Monday, June 25, 2007

Benedict XVI and "Authentic Humanism"

I make no claims to be a Papal pundit of any sort, but I do follow the utterances of the Holy Father with some interest. Many people have observed that, with Pope Benedict, it is hard to distinguish any "patterns" of behaving or speaking. This is said usually with regard to his appointments of Curia or Ordinaries, but it might also be said with respect to his speeches. To my mind, Benedict has made many profound statements of great importance in the least momentous places and occasions; an important tasks in coming years will be the investigation and re-evaluation of such statements in order to insure that they do not fall into obscurity.

This past Saturday, Pope Benedict met with and addressed the participants of "the first European Meeting of University Lecturers." His remarks, although brief, are a continuation of a theme which seems important to Benedict's Pontificate: the importance of the University as a cultural motivator, and a truly "human" approach to progress and development in culture.

I took a moment this morning to look through my bookmarks and have found a few earlier speeches given by Pope Benedict which touch upon this theme: and surely there are many more, if you include homilies, Angelus sermons, etc. However, I see these few as quintessential to the theme and they would be useful in opening the eyes of any who have not yet marked the consistancy of Benedict's message.

If you have some spare time, give the following documents a glance:

12 September 2006 - Meeting with the Representatives of Science at the University of Regensburg.
"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

06 November 2006 - Address to the Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
"...there is a danger that man, trusting too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher values."

22 April 2007 - Meeting with Representatives of the World of Culture in Pavia.
"May St Augustine be for us and also for the academic world a model of dialogue between reason and faith, a model of a broad dialogue which alone can seek truth, hence, also peace."

23 June 2007 - Address to Participants in the First European Meeting of University Lecturers.
"Far from being the fruit of a superficial desire for novelty, the quest for a new humanism must take serious account of the fact that Europe today is experiencing a massive cultural shift, one in which men and women are increasingly conscious of their call to be actively engaged in shaping their own history."
[It is worth noting that this address came the day after the feast of the great Saint-Humanist Thomas More.]

Although focused on a surprisingly different subject, another recent speech of Pope Benedict's mentions this "new humanism," only this other time with regard to the Social Doctrine of the Church. It is not altogether un-related to the above thread: it simply locates the problem of cultural development in a different context; yet, the problems are related (after all, the university and education are driven by larger socio-economical trends and specialization in industry has a direct correlary in the academy). Particularly for the Chestertonians among us, this will be of interest:

19 May 2007 - Address to Members of the Centesimus Annus - Pro Pontifice Foundation.
"If further development calls for the work of more and more technicians, even more necessary is the deep thought and reflection of wise men in search of a new humanism which will enable modern man to find himself anew by embracing the higher values of love and friendship, of prayer and contemplation."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last bit sounds VERY much like our Uncle GKC:

"The rebuilding of this bridge between science and human nature is one of the greatest needs of mankind."

Which is from his early essays called The Defendant; I learned of this important line from Fr. Jaki's excellent little book on Chesterton, a good starting point for work on this topic.

Also, from the opposite end of GKC's life, a comment very much in keeping with JP2's request in "Ut Unum Sint" for "feedback" on the nature and purpose of the papacy:

"A Pontiff is not now commonly discovered laying bricks, in the act of building a bridge; but it is well not to forget that bridge-building could be pontifical, in the sense of sacred. If we forget it, a bridge will break down between the ancient and the modern world..."
(from an uncollected essay, ILN Sept 15, 1934; thanks to FP and EAF for it)

An aside on this point: I have been struck that this very ancient engineering discipline called bridge-building appears in the Summa of St. Thomas as one of the reasons (along with building a church) for which one might reasonably beg for contributions.
(see ST, II-II Q187 A5)

Hence, may we all work, each in his own field of speciality, to build up the Mystical Body: for there are indeed many gifts, but the same Spirit. (see 1Cor12)

And I must add: I deeply enjoyed meeting with you and the others at ChesterCon07 - and look forward to future collaborations in bridges and so on.

Paradoxically yours,
Dr. Thursday

6/25/07, 5:07 PM  

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