National Catholic Register


Vatican Notes & Quotes

Excerpts from select publications

BY Jim Cosgrove

November 01, 1998 Issue | Posted 11/1/98 at 1:00 PM


Catholic Scholars Cheer Faith and Reason

NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 18-Scholars quoted in a New York Times News Service article praised the content — and the simple style — of the Holy Father's new encyclical Faith and Reason, even saying that it would make a good text for an undergraduate course. The encyclical, released Oct. 16, is a vigorous defense of reason against trends like relativism and nihilism, and a defense of faith as necessary to right reason.

The Pope, said Father Avery Dulles, professor of religion and society at Fordham University, is “saying that the Church has a duty to defend human reason and, paradoxically, people outside the Church don't seem to be doing it.”

“It's very upbeat in its overall tone,” said Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, who teaches philosophy at The Catholic University of America, in Washington. “It's kind of an exhortation to be confident in the discoveries of reason.”

“I teach a course in philosophy of religion,” said Father Brian Shanley, who also teaches at The Catholic University. “This is the kind of document that I might want the students to look at to reiterate the classical line.”

Catholic ethicist George Weigel, the Pope's authorized biographer, was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 16 about the encyclical. “His point has always been that truth is liberating, not confining,” Weigel said. “For him, orthodoxy is not the imposition from the outside of a set of arbitrary boundaries, but rather what the Church has come to understand God has built into it from the beginning.”

Newspapers Record Grateful Pope

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Oct. 16-Many cities’ dailies covered Pope John Paul II's 20th anniversary by running a brief but poignant account of his celebrations written by Frances D‘Emilio for the Associated Press.

“About 75,000 well-wishers turned out in sunny St. Peter's Square for the Pope's Mass to mark the anniversary of his Oct. 16, 1978, election to the papa-cy,” it began. The account then quoted the Holy Father's words: “After 20 years of service on Peter's seat, on this day I cannot help but ask myself some questions. … Have you been a diligent and vigilant master of the faith of the Church? … Have you tried to satisfy the expectations of the faithful of the Church and also the hunger for truth that we feel in the world, outside of the Church?”

The Pope attributed any success he has had to the prayers of Catholics around the world and addressed issues raised in his newly released encyclical, Faith and Reason.

“Woe to humanity which loses the sense of truth, the courage to seek it, the faith to find it,” he told the crowd.

Tourists were moved by his words, said the report, which quoted the revealing thoughts of one: “As much as you want to say you're not Catholic, it gives you the chills,” Jude Stearns told the news service, which identified him as a honeymooner from Boston.

New York Times Praises ‘Powerful’ Encyclical

NEW YORK TIMES, Oct. 21-John Paul II likely does not expect — nor aim for — accolades from the editorial page of The New York Times. He got them all the same for his “powerful” encyclical Faith and Reason. The paper recognized in the Pope's work an important statement for modern times.

The editorial said of the encyclical, “It is a plea for an end to the separation of faith and reason and an argument against the ‘philosophy of nothing,’ as he calls the various forms of nihilism that have taken root in a war-weary century.”

It continues, “Science and rational thought do not wipe out the exploration of ‘the fundamental questions which pervade human life,’ as John Paul writes. Similarly religion, especially Catholicism, needs the pursuit of rational debate to keep such spiritual matters from ‘withering into myth or superstition.’”

In concludes: “Finally, the decree argues against the modern philosophies — post-Enlightenment realism, Marxism, nihilism — that see the search as the goal, so that ‘everything is fleeting and provisional,’ as he writes. John Paul, in his 13th … encyclical, knows these philosophers and has argued with their te-nets. As a Pole, he also understands the troubles of his century, including World Wars, the Holocaust, the Stalin years, the gaudy capitalism that replaced Communism.

“This encyclical may not convert the nihilists, but it promises that even if reason does not always lead to belief, a reasoning person like a scientist or a philosopher can still be a believer.”