Monday, September 18, 2006

Bainbridge on B-16's Remarks

Steve Bainbridge is a UCLA Law Prof, Catholic, and wine-nut. He's also well-informed. In his article (TCS Daily) on the (now-deadly) kerfuffle, he begins at the beginning with B-16's thoughts: 2002, when presenting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Declaration "Dominus Iesus": On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, the then-Cardinal condemned the belief that "all religions are equally valid roads to salvation for their followers." He explained:

"This is a widespread conviction today not only in theological environments, but also in ever greater sectors of Catholic and non-Catholic public opinion, especially those most influenced by the cultural orientation that prevails in the West today, which can be defined, without the fear of contradiction, by one word: relativism."

In turn, he argued, relativism leads ineluctably to the "refusal to identify the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth with the very reality of God, the living God."

In reality, Benedict XVI (then-Ratzinger) is no fan of relativism, nor of syncretism.

This is a "hard teaching," insofar as it is also a slap at the West's 'anything goes, just be nice' "theology."

But no one in Omaha or Nashville, or California has shot a nun, nor kidnapped a priest.

If rejecting the relativism constitutes a shot across Islam's bow, that shot also crosses any number of other bows. In the Regensburg speech, the Pope staked out a set of claims about the relationship of man and God that stand in opposition not only to the Islam of Ibn Hazn, but also that of the Protestant Reformers, the Jesus of History crowd, and (an area of particular concern for this pope) post-Christian Europe. The Pope renewed the claims of the Church Universal to have a truth that is transcendent, rather than culturally-bound:

"True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself."

Islam was not his only target. He said:

"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

I read that line as a shot across the bow of post-Christian Europe -- a warning that Europe increasingly lacks the tools demanded to meet the threats of the day. Hence, the speech implicitly recalls what may be the ultimate goal of Benedict's pontificate; namely, calling Europe back to Christ.

There's a reason that Josef Ratzinger chose the name "Benedict." And Bainbridge just identified it.

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