Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pope: intention is not the criterion for judging the goodness of behaviour

» 11/04/2009 14:51

In the general audience, Benedict XVI recalls the dispute between Bernard and Abelard to assert that theological discussion must safeguard the Church's faith and that there are situations in which Church teaching must intervene to defend believers from "unscrupulous interpretations."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The belief that "the intention" is the main criterion for judging the goodness of a person’s behaviour is "dangerous subjectivism", present in the culture of moral relativism of our time, but which is already outlined in statements of Abelard, the great thinker of the twelfth century. The heated dispute that saw him in opposition to St. Bernard of Clairvaux was commemorated today by Benedict XVI to support the validity of theological discussion, in which, however, "we must preserve the faith of the Church and truth in charity" and protect "the simple and humble faithful" from "unscrupulous theological interpretations" which puts their faith at risk.

Speaking to almost 15 thousand people in St. Peter's Square for the general audience, the Pope returned to talk about the confrontation that saw monastic and scholastic theology opposed in the in the twelfth century. There was “broad debate and sometimes heated debate” between monastic theology, which we can call of the heart, and scholastic theology, which we can call of reason” symbolized in the controversy between St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard". "To understand this confrontation between the two great masters, we must remember that theology is the search for a rational understanding, as far as possible, of the mysteries of the Christian faith."

For Bernard "faith itself is endowed with inner certainty, strengthened by the testimony of the saints and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, and in case of doubt, by the exercise of the Magisterium of the Church." "In his view, the critical examination of reason risks intellectualism, the relativization of truth, that could even lead to questioning one’s own faith” and is "the result of human pride which claims to capture" God. "What is closed and sealed - he said – it does not open, rather it uproots it”.

"For Bernard, theology has the sole purpose of promoting the intimate experience of God, to love the Lord more and more." "There are varying stages in this journey until the culmination is reached, when the soul of the believer is intoxicated by the summits of love." It is a “mystical experience that can even be achieved on this Earth", and in this "mystical union it enjoys great serenity and sweetness”. In short, for Bernard, theology "must be nourished by contemplative prayer".

Abelard, was "the one who introduced the term theology in the sense we understand it today," born in Britain, he was equipped with a " vivid intelligentsia and vocation to study." He first devoted himself to philosophy, which he then applied to theology. His dialectic ability procured a large number of students in the "most cultured city of the time, Paris, and then in the monasteries in which he lived." He had a "religious spirit, but anxious personality," he challenged his teachers, had a son by "Heloise, a cultured and intelligent woman," and also suffered ecclesial convictions. "It was Bernard himself who contributed to the condemnation of certain doctrines of Abelard in the synod of Soissons." "The abbot of Chaiaravalle disputed the overly intellectualist method, which reduced faith to mere opinion. Bernard’s fears were not unfounded and were shared by other thinkers of the time. Indeed the excessive use of philosophy undermined his doctrine of the Trinity".

See also:

From CNA, "Pope highlights feast of St. Charles Borromeo following General Audience"

VIS-Press release, "Theological Debate and Defence of the Faith"

And from YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

Pope: Healthy theological discussion is useful
November 4, 2009


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