"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Friday, October 26, 2007

The right kind of problemologist

In his soon-to-be-published memoirs as presented in this article, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, one of my favorite members of the College, recalls a comic strip in which a little girl says: "I've got it. The world is full of problemologists, but short on solutionologists." How true. And judging from the excerpts, Biffi's book would indicate that he knows what sort of solutionologists we need. For good solutionologists come only with good problemologists, of whom he is one.

Consider the following, from the address Biffi gave in secret to the conclave that elected Benedict XVI in 2005. (Note that he did not yet know who would be elected.)

I would like to tell the future pope to pay attention to all problems. But first and most of all, he should take into account the state of confusion, disorientation, and aimlessness that afflicts the people of God in these years, and above all the 'little ones'. "

A few days ago, I saw on television an elderly, devout religious sister who responded to the interviewer this way: 'This pope, who has died, was great above all because he taught us that all religions are equal'. I don't know whether John Paul II would have been very pleased by this sort of elegy. "

Finally, I would like to point out to the new pope the incredible phenomenon of Dominus Iesus: a document explicitly endorsed and publicly approved by John Paul II; a document for which I am pleased to express my vibrant gratitude to Cardinal Ratzinger. That Jesus is the only necessary Savior of all is a truth that for over twenty centuries - beginning with Peter's discourse after Pentecost - it was never felt necessity to restate. This truth is, so to speak, the minimum threshold of the faith; it is the primordial certitude, it is among believers the simple and most essential fact. In two thousand years this has never been brought into doubt, not even during the crisis of Arianism, and not even during the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation. The fact of needing to issue a reminder of this in our time tells us the extent of the gravity of the current situation. And yet this document, which recalls the most basic, most simple, most essential certitude, has been called into question. It has been contested at all levels: at all levels of pastoral action, of theological instruction, of the hierarchy.

A good Catholic told me about asking his pastor to let him make a presentation of Dominus Iesus to the parish community. The pastor (an otherwise excellent and well-intentioned priest) replied to him: "Let it go. That's a document that divides." What a discovery! Jesus himself said: 'I have come to bring division' (Luke 12:51). But too many of Jesus' words are today censured among Christians; or at least among the most vocal of them.

The experience Biffi recounts in the last paragraph is one that I too have had, as an educated layman always ready, able, and willing to help teach the Faith. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Biffi's diagnosis is correct. It also appears that he has very high regard for the present pope. Let us pray that our Holy Father be the kind of "solutionologist" that only the right kind of problemologist can recognize the need for. Dominus Iesus, and other documents issued by or under Joseph Ratzinger, have been a good start. But we need so much more than that. The Pope's personal holiness suggests that he's got it.
blog comments powered by Disqus