I feel, of a happiness that belongs to me, is the effect of the discovery of one’s dignity as known and loved by God. It is the discovery that it is good that I exist and that God loves me.

In this sense, “[t]he Cross, which was for Nietzsche the most detestable expression of the negative character of the Christian religion, is in truth the center of the evangelium: ‘It is good that you exist”—no, “It is necessary that you exist” (81). From this point of view, “the root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself” (79) for “if God loves us, then we are loved in truth. Then love is truth, and truth is love. Then life is worth living. This is the evangelium” (81). And so to baptismally encounter, abide in, and be transformed by God’s eucharistic love in the communion of the Church is to experience joy and so offer a thanksgiving of praise.

In conclusion, Ratzinger’s gospel of love witnesses to the fact that there might still be good reasons to have faith, even when everything seems hollow and broken, and when joy may seem hard to find. After all, this is the gospel of a love that is not rainbows and butterflies, but whose supreme triumph comes in the moment when all seems lost. For it was only by Christ’s apparent failure, by his descent into death and to hell, by the mysterious loss of God’s power and divinity, that love could penetrate into the darkest separation and solitude and so bring the triumph of life.

“From the moment there is the presence of love in death’s sphere,” says Ratzinger, “then life penetrates death… Man’s insuperable solitude was overcome from the moment He entered it. Hell was beaten from the moment love entered the region of death and the no man’s land of solitude was inhabited by him” (“Three Meditations on Holy Saturday”).

Precisely in the suffering and death of the Cross, then, is a vision of that love alone that is credible, to borrow a phrase from Hans Urs von Balthasar. Ratzinger’s gift to us is a vision of an encounter with love that makes it possible to still believe that Christ can truly conquer the depths of evil and suffering in my life and in the Church’s, and so transform man and the Church into a new creation. Whether we know it or not, the embers of this love lie deep within the stillness and silence of the hidden Church’s faithfulness to Christ, the Church that Ratzinger once prophesied would become small and would lose much.

What matters for us today is our ability to perceive and encounter love even through suffering and crisis, through the many Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays that we are not spared. Ratzinger’s gospel of love reminds us that where there is the encounter with a person, where there is participation in Christ’s prayer to the Father, where there is the movement of a metanoia that goes down with Christ into death, where there are even just a few believers united in the communio of the Church, there can still be encountered the joy of being personally and eternally loved by God.

This is how I will remember Ratzinger.

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About Conor Sweeney 4 Articles
Dr. Conor Sweeney is associate professor of theology at Christendom College. He has a licentiate and doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Roman session of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. He is the author of Sacramental Presence after Heidegger (2015), Abiding the Long Defeat (2018), and The Politics of Conjugal Love (2019).


  1. Aside from ‘rotting Tridentine structures’ that preserved the essence of the faith during adversity, new visions including those of Josef Ratzinger return to a single truth, ‘Concern and care for the other that seeks the good of the beloved’.
    Before Ratzinger there was the German, largely Jewish school of thought at Gottingen. Among them was an agnostic Lutheran German Martin Heidegger whose thesis in Being and Time was that Being, which defies conceptualization, is best realized in man’s ‘concern’ for the other. It differentiates him from the remainder. Whether that idea was entirely his is unknown, except that Edith Stein who was with Edmund Husserl seeking a new, intellectually affirmative definition of existence wrote similarly prior to publication of Being and Time in her short piece The Problem of Empathy. She identified empathy for the other as knowledge that is sui generis in restoring the epistemological link [destroyed by Kant] between man and the perceived world.
    While Ratzinger opened pathways in contemporary language for Christianity in the modern world he likely drew much from what preceded, and the treasury of philosophical theological exploration by his close compatriot Karol Wojtyla who had a deep relationship and commitment to that school of thought [that notably included Max Scheler and his influence in Stein’s conversion to Catholicism] at Gottingen. Perhaps a hermeneutic of Christian love. Our love for the other, today our very enemies, purveyors of death and perversity, are the others we are called to lay our lives down for, as did Christ for each of us.

    • A word of interest on the different concepts of time in Heidegger and in Pope Francis. Dasein, is Heidegger’s theme of being in the world that references Man as the most manifest appearance of being. Man’s propensity of concern for others distinguishes him from all other world entities. For Heidegger, subject [man] object [external world] are inseparable from an objective history and tradition. Time is the moment, or distance from Dasein to death.
      Whereas Pope Francis’ concept of time as greater than space is focused on initiating processes rather than space and power (Australian Jesuits). Francis’ concept of time and space appears to be his own.

      • Fr., don’t mean to be critical – observing, as the word rushes to my lips. Existentialism.

        Louis of Granada had prophetically described an essential fourfold combat for the Church: against interiorism, quietism, humanism, external justifying.

  2. Matthew 3:9
    And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

    Imagine if God made Saints in Heaven out of rocks. Rocks have no free-will. Rocks cannot sin. All hatred, sin, death and damnation would have never existed, if God had made Saints out of Rocks. Jesus would not have had to die on the cross to save a pile of Rocks.

    The problem is that Rocks were never created in the ‘Divine Image of God’. God’s Divine Image has the capacity to love. Rocks do not have the capacity to love. To give a Rock the capacity to love, God would have to give Rocks free-will so that the Rock itself could choose to love. The only way a Rock could choose to love is for the Rock to have the capacity to also choose not to love. Thus God created man in His own Divine Image, and not Rocks.

    Genesis 1:27
    God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

    To obey God is to love God. To sin is hatred for God. The only thing in existence worth allowing free will, through which all hatred, sin, death and damnation flows, is the glorious free-willed gift of love to God.

    John 14:15
    If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

    John 15:22
    If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father. If I had not come to them and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; now, however, their sin cannot be excused. To hate me is to hate my Father. If I had not works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church; Ten Commandments
    Catechism 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law: The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    1 John 5:3
    For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome

  3. Thinking even more about the “other” and the “Other”, Ratzinger arrived at an incisive critique of the overly influential peritus, Karl Rahner. So, here, a rich but long quote, a short lift-out, and then a question:

    FIRST, “. . . Rahner’s intermingling of history and being in the concept of the ‘Absolute Bringer of salvation’ leads to a spirituality of self-affirmation and the identification of ‘humanness’ as such with the notion of what it means to be Christian [….] He has, so to speak, sought for a philosophical and theological world formula on the basis of which the whole of reality can be deduced cohesively from necessary causes [….] [today, think theological AI?]
    “But revelation has given us no world formula. Such a concept is plainly counter to the mystery of freedom [….] This means, in turn, that man does not find salvation in a reflective finding of himself but in the being-taken-out-of-himself that goes beyond reflection–not in continuing to be himself, but in going out from himself [….] Such a philosophy of freedom and love is, at the same time, a philosophy of conversion [not aggregation and convergence?], of going out from oneself, of transformation; it is truly free.
    “Man finds his center of gravity, not inside, but outside himself [….] Ultimately, the tension between ontology and history [!] has its foundation [see below] in the tension within human nature itself [human nature, what’s that?], which must go out of itself in order to find itself; it has its foundation in the mystery of God [!], which is freedom and which, therefore, calls each individual [!] by a name that is known to no other…” (Ratzinger, “Principles of Catholic Theology,” German 1982, Ignatius, 1987, pp. 168-171).

    SECOND, “The tension between ontology and history,” not the exploitable (and Kantian and Hegelian?) “time is greater than space.” And “human nature,” not apparent/“pastoral” exemptions from the moral absolutes reaffirmed in Veritatis Splendor.

    A QUESTION: Mention of Edith Stein (by Fr. Morello) reminds that when the emaciated Holocaust survivors were liberated, they often died because fed too much, too fast…Instead, transitional sips of thin broth…

    Might we suppose—in our fractious world and Church and history of spiritual starvation and mis-catechesis—that synodal proceduralism is initially a compassionate first step toward ecclesial healing? In preparation for conversion and then well-armed encounter with the world? Might we suppose? The thin broth of ambiguity first, however contaminated by German tribal indelicacies? Then real meat, again, someday in the future? Maybe…

    Butt, then, WHAT OF the four exploitable and Rahnerian (?) principles (Evangelii Gaudium, 2013): “time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas, and the whole is greater than the part?”

    • Auspicious Beaulieu. I wanted to go home early but now you present a space for me to share my thoughts of last weekend.

      The temptation in the Garden of Eden was very intense and compact. As a result when temptations come at us in the state of our fallen nature, they blur our perception further, particularly when they are overlaid one on the other and/or coincide in some medium (eg., time). Our Saviour Jesus Christ used the Devils in the Temptations in the Desert, to unpack temptation and expose confluence, how they can “conspire”. God is always at the lead of our exodus!

      The 4 aphorisms can’t help since temptation is already involved on both sides of the each pair of items. It’s something we have to face with Jesus Christ and not just with pragmatic “spirit”. And none of the ones that are proposed to take charge or be put in charge, i.e., time, whole, unity, reality ….. is God. Similarly with Ratzinger, his insight is NOT merely a counter-philosophical positioning to Rahner. Ratzinger exposes Rahner’s Fate: Heretic.

      While the 4 aphorisms lend to empiricisms; yet they do not even necessarily foster the pragmatism they seem to suggest nor can they compose either. They also set up an exclusion zone to other parts of thought (and reality) that have application. They sound like they are “open” and have authentic sequencing but they are reductive and untrue/fragmenting to the metaphysical. A mishmash.

      Truth reveals distortions and appearances in reality and ideas.

      Universals sustain the whole and the parts in right order.

      Nature equally preserves time and space.

      Virtue is as important in unity as in conflict.

      My thought includes a meditation I experienced at an earlier moment some years ago. There were 3 “captain” devils in the Desert Temptations. Lucifer mobilized different devil bands for each of the 3 individual Temptations, with each band of devils having its own jefe. And behind it all was Lucifer with the engineering, distinctiveness, sequencing – himself “being in hiding” veiled in (the) deceit. 3 jefes and 1 Lucifer. Each of the 3 jefes got to play Lucifer for a day.

      Sir, you gave access to this place where time comes to fruition and space magnifies glory forever. God bless you.

  4. “The words of the Master flowed more freely once the restraint of the traitor had been removed. Furthermore, the departure of Judas on his mission of betrayal brought the Cross within a measurable distance of Our Lord. He now spoke to His Apostles as if He was feeling the crossbeams. If His death would be glorifying, it must have been because something would be done by it which was not a accomplished by His words and miracles, and His healing of the sick. ALL THROUGH HIS LIFE HE HAD BEEN TRYING TO COMMUNICATE HIS LOE FOR MANKIND, but it was not until His Body, like the alabaster box, would be broken, that the perfume of His love would pervade the universe. He said also that, in His Cross God the Father was glorified. This was because His Father did not spare His own Son, but offered Him to save man.” Once we grasp and open our heart to this LOVE of an Almighty God toward His divine design creatures, your relationship with God will change; now you live to return love in a personal encounter and act for love of Him. No longer will one receive divine Communion like an eternal life insurance. (Excerpt of Abp Fulton Sheen: Life of Christ, The divine lover’s farewell)

  5. I am pretty sure that Heidegger was born and raised Catholic.
    Since and including German Idealism, I think that Heidegger is the only German philosopher of the very top rank who was Catholic. As such, he does not fall into the scope of Nietzsche’s remark that if you scratch the skin of a German philosopher what you find underneath is a Lutheran theologian (I think this was the gist of it).
    I suspect that there is something in Heidegger’s Catholicism, which of course was nowhere explicit in his adult writings from beginning to end, that makes his understanding of Being so appealing to so many. But it obviously not attention to love, which is notable for its absence in his work, unless care is its expression.

  6. Existentialism as existentialism meaning focus on the current reality was an adverse [to Christianity] philosophy Sartre, Camus et al. However, the school of Existential Phenomenology initiated by Edmund Husserl at Gottingen was an attempt to reestablish the primacy of existence, in context of the content of sensible perception [the issue of the Kantian phenomenon, the presumed construct of the mind, and the reality of the noumenon, what the mind is incapable of knowing].
    Heidegger was more an existential metaphysician so to speak who realized we can’t conceptualize Being. Whereas the nuclei surrounding Husserl’s school of thought, Edith Stein, Max Scheler later drew the attention of the young Karol Wojtyla who was drawn to Stein’s conversion to Catholicism and martyrdom at Auschwitz. And Scheler, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, who was censured by German hierarchy for his emphasis on the greater good. Wojtyla studied his work and defended it in his second doctoral thesis [the terminology ‘the acting person’ was originated by Max Scheler]. Wojtyla as a young priest [his work in the field is incorporated in the Analecta Husserliana] and later as a supreme pontiff uses much of the conceptual language of the existential phenomenologists in his major works in couching them for the language of the modern world.

  7. I venture some exploratory comment/sharing about Scheler from an untrained perspective.

    The overall problem with phenomenology is disembodiment, an original Descartes derangement progressing down via Kant. Unless you move away from this as a philosopher it remains impossible to have a complete and sensible “Christian ethics” or right philosophy.

    In Scheler’s case, Scheler sought to distinguish his phenomenology by “psychic technique” not strictly rationalist and in any event he predetermines his “values” – or, “values” – through phenomenological “unadulterated consciousness” said to be “intuitional”. The Descartes disease of abstraction continues to debilitate.

    Scheler can be commended for wanting to express a way to retrieve the human person from the developing utilitarian extremes of the age in which he lived. Hence he would stress things like love, ethics, spirit, personalism.

    I do not know what JPII’s arguments were but there could thus be the possibility of historical review based from experience over time. Many philosophies reveal their defects by their practical results.

    Also, from what I have read so far on Scheler, he carries the defect common to all phenomenology: in the timeline of history it can devolve into a basement-stairs to Positivism, or a ceiling hatch to Rationalism, or a sitting room for Existentialism, or a back-door to Modernism, etc., or some combinations or other arrangement.

    It would depend on whose hands it falls into and how they size up their circumstances and horizons.

    Finally, laudable elements could imply good consequences but the particular phenomenology displays a lack of internal coherence; perhaps reflected in Scheler’s own distracted and haphazard life decisions or adventures.

    ‘ Love and hate are to be distinguished from sensible and even psychical feelings; they are, instead, characterized by an intentional function (one always loves or hates something) and therefore must belong to the same anthropological sphere as theoretical consciousness and the acts of willing and thinking. Scheler, therefore calls love and hate, “spiritual feelings,” and are the basis for an “emotive a priori” insofar as values, through love, are given in the same manner as are essences, through cognition. In short, love is a value-cognition, and insofar as it is determinative of the way in which a philosopher approaches the world, it is also indicative of a phenomenological attitude. ‘ (WIKIPEDIA)

    ‘ He also criticized the foundational role assigned by Husserl to “sensory intuition” and “judgmental” phenomenological method; any such method, Scheler claimed, presupposes a grasp of the phenomena it aims to investigate. Instead, Scheler proposed a “psychic technique” similar to that practiced by the Buddha, which involved temporarily suspending all vital energy, or “impulsion” (Drang). Impulsion is the nonphysical life energy that propels all biological motion and growth, up to and including all activities of the mind. According to Scheler, only by temporarily suspending impulsion would one be able to achieve pure intuitions of an unadulterated consciousness. Thus, whereas Husserl’s phenomenology was methodological, Scheler’s, because of the technique of suspension of impulsion, was intuitional. ‘ (BRITANNICA)

    • Elias. It was already conceded in my comment that Husserl’s existential phenomenology proceeded from Kant’s false assumption of the phenomenon. It’s facile to quote Wikipedia to support your initial criticism of an honest philosophical movement, existential phenomenology to retrieve truth. Have you read John Paul II The Acting Person, or his thesis on Scheler?. Will you offer the same criticism of Stein’s The Problem of Empathy?
      Your effort doesn’t make you appear a scholar, defender of truth, or a person prepared to accept the good that resulted, the acknowledgment Scheler has received, or the journey to sainthood of Edith Stein.

      • Yes, it’s true, it’s the first time I heard about Scheler but as you see from the information available in WIKI etc., ideas can flow in different directions.

        True too: if the philosophy is too mental it’s bound to cause problems; attempts to ameliorate can’t re-do that. I don’t mean to be the scholar who said so!

        More generally, it’s interesting how people find Aquinas troublesome but these other thorny philosophers somehow are supposed to be accepted as more readable.

        • Appreciate this response Elias. My acknowledgement of the good intent of Husserl and those involved in existential phenomenology as an attempt to resolve the Descartes, Hume, Kantian disparity between our perception and the certitude of its object, the external world, their error the assumption of Kant’s notion of the phenomenon as their first premise of investigation isn’t an endorsement. St Thomas, for example, in the Summa frequently quotes Islamic philosopher and Aristotelian scholar Ibn Rushd, where he has insight, although he doesn’t endorse his entire opus. And yes, phenomenology and existentialism have caused much disorder in thought and ethical judgment. Aquinas has been my mainstay ever since I studied for my doctorate at the Angelicum.
          I had studied most of the modern philosophers of note but had settled on Aristotle which eventually led to Aquinas. Your take on today’s resistance to Aquinas is both prejudice and ignorance. Most don’t really understand him. Much of that stems from the aforementioned disparity of our sensible perception and knowledge of the external world. That first principle of all knowledge if denied leads to idealism and intellectual invention.

          • I must defend the ordinary meaning and outflow of what I’ve offered, Fr.

            Aquinas suffers much because the Church has awarded him a primacy. The difficulty people have with it is from prejudice but not necessarily from ignorance. I don’t accept that I can be held in this as ignorant and prejudiced. Rather I am exactly right in what I said, I think.

            Different philosophers like Aristotle, Ibn Rushd, etc., offer possibilities for showing what is good in what they propose, as well as what is not so good and what is bad. Aquinas never ruled this out and further as I read him, many of the points he drew forth were precisely about countering their own errors and gaps -or errors and gaps common everywhere that also affected them.

            Some of the philosophers have a hidden agenda, such as ones who were or are in the Lodge and never declare their true ambit. This is not something so affecting the likes of Aristotle or Ibn Rushd. In such as these latter ones it is possible to measure what they outline with their society and lived reality.

            Your own remarks here and there support or lend to my assessments of Scheler! Ha ha ha!

            Lest it gets less than it deserves, I want to now reassert the basic Descartes pathology I positioned at the outset: synthetic intellectualism. This is worth remembering. I don’t mean to direct this idea at you/against you. I say it is worth remembering because, it remains at the root of thinking for so many philosophical endeavours ensuing, through so many centuries.

            They want to make so much about evolution but not acknowledge and come to the unsurpassed achievement of Aquinas and through him the Church. Meanwhile their “evolution” degrades and they insist on complexing various discourse with it! In this sense some are progressively removing themselves from the light the Almighty infused in Aquinas and sustained in him.

          • Your ending paragraph is true. Ignorance and prejudice does not cover all rationale for rejecting Aquinas, therefore I agree there are those who have an agenda [that was clear when recently Aquinas’ Eucharistic diagram transubstantiation, which I defended was attacked, written off as obsolete] . Also, You seem to include yourself in my sentence beginning with “Your take”, which was poorly worded. I hadn’t intended to include you among the ignorant and prejudiced.
            Where I do take issue with you is your criticism of Husserl, Stein, Scheler. Of course they started from a false premise, the Kantian phenomenon. John Paul II had interest in reconciling the good intent of the existential phenomenologists. In his works in that regard, one the Acting Person [the Polish original doesn’t precisely say acting person] John Paul reinterpreted what was positive in Scheler, filtering it [using the terminology of existential phenomenology] through the lens of Thomas Aquinas. He performed a very valuable work in redirection, affirming persons in this world, from where they were at [Aquinas throughout his work doesn’t simply correct others, he clearly affirms that which is manifestly good]. Too many are hostile to any attempt of that kind, quick to condemn, considering it heterodox and modernism. This is what I occasionally experience.
            Finally, in your ending paragraph, which I agree with, you do an injustice if you include the initial momentum in modern philosophy to reconsider and correct Kant and the tradition of epistemological skepticism beginning with Descartes. Whether Louis of Granada prophesied the dangers of existentialism compelling you to warn me, it would have been better to say precisely what it was that was said besides the word existentialism, since I was talking about existential phenomenology.

  8. God has done great things for the believer. Perhaps the quid pro quo is that we exercise our faith. Faith comes by hearing and God is the author and perfecter of our faith! Our role is to confess our sins and to take up the works prepared in advance for us to perform.

    God gives us works that bless others and remind us that He works within us to will and to do. Let us honour Him for He alone is worthy!

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