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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he leaves his final general audience at the Vatican in 2013 (CNS/Paul Haring)

One of the enduring aspects of Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy will be the deep thinking he did on issues of faith and reason, says Melbourne priest Fr Jerome Santamaria. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

Recognising how both faith and reason can be distorted when pitted against each other, Fr Santamaria says that Benedict sought to “restore reason to its true glory” against ideologies that would diminish it.

Fr Santamaria will be a speaker and panellist at the upcoming Benedict Conference, and he encourages new or casual readers of Benedict to look at two speeches of the German pontiff that offer broad outlines of his thought in this area.

“Pope Benedict was very good at giving a big picture,” Fr Santamaria said. “He could see the contours of our world, the tectonic ideas that both gave it stability and could shake it.”

What Benedict saw, and what came out in these speeches, was the idea that reason “goes wonky” when it loses its full context in God. “Faith allows reason to be itself,” Fr Santamaria said.

The first speech Fr Santamaria points to is the famous Regensburg Lecture, delivered in September 2006 at the University of Regensburg in Germany. In his “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections” address, Benedict explored how faith and reason were once in a “synthesis” that began to unravel in the late Middle Ages.

Benedict tracked how some contemporary ideas emerged with the dissolving of this synthesis. He pointed especially to how science came to be the sole arbiter of truth, sidelining questions of philosophy and religion as merely subjective. But in doing this, Benedict said, science limits itself; it accepts the rational structure of creation without questioning why that rationality exists.

The second speech Fr Santamaria recommended was to the British Parliament and representatives of various public institutions in September 2010. During this address, Benedict discussed the “two-way process” of faith and reason and how, without each other, dangerous distortions arise.

The 2023 Benedict Conference will be held in Melbourne on Saturday. Details:


Letting reason be itself: faith and reason in Pope Benedict XVI (Melbourne Catholic)