Saturday, April 23, 2005

Richard Weaver & Benedict XVI

I continue to find the same thoughts in diverse places. At a St. Patrick's Seminary lecture in Menlo Park, CA, in February 1999, visiting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delivered a lecture, The Dictatorship of Appearances. What follows here comes from an article written in San Francisco Faith by George Neumayr and Al Delgado.

The visiting cardinal, who is the Pope's chief doctrinal adviser, said modern philosophical and theological inquiry places greater importance on the historical and cultural context of an author's writings than on the truth those writings may contain. He said the truth of the Gospel transcends the particular characteristics of different cultures, drawing all people to the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.

"Behind this form of 'historical interpretation' lies a philosophy, a fundamental perspective on reality, which says it is in fact pointless to ask about what is; we can only ask ourselves what we are able to do with things. The issue is not truth, but praxis, the domination of things for our needs," said Ratzinger. The cardinal said the modern attitude toward knowledge contains a "false humility," denying the human person's capacity for truth and a "false presumption, by which one places one's self above things, above truth itself, while, at the same time, making the extension of one's power, one's domination over things, the objective of one's thought."

And what I think is the pivotal paragraph from the article (italics mine) :

Ratzinger said the Pope's encylical encourages humanity to use reason once again "in the adventure of searching for truth." "Man is not trapped in a hall of mirrors of interpretations...Man must ask who he really is and what he is to do; he must ask whether there is a God; who God is, and what the world is. The one who no longer poses these questions is by that very fact bereft of any standard or path," said the cardinal.

And I've started to read Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard Weaver, (biographical information here). From the introduction the same ideas.

"Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would only abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence....It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominialism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one's view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of what is real, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we are on the road to modern empiricism.

And " is no matter for surprise that, when we ask people even to consider the possibility of decadence, we meet incredulity and resentment. We must consider that we are in effect asking for a confession of guilt and an acceptance of sterner obligations; we are making demands in the name of the ideal or the suprapersonal and we cannot expect more cordial welcome than disturbers of complacency have received in any other age. "

Press complaints about Benedict XVI,' the enforcer of doctrine', his 'refusal to change church doctrine,' his refusal to condone this or that modern sensual indulgence, were as cordial a welcome as could be extended. Truth was abandoned in favor of style, or cool, or inclusiveness and diversity. I expect truth to return, yet in the meantime expect greater ugliness as the soothsayers of denial ratchet up the clamor for Barrabas.

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