Monday, April 14, 2008

Only Something Infinite Will Suffice

Last week, a panel of theologians and Catholic Thinkers in the US convened to discuss Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to the US. The talk was called "Only Something Infinite Will Suffice." Panelists included Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (editor of First Things), Archbishop Celestino Migliore (Vatican Observer to the UN), Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus), and Dr. David Schindler (Editor of Communio and director of the John Paul II Cultural Center). The panel provided an opportunity for the panelists to muse more broadly on on faith in the US and on the nuances of Benedict's papacy. The conversation is incredibly rich and rewarding, though at times difficult. You can view the whole transcript here.

An excerpt:
Benedict has appealed often in his pontificate to natural law, but it is a natural law that has recuperated its finality and center in God. He affirms and develops Aquinas‘s understanding of the natural moral precept to seek to know the truth about God and to live in community with others. Note that Benedict emphasizes the nature of law as a matter of desire and thus love, in contrast to the modern tendency, following Kant, to conceive law more basically as duty. As emphasized in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, what the human being desires (eros) is most basically to love God above all things and others for their own sake (agape). The point is thus that this desire to love God and others generously arises naturally. It is not merely a function of grace, although the desire is fully realized only in grace.

The task of Christians, then, is to awaken this desire and give witness to it: to show that the restlessness driving every act of human consciousness in its depths is–even in America–a restlessness for God and for love. This is what is meant by the pursuit of happiness, rightly conceived.
Seriously, check out the whole thing. Its very well done, and gives a great degree of insight into what to expect from Benedict this visit.

1 comment:

Alberto Hurtado said...

I also think Benedict is doing something more with the natural law. I think he's restoring a patristic understanding of the natural law as mediated through our reason, but our reason that does not solely look for understanding through mere logical inferences, but looks to man's relational situation to God's creation and his fellow man. Too much of natural law in the last 40 years or so has focused on the "moral duties" of the law, i.e. things like contraception and abortion. That's true and important. But there's a danger in seeing the moral life as merely "fulfilling the law."

JP II began this project of restoration through his theology of the body, but I think Benedict is giving it even more impetus. Ultimately, even how we teach people to acquire virtue (whether we encourage children with externally imposed-discipline or whether we encourage them to seek the true, the good and the beautiful out of their own initiative) is going to have a profound effect on how exactly we implement and mediate this restoration of natural law thought in our lives!