Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Joseph Ratzinger reflects on the passage about divisions in 1 Corinthians 11

Last week I wrote about the passage from 1 Corinthians 11.

For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.

I got a comment from Thomas Zweifler saying that this was a passage Joseph Ratzinger had reflected on in 1986 in an article which could be translated as The Progress of Ecumenism. Frighteningly Dr B had a copy of the paper in a file in one of his offices and he has done a scratch translation for your edification. This is what comes of being married to a Pope watcher!

Here it is not a question of the exegetical problem of the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:19; it seems to me that the fathers were not so mistaken when they found a statement pointing to the future in a remark that originally had a local significance, and even H. Schlier believes that this was for Paul an eschatological-dogmatic sentence (ThWNT 1, 182). If one continues thinking along these lines, this exegetical statement gains its particular weight in that the biblical word dei always in some way points to an action of God or an eschatological necessity (see W. Grundmann in ThWNT II, 22-25). But that would mean: even if divisions are in the first place a human act and human fault, they also have a dimension that corresponds to a divine framework. Thus we can only deal with them to a certain point by repentance and conversion; it is the God who judges and forgives who alone decides when we are at the point that these divisions are no longer needed and that the "must" falls away.
Following the path that has been sketched by Cullmann, we should therefore begin to seek unity through diversity. That means accept what is fruitful in the divisions, to detoxify them and even in the diversity to receive something that is positive, in the hope, of course, that at the end the division ceases to be a division and becomes only a "polarity" without contradiction. But if we try to hasten this final stage through our own hectic actions, then we will deepen the divisions instead of healing them. Let me use a completely empirical and pragmatic example to explain what I mean. Has it not been a good thing in many respects for the Catholic Church in Germany and beyond that alongside it there has been Protestantism with its liberality, its devoutness, and with its high spiritual claims? Certainly, during the period of the wars of religion, division meant confrontation, but since then something positive has developed, that we can see as this mysterious "must" of which St Paul speaks. On the other hand: is it really possible to think of a world that is wholly Protestant? Or is Protestantism with all its statements, and especially its protest, not so wholly related to Catholicism that without it it can hardly be conceived.
J Ratzinger, "Zum Fortgang der Ökumene", Theologische Quartalschrift, 1986/4, pp 245-6.
(Scratch translation by Dr B)

1 Comment:

marcelo said...

hey janeim preparing this text for Altmann to present in a latin american ecumenical forum related to ACT-D next August and this texts really inpsired me. Thanks to you and to Stephen!