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How Many Theologians Have Forgotten the Elements of Faith?

In light of the Filial Correction and its aftermath, we are witnessing how faithful Christians who have always adhered to the Church teachings are being accused of contradicting themselves. It is alleged that not adhering to the wildest interpretations of Amoris Laetitia and other papal or episcopal statements contradicts Catholic obedience.

In the light of this attack, it seems necessary to introduce a brief clarification. Christians do not follow men or human institutions or cultures, except as far as it is required by the divine order. Christians obey God, definitely and most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, God and man. If we obey the pope and the bishops, it is not just because of who they are or their position, but because Christ’s revelation commands this and because they serve Christ’s revelation.

Faith in Christ’s revelation is, thus, the ground of obedience. It is not that we believe because of obedience to men in authority; rather, because we believe, we obey. Our allegiance goes with God and His revelation, and only through them with human beings, no matter what those human beings’ office might be.

This is so since the beginning. Paul corrected Peter precisely because Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ taught him that Peter was in the wrong, although Peter was the highest visible authority of the Church.

We can give another example with a thought experiment. If the French Catholics had disagreed with the revolutionary authorities in some points in 1789, and, in obedience to their bishops, they had voiced their disagreement, and if after the publication in 1790 of “The Civil Constitution of the Clergy,” their bishops had submitted to this clear violation of the divine constitution of the Church and commanded the faithful to submit, the French faithful would have been coherent in disregarding their bishop’s commands. Why? Because their bishop would be rebelling against the divine constitution of the Church. Obedience to God and Jesus Christ would demand that the faithful disregard the commands of the rebellious bishops.

In the case of theologians, the adherence to divine revelation and to God is intellectually articulated. This is why normally the popes and councils have not defined any statement as an article of the faith before the statement was seriously discussed and shown as being in conformity with divine revelation. The official Magisterium of the Church has been respectful of the requirements of the intellect within the field of theology.

But in a time like ours, it seems necessary to remind Catholic theologians of the requirements of logic and metaphysics, those indispensable disciplines that, taught by Hegelians, Nietzscheans, Heideggerians, and Gadamerians, they have learned to despise.

One of these theologians who despise logic and metaphysics is, without a doubt, Walter Cardinal Kasper. He and his ilk want to wiggle out of a real intellectual discussion by postulating that “truth” as the conformity of things and intellect is no longer (?) relevant or possible. According to him, as according to Nietzsche and Cratylus, everything is in flux, everything is historical, and nothing is exempted from this flux. For this reason, one cannot state anything that could possibly have the value of truth in all times. Therefore, I conclude explicitly what is implicit in Kasper’s work: in each age, Christians should conform themselves to what the powers that be tell them they must believe. Why would you take the trouble to see if something is in conformity with God’s nature or with man’s salvation according to revelation if there are no beings or “metaphysical structures” exempted from the flux of history – if there is no truth? [1]

But Cardinal Kasper and those in his camp do not mention what their father Nietzsche perceived full well. Human beings cannot rid themselves from the “illusion” of truth – the very use of language is a denial of the universal flux (The Twilight of the Idols, “‘Reason’ in Philosophy,” 5). So the statement of the universal flux is just a radical option against language and against reason. And the deepest motive of this option is the hatred of God: “‘Reason’ in language — oh, what an old deceptive female she is! I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar” (ibidem).

But, my dear Cardinal Kasper and the likes, we as Christians do not want to follow Nietzsche’s rebellion against the Eternal God! Thus, we require that whoever wants to impose upon us a statement as a tenet of our faith proves that such statement is true – that is to say, is contained in Revelation.

Now, truth can be analyzed into its elements. These elements might be different in different disciplines, according to the realities they deal with. Demonstrative truth is analyzed into principles (axioms, definitions, and postulates) and reasoning. Truth accepted by faith must be analyzed into that which has been revealed. Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, Saint John the Evangelist.

Revelation is known through Scripture and Tradition. By “Tradition” we mean the teachings of the apostles and those saintly and wise authors who gathered the apostolic wisdom up to John of Damascus. The Magisterium is at the service of revelation and is not its master (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 10). But when the Magisterium of the Church has defined something solemnly as contained in Revelation, the Catholic theologian must abide by that definition.

The Council of Trent has defined several of the currently disputed points on the sacraments of penance, Communion, and marriage. One cannot be called a Catholic if one does not abide by the definitions of the Council of Trent.

We are Catholics, Christians, by the grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God – not by any mere man, no matter what his office might be. So we must abide by the teachings of revelation not by a vague “feeling” of following Jesus’s compassion (as some theologians have asked of Christians recently). Theology is a serious and difficult discipline, the goal of which is to unveil the Truth contained in revelation and to serve it. Certainly, its goal is not to place Christians under the intellectual or ideological fashions of the age or the world.

Any theological discussion, to avoid nonsense, has to strive to show what the true teachings of revelation are. Any theological discussion, to avoid nonsense, must give real arguments that can be evaluated intellectually by the other party and must intellectually answer the arguments of the other party. Any other way of discussing is just an unmerciful bullying, disrespectful of the dignity of the human intellect and of the dignity of both revelation and the faithful who adhere to it.

[1] See a good presentation of Walter Kasper’s “Introduction to Christian Faith” in Thomas Heinrich Starc’s “German Idealism and Walter Kasper’s Theological Project.”

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