Wednesday, September 2, 2009

H.H. The Pope cites the writings of Fr. Ratzinger

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090805_en.html

As I read last Sunday’s Sydney Catholic Weekly’s text of H.H. The Pope’s General Audience of August 5, 2009, I was surprised to see that one of the references included with the text was to one of the works of Joseph Ratzinger before his accession to the Throne of St. Peter:

[St. John Mary Vianney’s] testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person and especially for every priest the Eucharist is not merely an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion aspires to a total transformation of one's life and forcefully flings open the whole human "I" of man and creates a new "we" (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, p. 80).
I am unaware of any previous Popes citing their own pre-Papal works in an Act of their Papal Magisterium, which is what an allocution such as the one of August 5 is. I suspect that in fact this is unprecedented. I googled part of my quotation and the search produced about forty hits, but none of the authors seemed to have taken note of this highly unusual reference; as far as I could tell the websites which came up pretty much just provided copies of the text, whether in whole or in part, of the allocution. So I have a few questions about this odd citation:

1. Does anyone know what is involved in the process by which a Papal allocution comes to be published for the consumption of those not present at the audience? So for instance, is the text which is provided by the Vatican after the audience a transcript of what the Holy Father said, or is it just a copy of the notes from which he read? Would His Holiness actually have said during his talk “confer Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, page eighty”?

2. Is there any precedent for a reigning Pope citing his works from before he became Pope?

3. Has anyone read the book which the Holy Father cited? I find the quotation provided quite impenetrable and would appreciate anyone explaining it for me.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Stephen, King, Confessor, A.D. 2009

9 comments:

Joshua said...

Wouldn't, say, Benedict XIV have alluded to things he'd written prior to his election to the Papacy?

Benedict XVI, as a good professor, simply supplied a reference showing that he'd said something on this subject earlier. It may even be intended to be humorous.

Remember, he is also the first Pope I know of to cite Nietzsche!

Terra said...

Pope John Paul II certainly cited some of his previous works relating to the concept of personal vocation - can't remember if the footnoting was quite as explicit, but he certainly lifted the material. Will have to chase down the example when I have more time.

But I agree with Joshua - this is a Herr Professor Pope with a sense of humour.

Cardinal Pole said...

Thank you for your comments, Terra and Joshua.

Joshua,

You said that

"Wouldn't, say, Benedict XIV have alluded to things he'd written prior to his election to the Papacy?"

Yes, it's just that an explicit citation seems highly irregular.

"It may even be intended to be humorous."

Perhaps, but

1. If it is ... I don't get it!

2. Obviously an allocution doesn't have to be entirely devoid of any trace of humour, but it would seem a bit facetious to introduce explicitly the teachings of an unofficial theologian--in which capacity the then-Fr. (Cardinal?) Ratzinger presumably published that book--into the Papal Magisterium for amusement. That would be too flippant for my tastes--a bit like John XXIII jesting, during a Consistory, about mistakes in Veterum Sapientiae.

"Remember, he is also the first Pope I know of to cite Nietzsche!"

True, but of course His Holiness didn't do so approvingly.

Terra,

I'd greatly appreciate it if you could find that reference. There's no rush or anything--it'd just be interesting to see.

Anyway, I'm wondering whether I'm just making too much of this. But it is pretty unusual, isn't it?

Joshua said...

Yes, some of what Pope Benedict says can be disconcerting - I think, à la Chesterton, that truth often is.

Terra said...

I'm not sure I see the strangeness in this at all.

Pope often cite theologians as well as the Fathers. And Pope's are only human - their ideas don't always (or even often) suddenly change when they become Pope. If they had written something on the subject previously, still agree with what they previously said, what is the issue about introducing it support of a teaching of the (ordinary) magisterium?

Maybe it helps to note that the reasoning a Pope uses (or sources he cites) even in an infallible teaching are not infallible - only the teaching itself is.

Cardinal Pole said...

Thanks for your latest comments, Joshua and Terra; I'll be back on Monday.

Louise said...

I wouldn't have thought this was much of an issue, to be honest. He's not declaring it to be infallible.

It is entirely appropriate for teachers, scientists etc to quote their own works where relevant.

Cardinal Pole said...

Louise, you said that

"He's not declaring it to be infallible"

True, but given its presence in an Act of the Papal Magisterium it is entitled to the presumption that it is infallible.

"It is entirely appropriate for teachers, scientists etc to quote their own works where relevant."

True in the empirical sciences, but not necessarily in the sacred sciences, in which the appeal to authority is not fallacious. It is for the Chuch's teaching authority to judge the lasting value of any given theologian's work, usually after a considerable length of time has elapsed. Now of course, His Holiness exercises that very teaching authority, but there is the maxim that 'one cannot be a judge in one's own case'. Of course, as Msgr. Gasser pointed out in his relatio on the Decree on Papal Infallibility, one must distinguish the moral aspect from the dogmatic aspect. As Terra rightly points out,

"the reasoning a Pope uses (or sources he cites) even in an infallible teaching are not infallible - only the teaching itself is"

That's the dogmatic aspect. The moral aspect is that the Pope is morally--but not dogmatically--required to make all the appropriate inquiries and deliberations in his reasoning, but even if a Pope fails in this moral duty, his pronouncements are still Magisterial.

So my problem here is chiefly regarding the moral dimension of the Magisterium. It seems inappropriate for a Pope to be the judge in his own case.

Louise said...

Well at this point I am totally out of my depth, b/c I don't have much of a handle on the criteria relating to infallible statements.