Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Cyril O'Regan on the Legacy of Benedict XVI

My colleague at the University of Notre Dame, Cyril O'Regan, has a great essay up at Church Life Journal on "The Legacy of Benedict XVI".  Here's a bit:

A fundamental element in speaking the truth is to expose the systemic inhospitality of the modern secular state towards Christianity that can at inopportune moments verge into open hostility. This is not to say that the secular world is always wrong in its criticisms of the behavior of the Church that has at times been both reprehensible and scandalous (e.g. the sex abuse crisis) and that the secular world has not been justified in pointing to the way in which the Church—similar to most worldly institutions—is too often guided by the instinct of self-preservation and self-reproduction. For Benedict, as for John Paul II, the world can provide moments for Christian self-inspection and ample opportunities for repentance. Still, overall, for Benedict, the “neutrality” of the modern secular world is as a matter of fundamental principle “armed”: it constructs the Catholic Church as irredeemably authoritarian both in its basic structure and in its public performance towards the world; as substituting an irrational faith for reason, which if objectionable in itself becomes more objectionable as it serves to sponsor violence. Further, it constructs the Church as recommending ways of thinking that straightjacket free inquiry (thereby making it incomprehensible how the university came into being under the tutelage of Catholicism) and engender unfree forms of living contrary to genuine human flourishing.

For Benedict, to respond critically to secular modernity is first to avoid being provoked by it; it is to exercise discernment and discriminate between what is hale and harmful in it; what can be sanctioned by reason understood against the backdrop of its full philosophical amplitude and what in it agrees with the Wisdom (reason as both substantive and holistic) that Christianity attempts both to honor and perpetuate. Demonization of secular modernity is reaction-formation, thus hostage to what it would deny as well as betraying a lack of confidence in the ultimate persuasiveness of truth it would proclaim. Benedict understands that the dominant narrative of secular modernity, to the effect that everything valuable concerning the ratification and protection of human rights depends upon reason’s critique of and separation from Christianity, is entirely self-serving, and deliberately ignores the insights bequeathed to it by the Christian tradition.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink