Friday, 5 April 2013

Peace, Justice... and Education

In order to understand the profound continuity between Pope Francis and his predecessor, it is useful to read Cardinal Ratzinger's 1991/1994 book, A Turning Point for Europe (Ignatius Press), and especially the chapter on "Peace and Justice in Crisis". The crisis of the one, he says, is the crisis of the other. He looks at the various threats to peace, from war between nations to the more complex phenomenon of terrorism, and goes on to the "real question for the survival of the human race", namely the foundations and content of law, and our sense of right and wrong.

Law cannot be entirely created by us: it must transcend us. It rests on truth and being. He goes on: "The task of the Church in this area is, therefore, first and foremost 'education', taking that word in the great sense it had for the Greek philosophers. She must break open the prison of positivism and awaken man's receptivity to the truth, to God, and thus to the power of conscience" (p. 55). (See Beauty in the Word.) But this culminates in "the task of making, not just talking about, peace, in deeds of love. No social service of the state can replace Christian love in both its spontaneous and organized forms.... Through the power of love, the Church must serve the poor, the sick, the lost, the oppressed. She must go into prison, into the suffering of mind and body, as far as the dark way of death" (p. 57).

He talks about forgiveness giving the power to make a new start, and about the fact that the Church cannot "rule" politically, or even subordinate herself to some project for the attainment of worldly peace. She must remain true to her own nature. "Only when she respects her limits is she limitless, and only then can her ministry of love and witness become a call to all men" (p. 59).

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