Benedict XVI sent text of talk to University: relativistic dialogue and “lethal ideas”

From CNS:

Retired pope says interreligious dialogue no substitute for mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church’s size but to share the joy of knowing Christ.
The retired pope’s words appeared in written remarks to faculty members and students at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University, [Urbaniana] which belongs to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household and personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict, read the 1,800-word message aloud Oct. 21, at a ceremony dedicating the university’s renovated main lecture hall to the retired pope.
The speech is one of a handful of public statements, including an interview and a published letter to a journalist, that Pope Benedict has made since he retired in February 2013.
“The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people,” retired Pope Benedict wrote. [Watch this…] “‘But does that still apply?’ many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. [Classic Ratzinger.  He brings up a theme and then asks a question.] ‘Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?’ The counter-question is: ‘Can dialogue substitute for mission?’  [No!]
“In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality,” the retired pope wrote. [Do I hear an “Amen!”] “The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems [“seems”] realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.
“It is nevertheless lethal to faith.  [How I have missed you.] In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine,” he wrote.
Pope Benedict wrote that some religions, particularly “tribal religions,” are “waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ,” but that this “encounter is always reciprocal. Christ is waiting for their history, their wisdom, their vision of the things.[Inculturation takes place at this intersection of Christ and cultures.] This encounter can also give new life to Christianity, which has grown tired in its historical heartlands, he wrote. [He has a special preoccupation about Europe.]
“We proclaim Jesus Christ not to procure as many members as possible for our community, and still less in order to gain power,” the retired pope wrote. “We speak of him because we feel the duty to transmit that joy which has been given to us.” [He has a book entitled “Minister of Your Joy” about priestly formation and spirituality.   It is also, perhaps, a nod to… someone else who – contrary to some – didm’ invent joy.]

I wonder if, in this age, the communication of our joy will take care of the numbers questions.  I have always been of the mind that, as a priest, it is part of my job to keep as many people out of Hell as possible (get as many to Heaven as possible).  How to do this?

There are a few things that don’t help very much, including the communication of joy’s opposite.  Yes, there are times that we have to blend in even the stern, even the unsettling message of the Four Last Things.  But we must never stint on the Heaven part of the Four Last Things even as we do not avoid the other three.   Even preaching the Four Last Things also includes the expression of joy.

I have lots of other ideas stemming from this brief account of his talk.  In the meantime, I may just review the Regensburg Address.

It has been a while since I have written this:

Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. HeatherPA says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for this balm.

  2. KnightOfTruth says:

    So many debates about what is going on in the Church with my good Catholic friends. Early last week we asked if it might be wiser to get about the mission of evangelization. Thanks for presenting us Benedict’s charge to do so.

  3. Netmilsmom says:

    This line, “true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church’s size but to share the joy of knowing Christ.” will be all that is seen by many people.
    It’s the excuse to make our parishes focus more on the Unchurched than their own parishioners.
    Knowing Christ is knowing His Bride. If we don’t look to converting souls to His Bride, the souls head off to the Megachurch as soon as they know the rules.
    I’ve asked people with this mindset if the goal was to bring people simply “to Christ” on their own terms, or to bring them into The Church for the fullness of His Word. They never answer me, they can’t.

  4. Midwest St. Michael says:

    No kidding, HeatherPA.

    This is a breath of fresh air!

  5. wised says:

    Truth rather than sound bites. Tradition versus relativism. I miss him.

  6. iPadre says:

    I miss the great clarity of Pope Emeritus Benedict. I would not doubt if one day he is declared a doctor of the Church.

  7. Allan S. says:

    It would be the height (depth?) of irony if the chief fruit of the abdication were a splintering of the Church following some act of the current pontificate that was simply too much for the faithful, forcing them to seek spiritual shelter in less-imperfect “ecclesiastical community.” In such a case, Benedict’s single final act would not only undo his own unifying work, but that of all popes before him. Deus avertat.

    I do feel unusually blessed to have lived under his pontificate – except for that last part, which still stings as a betrayal. I thank God that there exists such a thing as the SSPX. Say what you will – they are Catholic (cf Francis) and will take us in as refugees should it be necessary.

  8. That’s like a cold, refreshing adult beverage after push-mowing an acre of thick grass on a humid summer day. Wow. No way to misinterpret what +Benedict is saying.

    Makes me realize how much I miss clarity and plain, un-nuanced statements.

  9. Adam Welp says:

    I’m sure I wasn’t the only one reading Pope Emeritus Benedict’s as if he was reading them aloud to us.

    I’m a little embarrassed to say that I am just now starting to understand what he was saying in all his talks and homilies. At the time he was giving them, they went right over my head. But now, having gone back to read them again, it is starting to settle in and make sense.

    I miss him as Pope as much as I miss my grandparents (God rest their souls).

    Prayers to this internet community under the guidance of Fr. Z. Prayers to Holy Father Emeritus Benedict. And undying loyalty and prayers to our current Holy Father Francis.


  10. Landless Laborer says:

    By the way, to follow up on a comment I made on an earlier post concerning 1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are reproved (not ‘approved’), may be made manifest among you.” This is Douay Rheims Haydock, and cannot be found in any online version as written, only found with an inverse meaning. Accident?? I think not! One fellow Father Z commenter suggested it was a typo. Well the passage is particularly relevant, and I’m now convinced it is no mistake, as I’ve found the exact quote using ‘reproved’ in Pope Saint Pius X’s Encyclical AD DIEM ILLUM LAETISSIMUM, paragraph 25, also particularly relevant to current events. Remember folks, powers behind the scenes battle over phrases, and even get sneaky, just as we see at the Synod. And God bless Papa B.

  11. Dafyd says:

    I understand if this comment comes across as too harsh. It’s more about public perception than the men themselves.

    Benedict XVI submitted himself fully to the teachings of the faith, defended it vigorously, has written 66 books promulgating the faith, chose for himself a simple and restrained Papal name, advanced the restoration of the Usus Antiquior, brought in Anglicans with a liturgy that hearkens more to the Usus Antiquior than the Novus Ordo, worked to restore dignity to the Novus Ordo with his suggested arrangement of the altar, and honored several of the traditions associated with the office of the Papacy. He was constantly criticized in the press for being hard nosed, arrogant, and uncharitable.

    Francis was the first to the name Francis, overturns papal traditions in the name of humility, has acted at times against the Usus Antiquior, expressed at times lukewarm comments about the Anglican Ordinariate, and shown himself to be a bit squishy and exploitable by others on the church’s social teachings. He’s considered humble.

    Why is someone who serves the faith, defends it, and advances it considered arrogant and hard-nosed? Why is someone who upturns traditions (which makes the conversation about the individual, rather than the traditions for the office), who is repeatedly critical of those trying to uphold the faith once handed down, and who constantly lets his words be exploited by others to the detriment of Catholic social teaching considered to be humble and charitable? I begin to think the press doesn’t know the difference between modesty and humility.

  12. Unwilling says:

    So clear! So beautiful! After what we have been dealing with of late…

    Note that the phrase “truth…is here put inside parentheses” deploys a major concept of Phenomenology (which both Wojty?a and Ratzinger followed), namely Einklammerung “bracketing”. To bracket, in this sense, is to count something as philosophically side-lined or irrelevant — even if only temporarily for the sake of analyzing one aspect in isolation from what is bracketed.

    I find that applying “here” (quoting BXVI) this notion, this hermeneutic key, that what is going on is a putting aside of questions of truth, opens up a light on the (otherwise) weird ways of speaking we have been observing lately. “Let’s put aside any concerns about what the Truth of the Faith is while we try to understand what good addressing irregular unions might bring to the Church.” [I say “addressing” rather than, as a specific instantiation, “welcoming”.]

    Of course, there is a danger of psychotic disassociation in such Gedankenexperimente.

  13. JesusFreak84 says:

    If I had to guess, the answer to Dafyd’s question is that Francis *appears to the media* to have the “shame” of those traditions that they think all Catholics should share. Thus, Benedict accepting the “trappings” of the Papacy because it’s about the office and not him as an individual can appear “arrogant” and the rejection thereof, making it about Francis’ personal preferences, appear “humble.”

    Pope Francis being the first to take that name doesn’t really phase me much; surprises me that a Jesuit would go for St. Francis of Assisi over a Jesuit St. Francis or another Jesuit saint, but I do think it was only a matter of time before a Pontiff took the name of such an iconic Saint.

    Back to the point, dear word I miss Papa Benedict T_T

  14. Allan S. says:

    Landless Laborer wrote “…concerning 1 Corinthians 11:19 ‘For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are reproved (not ‘approved’), may be made manifest among you.’ This is Douay Rheims Haydock, and cannot be found in any online version as written, only found with an inverse meaning. Accident?? I think not!”

    I didn’t understand what this passage was supposed to mean, but in the Revised Standard Version I found the only translaion that made any sense to me: “for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” In other words, it seems to say that heresy serves a purpose in that it highlights correct faith.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Landless Laborer: I will look to see if there are any Vetera Latina or variant Vulgate translations of the passage. But every Vulgate I have found in a fast search says “qui probati sunt” – which would mean “who have been tested/approved/proved”. There is no “qui reprobati sunt.” I will look for other wording possibilities.

    The same phrase appears in Psalm 67/68, where the baddies are trying to exclude those “qui probati sunt.

    So either your source had a typo, a different definition of the English wording, a variant wording in Latin from the Vulgate, or there was a mistranslation. I would guess a variant Vulgate reading is likely, and that I will just have to look harder for that. But the normal translation is supported by the normal Vulgate.

  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Landless Laborer:

    “Nam oportet et haereses esse, ut et qui probati sunt, manifesti fiant in vobis.” I suppose the question is, how does one read “probati” – and St. Jerome’s Greek source?

  17. Tom Piatak says:

    A typically clear and profound observation from Benedict XVI.

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    ‘Can dialogue substitute for mission?’

    A good question for applying with respect to the recent Synod, the Holy Father’s final address, and any discussions of ‘accogliere’ whether as ‘welcoming’, ‘providing for’, or whatever.

  19. anilwang says:

    Dafyd says: “the press doesn’t know the difference between [arrogance] and humility.”

    Of cause it does. Keep in mind that arrogance and humility refer only make sense when dealing with some reality greater than ourselves. For Catholics, that reality is God and for the press, that reality is “social norms” or “what the elites say”.

    So for Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI is humble because he elevated the deposit of faith and strengthen Catholic identity, but for the press he was arrogant because he had the nerve to defy culture.
    And for Pope Francis is arrogant for disregarding the deposit of faith and weakened Catholic identity, but for the press he was humble because he submits to social norms despite his Catholic faith.

  20. Elizabeth D says:

    I enjoyed hearing from him so much, he just thinks so clearly and makes so much sense and expresses himself beautifully. Thank you Holy Spirit. Chaos is exhausting.

  21. tcreek says:

    It’s all here – for those of the Synod who wish to hear.

    Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church Concerning The Reception Of Holy Communion By The Divorced And Remarried Members Of The Faithful.
    Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons.
    And then there is this:
    Cardinal Ratzinger’s prophecy in 1970 – Published in Faith and the Future in 2010.

    From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. …

    As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. …

    But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. …

    The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. …

    But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. …

    Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. …

    And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. …

  22. tcreek says:

    Sorry , My 2nd link duplicated the first. Here is the correct link for – Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Can we not praise the Pope Emeritus without referring to Pope Francis? They are very different men.

    I am very weary of the criticisms. But, love the Socratic Method and good German clarity of Benedict. May God continue to bless him with some vigor.

    Many did not praise him this much when he was pope, and most likely, we all did not pray enough for him.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Pius X’s “Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum,” there doesn’t seem to be an easily accessible Latin version online at present. The Italian version is online only at, and it says, “In fatti è necessario che vi siano le eresie perché le anime di fede provata siano palesi fra di voi.” The French translation of the encyclical on gives the verse as “car il est nécessaire que des hérésies se produisent, afin que les âmes de foi éprouvée soient manifestées parmi vous.” So again, it doesn’t really go, and the encylical’s sense works better with “approved,” since the next line is about how the Virgin is with us in our trials. I’m starting to think your instances of “reproved” for “approved” are just a repeated OCR error of transcription.

    Here is the original 1582 Rheims New Testament version of 1 Cor. 11:19, with notes.

    ‘For “there must be heresies also: that they also which are approved may be made manifest
    among you.’

    That heresies shal come, and wherfore.

    19. There must be heresies] When the Apostle saith, Heresies must be: He sheweth the event, and not that God hath directly so appointed it as necessarie. For, that
    they be, it commeth of mans malice and free will: but that they be converted to the
    manifestation of the good and constant in faith & the Churches unitie, that is Gods
    special worke of providence that worketh good of evil.

    What comoditie we may make of heresies.

    And for that there should fall Heresies and Schismes, specially concerning the Article and use of the B Sacrament of the Altar, whereof he now beginneth to treate, it may make us
    marvel the lesse, to see so great dissensions, Heresies, and Schismes of the wicked and
    weake in faith concerning the same. Such goings on will be, but wo to him by whom scandals
    or Sectes do come. Let us use Haeretikes, saith S. Augustine, not to that end
    to approve their errours, but that by defending the Catholike doctrine against their
    deceites, we may be more watchful and wary: because it is most truely written, There must
    be heresies that the the tried and approved may be manifested or discovered from the holow
    hartes among you. Let us use this benefite of Gods providence, for Haeretikes be made of
    such as would erre or be naught, though they were in the Church: but being out, they profite
    us exceedingly, not by teaching the truth which they knowe not, but by stirring up the
    carnal in the Church to seeke truth, and the spiritual Catholikes, to cleere the truth.
    for there be innumerable holy approved men in the Church, but they be not discerned from
    other among us, nor manifest, so long as we had rather sleepe in darknes of ignorance,
    then behold the light of truth. therfore many are raised out of their sleepe by Haeretikes
    to see the day of God, and are glad thereof.
    August. c. 8 [D]e vera relig.

  25. Royse87 says:

    Santo subito!

  26. Landless Laborer says:

    Alan S, Suburbanbanshee, Venerator, thank you for your responses. I would agree with you, as I agreed with Unwilling the first time I posted this, except that, as I said, I see that the Vatican website itself, the English version of St. Pius X’s encyclical, AGREES with my bible, i.e. a Pope, nay even more a Saint reads the passage “reproved”. Why is this significant? Is this not the gravest problem the Church faces today, heresy? Why does Our Lord allow heresies to encroach upon the truth in His Church, we ask? As St Paul teaches, NOT primarily to point out the elect, BUT to point out the wolves. After all, how are we to identify them, if they wear sheep’s clothing? Archbishop Bruno Forte should have been anathematized, his poison would not find another victim. This is the meaning of the verse, and this was the traditional practice of the Church. And this is no doubt causing Papa Benedict great concern and anguish.

    Okay, I’ll stop beating this horse now. Just one more comment. You know it used to be that the Church commanded her flock to read only approved bibles WITH COMMENTARY. Now the Catechism tells gives us guidelines for interpreting scripture ourselves. These little chinks in instruction, little chinks in scripture….what’s the saying? A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon your talking about real money?

  27. Bea says:

    You mean Our Lord didn’t say : “Go forth and dialogue”?

  28. Unwilling says:

    For there must be heresies among you, so that the verified may also be noticed among you. [1Cor 11:19 tr by Unwilling for current purposes only]

    Landless, I congratulate your indefatigable research in trying to explain the odd translation you found in Haydock. An intriguing little mystery! I hope a few more offerings from me will be welcome. {As to the reading of the Bible itself, I think we have established that there is no MS basis nor authority, beyond Haydock, for reprobati/adokimoi.} But I do indeed wonder that “reproven” came to be posted in the Vatican English translation of Ad diem illum!

    Unfortunately, the only languages for that encyclical available on are the English and French (nor have they or anyone else yet posted the original Latin — I will try to remember to check AAS next time I am at the Seminary). But the French of the encyclical has afin que les âmes de foi éprouvée soient manifestées parmi vous. I also found German and Italian translations of Ad diem illum which have damit die Bewährten unter euch offenbar werden and perché le anime di fede provata siano palesi fra di voi. In these, the key words all correspond to the usual Biblical reading: proven, genuine, verified.

    I looked at the Haydock online. He first cites Challoner

    There must be also heresies: By reason of the pride and perversity of man’s heart; not by God’s will or appointment; who nevertheless draws good out of this evil, manifesting, by that occasion, who are the good and firm Christians, and making their faith more remarkable.
    [“remarkable” meaning “easy to see” not “surprising”]

    I am not sure where he is going with his own comments

    The providence of God draweth good out of evil, but wo to the man, says the Scripture, by whom scandal cometh, such as sects and heresies.

    With the double translation “sects and heresies”, Haydock nicely gets at the root meaning of Greek “haireseis” which means “[stubborn] clinging [sc. to false ideas]”. But that “woe to the man” phrase does leave some room for supposing that he really did mistake Jerome’s probati for reprobati. But then, his citation of Augustine seems to fit the usual reading again, in which the true are seen to be so by contrast:

    Let us use heretics not so as to approve their errors, but to make us more wary and vigilant, and more strenuous in defending Catholic doctrine against their deceits.

    So, Haydock’s English seems to the only one with the odd representation of the verse in 1 Cor. One further possibility — tho a bit of a stretch — is that in Haydock’s somewhat affected style, the word “reproven” is synonymous with “proven”. My OED 1971 cites More in 1529 meaning “proven again”; with two more authors in the early and late 1800s. Or with “re-” intensive, as in “contain” and “retain”. But…doubtful.

    Ad diem illum. Perhaps the Vatican translator back in 1904 happened to have beside him the Haydock version (1811 or later — still scholarly seeming) and, by using it verbatim, perpetuated that unusual and wrong reading. In fact, that is precisely how “families” of ancient manuscripts are formed — by their containing similar variants (errors).

  29. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Mostly what it’s saying is that the OCR person who scanned the encyclical (at the Vatican or elsewhere) back in 1997 (or whenever) was lazy about proofreading. If you find a typo in something quotable, you can run a search and see that typo repeated again and again, all around the Internet.

    But “Titivillus” and his typos were with us in the early Christian days, and the early Jewish days, and every time inbetween, up until now. Sometimes you can learn about language from typos, sometimes they are just frustrating, and they certainly keep scholars employed making critical editions listing every variant!

    In general, the Church goes back and forth about how worried she is about approved editions. If things are going well or if reasonable copies of the Bible are readily available, there’s a lot less stress. Or if people are so trusting of books (as in the 19th and early 20th century) that they become over-impressed with Bible quotes, the Church has to be harder about it.

    Maybe nowadays there should be more stress about it; but the real danger right now is not so much crazy heretical Bible interpretations as people who never read the Bible at all, or never pay attention to the Mass readings at all. (Considering how many supposedly educated, supposedly Christian or Jewish people don’t even know basic Bible references but are sure that the Bible is oppressive and cruel, that’s a real danger.)

  30. Landless Laborer says:

    Okay, you guys got me, a have to agree with you. It is strange though that Ad Diem Illum isn’t available in Latin! I thought important Papal documents were first crafted in Latin, like canon law. But it seems to me, that I remember Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei, being available in French first. But then again, we were told the Synod on the Family would break from Latin tradition and be written in Italian first. Story of my life, one question answered, two more created. Anyway, i’ll figure it out, you’ve done enough work for me already. Thanks again. And man Suburbanbanshee, ain’t that the truth, if the Church could get people to read scripture again, she might go back to worrying about commentary. People have lost interest…for the most part.

  31. trespinos says:

    [How I have missed you.] Davvero! That comment put the beginning of a catch in my throat and a tear in my eye.

  32. The Cobbler says:

    Fun fact: I can tell from which other programmers the newcomers to my job are copying by which errors are being perpetuated. That’s not really important, I just thought it was interesting in light of Unwilling’s last comment touching on ancient manuscript families. In the same vein, I’m pretty sure one can trace who copied from who in the same way when something is repeated all over the internet.

    On-topic, I don’t say this often because it doesn’t change anything, but I do miss Benedict.

  33. Venerator Sti Lot says:
  34. StnyPtGuy says:

    ” … faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine …”

    “Interchangeable symbols.” Reminds me of the “Coexist” bumper sticker.

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