Theology: November 2008 Archives

Ben 16.jpgIn last Wednesday's catechesis [11/19], I spoke of the question of how man is justified before God. Following St. Paul, we have seen that man is not capable of making himself "just" with his own actions, but rather that he can truly become "just" before God only because God confers on him his "justice," uniting him to Christ, his Son. And man obtains this union with Christ through faith.

In this sense, St. Paul tells us: It is not our works, but our faith that makes us "just." This faith, nevertheless, is not a thought, opinion or idea. This faith is communion with Christ, which the Lord entrusts to us and that because of this, becomes life in conformity with him. Or in other words, faith, if it is true and real, becomes love, charity -- is expressed in charity. Faith without charity, without this fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.

We have therefore discovered two levels in the last catechesis: that of the insufficiency of our works for achieving salvation, and that of "justification" through faith that produces the fruit of the Spirit. The confusion between these two levels down through the centuries has caused not a few misunderstandings in Christianity.

In this context it is important that St. Paul, in the Letter to the Galatians, puts emphasis on one hand, and in a radical way, on the gratuitousness of justification not by our efforts, and, at the same time, he emphasizes as well the relationship between faith and charity, between faith and works. "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). Consequently, there are on one hand the "works of the flesh," which are fornication, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21), all of which are contrary to the faith. On the other hand is the action of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes Christian life stirring up "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22): These are the fruits of the Spirit that arise from faith.

St Paul rembrandt.jpgAt the beginning of this list of virtues is cited ágape, love, and at the end, self-control. In reality, the Spirit, who is the Love of the Father and the Son, infuses his first gift, ágape, into our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5); and ágape, love, to be fully expressed, demands self-control. Regarding the love of the Father and the Son, which comes to us and profoundly transforms our existence, I dedicated my first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. Believers know that in mutual love the love of God and of Christ is incarnated by means of the Spirit.

Let us return to the Letter of the Galatians. Here, St. Paul says that believers complete the command of love by bearing each other's burdens (cf. Galatians 6:2). Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in the love of Christ toward others, because it is by this criterion that we will be judged at the end of our existence. In reality, Paul does nothing more than repeat what Jesus himself had said, and which we recalled in the Gospel of last Sunday, in the parable of the Final Judgment.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul becomes expansive with his famous praise of love. It is the so-called hymn to charity: "If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. ... Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests ..." (1 Corinthians 13:1,4-5).

Christian love is so demanding because it springs from the total love of Christ for us: this love that demands from us, welcomes us, embraces us, sustains us, even torments us, because it obliges us to live no longer for ourselves, closed in on our egotism, but for "him who has died and risen for us" (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). The love of Christ makes us be in him this new creature (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), who enters to form part of his mystical body that is the Church.

Holy Spirit.jpgFrom this perspective, the centrality of justification without works, primary object of Paul's preaching, is not in contradiction with the faith that operates in love. On the contrary, it demands that our very faith is expressed in a life according to the Spirit. Often, an unfounded contraposition has been seen between the theology of Paul and James, who says in his letter: "For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (2:26).

In reality, while Paul concerns himself above all with demonstrating that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James highlights the consequent relationship between faith and works (cf. James 2:2-4). Therefore, for Paul and for James, faith operative in love witnesses to the gratuitous gift of justification in Christ. Salvation, received in Christ, needs to be protected and witnessed "with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning ... as you hold on to the word of life," even St. Paul would say to the Christians of Philippi (cf. Philippians 2:12-14,16).

Often we tend to fall into the same misunderstandings that have characterized the community of Corinth: Those Christians thought that, having been gratuitously justified in Christ by faith, "everything was licit." And they thought, and often it seems that the Christians of today think, that it is licit to create divisions in the Church, the body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist without concerning oneself with the brothers who are most needy, to aspire to the best charisms without realizing that they are members of each other, etc.

The consequences of a faith that is not incarnated in love are disastrous, because it is reduced to a most dangerous abuse and subjectivism for us and for our brothers. On the contrary, following St. Paul, we should renew our awareness of the fact that, precisely because we have been justified in Christ, we don't belong to ourselves, but have been made into the temple of the Spirit and are called, therefore, to glorify God in our bodies and with the whole of our existence (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19). It would be to scorn the inestimable value of justification if, having been bought at the high price of the blood of Christ, we didn't glorify him with our body. In reality, this is precisely our "reasonable" and at the same time "spiritual" worship, for which Paul exhorts us to "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).

To what would be reduced a liturgy directed only to the Lord but that doesn't become, at the same time, service of the brethren, a faith that is not expressed in charity? And the Apostle often puts his communities before the Final Judgment, on which occasion "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:10; and cf. Romans 2:16).

Emmaus Duccio.jpgIf the ethics that St. Paul proposes to believers does not lapse into forms of moralism, and if it shows itself to be current for us, it is because, each time, it always recommences from the personal and communitarian relationship with Christ, to verify itself in life according to the Spirit. This is essential: Christian ethics is not born from a system of commandments, but rather is the consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: If it is true, it incarnates and fulfills itself in love for neighbor. Hence, any ethical decline is not limited to the individual sphere, but at the same time, devalues personal and communitarian faith: From this it is derived and on this, it has a determinant effect.

Let us, therefore, be overtaken by the reconciliation that God has given us in Christ, by God's "crazy" love for us: No one and nothing could ever separate us from his love (cf. Romans 8:39). With this certainty we live. And this certainty gives us the strength to live concretely the faith that works in love.


Benedictus XVI

Pontiff of the Roman Church

26 November 2008

Neuhaus on the bishops

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"Obama and the Bishops" is a terrific essay by Father Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief of First Things, on the bishops meeting for their annual meeting in Baltimore. Give some time to reading and considering what Father wrote.

After two Salesians, now a son of Saint Ignatius will be second in command of the first of the Congregations of the Roman Curia.

An interview with Archbishop

Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer

by Gianni Cardinale


      After two Salesians, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has a Jesuit as its new secretary. On 9 July in fact Benedict XVI appointed as number two in the Department, that he himself directed from 1981 to 2005, the Spaniard Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, 64 years old, originally from Manacor, the second city, after Palma, of the island of Majorca in the Balearic Islands.
      Ladaria takes the place of the Salesian Angelo Amato, promoted Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who in turn succeeded another son of Don Bosco, the then Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, who as Cardinal Secretary of State consecrated Ladaria bishop in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran on July 26.
      30Days met the new secretary, in the Palace of the Holy Office, on his return from vacation, passed mostly in his homeland. In answer to the observation that he didn't look very tanned, Monsignor Ladaria smilingly said: "That comes of the fact that I love the sea, much less the sun...". Before the interview Ladaria spoke of his origins, explaining that, although his family has been rooted for generations in the Balearic Islands, perhaps his ancestors came from the Kingdom of Naples, and more specifically from the Gulf of Policastro. But the pleasantries end there. And the questions begin.

Benedict XVI receiving Monsignor Ladaria Ferrer in audience at Castel Gandolfo, 10 September 2008 [© Osservatore Romano]

      Your Excellency, how did your vocation come about and why did you choose the Society of Jesus?
      Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer: Perhaps the word "choose" is not correct. It was not I who chose but I saw a road in front of me and set out on it. A road, that of vocation, that I began to see when I attended the Jesuit College in Palma de Mallorca and then while studying Law in Madrid. I studied law but I realized that was not what I wanted. I wanted to become a priest and I liked the Society of Jesus which I knew. And so it was a path open before me that I set out on almost naturally. 

 Was your family very religious?
      LADARIA FERRER: Fairly. 

Was there some priest figure who particularly influenced you?
      LADARIA FERRER: Certainly, I have before me the faces of the fathers of the College I attended, the old College of Mount Zion, founded in 1561, but it was rather the whole environment, the air one breathed, that brought me to devote myself entirely to God. 

You took your religious vows in 1968. What memory do you have of that year, so turbulent at least outside Spain?
      LADARIA FERRER: It was a turbulent year in Spain also. But I quietly took my vows, without paying too much attention to the the turbulence. I liked studying and I studied. 

Did you ever feel the fascination of '68?
      LADARIA FERRER: Maybe we are all a little conditioned by '68, but in my case not in any special way. 

Who were your teachers?
      LADARIA FERRER: I am pleased to remember a few. In Frankfurt in Germany, where I studied theology, I had as professors Father Grillmeier, who then became a cardinal, who was a great scholar of Dogma, Father Otto Semmelroth and Father Herman Josef Sieben, at the beginning of his academic career, who would then become one of the world's greatest experts on the concept of Council. In Rome I did my graduate thesis with Father Antonio Orbe, a great patrologist, and I had as professors Fathers Juan Alfaro and Zoltan Alszeghy.

You also studied in Germany. Did you ever meet Professor Ratzinger?
      LADARIA FERRER: Not personally. But I knew his writings. In particular his Introduction to Christianity which was his best known work, but also his book on the People of God. I remember that even in our faculty lecture notes of some of the courses of the then Professor Ratzinger circulated. 

And when did you personally come to know the current Pontiff?
      LADARIA FERRER: In 1992 when I became a member of the International Theological Commission. I recall with pleasure the detailed discussions that took place on the subject of relations between Christianity and other religions. The intervention of Cardinal Ratzinger was always very precise and profound and the discussion was always at a very high level. The work of that Commission is very interesting both for the topics dealt with, always of great importance, and for the international and Catholic air, that one breathes there.

Did you have a role in the drafting of Dominus Iesus?

Your degree at the Gregorian was on Saint Hilary of Poitiers. Why that choice and what attracted you to that saint?
      LADARIA FERRER: The topic was proposed by Fr Orbe who was interested in that Father of the Church. I was lucky because there was not a great bibliography on Saint Hilary, so I could better devote myself to reading his original texts directly. Saint Hilary was not studied enough at the time, but since then many works about him and many translations have appeared, especially in France. And yet he is the demonstration that the Patristic era in the Latin Church did not begin with St. Augustine, who indeed knew, and often cited, Saint Hilary.

What is the relevance of Saint Hilary?
      LADARIA FERRER: It doesn't take much effort to find out the relevance of the Fathers of the Church. We have to read and savor them to be better able to approach the freshness of the Gospel message, Jesus, and that is of permanent value rather than something tied to what is topical, which by its nature is variable, changing minute by minute. The Fathers of the Church are a source that springs in an era closer to the apostolic one. That's what makes them always relevant.

Father Orbe was an expert on Saint Irenaeus and Gnosticism ...
      LADARIA FERRER: In effect, he was one of the greatest experts on the subject. He wrote many books on these subjects, to be honest often complicated because the material is difficult.

For many years you were a teacher at the Gregorian and vice-rector. What did you learn in all these years?
      LADARIA FERRER: The fact that I was vice-rector for eight years is not very important. What is important was the teaching, the supervision of the theses. The Gregorian taught me to live in an international environment with students from over one hundred countries, of different languages, races and cultures. All united by the love of study, but above all of the Lord and His Church. In a real university students not only learn from professors, but also the reverse occurs. And I learned a lot from my students.

When your appointment was made public, John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter collected some opinions on you from your colleagues. Some have called you gentle and affable ...
      LADARIA FERRER: I must say that I try to be, but it must be up to others to say whether I succeed ...

There are also those who described you as a moderate conservative and theologically centrist. Do you recognize yourself in those decriptions?
      LADARIA FERRER: I must say that I don't like extremisms, either progressive, or traditionalist ones. I believe that there is a via media, which is taken by the majority of professors of Theology in Rome and in the Church in general, which I think is the correct path to take, even if each of us has his own peculiarities, because, thanks be to God, we do not repeat, we are not clones.

Your appointment did not please the traditionalist world. In Spain the theologian Don José María Iraburu accused your Theology of original sin and grace of not conforming to the doctrine of the Church, while the periodical Sì sì No no even wrote that your book Theological Anthropology "is completely outside the Catholic dogmatic tradition". Are you concerned about these judgments?
      LADARIA FERRER: Everyone is free to criticize and make the judgments they want. If you ask me if I'm concerned I have to say that these opinions don't concern me too much. Besides, if I was appointed to this office, I must presume that my works do not deserve these judgments.

You gained a certain notoriety when the Theological Commission published the document on the salvation of children who died before baptism. In it Limbo was finally thrown out of the Magisterium?
      LADARIA FERRER: The International Theological Commission has no power to throw anything or anybody out. Although it is formed not by private theologians but ones appointed by the Pope, its conclusions do not have magisterial value. The document in question reiterates that the doctrine of Limbo, which for centuries was accepted by the majority and dominant in theological reflection, was never defined dogmatically and therefore was never a part of the infallible magisterium. And it does not mean that those who still want to continue to speak of Limbo are outside the Catholic Church because of it. That said, however, the Theological Commission, considering together the revealed data and the universal salvific will of God and the universal mediation of Christ, wrote that there are more appropriate ways to address the issue of the fate of children who die without having received baptism, for whom a hope of salvation cannot be ruled out. These conclusions are not new to tell the truth, they originated around the time of the Council, but bring together the fruits of a very broad theological consensus today.

How do you feel about being the first Jesuit to hold this position?
      LADARIA FERRER: I must say that I didn't pose myself the problem. Even if it's true that it seems no Jesuit has ever held the position. I believe that the Holy Father chose me not as a Jesuit but because, I imagine, I seemed to him the best person.

Monsignor Ladaria Ferrer [© Osservatore Romano]

      How did you learn of the appointment?
      LADARIA FERRER: That was very surprising. I would never have thought of ending up here. And not just me, seeing that my name was never mentioned in the newspapers ... Until the evening of June 24, when I was told that the Holy See was considering giving me this job. For my part I explained my state of mind about this prospect and I indicated that in any case I accepted the decision of the Holy Father.
      As a Jesuit did you have to ask permission of the Provost General first?
      LADARIA FERRER: Yes, we Jesuits have a vow that prevents us from receiving episcopal appointments if not out of obedience. And the Provost General told me that I should accept the will of the Pope.

Adolfo Nicolás, Provost General since January, Spanish like you. Do you know him well?
      LADARIA FERRER: I had heard of him, I knew him by name, but not personally. I met him for the first time only the day after his election, January 20. Then I went to visit him on the issue of my nomination. 

Another well-known Spanish Jesuit is Antonio Martínez Camino, who became the first follower of St. Ignatius to be made bishop in Spain as auxiliary of Madrid. Do you know him?
      LADARIA FERRER: Absolutely. He was my student and so I know him well. And we are good friends.

  You have practically lived in Rome since 1979. What do you think of Spain today? Do you identify with it?
      LADARIA FERRER: Certainly Spain has changed a lot: in the political, religious, cultural, economic spheres. But I must say that when I return to my country to relax I do not deal with major issues of doctrine or policy. I visit my family, my friends, my background again, and I don't find my background of always much changed.

   Recently, your superior, Cardinal Levada, in Spain for a conference, issued a cry of pain at the measures announced by the Zapatero Government about the extension of the right to abortion ...
      LADARIA FERRER: At present Spain is undergoing a worrying drift on ethical issues.

 Do you have any hobbies apart from books of theology?
      LADARIA FERRER: I like to listen to music. Classical, preferably. Johann Sebastian Bach in particular, but without undervaluing the others.

 Enthusiasm for sport?
      LADARIA FERRER: No, I follow the major events a little, but from very far off.

  You, along with Cardinal Levada, were received in audience by the Pope in Castel Gandolfo on September 10. It was the first audience as Secretary of the Congregation. What can you tell us about it?
      LADARIA FERRER: It was a beautiful experience. The Holy Father, as always, was very welcoming and kind.

What are the main issues that the Congregation finds itself facing?
      LADARIA FERRER: I can say that our Congregation is concerned with promoting and protecting the Catholic faith. First promoting and then, if necessary, protecting. But I can't go into details. Our Congregation always moves with discretion and speaks exclusively through its acts.

courtesy of 30 Days

Today I had the opportunity to hear Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes deliver an address at

seton-hall.jpgSeton Hall University, "To Defeat Evil--Possible?" at a ceremony which bestowed an honorary doctorate of humane letters on him. The 71 year old prelate hails from the Archdiocese of Paderborn, Germany, though he has worked at the Vatican since 1980. Pope Benedict made him a cardinal in November 2007.


Cardinal Cordes is the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (One Heart) for Human and Christian Development established by Pope Paul VI in 1971. The work of Cor Unum, virtually unknown to many Americans, demonstrates in concrete ways "the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ."


The Cardinal said that sentimentality is unhelpful when it comes to religious and concrete reality; sentimentality allows us to slumber and therefore overlook evil. Look at the well known events of human history to see the effects of the human capacity for evil. The one bomb that still needs to be defused is that of the all-consuming anger in the heart of men and women. Today we continue to demand an answer that promotes real peace. The UN and other socio-political organizations can't do the heavy lifting in eradicating evil: we need a concrete proposal that unveils the many sources of injustice, the psychological problems faced by man and woman and false religion. To zero-in on the serious issues of life that are born of the heart. What often happens and is rather unsatisfactory is dealing with life from the angle of empirical data alone. The Christian needs to step up to the plate approach these questions, particularly evil, from the approach of divine revelation.



About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page is a archive of entries in the Theology category from November 2008.

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