In a September 29 interview with the German Catholic weekly Die Tagespost.
The following is a Google Translate of the German interview.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DIE TAGESPOST
The truth makes free, not freedom true!
A conversation with Kurt Cardinal Koch about the zeitgeist, supposed new sources of revelation and the Christian service of truth.
Your Eminence, dear Cardinal, this symposium of student circles is primarily about the truth. That was and always has been a particular concern of the theologian Joseph Ratzinger and of Pope Benedict. His entire theology seems to be the search for the real truth like a red thread, and his work was at the same time always a well-founded confession of truth. His episcopal motto is: Cooperatores veritatis - we are collaborators of the truth. But is that still relevant today, in times when relativism, against which Ratzinger, even as the successor of Peter, repeatedly warned, has long since manifested its dictatorship?
Indeed, this dictatorship is widespread even today. Because it is one of the basic assumptions of the zeitgeist that claims to truth are immediately equated with indoctrination and intolerance, with fundamentalism and fanaticism.
Like all dictatorships, one supports the dictatorship of relativism by agreeing with it - loudly or silently. But you have to question and expose them. Because this dictatorship denies the truth, but claims it for itself. The paradox of this dictatorship is that it relativizes the truth but makes its own relativism absolute. In doing so, it shows its true colors, which basically does not consist in denying, but in subjectifying and pluralizing the truth in the sense that everyone has their own "truth". Basically there is no longer any truth, but only different views and opinions that people have to tolerate each other in order to be able to live together at all. But truth, which does not apply to all people and is therefore not universal, does not deserve this name.
Just today, Pope Benedict XVI's passionate search for truth is highly topical, and that is why we are addressing them in our symposium. With his entire life and work, Joseph Ratzinger placed himself at the service of the truth and saw his task as "guardians of sensitivity to the truth" and therefore to be concerned that people did not stray from their search for the truth to let.
Is modern man, who thinks he is so enlightened, really still capable of telling the truth?
Man can only be truthful if he admits that he is primarily in need of truth. Because the deepest longing of man is directed towards the knowledge of the truth. When man is honest with himself, he feels that in his heart he has a thirst for truth, and not for any partial truth, but for the truth that can make sense of life and of the whole world. St. Augustine, the important teacher of Joseph Ratzinger, formulated the basic human question as to what man longs for more than truth: "Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem?" This means that the question of truth is identical to that question about the human being and that in the search for the truth the specific dignity of the human being is revealed.
The Son of God himself, we are told, said and testified of himself that he was THE truth, THE way and THE life. And in the Gospel of John it says that the truth makes free. Nonetheless, this path to real freedom seems to be obscured right into the church. Many different truths seem to be floating around at the expense of a once-due commitment. Do we need a new and bold focus on the only real truth?
For the Christian faith, the search for the true and the good is at the same time the question of God as the absolute truth. This truth was revealed to us human beings in the history of salvation, above all in Jesus Christ, and was thus given to us. We humans cannot invent the truth of God; we can only let her find us. We cannot beget the truth of God; rather, we can only testify to them.
The Christian faith is the disciplined reflection of what God has pre-thought and pre-said to us. We cannot dispose of this revealed truth; we can only receive and transmit them with humility. Therein lies the true obligation of the truth revealed by God.
The most precious thing about the Christian faith is that truth has a name and is a person, as Pope Benedict XVI said. said very profoundly: "Christianity does not begin with an ethical decision or a great idea, but with the encounter with an event, with a person, who gives our life a new horizon and thus its decisive direction" (Deus caritas est, n . 1). Jesus Christ is the way to truth because he is truth itself.
There is a lot of uncertainty, especially in the church in Germany, which does not seem to be free from the temptation to develop into a "German church". Looking ahead certainly also requires an analysis of where and why which deficits have arisen in proclamation and also in theological training. Which ones do you see?
The first addressee of the revelation of God's truth is not simply the individual Christian. For he cannot believe from his own, but only by believing with the church. The individual Christian can only live his faith in the community of faith of the church. The first addressee of God's revealed truth is therefore the Church, and indeed the universal Church. Proclamation and theology are fruitful when their agents believe and think along with the whole church and orientate themselves towards the true “origo” of the Christian faith, namely towards the revelation of God and its transmission in the living tradition of the church.
Where revelation is no longer the measure of proclamation and theology, but where, conversely, one's own thinking wants to decide what belongs to God's revelation, there the irresistible urge arises to develop an original theology and proclamation. But what the First Vatican Council said about the Pope also applies to every Catholic: “The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that they might bring a new doctrine to light by his revelation, but that, with his help, they might sacredly preserve and faithfully interpret the revelation handed down by the apostles or the legacy of faith” (DS 3070).
One can always hear, also from bishops, that there are allegedly new sources of revelation. The zeitgeist and the - I call it that - feeling of the believers obviously play a role. Can the teaching of the Church be changed in this way? Is or would that be a further development?
It irritates me that new sources are accepted in addition to the sources of revelation from Scripture and tradition; and it frightens me that this is happening – again – in Germany. Because this phenomenon already existed during the National Socialist dictatorship, when the so-called "German Christians" saw God's new revelation in blood and soil and in the rise of Hitler. The Confessing Church protested against this with its Theological Declaration of Barmen in 1934, the first thesis of which reads: "We reject the false doctrine that the Church can and must as a source of proclamation apart from and in addition to this one Word of God also other events and powers , forms and truths as God's revelation.”
The Christian faith must always be interpreted in a manner that is both true to its origins and contemporary. The church is therefore certainly obliged to take careful note of the signs of the times and take them seriously. But they are not new sources of revelation. In the three steps of believing knowledge - seeing, judging and acting - the signs of the times belong to seeing and by no means to judging alongside the sources of revelation. I miss this necessary distinction in the orientation text of the "Synodal Path".
People speak, read and talk a lot about necessary reforms. Adaptation to the world and the political zeitgeist as well as the longing for the applause of the world seem to have a strong attraction. Is Jesus Christ no longer the valid standard for reforms in the sense of an Ecclesia semper reformanda, which should not be an Ecclesia semper deformanda?
I feel compelled to recall the important message “Our hope” from the Würzburg synod of dioceses in the Federal Republic of Germany: “The crisis of church life is ultimately not based on difficulties in adapting to our modern life and attitude towards life, but on difficulties in adapting to the , in whom our hope is rooted and from whose being it receives its height and depth, its way and its future: Jesus Christ with his message of the 'Kingdom of God'.” By putting conformity with Jesus Christ first, the Pointed the way for true reform of the Church. It consists in turning to Jesus Christ, who is the true novelty that no other novelty can ever equal. We Christians and the Church are renewed by living in the newness of God, to which Paul exhorts Christians in Rome: “Do not conform yourselves to this world, but change and renew your minds, that you may examine and discern what the God's will is what pleases him, what is good and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
If we take this imposition of the apostle Paul seriously, we will see that the real and authentic reformers in the church are the saints. They show that true renewal does not mean less Christianity and does not intend a “church light”, but more and deepening. And their testimony of faith shows that true reform aims at renewal of faith and church, not new faith and church.
Where do you see the greatest dangers on the one hand and the greatest opportunities on the other hand for the ability to recognize the truth and to commission the truth today? What really matters now? What can be done so that as many people as possible experience and suspect: Veritas Liberabit Vos - The truth will set you free?
The greatest danger I perceive today is that truth and freedom are no longer seen together, but are torn apart. In German theology today there is a strong tendency to assume that freedom is the highest value for human beings and to judge from this what can still count as the truth of faith and what has to be thrown overboard. On the other hand, the Christian faith faces the elementary challenge of showing in a new way and, above all, of living that there can be no freedom beyond the truth of faith, insofar as real freedom consists in walking the path of truth.
Such freedom is bestowed on us in the encounter with God. For freedom can only grow in encounters with freedom, above all with that absolute freedom of God, which is precisely not the competitor but the guarantor of human freedom because it is love. When we meet him, we also realize that in the life of faith, too, freedom can only be realized in love. What matters today is the rediscovery of that symphony of truth and love in freedom that Pope Benedict XVI. in a single sentence: "Only when truth and love match can man be happy, only truth makes free." Only truth makes free and not freedom true.
Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. has repeatedly called for the reconciliation of reason and faith. He has demonstrated in a delicate manner that only togetherness makes human wholeness possible. It is no coincidence that the talk here was and is of the Enlightenment of the Enlightenment, which, as is well known, tore this unity apart, with all the consequences from which people are suffering today. Does this project still have a realistic chance if, for example, the killing of children before birth is declared a human right and even the church demands nationwide abortion options and a clear commitment to the right to life - out of shame or cowardice? - is missing?
The reconciliation of faith and reason is Pope Benedict XVI. also important because this is the only way to avoid diseases of faith and to overcome pathologies of reason. Because without reason, faith threatens to cover up its truth, and without faith, reason threatens to become one-sided and one-dimensional. It is no coincidence that such pathologies of reason also appear today in the understanding and practice of human rights. Because if the truth is no longer recognized as a universal quantity, but is subjectivistically pluralized, the question of whether human rights are really universal and belong to all people is also dealt with impartially today.
Closely related to this is the fact that everyone today talks about human rights, but by no means understands them to be the same. A fundamental shift has crept in, particularly with regard to the elementary right to life. This is replaced in public and even in case law by the self-determination right to an abortion in the alleged interest of the woman's reproductive health, with complete disregard for the unborn child's human right to life. The talk of a “human right to abortion” documents the absurd low point of this development, in which the unreasonable is declared the highest reason. This is where enlightenment about enlightenment is really the order of the day.
Finally, because this Pilate question is obviously booming: what is truth?
With the question mentioned, the praetor Pilate slipped into the role of the skeptical philosopher in order to expose Jesus' claim to truth as the fundamentalism of a messianic zealot. This question has continued through history to the present day as a skeptical counter-dogma to the truth of Jesus, who confessed himself to the praetor: “I was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). The core of Jesus' answer is how we Christians understand the truth and what it claims of us: Christian truth is a person and shows its true face in Jesus Christ. The early Christian theologian Tertullian condensed this conviction in the one sentence that Jesus by no means said that he was custom, but rather the truth. As this is indeed the case, it cannot be enough for us to be Christians by habit. Rather, as believers, we are called to desire nothing more than the truth and to find it in God and in the testimony of his only Son.