New interview with Benedict XVI in Avvenire

I just noticed the news at LifeSite that Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI gave an interview to Avvenire, which is the daily of the Italian Bishops Conference. Yes, they have their own newspaper.

The interview is refreshing.

At this point I haven’t seen a full English translation. Here is the Lifesite piece about it. My emphases and comments.

Pope Emeritus Benedict says Church is now facing a two-sided deep crisis

March 16, 2016 ( — On March 16, speaking publicly on a rare occasion, Pope Benedict XVI gave an interview to Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, in which he spoke of a “two-sided deep crisis” the Church is facing in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. [Indeed.] The report has already hit Germany courtesy of Vaticanist Guiseppe Nardi, of the German Catholic news website

Pope Benedict reminds us of the formerly indispensable Catholic conviction of the possibility of the loss of eternal salvation, or that people go to hell:

The missionaries of the 16th century were convinced that the unbaptized person is lost forever. After the [Second Vatican] Council, this conviction was definitely abandoned. The result was a two-sided, deep crisis. Without this attentiveness to the salvation, the Faith loses its foundation.

He also speaks of a “profound evolution of Dogma” with respect to the Dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church. This purported change of dogma has led, in the pope’s eyes, to a loss of the missionary zeal in the Church – “any motivation for a future missionary commitment was removed.” Pope Benedict asks the piercing question that arose after this palpable change of attitude of the Church: “Why you should try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it?[Indifferentism is pernicious and corrosive!  I will add that our identity is undermined through liturgical worship which is not sufficiently focused on the transcendent, not aimed at an encounter with Mystery, not helpful in our dealing with our fear of death.] As to the other consequences of this new attitude in the Church, the Catholics themselves, in Benedict’s eyes, were less attached to their Faith: If there are those who can save their souls with other means, “why should the the Christian be bound to the necessity of the Christian Faith and its morality?” asked the pope. And he concludes: “But if Faith and Salvation are not any more interdependent, even Faith becomes less motivating.”

Pope Benedict also refutes both the idea of the “anonymous Christian” as developed by Karl Rahner, [BOOO!] as well as the indifferentist idea that all religions are equally valuable and helpful to attain eternal life. He says: “Even less acceptable is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, for which all religions, each in its own way, would be ways of salvation and, in this sense, must be considered equivalent in their effects.” In this context, he also touches upon the exploratory ideas of the now-deceased Jesuit Cardinal, Henri de Lubac, about Christ’s putatively “vicarious substitutions” which have to be now again “further reflected upon.” That is to say, Christ’s own acts in the place of others in order to save them eternally.

With regard to man’s relation to technology and to love, Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of human affection, saying that man still yearns in his heart “that the Good Samaritan come to his aid.” He continues: “In the harshness of the world of technology – in which feelings to not count anymore – the hope for a saving love grows, a love which would be given freely and generously.” Benedict also reminds his audience that: “The Church is not self-made, it was created by God and is continuously formed by Him. This finds expression in the Sacraments, above all in that of Baptism: I enter into the Church not by a bureaucratic act, [Amen!  By a liturgical act!] but with the help of this Sacrament.” Benedict also insists that, always, “we need Grace and forgiveness.”

It is so refreshing again to hear Benedict think, to follow his line of thought.

Here is a portion I found intriguing (my on-the-fly translation):

“Above all I have to underscore once again what I wrote in Communio 2000 about the problem of justification.  For today’s man, in respect to the time of Luther and to the classical perspective of Christian faith, things are in a certain sense upside-down, or indeed there is no longer man who believes that he needs justification in the sight of God, but rather he is of the opinion that God has to justify himself because of all the horrible things present in the world and in the face of the misery of the human being, all things which in the final analysis would depend on him.

In this matter, I find significant the fact that a Catholic theologian assumes this overturning in a way that is indeed direct and formal: Christ wouldn’t have suffered for men’s sins, but rather would have, so to speak, cancelled the faults of God.  Even for now the majority of Christians do not share such a drastic reversal of our faith, we can say that all of this reveals an underlying trend of our time.”

I direct the readership back to my perpetual remarks about our identity and our liturgical worship.  They are inseparable.

We are our rites.

If we emphasize the horizontal and immanent, turning inward on ourselves (through, for example versus populum celebration of Mass, Communion in the hand, etc.) and do not leave time for the apophatic experience of Mystery in worship, what Benedict describes is inevitable.  Over time we are, as a Church, beginning to reap these fruits of “reversal – revolution – overturning – capsizing” of “capovolgimento” of the relationship of God and man.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. DisturbedMary says:

    Faith. Hope and Clarity.

  2. anilwang says:

    Unfortunately the “profound evolution of Dogma” has been enhanced by the Catechism which refers to Lumen Gentium 16’s “non-Catholics can be saved” without the counter balance written in Lumen Gentium 16 that “unfortunately because of sin it’s easy to become lost”.

    We need a Pope to definitely define what “non-Catholics can be saved” means because too often it’s interpreted as meaning “God will save anyone who he wants to save so we don’t have to evangelize, except perhaps because being Catholic will allow you to live this earthly life to the fullest (except when it leads to the cross)”. Of course, “non-Catholics can be saved” in the same way someone latching onto driftwood could be saved from a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean. But I’d rather be on the rescue boat which was designed to save us.

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    It was so refreshing, so gratifying, to read just the summary we have thus far available to us. Sometime I fear I am just tied up in a knot over the current situation out of some neurotic obsession – but then there is a breath of fresh air like this and you know the atmosphere has been contaminated. I have but one protest to Pope Emeritus Benedict – “Why did you abandon us?”

  4. benedetta says:

    I was taught very explicitly in my ccd (I remember it as middle school level or perhaps upper elementary), that God in the Old Testament was a “vengeful” God, and that relationships in the Old Testament reflect the “eye for an eye” adage. I remember the teacher assuring us that the New Testament God was not like this. I have to admit that the whole approach to me did not make much sense as presented and it was not until well into later adulthood that I revisted that impression of God comprehensively. I think that the catechesis was very consistent with this notion that our very much missed Pope Emeritus raises here, the idea that “Jesus somehow cancels the faults of God”. On the contrary, with certain helps over the years which I remain grateful for, I am able now to appreciate the closeness, faithfulness to humanity, and mercy of God portrayed vividly throughout the Old Testament, which has only made me appreciate the life of our Lord that much more.

    I would be horribly remiss if I did not mention here the significance of Pope Emeritus’ books on “Jesus of Nazareth” in my own journey of faith in this way.

  5. THREEHEARTS says:

    Fr I am so amused that the gentiles heretics et al. have a hissy fit when faced with the term outside the church when they themselves claim the scriptures alone is salvation. Where in the heck did the scriptures come from there were no bibles until the Catholic Church wrote them. The Jews before your knickers become so tight the choke you, never had a Bible they took our canonical name when it became commonplace to use it. They had the Torah, the Tanakh, the Nev’im, the twelve minor prophets, the Midrash, the Kethuvim and essays as they called them of the Older Rabbis. Some of the above were to be found in the Septuagints. Use our scriptures all they want but do not the guise of speculation theology translate them to prove their point. Changing most of the word Just to Righteousness. The Jews God Bless Them always maintained that only God in His Heaven was righteous and certainly considered thatSAbraham was Just.

  6. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you for making us aware of this, and adding to Maike Hickson’s work in the LifeSite article in your “on-the-fly translation”!

    It would be fine to have a full English translation – I hope the task is well-tackled! Looking at the original, there are wonderfully detailed-looking questions, tying in explicitly to things in His Holiness’s “Omnia Opera” [collected works]. It might be good to have notes to the translation, building on this, putting the interview in context of his already published thought, as well as discussing words like “capovolgimento” (and “theodizeeempfindlich”). Perhaps an English booklet would be appropriate – I can imagine Ignatius Press doing a good job of it!

    (By the way, I notice one typo, rendering “non contano più niente” as “to [rather than “do”] not count anymore”: I mention it because “feelings ‘to not count anymore’ ” [= ‘feelings of not counting anymore (as a human person)’] would make sense as something he could have said.)

  7. Hidden One says:

    Father, please please at least link to a full translation when you find one; this is gold!

  8. Absit invidia says:

    Reading Benedict XVI’s words doesn’t sound like a man who’s struggling with age, beaten down, and grasping to keep his mind sharp. Benedict hasn’t even missed a beat! How he felt the need to resign still baffles me.

  9. Pingback: Morning Catholic must-reads: 17/03/16 | CHRONICA

  10. HeatherPA says:

    Please, Lord, allow us to have Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI around for a long time to come. Amen.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Z. Benedict XVI’s book-length interviews such as “God and the World” with Peter Seewald are excellent. He was Cardinal Ratzinger then for that one.

  12. ofHippo says:

    Fr. Z- would truly be grateful for your official translation when you can. Could not help but wonder if Pope Benedict XVI, ever one to take his time, had to start somewhere and was trying to help clear up this mess:
    Reading his words is like air- & can only imagine what it must have cost him.
    ps. Thank you for your care of souls Father- we thirst!

  13. cda_sister says:

    Oh how I miss this Holy man of God. Would that we could turn back time. My tears fall anew. I have to remind myself often, if not daily, to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit to protect Christ’s Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  14. streamer85 says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z. But, did the quote from Pope Benedict read “…should you..” or “…you should…” where you have the phrase in bold.

  15. Benedict Joseph says:

    Having read the entire interview over at Catholic World Report my initial enthusiasm is at least bruised. This is more to this than first observed here in the summary. It would be interesting to see this interview revisited. Surely I am out of my depth, and I am left somewhat confused — and disappointed.

  16. Traductora says:

    Benedict Joseph, in particular, one thing that BXVI always did was use the Socratic method…that is, state the premise of his opponent, offer alternatives and challenges and then end up destroying it, since it can’t stand because it is wrong. From the comments I have read, I think some people have misunderstood his preliminary “summing up” statements as being his own position, but he was simply setting the stage.

    Also, his remarks are very restrained, but what he is saying, in my opinion, is that we have not only abandoned the idea of no salvation outside of the Church, we’ve abandoned the idea of the Church. Well, we haven’t, but Francis certainly has, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that this is the fundamental problem with him. However, Benedict knows this and is obviously seriously concerned about it and is now virtually speaking as a pope.

    I thought it was interesting that this would be published by the official organ of the Italian bishops’ conference. Also, how the heck did BXVI manage to escape house arrest long enough for an interview?

  17. Elizabeth D says:

    I had a feeling the Lifesite article was basically a commentary piece. The interview is decidedly worth reading though. It’s an invitation to others to think things through more deeply; he’s not giving simple answers.

    Read the whole interview:

    One needs to read also for background Cardinal Ratzinger’s great document as head of the CDF, Dominus Iesus (this is pretty much my favorite Vatican document), especially the final section:

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Benedict Joseph,

    Thank you for pointing out what they identify as “L’Osservatore Romano’s full English translation of the interview” (after there four-paragraph introduction and eighteen-paragraph summary):

    As you well say, “It would be interesting to see this interview revisited.”

    (The translation as presented seems to have a few typos and other errors – like a word accidentally left out, so it is good to have Fr. Z’s link to the Italian text. The introduction at CWR says, “Benedict’s answers, originally in German, were read aloud as a text at the conference by the Prefect of the Pontifical Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.” It is not clear (to me) if that original German text is available in the “book in Italian on the conference texts and conclusions” , or anywhere else, or only the Italian translation.)

  19. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Elizabeth D,

    I did not see your comment when I hit the post button (apparently two minutes later!). I was thinking of Dominus Iesus, too, when I read his critique here of “the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, for which all religions, each in their own way, would be ways of salvation and in this sense, in their effects must be considered equivalent. The critique of religion of the kind exercised in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and in the early Church is essentially more realistic, more concrete and true in its examination of the various religions.” Thank you for linking it so conveniently!

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    His Holiness speaks of the German “image of the ‘throne of grace’ […as] part of […a] devotion [“that contemplated the Not Gottes (“poverty of God”)”]: the Father supports the cross and the crucified, bends lovingly over him and the two are, as it were, together on the cross.”

    Here is a variation of that ‘Gnadenthron’ iconography he describes, with the Risen Christ as Pantocrator displaying His Wounds and the Holy Spirit “in a bodily shape, as a Dove upon Him” making clear that it is an image of the Trinitarian character of “what God’s mercy means”:

    (This imagery seems to have continued into Lutheran use: for example, evoked in Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium by that word, ‘Gnadenthron’ (‘ Throne of Grace/Mercy’).)

  21. Mojoron says:

    I so miss BXVI.

  22. jm says:

    Ferrara’s commentary nails this one. The interview is NOT encouraging. It is dismaying.

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Under correction, I do not find it evident that Christopher Ferrara’s 17 March Remnant “commentary nails this one.”

    For example, Fr. Jacques Servais, SJ, says, of St. Ignatius of Loyola, “ciò non di meno egli invita a contemplare come gli uomini, fino alla Incarnazione, «discendevano all’inferno»”. L’Osservatore Romano [OR] translates “nevertheless he invites us to contemplate how men, until the Incarnation, ‘descended into hell’ (Spiritual Exercises n. 102; see. ds iv, 376)”. Mr. Ferrara translates nonetheless he invites contemplation of how men, until the Incarnation, ‘descended into Hell'”. This has been traditionally referred to as the “limbus patrum”, though neither Fr. Jacques Servais nor his Holiness make use of that description. In his response, His Holiness says [OR], “In the second half of the last century it has been fully affirmed the understanding that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized and that even a purely natural happiness for them does not represent a real answer to the question of human existence.” Here, without using the term, he is referring to what has been traditionally referred to as the “limbus infantium” or “puerorum”. And a good part of the background to his reference is, presumably, the discussion around the document, “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized”, and Pope Benedict’s authorization of its publication in April 2007. Mr. Ferrara devotes no attention to this, not even enough to briefly say why he will not give it more attention.

    In his 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia article, ‘Limbo”, Patrick Toner writes that a certain “Augustinian teaching was an innovation in its day [ c. A.D. 418], and the history of subsequent Catholic speculation on this subject is taken up chiefly with the reaction which has ended in a return to the pre-Augustinian tradition.”

    When His Holiness says [OR], “In the second half of the last century it has been fully affirmed the understanding that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized”, he is asserting a definitive rejection of that ‘innovative’ teaching of St. Augustine’s. When he says, “it has been fully affirmed the understanding that […] even a purely natural happiness for them does not represent a real answer to the question of human existence”, is he merely repeating “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized”, or saying something more, or different?

    I do not have the impression that Mr. Ferrara is adequately taking account of what His Holiness is saying in this interview, nor am I certain that he is correctly understanding and representing those parts of which he does take account.

    It is not evident to me who can confidently say either “The interview is NOT encouraging. It is dismaying”, or ‘the interview is NOT dismaying. It is encouraging’, or even ‘the interview is in some parts dismaying, but in others, encouraging’!

    I would once again repeat Benedict Joseph’s words above: “It would be interesting to see this interview revisited.”

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    This identifies Robert Moynihan as the translator who produced the English version and also provides more publication information. He says “Filippo Rizzi of Avvenire on March 16 […] published excerpts from the interview”, notes the name of “the conductor of the interview […] does not appear in the book”, and that “This week the book itself was released in Italy, sparking a number of newspaper articles. The full text of the interview is being published today, March 17, in Italian, in the Vatican’s newspaper, the Osservatore Romano”. He also notes, “the original was in German, and the book itself is in Italian”, but gives no more information about the original German text:

  25. Elizabeth D says:

    A paragraph was LEFT OUT of the English translation published in Catholic World Report and elsewhere. Everyone go read the missing paragraph which is certainly important for understanding what he is trying to say:

    The part that was omitted is in brackets below. How did this get omitted? Apparently the English translation picked up by CWR came via Catholic News Service and Inside the Vatican.

    “Finally, let’s recall, above all Henri de Lubac, and with him, several other theologians who have emphasized the idea of vicarious substitution. [For them, the pro-existence of Christ is the expression of the fundamental figure of Christian existence and of the Church as such. It is true that the problem is not fully resolved, but it seems to me that this, in fact, is the key insight that thus impacts the existence of the individual Christian. Christ, as the unique One, was and is for all and Christians, who in Paul’s awesome imagery make up Christ’s body in this world and thus participate in this “being-for.” Christians, so to speak, are not so for themselves, but are, with Christ, for others. This does not mean having some sort of special ticket for entering into eternal happiness, but rather the vocation to build the whole. What the human person needs in order to be saved is a profound openness with regards to God, a profound expectation and acceptance of Him, and this correspondingly means that we, together with the Lord whom we have encountered, go towards others and seek to make visible to them the advent of God in Christ.]

    “It’s possible to explain this “being-for” in a more abstract way. It’s important for humanity that there is truth in it, that this be believed and practiced. That one suffers for it. That one loves. These realities penetrate with their light into the whole world as such and sustain it. I think that in the present situation it is become always more clear and comprehensible for us that which the Lord said to Abraham, that is, that ten righteous men would have been enough to save a city, but that the city destroys itself if such a small number is not reached. It is clear that we need to reflect on the question in its entirety.”

  26. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Elizabeth D,

    Thank you for this (which I suppose I may say ‘vicariously’ as well as for myself)!

    It has the added merit of linking to the online version of the full Italian text in L’Osservatore Romano.

    It accidentally begins marking what was missing with a sentence that was in fact published, in which Robert Moynihan took the gloss of “la proesistenza”, “the ‘pro-existence'”, which appears twice later – “essere per”, “being for” – and inserted it parenthetically.

    I don’t know much about Italian punctuation, or verb forms, but there’s a sentence which I think would read more smoothly in English with a comma or semi-colon (or even colon or dash?) added, and an ‘and’ left out:

    ‘Christ, as the unique One, was and is for all; and Christians, who in Paul’s awesome imagery make up Christ’s body in this world, thus participate in this “being-for.”’

    It would be good to know what exact de Lubac source and what other theologians he had in mind: it reminds me of St. Thomas Aquinas (though, quickly reading around in Part Three of the Summa, I cannot immediately find the passage which it most strongly reminded me of).

  27. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I see Sandro Magister has details about the Italian version which I do recall having encountered elsewhere: “The text was originally in German but has been made public in Italian, translated by the interviewer with the final revision by the pope emeritus himself.”

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