Wednesday 20 June 2007

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Over one hundred German theologians have expressed support for Peter Hünermann’s recent call for an “intelligent restructuring” of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Hünermann observes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “has preserved the structure of a censor’s office, which it had at the beginning of the modern era.” And he notes: “Today, it’s necessary to elaborate the ratio fidei in a very complex culture, with its grave social, scientific and human problems. This presents a degree of complexity that a censor’s office according to old models is absolutely not capable of handling, even on an organizational and technical level.” He is, of course, exactly right.

In 1968, Ratzinger himself signed the Nijmegen Declaration – a similar call for reform, which stated that the teaching office of the pope “cannot and must not supersede, hamper and impede the teaching task of theologians as scholars.”


Anonymous said...

Let's see, here is a chance for Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, who used the Congregation's powers to greatly harm some of the greatest Catholic scholars of our time, to correct that. I can't see him doing it.

But for the sake of the suffering of Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Richard McCormick, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino--and SO many others, I hope I am wrong. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, successor to the Inquisition, has been the tool that Ratzinger used to hinder and largely roll back the gains of Vatican II. Will he actually consider reforming this office? I cannot see it.

I have feared that the election of Ratzinger to the papacy has been the greatest setback of internal Catholic reform since the mysterious death of John Paul I (who was set to be a VERY liberal pope and would probably have set aside Humanae Vitae and permitted artificial birth control). I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

I am no fan of Ratzinger, but Benedict XVI has at least given some signs of being a different person and has not confirmed some of my initial fears at his election. So I also hope - and not entirely without reason - that you are wrong.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the annus mirabilis of 1968 - the year Ratzinger freaked out over the student unrest at Tübingin and would later describe as "terror".

In his biography Pope Benedict XVI (2000, 2005), John L. Allen, Jr. observes: "In the imagination of some liberal critics, Ratzinger's life story would make a script worthy of George Lucas: the young Jedi Knight who went over to the Dark Side of the Force."

Anonymous said...

I'm with MW-W on this one, although becoming pope can do strange and wonderful things to a person. Perhaps this old dog (God's Rottweiler!) still has some new tricks in him. Let's hope so.

(Also, I think we can't put all the blame on Ratzinger for rolling back the gains of Vatican II, at least some of the blame must be placed on the shoulders of JPII.)

Ben Myers said...

"... although becoming pope can do strange and wonderful things to a person." Thanks, Dan -- that delightful observation just made my day!

Anonymous said...

Dan said that some of the blame for rolling back Vatican II must be placed on John Paul II. Even though I had far more respect (as an outsider from the Radical Reformation) for that pope than this one, I have to agree--especially in his selection of bishops and in his treatment of liberation theologians. But even there, JPII was constantly being "advised" by Ratzinger. So, in our hoping for change in Benedict XVI, maybe we should ask "to whom does this pope turn for advice?"

On a different note, the list of major Catholic theologians who signed this petition was impressive. I hope they don't all suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of Vatican wrath!

Anonymous said...

There have been suggestions that Ratzinger actually functioned as a moderating influence on JPII, e.g. in persuading him not to declare Humanae Vitae infallible!

Whatever the case may be, and despite all sorts of hesitations, I'm still inclined to see him (rather to my surprise) as a distinct improvement on JPII, if only because he lessened the personality cult aspect of the papacy and is less inclined to project his personal devotions as part of Catholic identity.

Fred said...

Ha. I see a one-sided reading of Vatican II that I haven't seen since the naive 70s.

Of course, Vatican II was not merely an aggiornamento (a reaction to outside forces in order to bring things up to date or respond to liberal concerns), but also and even more, a ressourcement - the culmination of a tremendous ferment within the Catholica: above all the work of Charles Peguy, but also Guardini, de Lubac, Balthasar, Ratzinger, Scola, Communio, etc.

I prefer the real Ratzinger to the bogeyman constructed by John Allen (in his first biography) as the nightmare of anti-liberalism.


PresterJosh said...


Of course, I tend to have a much more positive view of JPII and BXVI's implementation of the Council. I wonder which specific aspects the commenters think are "rolling back the gains of Vatican II."

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