The Magisterium and History

November 9, 2009


The_Inspiration_of_Saint_Matthew_by_CaravaggioI’m currently taking a course on the thought of Joseph Ratzinger, so his thoughts tend to show up a lot on these posts.  Here’s an interesting quote from him in light of Nathan’s post, in which Ratzinger, as prefect, comments on the relationship between theologians and the Church’s teaching authority:

[Donum Veritatis] states—perhaps for the first time with such candor—that there are magisterial decision which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy.  Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction.  In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century, especially the decisions of the then Biblical Commission.  As warning calls against rash and superficial accommodations, they remain perfectly legitimate: no less a personage than J. B. Metz, for example, has remarked that the anti-Modernist decisions of the Church performed the great service of preserving her from foundering in a bourgeois-liberal world.  Nevertheless, with respect to particular aspects of their content, they were superseded after having fulfilled their pastoral function in the situation of the time (The Nature and Mission of Theology, 106).

Given the context of Metz (no magisterial “yes-man”), the “bourgeois-liberal world” would probably have been the milieu of German, Protestant academics, who proved generally accommodating to the Nazi party. Read the rest of this entry »