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Ganswein’s New Book On Benedict XVI

January 19, 2023 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Benedict XVI, man of great intellect and learning that he was, lived the radical truth that faith, the direct graced contact with God, must be the starting point for all theological inquiry. Dating back to Augustine and Anselm of Canterbury (c. †1033-1109), the phrase “faith seeking understanding” is first mentioned by the latter in his Proslogion. It was this conviction which set up the great conflict with modernist and heretical forces within the Church.
Just as the physical came from the spiritual in Creation, and God existed before all He has made, so we must proceed in all inquiry beginning with God. Perceived and grasped through graced belief, an abiding trust in all His words and actions, is the starting point for all rational questioning and exploration of any matters relating to the Divine.
I have been parsing an advance copy in rough English translation of the new book by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Nothing But the Truth. In the first chapter of the book Ganswein brings up this matter of theological method in connection with the elevation of the great theologian Ratzinger by Paul VI to the cardinalate, along with three others. He quotes the words of the Pope at the event:
“In his speech for the occasion, Paul VI explained that the main endowment of the newly ordained cardinals was ‘the absolute fidelity that has been lived by them, in this postconciliar period rich in healthy ferments but also in disruptive elements, in a continuous availability in a diuturnal service, in a total dedication to Christ, to the Church, to the Pope, without flexing, without wavering,’ specifying for Ratzinger that his ‘high theological teaching in prestigious university chairs in Germany and in numerous valuable publications made us see how theological research — in the high road of “fides quaerens intellectum” — cannot and must never be separated from the profound, free, creative adherence to the Magisterium that authentically interprets and proclaims the Word of God’.”
As a sign of confidence in his gifts, Paul VI in 1975 had already invited Ratzinger to preach the spiritual exercises in the Vatican. However, with his typical humility, Ratzinger declined. Ganswein quotes him, “I did not feel confident enough in either my Italian or my French to prepare and dare such an adventure, and so I had said no.”
Ratzinger always found the faith and truth together and never wavered from that conviction of trust in the Lord. His episcopal motto chosen, after his March 25, 1977 appointment at 49 as archbishop of Munich and Freising, makes this evident. Again, from Ganswein: “When it came to choosing the motto for the episcopal coat of arms, there was a significant development, with the choice of verse 8 of the third letter of St. John: ‘Collaborators of the truth’ (Cooperatores veritatis). In his autobiography, he motivated it as a desire to ‘represent the continuity between my previous task and the new assignment: even with all the differences, it was and always is about the same thing, to follow the truth, to place oneself at its service. And since in today’s world the topic ‘truth’ has almost disappeared, because it seems too big for man, and yet everything collapses, if there is no truth, this episcopal motto seemed to me the most in line with our time, the most modern, in the good sense of the word’.”
Albino Luciani, patriarch of Venice and later elected Pope John Paul I, recounted in a homily a meeting with Ratzinger while on retreat in South Tyrol of Italy.
“A few days ago I congratulated Cardinal Ratzinger, the new archbishop of Munich: in a Catholic Germany, which he himself deplores as affected, in part, by an anti-Roman and anti-papal complex, he had the courage to proclaim loudly that ‘the Lord is to be sought where Peter is.’ Ratzinger seemed to me on that occasion a righteous prophet. Not all those who write and speak today have the same courage; for wanting to go where others go, for fear of not seeming modern, some of them accept only with cuts and restrictions the Creed pronounced by Paul VI in 1968 at the closing of the Year of Faith; they criticize papal documents; they constantly speak of ecclesial communion, never, however, of the Pope as a necessary point of reference for those who want to be in the true communion of the Church. Others, rather than prophets, seem to be smugglers; they take advantage of the position they occupy, to peddle as doctrine of the Church what is, instead, their pure personal opinion or even doctrine borrowed from aberrant ideologies disapproved by the Magisterium of the Church.”
In our day we see the high-water mark of this aberrant phenomenon thus remarked upon by Luciani. Ratzinger stood out as one who did not change in his convictions and therefore came under fire from those around him who compromised the truth for the sake of human respect or ecclesial advancement.
John Paul II also saw in him a stalwart defender of the truth and thus chose him as his closest collaborator for the propagation of the faith throughout the universal Church. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which Ratzinger headed came from the historic “Holy Office” by Paul VI to which he had re-entrusted the task of “safeguarding doctrine concerning faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.”
Ratzinger “worked for the positive redefinition of the Congregation’s task, enshrined on June 28, 1988 within the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus: ‘To promote and protect doctrine on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.’ In fulfillment of this guideline, it was specified, ‘it fosters studies aimed at increasing the intelligence of the faith and so that, to the new problems arising from the progress of science or civilization, answers may be given in the light of faith. It is of assistance to the bishops, both individually and gathered in their bodies, in the exercise of the task for which they are constituted as authentic teachers and doctors of the faith and for which they are bound to guard and promote the integrity of the same faith. In order to protect the truth of the faith and the integrity of morals, it is actively committed to ensuring that faith and morals are not harmed by errors however they are disseminated. Therefore: it has the duty to require that books and other writings, published by the faithful and concerning faith and morals, be submitted to the prior examination of the competent authority’.”
By instinct a studious theologian and thinker, desirous of continuing his writing, Ratzinger requested of John Paul II permission to continue his publishing as prefect of the congregation. He was, like Augustine, whom he quoted upon a visit to the Church in Pavia where the great Saint-Theologian’s bones lie:
“The beautiful dream of the contemplative life had vanished, Augustine’s life was fundamentally changed by it. What now constituted his daily routine, he described as follows: ‘Correct the undisciplined, comfort the pusillanimous, support the weak, refute the opposers…stimulate the negligent, restrain the quarrelsome, help the needy, liberate the oppressed, show approval to the good, tolerate the wicked, and love all’.”
Ganswein testifies that, amid the ecclesial turbulence, false friends, and difficult personalities, Benedict maintained course, a man of prayer and integrity, a friend of the Lord, and thus a friend also to souls seeking the same road of sanctity. More next week. . . .
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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