Synthesis of the encyclical "Fides et ratio"

Vatican Information Service's sammendrag av encyklikaen «Fides et ratio»

VATICAN CITY, OCT 15, 1998 (VIS) - Pope John Paul's 13th Encyclical Letter "Fides et Ratio" was made public this morning in the Holy See Press Office. Dated September 14, feast of the Triumph of the Cross, it is addressed "to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Relationship Between Faith and Reason."

"Fides et Ratio" consists of an Introduction, "Know Thyself," and seven chapters: Chapter I: The Revelation of God's Wisdom; II: 'Credo ut Intellegam'; III: 'Intellego ut Credam'; IV: The Relationship Between Faith and Reason; V: The Interventions of the Magisterium in Philosophical Matters; VI: The Interaction Between Theology and Philosophy; VII: Current Requirements and Tasks.

Following is the entire text of the synthesis of the encyclical prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and issued in Italian, Spanish, French and English:

"In every human heart, there are questions which transcend all differences of culture, nationality, race or religion: 'Who am I? Where do I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil in the world? What will there be after this life?' (No. 1). In grappling with these questions men and women build their lives and give meaning to their actions. The thirteenth Encyclical of John Paul II takes its cue from these fundamental questions and offers an answer based upon the truth of faith in Jesus Christ.

"More than a hundred years after the Encyclical 'Aeterni Patris' of Leo XIII (4 August 1879), 'Fides et Ratio' turns once again to the theme of the relationship between faith and reason or, put differently, between theology and philosophy. The Encyclical has all the hallmarks of an 'historic' document. Why should faith be concerned with philosophy and why does reason need faith's contribution? These questions of John Paul II do not go unanswered. Nor are they presented merely as a theoretical exercise B though at first sight the theme could give this impression. They are in fact deeply related to life because they determine how people act. 'Fides et Ratio' traces the development of a cultural situation which has led to the separation of faith and reason, and which is now proving unworkable. The Encyclical appeals to all who are concerned for the truth and are leaders in the fields of thought and culture, that they may focus on what is essential, precluding nothing and setting no limits.

"The Encyclical offers a reflection of great philosophical and theological breadth. John Paul II does not condemn, but instead presents a serious problem which is bound to stir wide-ranging discussion among intellectuals and all those engaged in the world of culture: why is it that reason prefers to hold back from the truth, when it is the very nature of reason to attain the truth? Reason is endowed with all that it needs to search ceaselessly for the truth, accepting no limit other than the truth itself. Yet various modes of philosophy today, themselves the fruit of modern thought which is clearly in crisis, seek to glorify reason's debilitation. Thus, in practice, they prevent reason from being what it is. This results in a vision of the human person and of the world which gives pride of place to will-power and pragmatism (cf. No. 5), disseminating a widespread skepticism which 'reduces everything to opinion' and 'rests content with partial and provisional truths' (No. 5).

"Right from the Introduction, which synthesizes the Encyclical's themes, John Paul II in his 'diakonia of the truth' (No. 2) defends the greatness of reason. After all that has happened in the last hundred years it may seem paradoxical, but reason finds in faith its most valuable help and support, the steadfast ally which allows reason to be what it is. On the other hand, a dialogue between Christian faith and debilitated reason will not be fruitful; faith needs reason strengthened by the truth in order to explain why it acts with full freedom.

"The purpose of 'Fides et Ratio' is to give people of today fresh confidence (cf. No. 6). In 'Veritatis Splendor' B of which the new Encyclical is a continuation B the Pope pointed to a number of moral truths which had been forgotten or misunderstood. In this Encyclical, he is concerned with truth itself, its foundation in relation to faith. For John Paul II, this is no routine task but a solemn duty.

"Chapter One introduces the theme of Revelation as knowledge which God offers humanity. Disclosing the mystery, Revelation urges reason to seek the explanations which reason can make its own but can never claim to exhaust.

"Chapter Two focuses on the unity between the knowledge conferred by faith and the knowledge conferred by reason. It shows how biblical thought, accepting this unity, is convinced that a sure path to the knowledge of the truth can be found. It insists that the knowledge offered by God cannot be ignored, if one wants to find the path which leads to the answer to the fundamental questions of life.

"Chapter Three tackles more specific questions. It shows how, with their ever-enquiring reason, men and women can attain the truth, which is by its nature universal, valid for all people at all times. The Pope considers different 'faces' of the truth, leading to the claim that 'one may define the human being as the one who seeks the truth' (No. 28) No. 33 is a good summary of the chapter: 'It is the nature of the human being to seek the truth. This search looks not only to the attainment of truths which are partial, empirical or scientific; nor is it only in individual acts of decision-making that people seek the true good. Their search looks towards an ulterior truth which would explain the meaning of life. And it is therefore a search which can reach its end only in reaching the absolute. ... Such a truth is attained not only by way of reason but also through trusting acquiescence to other persons who can guarantee the authenticity and certainty of the truth itself'.

"Chapter Four offers a penetrating historical, philosophical and theological overview of how Christianity engaged ancient philosophy. It considers the example of the first centuries when the Church Fathers, aided by the rich insights of faith, 'succeeded in disclosing completely all that remained implicit and preliminary in the thinking of the great philosophers of antiquity' (No. 41). Then follows the great Medieval period with the enduringly valid thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas and his vision of the harmony between faith and reason based upon the principle that 'whatever its source, truth is of the Holy Spirit'.

"The modern period, however, reveals a gradual and 'fateful separation' of faith and reason (No. 45), resulting in a changed role for philosophy to the point where it became 'instrumental reason directed towards the promotion of utilitarian ends, towards enjoyment or power' (No. 47). This brought an impoverishment of both faith and reason, since 'each without the other is enfeebled' (No. 48).

"Chapter Five in its first part mentions the various interventions of the Magisterium, touching upon the key moments linked especially to fideism and rationalism. In its second part, it shows how the Church has always urged philosophy to be faithful to its true task, and shows how this has at times enriched modern philosophical thinking.

"Chapters Six and Seven are the heart of the Encyclical and contain the Holy Father's most substantial response to the question which he addresses. In Chapter Six, 'Fides et Ratio' identifies the ways in which the various branches of theology need philosophy. Here, the Pope highlights some recent problems in theology. There are those who, in wanting to open new paths for scholarship, 'simply deny the universal value of the Church's philosophical heritage' (No. 69). John Paul II tackles this problem directly, especially with regard to the relationship between faith and culture, a problem which has been central to recent theological discussion particularly in India. He gives essential criteria for ensuring that this encounter is fruitful (cf. No. 72).

"For John Paul II, the relationship between faith and reason 'is best construed as a circle' (No. 73), by which he means that 'theology's source and starting-point must always be the word of God revealed in history, while its final goal will be an understanding of that word which increases with each passing generation'. The fruitfulness of this approach is shown by the array of thinkers from both East and West who have produced systems of thought which remain valid today: John Henry Newman, Antonio Rosmini, Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Edith Stein, Vladimir Soloviev, Pavel Florensky, Petr Chaadaev and Vladimir Lossky (cf. No. 74).

"The Encyclical's claim that philosophy and theology find in Revelation their 'point of contact and comparison' is genuinely original. This is the starting-point for the richest and most substantial chapter of 'Fides et Ratio' - Chapter Seven. It begins by indicating the 'sapiential way' to be followed as the path leading to the definitive answers which give meaning to life. It insists on the natural human capacity to reach the truth and concludes with the metaphysical implications of knowing.

"'At the end of this century, one of our greatest threats is the temptation to despair' (No. 91). Faced with this drama, the challenge which John Paul II presents is to move 'from phenomenon to foundation' (No. 83) and thus 'to lead people to discover both their capacity to know the truth and their yearning for the ultimate and definitive meaning of life' (No. 102). From this starting-point, the Encyclical offers a dispassionate analysis which shows the hopeless limitations of some contemporary philosophical systems which reject the metaphysical demand for a constant openness to the truth (cf. No. 81). Eclecticism, historicism, scientism, pragmatism and nihilism are all modes of thought which, closed as they are to the fundamental requirements of truth, cannot be used as philosophies which might help to explain the faith.

"'Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery'(No. 90). This, it may be said, is the Encyclical's ultimate message. 'Fides et Ratio' is a powerful call from John Paul II, aimed at stirring the conscience of all who are concerned about man's true freedom. The Pope insists that this freedom can be found and kept safe only if the journey towards the truth remains always open and accessible to everyone everywhere."

ENC/FIDES ET RATIO/... VIS 981015 (1750)
av Webmaster publisert 16.10.1998, sist endret 16.10.1998 - 01:45