NEWS: August 29, 2011
Bird’s Eye View of the News
Atila Sinke Guimarães
BENEDICT XVI’S DIFFERENT RELIGION - The frequent release of books by the present Pope speaks of the spare time he enjoys. This is quite surprising since he officially is the ruler of more than one billion Catholics, bringing enough problems to fill his schedule. This much free time shows that the Papacy has diminished to a role of representation. The Pope is reduced to performing at ceremonies, traveling, reading speeches, embracing heretics, schismatics and Jews, kissing a baby at every public event and writing books.|
As we follow the shows of the Pope-superstar, we do not realize that the Church in fact is no longer an absolute monarchy, but a sort of constitutional monarchy where we do not know the constitution or the identity of the effective prime minister.
The book Jesus of Nazareth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011, pp. 362) is principally a work of exegesis, which is the interpretation of the Holy Scripture. Exegesis is one of the richest sources of Catholic thought. To have an idea of this richness, it suffices to think of the portentous number of quotes by Fathers and Doctors of the Church offered to us in the Commentaries of the Scriptures by Fr. Cornelius a Lapide. He draws together the great minds of the Church showing their contribution to the unity of the Catholic interpretation of Scriptures.
From the 16th century, when a Lapide wrote his work, to the 20th century, this chain became continuously stronger and more consistent. It is a luminous and unbroken tradition of orthodoxy and militancy against error that powerfully reflects the unity of the Catholic Faith and helps the faithful on the path to sanctity.
One would expect, therefore, that Pope Benedict XVI would follow that tradition in the book he wrote. It is a vain hope; this book is not a link in the chain of that tradition. The author practically ignores the 2,000 years of Catholic exegesis. Certainly there are some few quotes of this or that Father or Doctor of the Church, but they are submerged in the much larger number of Progressivist and Protestants authors he cites. It is unpleasant for a Catholic to see Ratzinger bowing respectfully each time he quotes a Protestant. The authors he cites follow the historical method initiated by the liberal Protestants in the 1800s.
Benedict praises this current to which he unabashedly belongs: “One thing is clear to me: in 200 years of exegetical work, historical-critical exegesis has already yielded its essential fruit” (p. XIV).
The Papacy has been constantly diminished; kissing babies everywhere entered its new agenda
When he comments on the Jews, he does not only ignore the bi-millennial Catholic exegesis, he laments it: “After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading the biblical texts - the Christian way and the Jewish way - into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God’s will and word alike” (pp. 33-34).
We know that Leo XIII condemned the premises of the historical method when it jeopardizes the divine authority of Scriptures. It was also condemned by St. Pius X and Pius XII for its evolutionist philosophy and its relativization of faith, morals, exegesis, etc.
Besides this first clash with Catholic doctrine in this book, many others are present. If the book were published 100 years ago, these errors would be the easy target of the valorous inquisitors of the Holy Office. I will not focus on them in this article.
Denial of a physical Heaven
The point I want to analyze here, which seems to me ‘the scoop’ on Benedict’s book, is that now we have a Pope who clearly denies the existence of Heaven.
Dealing with the Ascension of Our Lord to Heaven he writes: “‘Ascension’ does not mean departure into a remote region of the cosmos but, rather, the continuing closeness that the disciples experience so strongly that it becomes a source of lasting joy” (p. 281).
So, Benedict XVI denies that Christ ascended to Heaven, a physical place where He dwells with His resurrected body in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also present there body and soul. He clearly affirms that “Ascension does not mean departure to a remote region of the cosmos.” Reading on, he further enlightens his reader.
On the next page, interpreting the cloud on which Our Lord stood as he rose to Heaven, Benedict affirms that such cloud never existed. He casts doubt on all biblical descriptions of this type. He also reinforces his first denial of Heaven as a physical place when he states:
The Gospels & 2,000 years of Church teaching on the Ascension are supposedly mistaken...
“This reference to the cloud is unambiguously theological language. It presents Jesus’ departure, not as a journey to the stars, but as his entry into the mystery of God. It evokes an entirely different order of magnitude, a different dimension of being” (p. 282).
Theological language for Benedict is a language that does not reflect an objective report of the events. Instead, he sees the cloud as a metaphor used to transmit a theological point. Benedict XVI, therefore, imagines that description as a symbol – and nothing but a symbol – to express that Christ entered the “mystery of God.” However, since the “mystery of God” is not an easy concept to decode, the only clear point is that Benedict reaffirms here his denial of both the Ascension of Our Lord to Heaven and the reality of Heaven as a physical place.
Further on, commenting on the truth we profess in the Creed that Our Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father, he writes:
“The New Testament, from the Acts of the Apostles to the Letter to the Hebrews, describes the ‘place’ to which the cloud took Jesus, using the language of Psalm 110:1, as sitting (or standing) at God’s right hand. What does this mean? It does not refer to some distant cosmic space where God has, as it were, set up his throne and given Jesus a place beside the throne. God is not in one space alongside other spaces. God is God - he is the premise and the ground of all the space there is, but he himself is not part of it. God stands in relation to all spaces as Lord and Creator. His presence is not special, but divine. ‘Sitting at God’s right hand’ means participating in this divine dominion over space” (pp. 282-283).
No Heaven: no Saints and no ceremonies in it...
Here Benedict supplies a reason for his denial of the throne of God, which seems also to be the reason for his denial of Heaven as a physical place. I summarize his reasoning in this way:
Prior to any logical analysis, one point in this reasoning that leaves a bad taste in the mouth is that the author does not distinguish between God the Father and God the Son, and seems to consider Christ as a mere man, not hypostatically united to God as the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
- Major premise: God is a pure spirit who does not rely on space;
- Minor premise: God is never present in one single space;
- Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus cannot be in a place at the right hand of God.
I believe that the major premise is correct applied to the time when man was awaiting the Messiah. God is a pure spirit who is present where He manifests himself. He does not rely on space. However, at the moment that the Divine Word became incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity abandoned that complete independence of space and adopted a human form in space and time.
Indeed, He was physically present in the womb of the Virgin Mary for nine months; he was bodily present in the Holy Land for 33 years. Before leaving this Earth, He instituted the Eucharist and became substantially present in the visible consecrated Hosts. Therefore, we see that Benedict’s major premise, although essentially true, is largely incomplete.
God was present in the burning bush and cloud on Mount Sinai
Given the distinction above, his minor premise can only be discussed when applied to the Old Testament. But even in that case, it is not objective. God was present in the burning bush when He appeared to Moses and in the breeze when he appeared to Elias.
He was present in the Tabernacle during the entire Exodus. He became present in the Temple after its inauguration by Solomon, and then in the Second Temple of Nehemiah after it was consecrated in 515 BC until the crime of Deicide was committed, when God abandoned the Temple. Therefore, the minor premise of his reasoning is not objective.
His conclusion also is defective. We just mentioned that God the Father chose many places to be preferentially present in the Old Testament. In the New Testament He was present in the cloud from which He spoke during the Baptism of Our Lord, and also in a cloud as He communicated with the Apostles in the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Therefore, nothing prevents God the Father from having a throne in a physical Heaven where He is seated, and to have Our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, at His right hand.
Benedict XVI continues to make the same denial in other places in his book:
These repetitions add nothing new to the denial we analyzed above; they only reinforce it.
- “The departing Jesus does not make his way to some distant star” (p 283);
- “Christ, at the Father’s right hand, is not away from us. At the most we are far from him, but the path that joins us to one another is open. And this path is not a matter of space travel of a cosmic-geographic nature …” (p. 286).
- “And when Jesus was taken from their sight by the cloud, this does not mean that he was transported to another cosmic location …” (p. 287).
I could unfold the consequences of these denials of the Ascension and of Heaven to other fundamental dogmas of our Creed. For example, these questions naturally rise:
I will not answer these questions now because the goal of this article is to prove one single point: Benedict XVI clearly and indisputably denied that Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. This dogma of Faith uninterruptedly confessed for 2,000 years is now denied by a Pope.
- Since Benedict XVI denies the Ascension, does he not also deny the Assumption of Our Lady to Heaven?
- Since he denies Heaven, does he not also deny Hell and Purgatory?
- If these three Last Things are denied, does he not also deny the Final Judgment?
- And what about the personal judgment after one’s death? Is it not also necessarily denied?
I believe that the least we can say is that our present Pope does not profess the full integrity of the Catholic Faith. This evidence should give food for thought to anyone who still has a drop of Catholic sense in his soul.
Related Topics of Interest
Benedict XVI: ‘For Many’ Means ‘For All’
Benedict’s New Book Contradicts Church Teaching on Jews
Fr. Ratzinger Was under Suspicion of Heresy
Card. Ratzinger: I Did Not Change
Card. de Lubac: Ratzinger Destroyed the Holy Office
Card. Ratzinger: Gaudium et Spes Is a 'Counter-Syllabus'
Conversions? From Now on, Prohibited...
PBC on the Jews: Changes in Doctrine and New Anathemas
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