The Catholic Thing
Text and interpretation Print E-mail
By Joseph Ratzinger   
Tuesday, 18 January 2011

To remove from faith its claim to truth, to stated, understandable truth, is an example of that false modesty which is diametrically opposed to humility because it refuses to accept the condition humaine; it is a renunciation of that dignity of being a man which makes human suffering bearable and endows it with greatness.
If this is granted, it follows that faith establishes specifiable reference points. It follows that even the simple – perhaps they in particular – can possess the right faith and that they can have it in every age. If the possibility of indicating the essentials of the faith “without distortion” is necessary to the faith itself, then there must be an authority able to exercise this function. In consequence, the Church herself must have a voice; she must be capable of exercising herself as Church and of distinguishing false belief from true faith. This implies that faith and theology are not identical and that each has its own characteristic voice but that the voice of theology is dependent upon that of faith and oriented toward it. Theology is interpretation and must remain such. When it no longer interprets but, so to speak, lays hands on the substance of the faith and alters it by inventing a new text for itself, it ceases to be theology. After all, it no longer interprets, but speaks in its own name. The result may then be termed philosophy of religion and prove interesting as such, but it enjoys no basis and authority beyond the private reflection of whoever happens to be speaking. Faith and theology differ in the same way as text and interpretation. Unity rests in faith, while theology is the domain of plurality. To that extent, the very act of fixing the common reference point – faith – makes plurality in theology possible.

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