Sam Gregg on Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Address 10 years after

Run, don’t walk, to read Sam Gregg’s latest at Catholic World Report.

Gregg writes about Benedict XVI’s amazing Regensburg Address, 10 years later. He also examines the implications/results of the loss of reason across various sectors of the West.

Teachers: Absorb this, copy it, and go through it with your students.

Regensburg Revisited: Ten Years Later, A West Still in Denial

Irrationality not only manifests itself in violence but also in an inability to apply authentic reason to the many pressing challenges of our age.

Take away: We are sooooo in trouble.

Sam Gregg is involved with ACTON INSTITUTE.

I read this refreshing piece directly after reading an extended bit of tediously enervating rubbish on the last two Synods (“walking together”) from last November’s La Civiltà Cattolica by Antonio Spadaro, SJ.  Spadaro, by the way, has a strong interest in the works of Pier Vittorio Tondelli.

Talk about whiplash.

To get rid of the nasty, shower-inducing sense from the later, you might consider picking up James Schall’s helpful book about the Regensburg Address.


Do me a favor… go to the Amazon page for the book and scroll down and click to tell the publisher (St Augustine Press) that you want this book on Kindle.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Benedict XVI, Synod, The Coming Storm, The Drill and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” On the other end of the spectrum, Benedict argued, many theologians from the nineteenth century onwards increasingly fell (like much of the academy) into the trap of equating reason with empirical methods of inquiry. They thus gradually ceased to think about Christ and Revelation from any standpoint other than that which could be verified by scientific research methods.”

    Well, theology is The Queen of Sciences. One problem which is not discussed in the article is that Protestantism, which informed much of the moral background of 19th-century science (especially German science) is, at its heart, an empirical theology. This theology was empirically tested by citing Bible verses or by referring to some sort of personal experience. This was at a time, ironically, when the Catholic Church was beginning to re-stress the centrality of Thomistic thought.

    In dealing with the modern-day descendants of these empiricists – the so-called, “New Atheists,” I am struck by how philosophically unsophisticated many of them are. They regard Catholicism and Christianity in general as nothing more than fables. They have drunk the Humean kool-aid (David Hume argued against miracles and supernatural agency in the late Eighteenth-century).

    One thing I have been seriously considering in the past few weeks is developing a sort of mathematical version of theology, so that the propositions of theology could be concisely expressed and, at least in some cases, easily evaluated. Obviously, logic would play a crucial role, but one can, for instance, also develop a complete lattice structure of currently known Catholic dogma that can help situate different aspects of the Faith in their proper relationships. I don’t know if anything has been done like this in Systematic Theology (although it was in the hearts and minds of the Scholastics), as I haven’t started doing any background research, yet, but the use of mathematics can be used to prove, among other things, that the notion of Sola Scriptura is logically contradictory. If atheists can see that the Church is not afraid of science – indeed, developed modern Western scientific techniques (from Robert Grosseteste and his most famous student, Roger Bacon), then we can argue with them on their own terms.

    The science aspect of theology has not been stressed in modern times. There has been too much contamination of emotionalism. The Church has to reclaim its status as being ground on science – albeit a science that uses different data, axioms and methods than mere materialistic science. Truth is truth and all science of the natural and supernatural kinds cannot, ultimately, if properly done, be in contradiction.

    The Chicken

  2. Imrahil says:

    On a related note,

    while the then Pope visited Bavaria, I was still at school, and of course we liked to discuss current events, also in religion class, more so, perhaps, than the distinct “images in our minds of the Godhead and what is right and what is wrong about them”.

    So, our teacher said in passing, before getting to the content he had to teach, that in his opinion the Papal visit was all well and fine in general, but there was one thing which really was first class in every sense: something that had been curiously treated without interest, almost overlooked, by the media – and that was the Regensburg lecture, given on what was then yesterday or the day before yesterday.

    And so it was.

    The outcry because of supposed Islam-criticism, for whatever reason, only started one day later.

  3. majuscule says:


    I wish you would work on your mathematical version of theology!

    I was merrily reading the comment on my phone without attention to who was posting. When I got to that I realized that it was something The Masked Chicken would attempt!

  4. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Half the problems in theology today are rooted in bad philosophy; half of the problems in philosophy today are rooted in bad logic.

    ps: Acton Institute.

    [And the third half is from irreverent liturgical worship.]

  5. Polycarpio says:

    Father, you repeatedly make the point regarding Fr. Spadaro and Tondelli. What, if anything, are you implying?

  6. jaykay says:

    Chicken: wow! I’m a complete neophyte – no, not even that – yes, dunce (no Duns I – sorry!) at theology, and as far as advanced maths goes, well, I don’t even go there. But your post seems worthy to me to be added to Mr. Gregg’s original. It complements it beautifully, it seems to me.

  7. acardnal says:

    Dr Peters is right!

  8. Traductora says:

    I thought this was a truly great article and its analysis of the problem was right on target. Unfortunately, not only are we suffering the effects of 60 years of nearly complete neglect of philosophy and theology in Catholic teaching, we now have a Pope who boasts of how little he knows or cares about these matters and how Christianity is not about reason, it’s all about feeling, the Protestant concept of “just Jesus and me.”

    Now that we have the fundamentally anti-rational and anti-material concept of “sola fides” being openly accepted by an important Catholic leader (Fr. Cantalamessa), it’s going to be very hard to work our way back and reclaim exactly what it is that makes Christianity so radically different from Islam. In fact, it makes Christianity and Islam exact opposites in everything, in their approach to God, to man and to human life, something which Pope Benedict understood and for which he was attacked immediately and probably more harshly than for any other thing in his pontificate.

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Sam Gregg wrote: “Whenever such distancing from reason has occurred, some Christians have embraced a type of submission to God that avoids or even discourages exploration of the “whys” of such obedience.”

    These flights from reason result in, for example, Joseph Smith in 1838 exclaiming to his followers: “I will be to this generation a second Mohammed…So shall it be eventually with us- Joseph Smith or the Sword!”

    On the other hand, a flight from reason might stray into “dhimmitude.” In Kansas City on March 24th KSHB-TV aired a news segment about the Second Presbyterian Church. The pastor and her congregation have invited local imams bearing copies of the Koran to instruct these Presbyterians on Islam and the Koran for six weeks. No mention is made whether the imams have invited the Presbyterians into their mosques for six weeks to further “community relations.” One of the Presbyterian organizers, Bill Tammeus, is a retired “faith reporter” for the Kansas City Star, and his blog has entries on how the GOP enables ISIS and why Religious Freedom Acts are bad.

    Well then, only one thing left to say…Acton Institute.

  10. jaykay says:

    Semper Gumby: given your username, and the info in your post, all I can think of is: “my brain hurts”. Assuming your name refers to Pythonic Gumbys, of course!

    Yes, wilful dhimmitude, rampant over here in Europe. Our leaders are the full Gumby. There is no willingness, or even it seems historical knowledge, to address the basic question, posed so (characteristically humbly, yet insightfully) by Benedict lo these 10 years ago. In fact, that’d be “hate speech”. We’re still eating the lotus. Oh well, we’ve got our safe spaces. Yeah. Wait for the first bomb on a University campus, or on a major paper’s office, or a TV station. I honestly hope that doesn’t happen, of course, but Lord, it seems as if we’re in about August 1939, except without even beginning to think about filling the sandbags and putting the anti-blast tape on the windows. Neville Chamberlain was a titan compared to our current dweebs.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    jaykay: Alas, my username is not from the good folks at Monty Python, but rather a play on the US Marine Corps motto. “Semper Gumby” is used occasionally, and only in garrison or training, when orders are reversed several times and one is making an effort to control temper and language. In that spirit, your excellent phrase “the full Gumby” could be put to good use on this side of the Pond.

    As for Dhimmitude, it is an unfortunate increasing trend. Your mention of urban targets brings to mind rural compounds. Here in the US our news websites report that Sheikh Gilani’s Jamaat al-Fuqra has a number of rural compounds (Weekly Standard). Also, Gulen’s Hizmet Movement is making an effort to open charter schools on several US military bases (The Hill). One wonders about such things occurring along the back roads and on the military bases of Europe.

  12. Mr. Graves says:

    The timing is curious: 10 years post-Regensburg comes Amoris Laetitia. While mentally bracing for the latter, I find myself waxing nostalgic for the former. Truly we didn’t deserve Benedict, and our failure to live up to his teachings and example, as well as those of his sainted predecessor have landed us in the social and ecclestical “pickle” we’re in.

  13. Mr. Graves says:

    Crud, where’s autocorrect when you’re misspelling ecclesiastical? Apologies.

  14. majuscule says:

    The Catholic World Report article mentions the book The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. I got the Kindle version last night and began reading it.

    It’s a good documentation of the poor state of academia in regards to the Muslim invasion of Spain. Lots of footnotes. A great weapon to use in discussions with people who have bought into the “it’s the religion of peace” and “the Muslims introduced the West to Aristotle.”

    And I’m only as far as chapter one!

    If you have even the slightest interest in this subject, use Father’s Amazon search box and buy it!

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    When you mentioned “Fr. Cantalamessa”, I thought, ‘wait a minute – surely you don’t mean the Director of the Vatican Observatory?’ – and, of course, you don’t – ‘Cantalamassa’ (whew, yes, I remember him, having looked him up again!) somehow reminded my woolly brain of Consolmagno (whose work sounds interesting, though I have read scarcely any of it, yet): perhaps a good person to consider in the context of reason, religion, faith and science…

    Masked Chicken,

    In this Regensburg context, you remind me that Plato is interesting in The Republic about the goods of mathematical study and thinking. I also wondered if you have any thoughts about mathematics and (1) analogia entis and (2) apophaticism?

  16. Ben Kenobi says:

    “Protestantism, which informed much of the moral background of 19th-century science (especially German science) is, at its heart, an empirical theology.”

    As a scientist and a former protestant, nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing empirical about a faith founded on the will of the individual. Empiricism relies on repetition, on two people using the same protocols coming to the exact same conclusion.

    This, sadly, is the facile analysis of what has been a pernicious myth cultivated by historians for centuries, that it was in the protestant north that fostered science from the dark ages of the Church.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. If you dig just slightly deeper – the patrimony starts to emerge of the much broader and deeper influence of scholasticism and Thomism which underpins empiricism.

    But that would get in the way of the revolution, so we don’t hear much about it these days.

  17. The Cobbler says:

    Mathematical expression of the logic of theology?

    Yes, please!

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Ben Kenobi,

    You wrote:

    “As a scientist and a former protestant, nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing empirical about a faith founded on the will of the individual. Empiricism relies on repetition, on two people using the same protocols coming to the exact same conclusion.”

    I never said Protestantism was scientific (unlike Catholicism, which is). I said it was empirical, which is a slightly different thing.

    The American dictionary definition of empirical is:

    “1. originating in or based on observation or experience

    2. relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory ”

    The etymology is:

    “From Old French empirique, from Latin empiricus, from Ancient Greek ?????????? ?(empeirikós, “experienced”), from ???????? ?(empeiría, “experience, mere experience or practice without knowledge, especially in medicine, empiricism”), from ???????? ?(émpeiros, “experienced or practised in”), from ?? ?(en, “in”) + ????? ?(peîra, “a trial, experiment, attempt”).”

    Just as a musician who plays a woodwind instrument may try various ways to scrape their reed and find one that works for them – that is, by definition, and empirical result and, yet, that result may not apply to another musician – just so, in Protestantism, someone may find an interpretation of Scripture or supernatural experience that works for them (and some others), but does not work for others looking at the same data or having different experiences. So, even though one may have empirical experience, many different churches may result. Every boy(girl) kisses a girl(boy) differently, but everyone thinks they know how to kiss.

    Now, hypothesis testing is very old – going back to the Greeks, I think, but the notion that empirical results must be reproducible to qualify as science is, surprisingly, a modern notion. No one tried to reproduce Galen’s anatomy for centuries or Aristotle’s biology. The notion of falsifiability is of even more recent origin (from Karl Popper), even though it is a weaker directive than reproducibility (Ed Feser is having a discussion of this notion on his blog, right now).

    Science aims at getting universal results applicable to all objects in a set – hence the need for reproducibility. This is exactly the same result that Catholicism strives for – a certain universality.

    For those interested in Medieval science – Pierre Duhem wrote a massive 19 volume ( if memory serves) tracing the development of Medieval science (only two volumes have been translated into English). Duhem was a loyal Catholic and a very famous scientist (The Gibbs-Duhem theorem and the Duhem-Quine hypothesis are named after him).

    The Chicken

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