Winter 2004: CONFESSION and RECONCILIATION
Table of Contents
"Confession and Reconciliation," the title of the major theme of the Winter 2004 issue of Communio, recalls our attention to today’s forgotten sacrament: the sacrament of reconciliation, as it is often called.
In “Unforgivable Forgiveness? Jankélévitch, Derrida, and a Hope Against All Hope,” Jan-Heiner Tück reflects on a debate about the possibility of forgiveness after Auschwitz to show that the destiny of Jesus Christ fuses radical forgiveness with radical judgment upon sinful freedom.
Silvano Petrosino then underlines in “The Confession of the Father and the Reconciliation of the Son” the dramatic character of sacramental confession as an encounter between divine and human freedom.
Finally, Georg Bätzing’s “Homesickness for God: Adrienne von Speyr’s Confession” recalls perhaps the most radical expression of this dramaticity in recent theology: Adrienne von Speyr’s understanding of the act of confession as a sequela Christi.
Although Communio has dealt with the faith-reason question amply in the past, we are convinced that it bears continual re-reflection. Again and again believers are called to “put all their eggs in one basket,” in the solitude of decision, and to stake their whole lives on Jesus Christ. What justifies such a “venture of faith” (to use a phrase from Newman) is therefore an inescapable, lifelong question precisely for the committed believer. The answer, it seems, is this: only a truth that can lay claim to the whole of man’s reason and even more. A second set of articles, entitled "Beyond Secular Reason," explores this answer.
In the title article, “‘Beyond Secular Reason’: Some Contemporary Challenges for the Life and Thought of the Church,” Francisco Javier Martínez describes the captivity to liberalism’s “secular reason” as the most serious, widespread crisis to have affected the Christian mind since Gnosticism. Breaking out of this confinement will mean a “return to the center,” a re-discovery of Christian faith’s specific rationality, inseparable from the experience of the Church, as the form of human intelligence in its catholic fullness.
D. C. Schindler’s “Surprised by Truth: The Drama of Reason in Fundamental Theology” uses the category of “drama” to elucidate the affinity between the structure of reason and the specificity of Revelation: Revelation is a surprise to reason, and yet reason, in its very nature, is openness to surprise. It is not so much reason that sets the limit that Revelation must cross, but the dramatic encounter between reason and Revelation that reveals the limits, and so the form, of reason in the first place.
The complex interplay between technology and politics marks a recent entrant into the debate surrounding the biotechnical manipulation of nascent human life: Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT), a proposal to end the deadlock over embryonic stem cell research by devising a strategy for—so it is claimed—procuring embryonic stem cells without creating and destroying any human embryo in the process. The present issue of the journal gathers a third set of articles that offers a moral and scientific assessment of ANT.
David L. Schindler sets the scene for this evaluation in “Biotechnology and the Givenness of the Good: Posing Properly the Moral Question Regarding Human Dignity,” where he explains how we should conceive the moral issue at stake in the proposed procedure, and in biotechnology more generally. What is at stake, Schindler argues, is nothing less than our capacity to perceive the gift-character woven into nature as an expression of creative love.
Roberto Colombo, an internationally noted geneticist and bioethicist, offers a succinct scientific and ethical judgment of ANT in “Altered Nuclear Transfer as an Alternative Way to Human Embryonic Stem Cells: Biological and Moral Notes.” Colombo’s conclusion: ANT, on the basis of a faulty understanding of human organism, confuses the intentional induction of massive genetic defects with the creation of a sub-organismal entity.
In “Altered Nuclear Transfer: A Philosophical Critique,” Adrian J. Walker corroborates Colombo’s critique of ANT with an argument designed to show that the proposed procedure is technically and morally indistinguishable from the cloning of human monsters, so that, far from finessing the contentious ethical question of the status of the pre-implantation embryos currently used in embryonic stem cell research, ANT resolves it in a morally unacceptable fashion.
"Notes and Comments" is unusually long this issue, with five items. First we publish here the homily given by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger at the funeral of Msgr. Luigi Giussani, who died in Milan on 22 February 2005. Msgr. Giussani, founder of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation and longtime friend of Communio, was one of the most significant figures in the post-conciliar renewal of Catholic thought and life.
Next is a brief “Obituary for Louis Bouyer (1913–2004)” by Jean-Robert Armogathe, who notes the passing of one of the great pioneers of theological ressourcement in twentieth-century Catholic theology.
Since 2004 is also the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Madeleine Delbrêl, we have chosen to publish her short “Spiritual Will and Testament,” which sums up the themes of her thought and mission.
In “A Doctor Reflects on Suffering,” Daniele Alberti reflects simply and movingly on his experience with sick children, explaining how the challenge facing the doctor is not simply to make their pain go away, but to help them find meaning in their pain in union with Christ.
Finally, Jean-Rodolphe Kars closes the issue on a note of joy in “Joy in the Compositions of Olivier Messiaen,” which shows how the composer’s life and work were possessed by a deep conviction that the great fact on which the world hangs is God’s happiness in himself, in the trinitarian bliss that no evil can dim. It is joy that saves the world, as Luigi Giussani, Madeleine Delbrêl, and Louis Bouyer testified in their different ways.
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