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February 14, 2006



The choice is not between a "dance" with "all" the currents of modern thought and a rigid unthinking fortress mentality. This is a false dichotomy. The way you frame the debate reminds me of what seems so destructive in much modern theology--the inability to sense that there could ever, under any circumstances, be something REAL that would be lost or betrayed. A real "center" sometimes dances and sometimes defends. But if it insists that a patient, open discussion in which much can be learned from outside is necessary, it also preserves unsullied the knowledge that there is sometimes something to defend.

Ratzinger seems to me to be dancing with many, many currents of modern thought, but to be able to distinguish between dancing partners and seductive sirens. He also seems able to understand that sometimes what seems obvious to "modern thought" may be silly and dangerous. So, many of us who tend to be TOO defensive can learn things from him that we wouldn't easily learn from others because we TRUST him. And for good reason.


Great article. Thanks, father.

Spirit of Vatican II

I have revised the piece somewhat.


Why all the Derridic mumbo jumbo on the Symposium? It appeared in a large footnote in Introduction to Christianity way back in 1968. Not exactly a Quelle Surprise moment, despite what Andrew Sullivan thinks. The influence of Josef Pieper is surely obvious.


“The Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God’s plans or correct what he has foreseen."

We do not pray to change divine decree, but only to obtain what God has decided will be obtained through prayer. In other words, as St. Gregory says,

"By asking, men deserve to receive what the all-powerful God has decreed from all eternity to give them."

St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II, II, Q.83, art. 2


"Remarkable in this is an almost Calvinist sense of the sovereignty of God,"


He is referring to negative theology and likely making a generalization as to the connaturality of knowledge of God by saints and sinners alike while avoiding the Thomistic categories.

Spirit of Vatican II

He refers to a "negative theology" statement of Augustine but descants from it to something quite different. I don't see that what he says has anything to do with "connaturality of knowledge of God". Rather it is about bowing before the inscrutable will of God in situations of great distress.

I'll look up the Symposium note in Intro to Xty; the 2002 statement on the Phaedrus seems to me to go further along the lines of Sulllivan's intuition. Nothing Derridian about this -- just noting that Benedict takes up the old tradition of warm regard of Christian theology for Platonic eros; had he done so in such texts as Homosexualitatis Problema there might have been some window for dialogue between the Vatican and gay-lesbian Catholics.

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