THE UNHAPPY IDEOLOGUES: Conservative Catholic Dissidents Attack Popes Francis and Benedict XVI

By Thomas, Jesuit | National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 2018 | Go to article overview

THE UNHAPPY IDEOLOGUES: Conservative Catholic Dissidents Attack Popes Francis and Benedict XVI


Thomas, Jesuit, National Catholic Reporter


Conservative Catholic dissidents, who have been attacking Pope Francis, showed their true colors recently by attacking retired Pope Benedict XVI, calling his writings "subversive" and "modernist." That's right, they think Benedict is a heretic.

In his new book, Al Cuore di Ratzinger, Al Cuore del Mondo, the Italian philosopher Enrico Maria Radaelli goes after Joseph Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, one of Benedict's most popular books. Radaelli accuses him of embracing modern subjectivism by dabbling in Kant's transcendentalism and Hegel's "dialectical idealism."

Radaelli is joined in this attack by Msgr. Antonio Livi, dean emeritus of the faculty of philosophy of the Pontifical Lateran University. What is noteworthy is that last summer both of these academics signed a letter of correction addressed to Pope Francis asking him to change his "erroneous" views.

These folks are unhappy with everything that has happened in the church since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

Livi thinks that "neo-modernist" theology (a slur used by conservatives to describe anything they don't like) has enveloped the church, infiltrating its seminaries, bishops' conferences and even the Vatican itself. This "heretical" view has infected all the documents of Vatican II and the teachings of post-conciliar popes, Livi argues.

The problem with these philosophers is that they see the world as ideologues with rigid categories and rules. They have absolute certitude in their views and are not open to new questions. They are incapable of dialogue or learning from others.

They remind me of the joke: What is the difference between a scientist and a philosopher? If a scientist's theory does not fit reality, he changes his theory. If a philosopher's theory does not fit reality, reality must change.

Luckily, Francis does not take these critics seriously. In a talk to the Italian Theological Association Dec. 29, he laid out what he believes is the true vocation of a theologian. Theologians must always refer back to Vatican II, where the church recognized its responsibility to "proclaim the Gospel in a new way."

The pope spoke of "faithful creativity" in responding to a rapidly changing world. The job of a theologian is to show people what lies at the heart of the Gospel.

"There is need of a theology that helps all Christians to proclaim and to show, above all, the saving face of God, the merciful God," he said, "especially in the presence of some unheard-of challenges that involve the human today." Among these challenges, he listed the environmental crisis, technologies that can alter human beings, social inequalities, mass migration and relativism in theory and practice. …

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