Rémi Brague: “If being a conservative means not giving in to progressive mania, Benedict XVI was”

the french philosopher Rémi Brague He is one of the leading Catholic thinkers of our time. Winner of the Ratzinger Prize in 2012Knowing your assessment of the figure of Benedict XVI is mandatory. Alexandre Devecchio has interviewed him in le figaro:

-What will be the legacy of Benedict XVI?

-In my opinion, the legacy of Benedict XVI will be both spiritual and intellectual. He would have questioned this division of labor between these two dimensions. For him, both must work together, enlighten each other. Faith proposed unexpected phenomena to reason, which represented so many challenges for it; reason, for its part, allowed faith to purify itself of a troubled sentimentality, even simple superstitions.

“That being said, the Pope Emeritus was originally a Catholic priestlike Professor Joseph Ratzinger, trained in the demanding tradition of german university.

»The rigor of the composition, the clarity of the exposition, the concern to quote the sources with reference and indicate the context They are role models. Like the practice of disputeinherited from medieval scholasticism, from the courteous exchange of solid arguments, such as the memorable one carried out by Benedict XVI in 2004, when he was still only prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with Jurgen Habermas. This example would serve us well, especially in France, where all too often we hear people say: “I don’t talk to those people”.

»The Regensburg speech (2006), which has been so misinterpreted – and sometimes, I fear deliberately – was a program, a defense of reasondirected against the anti-intellectualist environment that prevails today, when reason is enclosed in the citadel of the hard sciences and abandons the practical domain to affectivity or ideology.

“The speech at the College of the Bernardinos (Paris, 2008), which remains in the memory of the French -including myself, who was lucky enough to attend-, reminded us that the principle of “seeking God”and therefore the very rule of Christian spirituality, should be able to continue animating the intellectual life of the men of the 21st century, as it had animated that of the monks a millennium earlier.

-What are the key dates of your pontificate?

-Among many dates, I will deliberately choose, with all subjectivity, three of which have caused pain.

»In 2005, as soon as he was elected Pope, he gave the push that a John Paul II aged did not risk giving: he suspended people whose double life constituted a counter-testimony, and he denounced the pedophilia scandals. I am amazed at the folly of those who dared to accuse him of being responsible for events that he had denounced and whose jurisdiction he had left in the hands of civil courts.

A synthesis of everything that Benedict XVI did against abuses from his beginnings as Pope.

»In 2009 he expressed reservations about the use of condoms against the spread of AIDS in Africa. On this specific example, Benedict XVI recalled that technique, with all its triumphs, is not an effective solution if it tries to replace the freedom of man and the decisions he makes once he has become fully aware of the dignity of man. the.

»Also in 2009, he put the bishops lefebvristas before their responsibilities lifting their excommunication. He risked a lot, but he put the ball in his court. It was up to them to say whether they really wanted to return to full communion with Rome, or whether they insisted on believing themselves to be the only ones holding the orthodox position, an attitude that is the very symptom that one is slipping into heterodoxy.

Could we describe him as a conservative Pope?

-Some media have not hesitated to do so, taking notions that are valid (and only within certain limits) for political institutions and applying them to the Church, which not one of them.

»The mission of the Church is to receive what has come from outside – that is, the Revelation– Y stream it losslessly. The bishops, including the bishop of Rome, must watch over what is called the “deposit of faith”, without adding anything and, above all, without taking anything away. In this sense, they are necessarily conservators, in the noble sense of the word when the person in charge of safeguarding and making the treasures of a museum accessible to the public is called “conservative”.

“But there is a difference. Museum collections, even the largest in the world, are finite. On the other hand, if the revelation comes from God, who is infinite, its content is also infinite. Therefore, we will never finish inventorying the riches of what we have been given. The conservation of said content will then require a constant adaptation since if this content does not change, the men who receive it are more or less capable of seeing this or that element in it. Thus, in his encyclicals, Benedict XVI has known how to highlight new aspects in biblical texts that are two thousand years old or more.

»If, on the other hand, being conservative means not giving in to the progressive manias that follow one another and patiently wait for them to lose their credibility – which they inevitably do after a few decades – then, yes, in this sense too Benedict XVI was conservative.

How do you explain your choice to resign? It’s a mystery? Isn’t it paradoxical for a Pope attached to tradition?

-When in the autumn of 2011 I saw Benedict XVI, emaciated and leaning on a cane, enter the room where he was going to present the Ratzinger Prize, I had the impression that he was at the limit of his strength.

Presentation of the Ratzinger Prize to Rémi Brague in 2012.

“If there is any mystery, it is not that he has abandoned his ministry, but that he could have lasted another ten years. I think he wanted to avoid what he had witnessed helplessly in the last years of John Paul II: a pope sick and unable to cope, an “end of reign” environment in which everything went wrong, in which everyone did what they wanted. If I have understood correctly what the word tradition means, that is, transmission, not immobility, this is precisely what Benedict XVI wanted to respect when he chose to be emeritus.

-Is Pope Francis a continuation of Benedict XVI, or does he represent a break with him?

-At first, I thought Francisco he had taken as his program the speech that Benedict XVI had given to the German bishops: a poorer and less arrogant Church. As to what followed, I must often confess perplexed. Some of his decisions coincide with those of his immediate predecessor and, in fact, with those of all those who came before him.

»Others, on the other hand, seem to be the opposite of those of the previous Pope, and during his lifetime. Thus, for example, he has restricted tolerance towards the latin rite, while Benedict XVI had known how to make peace by authorizing it. Was this peace illusory? Was it in fact allowing certain circles that called themselves “traditionalists” to become sects, objectively isolated from the rest of the Church? History, in retrospect, will tell us.

Translated by Verbum Expensive.

Rémi Brague: “If being a conservative means not giving in to progressive mania, Benedict XVI was”