Joseph Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity
Father Matthias Gaudron FSSPX
The text was initially submitted as a letter to the editor for Deutsche Tagespost, but unfortunately not published there.
In the German daily post from 23 March 2018, Michael Karger raised the issue of the first publication of Joseph Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity". Undoubtedly, this book contains interesting food for thought and is an attempt to re-examine the Catholic faith of a time when the truths of faith were being thrown off as oppressive baggage. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the young Ratzinger was only partially successful with this attempt and there are statements in this book, which must be contradicted. Therefore, it is incomprehensible that Ratzinger has continued to publish this book unaltered as a Prefect of Doctrine and of the Faith and Pope. I pick out four points:
Introduction to Christianity by Joseph Ratzinger
1. The supernaturalism of faith is little expressed in this work. On the contrary, faith and unbelief are put on a level that does not correspond to Catholic doctrine. The believer and the unbeliever share both "in doubt and in faith". No one can "completely dispel doubt, none whatsoever escape faith" (dtv edition, p. 19). It is true that the believer can know temptations against faith and hours of doubt. But his situation is still very different from that of the unbeliever. Thus, for the first time, the existence of God is fundamentally certainly already comprehensible by way of natural reason, as St. Paul teaches in Romans 1 and Vatican I has declared to be dogma. The Catholic faith in divine revelation is then something done by God Himself in man and gives the believer a supernatural certainty. It is the so-called "light of faith", the lumen fidei, which always gives the believer a final certainty through any doubts that may arise, that the faith is true and that one must cling to it. Therefore, there can never be any real reason for the believer to give up the faith, as I Vatican I taught again. Of all this not a word can be found in Ratzinger.
2. An extremely questionable attempt is then made to explain the deity of Christ. For Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus is "the man of the future", the human being who is the least closed in himself and "most relaxed" and thus becomes one with the infinite. It is even said: "If Jesus is the exemplary man in whom the true form of man, the idea of God with him, fully enters the light, then he can not be destined to be but an absolute exception, a curiosity." P. 169). It is one of the modernist methods to caricature traditional doctrine in order to reject this caricature. Of course, Jesus is not a curiosity, but he is an absolute exception, because there is no second person who can claim to be true God and true man. For this reason, the following statement, made in the name of Teilhard de Chardin, is untenable: "Faith sees in Jesus the man in whom, speaking of the biological scheme, the next evolutionary leap is done; the man in whom the breakthrough came from the limited nature of our humanity, from its monadic closure " (p. 194).
3. The descent of Christ into the underworld is thoroughly demythologized. From the catechism of the Catholic Church, this article of faith is explained as follows: "The dead Christ descended to the abode of the dead in his soul, which remained united with his divine person. He opened to the righteous who lived before him, the gates of heaven" (n. 637). There is nothing more in this for Joseph Ratzinger. Rather, for him the phrase means that "Christ has passed through the gate of our last solitude, that he has entered with his passion into this abyss of our abandonment. ... With that, hell is overcome, or more precisely: death, which used to be hell, is no longer " (p. 220).
4. After all, the "resurrection of the flesh" is "no resurrection of the body". There seems to be only some "ultimate connection between matter and spirit" in which the fate of man and the world is completed “ (p. 266). A resurrected body, as the Church has always taught him, does not seem to exist.
These few examples show that the "Introduction to Christianity" is not a work that one can unreservedly recommend to someone who wants to get to know the Catholic faith.
Text: Matthias Gaudron
Image: ZVAB (screenshot)
Trans: Tancred email@example.com