Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Conversation with the Pope

Adapted from "Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium: An Interview With Peter Seewald"

Seewald Tertullian gave us the paradox: “I believe it is absurd.” Augustine believed “in order to understand”. Why does Cardinal Ratzinger believe?

Ratzinger I am a decided Augustinian. Just as creation comes from reason and is reasonable, faith is, so to speak, the fulfillment of creation and thus the door to understanding. I am convinced of that. Faith therefore is access to understanding and knowing. Tertullian’s remark – he loves exaggerated formulations – naturally reflects the sum of his thinking in general. He wanted to say that God shows himself precisely in a paradoxical relation to what prevails in the world. And in doing this God shows his divinity. But Tertullian was admittedly somewhat hostile to philosophy. In that respect I don’t share his position but that of Saint Augustine.

Seewald Have you also developed something like your own expression for the core of the faith?

Ratzinger I don’t need any new motto here. It seems to me that Augustine’s statement, which Thomas, too, later adopted, really describes the right direction. I believe! And already the act of faith itself implies that this comes from him who is reason itself. And in first submitting myself in faith to him, whom I do not understand, I know that by this very act I am opening the door to understanding.

Quintilian Your Holiness, is it possible that this last sentence itself points towards that ‘paradoxical relation’ understood by Tertullian? And that perhaps this relation leads to the sort of surrender (or leap, or will-to, or whatever it was) we find in his statement “I believe because it is absurd.” As if to say, 'Very well. I submit myself in faith to him, whom I do not understand, and in doing so hope to attain greater understanding.’ What could be more paradoxical than this? It seems more likely that this would lead to further mis-understanding, and surely there is something of ‘the absurd’ in that we come to any understanding at all. Perhaps ‘true understanding’ is what we are groping towards. But with much difficulty.


Blogger Quin Finnegan said...

Well, it all comes back to St. Augustine in the end, as usual. Here something on Tertullian from the Catholic Encyclopedia (note the last sentence in particular):

"His conversion was not later than the year 197, and may have been earlier. He embraced the Faith with all the ardour of his impetuous nature. He became a priest, no doubt of the Church of Carthage. Monceaux, followed by d'Ales, considers that his earlier writings were composed while he was yet a layman, and if this be so, then his ordination was about 200. His extant writings range in date from the apologetics of 197 to the attack on a bishop who is probably Pope Callistus (after 218). It was after the year 206 that he joined the Montanist sect, and he seems to have definitively separated from the Church about 211 (Harnack) or 213 (Monceaux). After writing more virulently against the Church than even against heathen and persecutors, he separated from the Montanists and founded a sect of his own. The remnant of the Tertullianists was reconciled to the Church by St. Augustine."

5:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home