Benedict 16 and Habermas discussed the relationship between politics and

Benedict 16 and Habermas discussed the relationship between politics and religion

Joseph Ratzinger, one of the great intellectuals of our time, has died. He was also Pope, but I leave these matters to Vatican experts and theologians.

I enjoyed reading Ratzinger even before Benedikt 16 existed. I discovered him in the early years of the 21st century when I read a dialogue he had with Jürgen Habermas at the Catholic Academy in Bavaria in 2004.

The question was quite simply the most important question in contemporary political thought: what are the ethical foundations of the liberal, secular state?

Are they a product of the democratic process itself, which thereby guarantees its normative assumptions without the need for religion?

Or are they before this process?

Put more simply, what should be the anchor of legislative and political action?

Jürgen Habermas, a beloved child of the continental (and Kantian) Enlightenment, offered the classic answer: the democratic constitutional state needs no religious or metaphysical justification. It itself generates an autonomous justification, a rationality of its own, which all reasonable citizens will easily accept.

Of course, Habermas does not deny that throughout history many theological terms have been “translated” into secular language. When we affirm that all human beings are endowed with equal and absolute dignity, we are essentially secularizing the ancient biblical notion that man was created in the image and likeness of God.

But Habermas is more interested in the separation than in the continuity between the religious and the political, even accepting that both must always dialogue with each other in a pluralistic context. I correct: In a paternalistic attitude, the author hopes that unbelievers will help believers translate their beliefs into the language of the “Polis”.

Habermas’ argument is elegant but inadequate. He seems to suffer from the old vice of wanting to keep the cake and eat it.

On the one hand, the German philosopher wants to preserve ethical ideas that Jerusalem left us as long as they are cleansed of that Jurassic footprint.

On the other hand, he never questions whether it is possible to preserve these principles such as the basic dignity of the human being by pulling them out of the fertile soil on which they have grown.

Worse still, it leaves reason (and democratic reason) with a natural attachment to such values ​​that strikes me as unwise, to say the least. Do you have to go back to Germany in 1933, when your compatriots voted like that?

Perhaps it is and Ratzinger, another German, begins with it in his reply to Habermas. If the law only arises from the economic will of the majority, the first question to be asked is what the majority intends. We can experience unpleasant surprises.

Therefore, Ratzinger argues, the ethical foundations of law cannot just be a product of law itself. If that were so, the socalled “human rights” would only depend on the will of the legislature.

There are values ​​that spring from the common nature of human beings, regardless of the goodness of the rulers. The main political contribution of Christianity was to offer Caesar a rational interpretation of these natural values, which represent both the possibility and the limit of political action.

In this dialogue, pretending to know who is right is starting on the wrong page. In philosophy it is not the answers that matter; are the questions.

And the question that Habermas and Ratzinger faced continues to burn in today’s societies.
Just look at Brazil.

What should be the relationship between politics and religion? Some? nobody?

And between believers and unbelievers? Will there be another common room where both meet and heresy upon heresy! educate each other?

It is Ratzinger’s suggestion: faith and reason are the basis of a decent society.

Religion needs reason to control its metastases, an observation particularly relevant when the dialogue between the two thinkers took place three years after 9/11.

But reason is also gifted with its excesses, especially in the scientific context. Anyone who doubts this side of the moon should pay a visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Hopefully Kyiv doesn’t make that list).

Without the hints of the “milk of human tenderness,” we’re just cannon fodder.

CURRENT LINK: Did you like this text? Subscriber can share five free hits of any link per day. Just click the blue F below.