By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY
On March 17 of this year, Pope Benedict XVI was interviewed by Fr. Jacques Servais, SJ. The interview, originally published in German, is now available in the English language courtesy of CNA/EWTN. It is a remarkable document that can be read as Benedict defending the Catholic faith against certain theological trends.
Early in the interview Benedict speaks of the nature of faith. “Faith is not the product of reflection nor is it an attempt to penetrate the depths of my own being….In order for me to believe, I need witnesses who have met God and who have made him accessible to me.”
“The faith community,” he says, “does not create itself. It is not an assembly of men who have some ideas in common and who decide to work for the spread of those ideas. . . . A Church built in this way cannot be for me the guarantor of eternal life nor require decisions that make me suffer and are contrary to my desires.”
The Church did not produce herself. “She was created by God and she is continually formed by Him. This finds expression in the sacraments and above all in baptism. I enter the Church not through a bureaucratic act but through the sacrament [of baptism].”
Sadly, Benedict finds in some quarters the notion that God is obliged to justify Himself to mankind given the horrible things in the world for which He is ultimately held to be responsible as Creator. Developing this view some have taken the heretical position that God did not suffer for the sins of man, but to cancel the guilt of God.
Addressing another distortion of the faith, Benedict identifies one that he takes to be a sign of the times, namely, the idea of the mercy of God as central to the Church’s dogmatic teaching. He finds this expressed in the notion, “Only with mercy do evil and violence end. It is mercy that moves us toward God, while justice frightens us before Him.” Although Benedict does not explicitly say so, one may find in this a version of a doctrine advanced by Luther and the Reformers, namely, “justification by faith in the mercy of God.” … Continue Reading