Pope Benedict XVI told a group of Catholic theological leaders that commitment to objective truth is not a cause for violence but necessary for dialogue and peace in society.
“When you deny the opportunity for people to refer to an objective truth, dialogue is rendered impossible and violence, whether declared or hidden, becomes the rule of law of human relationships,” the Pope said in Dec. 7 comments to members of the International Theological Commission.
“Without openness to the transcendent, which allows us to find answers to questions on the meaning of life and how to live a moral life, mankind becomes unable to act in accordance with justice and work for peace,” he said.
His comments came in a speech at the conclusion of the theological commission’s plenary assembly at the Vatican Apostolic Palace’s Hall of the Popes. The commission is headed by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Pope Benedict said Christian believers have “strong reactions” against the idea that religions, especially monotheistic ones, are inherent “bearers of violence” because believers claim to advance a universal truth.
Some critics of religion, however, say a “polytheism of values” is needed to preserve tolerance and civil peace in a democratic society.
The Pope countered that the revelation of God in “the life and death of Jesus Christ,” including his death on the Cross, is “a radical rejection of all forms of hatred and violence” in favor of “the absolute primacy of agape,” the Greek word for Love.
He attributed violence in the name of God to “human errors” and “the forgetfulness of God that immerses human societies in a form of relativism.”
He added that reconciliation with God through the Cross of Jesus Christ is “the fundamental source of unity and fraternity.”
The Pope also directed specific comments to the International Theological Commission, which he said illustrates “the specific way in which theologians, in loyal service to the truth, may share the Church’s evangelizing impulse.”
The Pope said the commission’s recent document on contemporary theology sets out criteria for a “truly Catholic theology” that contributes to the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel. Theologians who faithfully serve “the truth of faith” can help participate in the Church’s missionary efforts, he said, advocating a place for theology in the academy.
“In a cultural context where some are tempted to deprive theology of its academic status, because of its intrinsic link with the faith, or the confessional and faith dimension of theology ... your document rightly reminds us that theology is inextricably confessional and rational and that its presence within the academic institution provides a wide-ranging and full vision of human reason,” Pope Benedict said.
He stressed the importance of the “sensus fidelium,” the “sense of the faithful” through which Christians show universal agreement on faith and morals. This sense, with the help of the Holy Spirit, helps distinguish whether a truth is part of the apostolic tradition.
This sense must be distinguished from “counterfeits.” It is not “some kind of public opinion of the Church.”
Neither is it meant to challenge the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church, because “the ‘sensus fidei’ cannot grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.”
The Pope closed his comments with a prayer that the theologians will have the grace always to “joyfully serve the knowledge of faith for the benefit of the whole Church.”