THE THEOLOGY OF JOSEPH RATZINGER
by Fr Aidan Nichols
I The Bavarian background 5 II Augustine and the Church 27 III Bonaventure and saving history 51 IV Christian brotherhood 66 V The event of the Council 76 VI Reflections on the Creed 104 VII More ecciesiological essays 133 VIII The eschatology theme 155 IX The preacher 188 X The liturgist 207 XI Back to foundations 225 XII The prefect 241 Conclusion 292
Moreover, still thinking of the example offered by Irenaeus, he pleads for a recognition of the ecciesial or churchly character of theology, the way in which it should feed on the Church's sources and feel with the Church's mind. The setting of theology in the midst of the Church ought not, he says, to deprive it of its vigour or close off its openness to new styles of thought. Whether that is so in his own case, the reader may be in a position to judge from the material to be found in this book.
This study has a modest purpose: to introduce, with a good deal of both paraphrase and direct citation, the principal writings of a German Catholic theologian who has been additionally entrusted with the presidency of the doctrinal organ of the Roman primacy. His occupation of that post has not lacked its attendant controversies. This book will not enter upon an evaluation of the disciplinary actions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Ratzinger's prefecture. Such a project would necessitate consideration of a host of factors relevant to governmental prudence in the Church, taking it too far from its subject which is Ratzinger's theology. However, since the cardinal's actions can hardly be separated from his ideas, perusal of these pages may make those who are concerned with such issues better informed.
My own interest in Cardinal Ratzinger's theology arose fortuitously. When, at the suggestion of Father Fergus Kerr, then of Blackfriars, Oxford, I was invited by the Press Officer of the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Bruno Heim, to present to the media the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on liberation theology (curiously disjoined into a negative and a positive statement as these were), I naturally began to enquire into the thinking of the Prefect of the Congregation whose seal they bore. This interest was stimulated by the appearance of Rapporto sulla fede, Englished as The Ratzinger Report.  That 'report' made it clear that Ratzinger's criticisms of liberation theology (in some of its forms) belonged with a far wider vision of faith and the Church. On the impressive coherence of that vision, and the confidence with which it is entertained, Professor J. K. S. Reid of the Church of Scotland, a seasoned ecumenist, has lately written more sympathetically - though, of course, from a different confessional standpoint - than many Catholic commentators on the now celebrated little dark-red book which has sold world-wide some hundreds of thousands of copies. 
An attempt by the present writer, in the pages of the London Tablet, to highlight the positive challenge behind Ratzinger's negative criticisms of the present state of Church and theology met with a mixed response. Letters to the Editor remained wholly sceptical. Most of the private correspondence I received struck a different note, perhaps summed up in the elderly priest from Shropshire who wrote to share his gratified surprise that the Lord had raised up 'a new Athanasius - and from Germany, of all places!' Such disparity of judgment has its humorous aspect. Yet on a matter of such importance, a dialogue of the deaf is surely dangerous for the Church. I have written this book partly in the hope of broadening the terms of this discussion, partly for my own education, and partly in the belief that the exposition of the thinking of any notable Christian mind will be of some value to someone. For theology, which issues from preaching and returns to it, has no higher task than the edification of the Church. Like St Paul, it wishes that
Aidan Nichols, OP,
2. lrenaeus, Adversus Haereses IV. 33. 8.
3. V. Messori, A colloquio con il cardinale Joseph Ratzinger. Rapporto
4. J. K. S. Reid, 'The Ratzinger Report', Scottish Journal of Theology 40. I (1987), pp. 125-133.
Version: 30th March 2001