The Faith Imperilled by Reason

Benedict’s Thinking – IV

Benedict’s Thinking – IV posted in Eleison Comments on July 30, 2011

In the fourth and last part of this overview of Bishop Tissier’s Faith Imperilled by Reasonthe Bishop pronounces judgment upon Pope Benedict XVI’s system of re-interpreting the Catholic Faith in order to make it more accessible to modern man. Defenders of the Pope might accuse the Bishop of presenting only one side of the Pope’s thinking, but that side is there, and the Bishop is right to bring it out into the open, and to show its coherence as a system of error, because the more truth is mixed with it, the better disguised it will be, and the more damage it can do to the salvation of souls.

In Chapter IX of his tract, Bishop Tissier shows how the Pope changes what Catholics believe in, and why. True Catholics believe in the Articles of Faith as defined by the Church, which they accept because of the objective authority of God revealing them. But to Benedict this seems an abstract religion of cold definitions, so instead he will say, “Faith is a meeting with Jesus, a person, the presence of God, a presence of love.” Now belief changed in this way may feel more warm and personal, but it also risks being the vague fruit of personal experience, based on subjective feelings, which are unreliable. But who really wants a tottering bridge to Heaven, just because it feels good?

In Chapter X the Bishop goes on to show how the whole system of belief totters which emerges from this change, because Benedict’s recipe for a felt Catholicism is to purify dogmas of their non-essential past, and enrich them with a more understanding awareness drawn from the present. But the prime former of present-day awareness is the philosopher Kant, followed by Benedict, who holds that God cannot be proved, but only postulated or fabricated according to men’s needs, which take the place of objective realities. In any such world, how many people will postulate God at all? Small wonder if in 1996 Cardinal Ratzinger foresaw a dim future for the Church.

In his Afterword, Bishop Tissier concludes that the synthesis between modernity and Catholicism being subjectively sought for by Benedict’s imperative need for a reconciliation between his Catholic heart and his modern head, is impossible. For instance, the Pope wants to believe that the Rights of Man, idolized in every democracy of today, are merely the up-dating of Christianity, but they are in fact its death. Implicit in their logic is a declaration of independence from God, and of liberation from all constriction by any God-given human nature. They are in fact an atom bomb in modern man’s war on God, a keystone in the New World Order.

So the Pope, says the Bishop, must put no hopes for upholding the world in any such “mutual purification and regeneration” of religion and reason in view of their “mutual enrichment.” When it comes to religion, secularized reason has little or nothing of value to offer, and all attempts of Catholic theologians to come to terms with it will collapse like a house of cards, just like the New World Order that such theologians are hoping to serve. And the Bishop gives to St. Paul the last word – “For other foundations no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus” (I Cor.III, 11).

Bishop Tissier’s complete tract has been available in French, but it may for the moment be out of print. English and Italian translations are accessible on the Internet.

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – III

Benedict’s Thinking – III posted in Eleison Comments on July 23, 2011

After studying the roots of Pope Benedict’s thinking (EC 209), Bishop Tissier in his Faith Imperilled by Reason proceeds to study its fruits. If that thinking is rooted above all in the systematic subjectivism of Kant (1724–1804), those fruits cannot be good. How can the objective truths of the Faith be made in any way intrinsically dependent on the participation or reactions of the subjective believer? The Gospel, dogma, the Church, society, Christ the King and the Last Ends will be, one after another, mortally stricken.

Let us start with the Gospel. Its value lies no longer in telling the historical facts of the life and death of Our Lord, but rather in the power of its narrative to evoke existential problems of our own time. For instance whether Our Lord’s very own body sprang re-united with his human soul out of the tomb on Easter morning is not important. What matters is the modern meaning behind the narrative: love is stronger than death, Christ lives on by the force of love, and guarantees that we too will survive by love. Forget the reality or the facts. “All you need is love.”

Dogma needs likewise to be purified of the past and enriched by the present. Now the present-day philosopher Heidegger teaches that the person is a “self-surpassing.” Then Christ was the man so totally self-surpassing, so completely striving for the infinite beyond himself, that he fulfilled himself to the point of becoming divine. So the dogma of the Incarnation no longer means that God became man, but that man became God! Similarly the Redemption must mean no longer that Jesus paid to his Father by his terrible Passion the debt for all men’s sins, but that by his Cross he loved God in our stead as God should be loved, and he attracts us to do the same. Sin has ceased to be a mortal offence against God, it is merely a selfishness, a lack of love. So Mass no longer needs to be a sacrifice, and the priest becomes merely the animator of the communal celebration. No wonder Benedict believes in the Novus Ordo Mass.

As for the Church, since the existent person is the supreme value (cf. EC 209) and all persons are equally existent, then away with a Church of hierarchical inequalities, and away with the Catholic Church as the one and only Ark of Salvation, because the followers of every religion are existent persons. Let ecumenism replace all Catholic missionary efforts. Also, making the person into the supreme value will dissolve society by subordinating the common good to the individual’s rights, and it will undermine both marriage and society by putting the mutual company of the male and female persons in front of children. As for Christ the King, he will be dethroned by the bestowing upon every person such dignity that the State must protect that person’s right to choose his own religion.

Finally death, from a penalty, becomes a remedy for our ills. The particular judgment means only a reward. Hell is no more than an irrevocably selfish state of soul. Heaven will be “an ever new immersion in the infinity of being” – what being? – and so on. Here is a new religion, comments Bishop Tissier, rather more comfortable – at least vhere below – than the Catholic religion.

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – I

Benedict’s Thinking – I posted in Eleison Comments on July 9, 2011

The “Eleison Comments” of June 18 promised a series of four numbers which would show how “disoriented” is Pope Benedict XVI’s “way of believing.” They present in fact a summary of the precious tract on his thinking written a few years ago by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four bishops of the Society of St Pius X. The Bishop’s tract, The Faith Imperilled by Reason, he calls “unpretentious,” but it does lay bare the Pope’s fundamental problem – how to believe in the Catholic Faith in such a way as not to exclude the values of the modern world. The tract shows that such a way of believing is necessarily disoriented, even if the Pope does still in some way believe.

It divides into four parts. After an important Introduction to Benedict XVI’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” Bishop Tissier looks briefly at the philosophical and theological roots of the Pope’s thinking. Thirdly he lays out its fruits for the Gospel, for dogma, for the Church and society, for the Kingship of Christ and for the Last Things. He concludes with a measured judgment upon the Pope’s Newfaith, highly critical but wholly respectful. Let us start with an overview of the Introduction:—

The basic problem for Benedict XVI, as for all of us, is the clash between the Catholic Faith and the modern world. For instance he sees that modern science is amoral, that modern society is secular and modern culture is multi-religious. He specifies the clash as being between Faith and Reason, between the Faith of the Church, and Reason as worked out by the 18th century Enlightenment. However, he is convinced that they can and must both be interpreted in such a way as to bring them into harmony with one another. Hence his close participation in Vatican II, a Council which attempted to reconcile the Faith with today’s world. But Traditionalists say that the Council failed, because its very principles are irreconcilable with the Faith. Hence Pope Benedict’s “Hermeneutic of Continuity,” or system of interpretation to show that there is no rupture between Catholic Tradition and Vatican II.

The principles for Benedict’s “hermeneutic” go back to a German historian of the 19th century, Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911). Dilthey maintained that as truths arise in history, so they can only be understood in their history, and human truths cannot be understood without the involvement of the human subject in that history. So to continue the core of past truths into the present, one needs to subtract all elements belonging to the past, now irrelevant, and replace them with elements important for the living present. Benedict applies to the Church this double process of purification and enrichment. On the one hand Reason must purify the Faith of its errors from the past, e.g. its absolutism, while on the other hand the Faith must get Reason to moderate its attacks on religion and to remember that its humanist values, liberty, equality and fraternity, all originated in the Church.

The great error here of the Pope is that the truths of the Catholic Faith on which Christian civilization was built and on which its feeble remains still rest, have their origin by no means in human history, but in the eternal bosom of the unchanging God. They are eternal truths, from eternity, for eternity. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” says Our Lord, (MtXXIV,35). Neither Dilthey nor, apparently, Benedict XVI can conceive of truths far above human history and above all its conditioning. If the Pope thinks that by making such concessions to faithless Reason, he will draw its adherents towards the Faith, let him think again. They merely despise Faith the more!

Next, the philosophical and theological roots of Benedict’s thinking.

Kyrie eleison.