Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Faithful Light: Benedict’s Brilliance Illuminates New Encyclical

NEWS ANALYSIS: With his first encyclical, Pope Francis facilitates the completion of his predecessor’s trilogy about the theological virtues.

07/10/2013, National Catholic Register
Pope Benedict XVI in 2006
– Wikicommons

On the eve of his election to the papacy in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism.” He spent the following eight years returning to the theme, explaining how, if nothing is acknowledged as objectively real, then competing views cannot be evaluated against the standard of truth, to judge which is valid. Instead, the only way to resolve disputes becomes an assertion of power — whether tyrannical or clothed in democratic processes — and, hence, the door to dictatorship is opened.
What, then, can liberate us from this dictatorship? The truth can set us free, and to know the fullness of truth about man and his place in the world requires faith or knowledge of those truths which need to be revealed to us.
At the end of his pontificate, Benedict XVI was working on an encyclical on faith, to complete the “trilogy” on the theological virtues, having written previous ones on love (Deus Caritas Est, 2005) and hope (Spe Salvi, 2007). After his renunciation of the papacy, he left the text to his successor, and Pope Francis, having made some minor emendations, published it as his first encyclical under the title Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith).
Lumen Fidei is clearly Benedict’s work, written in the sublime style perfected by Joseph Ratzinger over a lifetime of limpid theological work and biblical preaching. It is “Benedict’s” finest encyclical, even though it carries Francis’ name. Much has been made of Pope Francis’ humility in irrelevant things, like what shoes he wears or whether he does tasks his staff could handle for him. A more impressive mark of humility is publishing as his first encyclical the work of another man, a man whose writing and insight is singular in his generation.

Relativism’s Bleak Landscape
Lumen Fidei first sketches the bleak landscape left by the dictatorship of relativism, which regards faith with suspicion, as it sees as a threat any claim to know the truth with certainty.
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Father Raymond J. de Souza is editor in chief of Convivium magazine.
He was the Register’s Rome correspondent from 1998-2003.

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