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HeyJ XLVIII (2011), pp.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2011.00693.x


College of the Holy Cross, USA

A fundamental concern of Jurgen Habermass philosophical project has been the attempt to defend the emancipatory project of modernity from its detractors.1 This defense has involved a description of a formal account of reason (communicative rationality), a deontological approach to ethics (discourse ethics), and a procedural defense of democracy (deliberative democracy) independent of comprehensive worldviews. In his major works Habermas has articulated a secular, postmetaphysical account of reason, ethics, and the foundations of democracy.2 In the essays collected in three recent volumes, however, Habermas has expressed interest in a renewed dialogue between religious believers and nonbelievers on fundamental moral and political questions in the context of a post-secular society.3 One of the primary motivations for this turn to religion is Habermass view that secular reason has become incapable of defending and supporting the central moral commitments of the modern project.4 Habermas goes so far as to suggest that continuing to appropriate the moral resources of the Judeo-Christian tradition is critical to any attempt to revitalize the emancipatory commitments of the modern project. Habermas observes:
Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct heir of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.5

Habermass strategy for continuing to draw on this heritage in a postmetaphysical context is to engage in a secularization of the moral intuitions of the Judeo-Christian tradition by translating these commitments into a rational language accessible to non-believers. The theological projects of Joseph Ratzinger and Johann Baptist Metz are of interest in relation to Habermass recent reections because both theologians have not only offered a series of provocative reections on the relationship between the Christian tradition and the political culture of the West, but also have entered in to debate with Habermas on the relationship between faith/reason and religion/politics. In their engagement with Habermas and more broadly the secular project of modernity, Ratzinger and Metz have leveled a series of criticisms at secular moral reason and the secular foundations of democracy by pointing to the cultural, moral, and political signicance of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Although sympathetic to Habermass recent call for a renewed
r 2011 The Author. The Heythrop Journal r 2011 Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.


conversation between faith and reason in post-secular society, Ratzinger and Metz differ with Habermas over the degree to which faith and reason should be integrated and over what form this integration should take.6 First, Ratzinger and Metz criticize the abstract and formal character of modern reason (i.e., communicative reason) and point to the signicance of retrieving tradition-dependent forms of reason found in the JudeoChristian tradition as a means of restoring the authority of moral reason. Second, both thinkers argue that deliberative accounts of democracy are relativistic and it is therefore necessary to propose an authority outside of the procedural mechanisms of democracy as a non-relativist foundation for the state. Finally, both thinkers acknowledge that in a pluralistic cultural context it is necessary to engage in the project of translation, but offer critical variations on Habermass Kantian approach to translation. In this paper we will examine the recent reections of Habermas, Ratzinger, and Metz on a post-secular society, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which the projects of Ratzinger and Metz challenge the viability of an exclusively secular account of moral reason and the foundations of democracy. In conclusion, we will analyze the differences between Ratzinger and Metz with respect to the proper approach to Christian engagement with the world. The differences between Ratzinger and Metz will be framed in terms of their approaches to the process of de-Hellenization in modernity and their call for a return to either Christian Platonism (Ratzinger) or the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition (Metz). These different forms of retrieval, in turn, give rise to an emphasis on either the primacy of truth (Ratzinger) or praxis (Metz) in Christianity and support distinctive projects of translation. This paper will unfold in four sections. We will rst analyze Habermass recent reections on the relationship between religion and politics in a post-secular context and his call for translation as the proper approach to salvaging the moral intuitions of the Judeo-Christian tradition in a postmetaphysical context. Next we will turn to Ratzingers call for a return to Christian metaphysics as a means of defending the integrity of moral reason, his defense of a non-relativist foundation for the state, and his attempt at translation in which he invites non-believers to act as if God exists and accept the moral authority of the Christian tradition. In the third section we will turn to Metzs retrieval of an anamnestic form of reason found in Judaism and early Christianity, his call for the recognition of the authority of those who suffer as a non-relativist foundation of the state, and his attempt at translation in terms of an appeal to the memoria passionis (the memory of suffering). Finally in conclusion, we will frame the differences between Ratzinger and Metz in terms of their approaches to the theological signicance of de-Hellenization and the proper ordering of the relationship between truth and praxis.


In the two volumes of The Theory of Communicative Action Habermas argued that the socially integrating function of religion had now been replaced by the practice of communicative rationality in the public sphere. In these volumes the process of secularization is viewed as a positive development insofar as it serves the function of religion without the problematic byproducts associated with it (fanaticism, irrationality, etc.). However, between these statements in The Theory of Communicative Action and his most recent writings in The Future of the Human, Between Naturalism and Religion, and An Awareness of What is Missing Habermas has expressed an increased interest in engaging in


a constructive dialogue between faith and secular reason. This recent interest in rethinking the relationship between religion and reason is motivated by a number of factors, most signicant among them is Habermass concern with the defeatism lurking within secular reason.7 This defeatism is present in the challenges leveled at secular reason by postmodern thinkers who radicalize the dialectic of Enlightenment and positivists who na vely valorize the reduction of reason to scientic positivism.8 More widespread is the challenge posed by globalization and the tendency to reduce reason to mere prot motives under the pressure of capitalist principles of exchange.9 Habermas observes: our hyper-capitalist societies which reward only the exclusive focus on ones own success - are less and less sensitive to societal pathologies, to the failure of individual life plans, and to the deformation of life worlds.10 For Habermas, these challenges have created a situation in which secular reason has become incapable of resisting a modernization spinning out of control on the basis of pure practical reason.11 In response to this situation, Habermas suggests that it is necessary for postmetaphysical philosophy to rethink its history and to trace a more inclusive genealogy of its development that includes not only Greek metaphysics but also the Judeo-Christian tradition.12 Rethinking the genealogy of postmetaphysical reason opens the possibility for a self-forgetful secular reason to draw from the unexhausted force13 of religious traditions to the extent that postmetaphysical thought engages in a non-destructive secularization of the moral intuitions of revealed religion.14 Specically, Habermas maintains that philosophy must re-express what it learns from religion in a discourse that is independent of revealed truth.15 The history of modern philosophy from Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard to Bloch, Benjamin, Levinas, and Derrida witnesses to the continued importance of this project and the way in which philosophical discourse has received profound moral impulses from religion when its insights have been freed from dogmatic encapsulation.16 For Habermas, Kants project of translation is particularly signicant insofar as it constitutes the rst great example - after metaphysics - of a secularizing, but at the same time salvaging, deconstruction of religious truths.17 In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant draws from the moral reservoir of the Christian tradition and translates the claims of revealed religion into the language of rational faith. According to Habermas, Kants approach possesses the virtue of opening philosophy to the content of religion without submitting religion to a hostile takeover by philosophy (Hegel),18 returning philosophy to a pre-modern metaphysics (Strauss, Schmidt),19 or dissolving philosophy into a postmetaphysical mythos (Nietzsche, Heidegger).20 As we turn to the theological reections of Ratzinger and Metz we will see that in different ways both thinkers call for a more thoroughgoing interaction between faith and reason than we nd in Habermass Kantianism. This inuences not only their respective approaches to the project of translation, but also their criticisms of Habermass Kantian claim that the justication of democracy must be self-sufcient and independent of religious and metaphysical traditions.21


In his theological reections, Ratzinger has defended the capacity of reason to make moral truth claims in an age of widespread suspicion and hostility to the very idea of universally


binding moral truths. Indeed, for Ratzinger, the real danger of our time, the crux of our cultural crisis, is the destabilization of ethics, which results from the fact that we can no longer grasp moral reasoning and have reduced it to what is calculable.22 In confronting this crisis, Ratzinger has expressed broad agreement with Habermass suggestion that in a post-secular society believers and non-believers should enter into a mutually critical dialogue.23 This agreement about the importance of a renewed dialogue between faith and reason gives way, however, to two very different accounts of reason and approaches to the legitimation crisis in contemporary democracy. Where Habermas has advocated for a postmetaphysical approach to reason and a procedural account of democracy, Ratzinger insists that it is necessary to retrieve a metaphysical understanding of reason and an approach to politics in which the state receives knowledge of what is good from outside of itself - specically from the moral resources of the Christian tradition. Finally, where Habermas expresses support for the Kantian project of translation, Ratzinger proposes a form of translation that invites non-believers to act as if God exists and accept the Christian moral tradition as authoritative. In Ratzingers genealogy of the decline of moral reason in modernity he maintains that the modern era is characterized by the instrumentalization of rationality and the tendency to reduce reason to its technical function. For Ratzinger, this constitutes nothing short of an ontological crisis in which those types of truth claims that fail to submit to the positivist canons of reasonability are dismissed as arbitrary and irrational.24 Ratzinger traces the roots of this instrumentalization to the emergence of the positivist use of reason in modernity in gures like Francis Bacon and August Comte.25 The success of the natural sciences in their articulation of a form of reason independent of concrete traditions resulted in the dominance of scientic and technical forms of reason. While these forms of reason have been highly successful in the sciences and technology, the moral and political consequences have been considerably less desirable.26 In particular, Ratzinger argues that the evidential character of morality has been lost in a society shaped by positivist and technological forms of reason.27 As a result, moral reason has been instrumentalized and consequentialism now determines what is right and wrong: in a world based on calculations, it is the calculation of consequences that determines what should be considered moral and immoral.28 Or equally problematic, under the dominance of scientic and technological reason, the truth claims of morality and religion are viewed as subjective, giving rise to what Ratzinger characterizes as the dictatorship of relativism or the super-dogma of relativism.29 Although Ratzinger is critical of the tendency in modernity to reduce reason to its positivistic and instrumental use, his concern is not to engage in a totalizing critique of modernity. Instead, he argues that Christians ought to defend many of the central values of the Enlightenment, while also attending to the internal contradictions of the present form of Enlightenment culture.30 In this regard, Ratzingers intention is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application.31 In order to restore a truncated form of reason to its former grandeur, Ratzinger argues that it is necessary to resist the Scylla of instrumental-positivistic reason while also avoiding the Charybdis of postmetaphysical reason and its commitment to the position that truth is socially constructed (i.e., Habermas). In response to these alternatives, Ratzinger proposes a retrieval of a metaphysical approach to reason in which truth is discovered in the order of reality.32 This retrieval of metaphysical reason commits Ratzinger to the position that there is an objective moral order inscribed in reality that is accessible to human reason, but which is not the product of human reason.


In Ratzingers theology, this analysis of metaphysical reason is supplemented by the claim that the recognition of an objective moral order is identiable only within concrete, historical frameworks because metaphysical and moral reason comes into action only in a historical context.33 While there are a number of concrete, historical traditions of moral reection in the West, Ratzinger contends that Christianity offers the most universal and rational religious culture and should continue to serve as the basis for the attempt to broaden reason to accommodate the view that there are objective moral truths given in the order of reality.34 Thus, Ratzinger calls for the replacement of a secular Enlightenment with a Christian Enlightenment which acknowledges that the roots of the emancipatory commitments of the modern project are found in the Christian tradition.35 In particular, Ratzinger argues that the Enlightenment is of Christian origin and was born precisely and exclusively in the realm of the Christian faith and therefore any attempt to rescue it must involve a return to its roots.36 In this sense, Ratzingers defense of moral reason involves a critique of the modern invention of autonomous reason and a return to a tradition-dependent form of reason found in the Christian metaphysical tradition.37 Ratzingers description of the task of defending moral reason is closely connected to his analysis of the relationship between religion and politics.38 While, for Ratzinger, a certain measure of autonomy between religion and politics should be maintained, he argues that reason without faith leads to the instrumentalization of reason and a politics that is not rooted in the moral commitments of religious traditions leads to a functionalist and relativist understanding of the state. Ratzinger detects this functionalism in the tendency in contemporary culture to prioritize the values of tolerance and co-existence over the commitment to truth in the political sphere. The end result, for Ratzinger, is that relativism appears to be the philosophical foundation of democracy.39 It follows that what is moral and true in the political life of democracy is decided by majority vote so that there is ultimately no other principle governing political activity than the decision of the majority, which occupies the position of truth in the life of the state.40 Ratzingers response to the relativism he sees at the foundations of democracy is to insist once again on the capacity of humanity to discover truth: the explicit skepticism of relativistic and positivistic theories is countered here by a basic condence in the ability of human reason to make truth known.41 Because Ratzinger maintains that truth is discovered in the order of reality and not merely constructed through debate or deliberation, he contends that there exists a truth that is antecedent to political activity which makes this activity possible.42 For Ratzinger, the implication of this position is that the state must look outside of its own mechanisms for knowledge of what is true and good. According to Ratzinger:
the state is not itself the source of truth and morality. It cannot produce truth from its own self by means of an ideology based on people or race or class or some other entity. Nor can it produce truth via the majority. The state is not absolute . . ..accordingly the state must receive from outside itself the essential measure of knowledge and truth with regard to that which is good.43

For Ratzinger, the recognition that there are transcendent values that are not constructed by human beings constitutes the only legitimate foundation for a non-relativist understanding of the state.44 Accordingly, Ratzinger maintains that an atheist state is a contradiction in terms because it is incapable of defending the transcendent source of its fundamental values.45 Once again, Ratzinger suggests that because the Christian tradition has served as the protector of transcendent values in the West it is critical that the state recognize that a fundamental system of values based on Christianity is the precondition


for its existence . . ..there is a fund of truth that is not subject to consensus but rather precedes it and makes it possible.46 At the center of Ratzingers reections on the relationship between faith/reason and religion/politics is the call for a return to a pre-secular metaphysics in order to articulate a post-secular approach to moral reason and the foundations of democracy.47 Ratzinger brings this project into a context of pluralism by describing the moral commitments of the Christian tradition in a language that is accessible to those who stand outside the confessional bounds of Christianity. Although he acknowledges that the traditional Catholic approach to translation has been natural law, Ratzinger maintains that this discourse as an instrument has become blunt48 in the modern era when the very idea of nature has come under critical scrutiny.49 In the place of natural law, Ratzinger proposes an alternative approach to translation in which he invites non-believers to share with believers the moral certainties of the Christian tradition. Specically, echoing Pascals wager,50 Ratzinger proposes that non-believers should act as if God exists (veluti si Deus daretur) and commit themselves to the moral universalism of the Christian tradition.51 Ratzingers argument represents a clear attempt to reverse the Enlightenment commitment to a morality that is binding even if God does not exist (etsi Deus non daretur) and crystallizes the main contours of Ratzingers strategy for combating moral relativism through a return to the moral teaching of a concrete, historical tradition. This approach involves an implicit critique of abstract, ahistorical approaches to morality and an explicit attempt to invite non-believers to participate in the truth claims of the Christian tradition. Because Ratzinger is committed to the proposition that reason needs revelation in order to be able to function as reason he views the Christian tradition as the indispensable resource for the project of moral regeneration in modernity.52


Metz also attempts to bring the religious resources of the Judeo-Christian tradition to bear on the contemporary crises of moral reason and the foundations of democracy. But in contrast to Ratzinger and his return to the Christian metaphysical tradition, Metz suggests that it is necessary to open modern reason to the category of remembrance by retrieving the anamnestic form of reason found in Judaism and early Christianity. This retrieval of a tradition-dependent form of moral reason serves as basis for a form of democracy not based exclusively on consensus and majority rule, but on the absolute foundation of respecting the authority of those who suffer. Finally, this anamnestic form of reason provides the basis for an approach to translation grounded in the retrieval of the memory of suffering (memoria passionis). Along with Habermas and Ratzinger, Metz is concerned to defend moral reason against its positivist instrumentalization as well as the totalizing postmodern critique of reason which views a defense of moral universalism as a form of latent imperialism.53 But in contrast to the genealogies offered by Habermas and Ratzinger, Metz suggests that the cause of the dialectic of Enlightenment is the perpetual forgetfulness of anamnestic reason in Western culture. For Metz, anamnestic reason is the specic dowry of the Jewish spirit54 and is characterized by the power of memory, a power unknown or continually repressed in Europe.55 In his genealogy, Metz claims that the forgetfulness of anamnestic reason took place rather early in the history of the Christian tradition when it embraced


Greek metaphysics and abandoned the form of reason specic to the Jewish tradition.56 For Metz, this forgetfulness has only intensied with the eclipse of metaphysical reason and the rise of scientic-instrumental reason in modernity. In response to the crises caused by ahistorical, metaphysical approaches to reason and the instrumentalization of reason in modernity, Metz calls for a retrieval of a form of reason that remembers. According to Metz:
In my view we can only reckon with the insights of the dialectic of Enlightenment - for the most part once again forgotten or repressed - in the light that is shed by anamnestic reason. Only in that light can the Enlightenment enlighten itself about the disaster it has brought about; only in that light can it arrive at some understanding of the moral and political exhaustion of the Enlightenment, or, that is to say, of European modernity. Anamnestic reason is quite amenable to the Enlightenment and modernity; it gains its own legitimate universalism because it allows itself to be guided by a specic memory: the memoria passionis, that is, the memory of suffering, or more precisely the memory of someone elses suffering.57

For Metz, the problem with metaphysical and modern reason is that in its commitment to universality it has abstracted itself from concrete historical experiences and failed to acknowledge the primordial universalism that emerges from the memoria passionis. In this sense, Metz suggests that we have so much abstract Enlightenment, so much Enlightenment cut in half because we have so much Enlightenment that has not cultivated memory.58 In his reections on the dialectic of Enlightenment Metz has criticized not only metaphysical and instrumental reason for engendering forgetfulness about anamnestic reason, but also the communicative account of reason articulated by Habermas. Although Metz acknowledges that communicative reason represents a signicant corrective to metaphysical and instrumental forms of reason, he nevertheless points to its failure to appropriate the insights of tradition-dependent forms of reason oriented by concrete memories of suffering in history. In an explicit criticism of Habermass account of communicative reason, Metz observes: with the form of reason that it developed and which is dominant today, the Enlightenment has a deeply rooted prejudice that it cannot overcome: the prejudice against memory. It calls for discourse and consensus and undervalues the intelligible power of memory, and thereby of anamnestic rationality.59 At the root of Metzs criticisms of communicative reason is his view that the fundamental authority to which this form of reason is committed is the authority of consensus among dialogue partners. Because of this, Metz argues that the solidarity cultivated through Habermass communicative account of reason is a solidarity only among the rational or only among those who have mastered the language of communicative reason.60 By way of contrast, a morality grounded in the universalism of memoria passionis supports a form of solidarity that is universal in reach.61 Metzs insistence on the importance of retrieving a form of reason that remembers and acknowledges the authority of those who suffer is also central to his engagement with the contemporary crisis over the foundations of democracy. For Metz, the contemporary legitimation crisis in democracy is the result of the commitment in modern politics to an immanent foundation for the state. In particular, Metz claims that politics within a modern framework is committed to a secular approach to legitimation: politics on modern ground: in the current view this means a politics without any anchoring in transcendence; a politics with a purely worldly legitimation of political rule; a politics strictly separated from religion and from all religious symbolizations of political


legitimacy.62 While not wishing to adopt the position of an antidemocratic fundamentalist or an antipluralist traditionalist,63 Metz is critical of the adequacy of these secular forms of legitimation and is particularly critical of the proceduralist model defended by Habermas and other Kantian political philosophers (e.g., Rawls). Metzs criticism of proceduralism is based on the fact that within a proceduralist account of the foundations of democracy the basis for judging the correctness of a political decision is reduced to whether or not the proper procedures were followed in coming to a decision.64 According to Metz: there is no stable center, no core for its self-reection. What it views as its foundations are consensus which can be revoked; the contract, which can be dissolved or certainly renegotiated at any point; the institution, as a codication of social agreements that is in principle mutable, and so on.65 It is the formalism of Habermass proceduralism, therefore, that makes it vulnerable to the charge of relativism. For Metz, by prioritizing the a priori of communication over the a priori of suffering Habermas has cut his philosophy off from a source of moral truth capable of providing democracy with a non-relativist foundation.66 In the words of Metz:
There is, after all, one authority that has not been superseded by any of the critiques of authority formulated on modernitys ground: the authority of those who suffer. In my view every liberal politics aiming at the universal must reckon with this authority. Respecting someone elses suffering is a requirement for any political culture. And articulating others suffering is the presupposition of all universalist claims, as they are formulated in the politics of human rights.67

For Metz, this non-relativist foundation for the state is a priori or simply given and cannot be grounded on the basis of dialogue and consensus.68 In this regard, Ratzinger and Metz share the common strategy of defending a moral foundation for democracy that is discovered in reality and not constructed by conversation, debate, or consensus. But where Ratzinger advocates for the acknowledgment of the authority of the Christian tradition as a historical tradition which has the capacity to orient the state in what is true and good, Metz focuses his attention on the authority of those who suffer - an authority whose historical genealogy Metz traces back to the pathic monotheism of the Judeo-Christian tradition.69 In his approach to translation, Metz maintains that the memoria passionis is present in some form in every culture, even if its historical roots are found in the traditions of biblical monotheism. In his analysis of the moral signicance of memoria passionis, Metz has argued that it is critical that the appeal to the memoria passionis involves not only the call for the remembrance of the past suffering of ones own culture, but also the suffering experienced in other cultures and even the suffering of ones enemies.70 Where a xation on the history of suffering in ones own culture often leads to hatred and violence, Metz argues that the remembrance of the suffering of ones enemies represents the only legitimate path toward an authentic politics of peace. We can see, therefore, that in contrast to Ratzingers project of translation in which non-believers are invited to act as if God exists and to accept the Christian moral tradition as authoritative, Metz points to the universal authority of those who suffer which is present in some form in every culture.71


Although Ratzinger and Metz formally converge in striking ways in their criticisms of secular reason and procedural defenses of democracy, their projects represent distinctive


attempts to bring the resources of the Christian tradition into dialogue with modern culture. The differences between Ratzinger and Metz could be described in terms of their commitment to the theological styles of Augustine (Ratzinger) or Aquinas (Metz), ressourcement (Ratzinger) or aggiornamento (Metz), or the ways in which they negotiate the relationship between nature and grace in terms of a preference for either de Lubac (Ratzinger) or Rahner (Metz).72 These all constitute important components of the differences between these two theologians, but in conclusion to this paper we will focus on the disagreement between Ratzinger and Metz over the process of de-Hellenization in modernity and the signicance of Kants critique of metaphysics within this process. Where Ratzinger mourns the process of de-Hellenization and advocates for a return to metaphysics as a means of grounding absolute moral truth claims in an age of relativism, Metz views the process of de-Hellenization as an opportunity to return Christianity to its Jewish roots in order to prioritize praxis over metaphysics. These emphases lead to very different approaches to translation in which Ratzinger invites non-believers to participate in the truth of the Christian tradition and Metz points to the importance of cross-cultural and interreligious dialogue on the basis of the practical recognition of the authority of those who suffer. In this sense, the division between Ratzinger and Metz revolves around the question of whether contemporary Christian theology should engage in a retrieval of Christian Platonism (Ratzinger) or Hebraic Christianity (Metz) in response to moral and political crises of modernity and whether Christianity is a religion grounded in the primacy of truth (Ratzinger) or praxis (Metz). In the genealogy of modernity recounted in his Regensburg address, Ratzinger traces the process of de-Hellenization back to Luthers critique of metaphysics and follows its intensication in Kants critical philosophy, von Harnacks theology, and contemporary theologies of religious pluralism.73 For Ratzinger, de-Hellenization is characterized by a radical suppression of the Greek roots of not only patristic and medieval theology, but also the biblical tradition in which God is named as Logos in the Gospel of John. For Ratzinger, the synthesis between biblical faith and Greek metaphysics in the Gospel of John, Augustine, and Aquinas was no mere accident of history, but instead a providential event which served to support the fundamental Christian intuition that reality is rational and intelligible.74 At various points in the history of Christianity this synthesis has been called into question, but there is perhaps no challenge that is more decisive for Ratzinger than Kants critique of metaphysics. Ratzinger observes: Since Immanuel Kant the unity of philosophical thought has more and more become disrupted. The thing to suffer most has been the reliable certainty that man can feel his way, by solid intellectual argument, behind the realm of physics to the being of things and the their ultimate cause.75 Because reason is incapable of any metaphysical knowledge76 Kant refashions Christianity as a moral religion and limits its scope to the realm of practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.77 With this, Kant inaugurates a dominant trajectory in modern theology that survives today in political and liberation theologies as well as various theologies of religious pluralism.78 Ratzingers criticism of these trajectories in contemporary theology is well known and rooted in his view that these forms of theology constitute a rupture with the classical Christian tradition and its commitment to Christian metaphysical truth claims. Because he judges praxis to be an inadequate foundation for Christianity Ratzinger expresses profound skepticism about the vitality and staying power of post-Kantian forms of theology. In particular, Ratzinger argues that if the pathway to metaphysical knowledge is barred, if we cannot pass beyond the limits to human perception set by Kant the end result is that faith will necessarily atrophy, simply for lack of breathing space.79



While Kants project is cast in a decidedly negative light in Ratzingers analysis, Metz interprets Kants critique of metaphysics and his related turn to practical reason more positively as an opening that makes possible the emergence of political theology in the 20th century. According to Metz: political theology always started from the insight that the turn to the primacy of practical reason in philosophy (Kant and Enlightenment; Marx) is to be considered the real Copernican shift.80 As a post-idealist form of theology, political theology operates out of a commitment to the primacy of praxis over metaphysics and emphasizes the priority of social transformation over the contemplation of truth. It should be noted here, however, that Metzs turn to praxis in Kants The Critique of Practical Reason and in Marxs philosophy is not a reduction of theology to secular reason (contra Milbank81), but rather an opportunity to retrieve the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition which have been covered over by Greek metaphysics.82 It is with respect to this issue that Metz has criticized explicitly Ratzingers claim that the Christian synthesis between biblical faith and Greek metaphysics constitutes a providential event in history because it was precisely this synthesis which led to what Metz characterizes as the epochal forgetfulness of the Jewish roots of Christianity.83 According to Metz, the move from the Jewish approach to belief in the Synoptic Gospels to the more Greek inclined approach found in the Gospel of John and the early Christian writers resulted in the halving of the spirit of Christianity.84 Christianity took its faith from biblical Israel but its way of thinking from the Greek metaphysical tradition in which ideas are always more fundamental than memories.85 Thus, over time a religion originally focused on the suffering of the innocent, the problem of theodicy, and discipleship as a practice of following Jesus was transformed into a religion focused on individual sin, redemption from sin, and belief as a form of knowledge.86 In Metzs theology, the retrieval of the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition represents the attempt to not only reverse this process and restore the prioritization of praxis over metaphysics, but also to underscore the fact that the precondition of all truth claims is allowing the voices of suffering to speak (Adorno).87 Accordingly, Metzs approach to translation involves a commitment to interreligious and cross-cultural dialogue on the basis of a shared commitment to the authority of those who suffer, which constitutes the foundation for a global ethic, a world ethic, which obliges all humans prior to any consensus or agreement.88 This practical and ethical approach to dialogue is similar to Hans Kungs call for the creation of a global ethic or basic consensus among world religions about fundamental ethical commitments.89 While Metzs reections move very much in the direction of Kungs global ethic, Metz modies Kungs approach by insisting that morality is grounded in recognition of the authority of those who suffer and not in consensus.90 From Ratzingers perspective, this approach constitutes a repetition of Kant and the reduction of the truth claims of Christianity to an ethics which attempts to replace orthodoxy: by orthopraxy in view of the fact that there is no common faith any more (because truth is unattainable), only common praxis.91 For Ratzinger, the prioritization of praxis over truth turns Christianity upside down92 because the Bible was not just meaning to introduce some kind of orthopraxy. It lays claim to something more. It regards man as being able to recognize truth and means to confront him with truth itself . . ..93 Engaging in a defense of the priority of truth over praxis is a critical issue for Ratzinger because in his view it is truth that makes praxis possible and not the reverse.94 Ratzingers approach to translation is consistent with this claim insofar as it invites non-Christians to participate in the truth of the Christian tradition by acting as if



God exists. This commitment to the specicity of Christian truth claims also shapes Ratzingers approach to dialogue in which he has emphasized the importance of truth as the starting point of dialogue.95 For his part, Habermass recent reections on the theologies of Ratzinger and Metz have focused on their respective genealogies of modernity and the role that Kant plays in these genealogies. In his analysis of Ratzingers theology, Habermas has focused his attention on the Regensburg address and has interpreted it as a totalizing critique of modernity. For Habermas, Ratzingers comments were unexpectedly critical of modernity and described a situation in which Christian theology must deal with modern, postmetaphysical reason in the negative.96 According to Habermas, Ratzingers genealogy of modernity recounts a narrative in which the transition from the medieval world to nominalism, Luther, and Kant is one of unmitigated decline and in which the task of contemporary theology is to return to the pre-modern synthesis of Greek metaphysics and biblical faith.97 Against this genealogy, Habermas argues that modernity is a more complex phenomenon than Ratzinger suggests and that the move from Duns Scotus to nominalism does not merely lead to the Protestant voluntarist deity (Willensgott) but also paves the way for modern natural science. Kants transcendental turn leads not only to a critique of the proofs of Gods existence but also to the concept of autonomy which rst made possible our modern European understanding of law and democracy.98 In contrast to his critical comments about Ratzingers theology, Habermas approaches Metzs theology more positively and views it as a form of theology with which postmetaphysical philosophy can engage in constructive dialogue. In a recent interview, Habermas states his preference for Metzs theology when asked whether Metz is his ideal religious postsecular dialogue partner:
That is to express it in a catchy phrase, but it is not entirely mistaken. Metzs great merit is to have thematized the temporal sensitivity of postmetaphysical thinking without any contextualist blackouts, in such a way that the theme can serve as a bridge to contemporary theology. In part by way of Metzs inuence, a younger generation of theologians emerged in Germany. This generation no longer shares the view that was expressed by the Pope in his Regensburg speech. The members of this generation start theologically, as it were, after Kants critique of reason, so they do not lament nominalism as the gateway to modernitys history of decay. Rather, they also recognize in postmetaphysical directions of thought the learning processes from which these directions emerged.99

It should be noted here that while Metzs approach is supported by Habermas, Ratzingers opposition to Kant and concern to retrieve an Augustinian-Thomist Christian metaphysics nds support in contemporary theology in Radical Orthodoxy.100 In the end, there are solid arguments to be made on behalf of the projects of both Ratzinger and Metz because each approach has distinctive strengths and liabilities. And, in any case, the purpose of this paper has not been to argue for the superiority of Ratzingers approach over Metzs or Metzs over Ratzingers, but rather to bring the reections of Habermas, Ratzinger, and Metz into conversation with one another on the relationship between faith/reason and religion/politics in a post-secular situation. In analyzing the theologies of Ratzinger and Metz it is clear that the post-secular conversation cannot be limited to the philosophical task of engaging in a salvaging deconstruction of religious discourse, but must also involve the theological task of a salvaging recovery of a derailed modern project. What form this salvaging recovery should take in our increasingly postsecular situation is the decisive question and the projects of Ratzinger and Metz provide us with two distinctive options as we move toward an adequate response to this situation.



1 Many thanks to the anonymous reviewers and Peter J. Fritz for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. 2 Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987), Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen (Boston: MIT Press, 1990), and Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, trans. William Rehg (Boston: MIT Press, 1996). 3 Jurgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2003), Jurgen Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, trans. Ciaran Cronin (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2008), and Jurgen Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age, trans. Ciaran Cronin (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010). On post-secular society, see, for instance, Jurgen Habermas, Europe: The Faltering Project (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2009), 5977. 4 Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing, 18 and 20. 5 Jurgen Habermas, Time of Transitions, edited and translated, Ciaran Cronin and Max Pensky (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2006), 150. See also, Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 305. 6 Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 104. See also, Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing, 2021. 7 Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing, 18. 8 Ibid., 18. 9 Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 238239. Habermas, Time of Transitions, 166, and Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing, 7374. 10 Jurgen Habermas, Again Religion and the Public Sphere: a Response to Paolo Flores dArcais, in The Utopian, 02/2009. See also, Jurgen Habermas, The Political: The Rational Meaning of a Questionable Inheritance of Political Theology, in The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan Vanantwerpen (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 1516. 11 Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 211. 12 Ibid., 6 and 108. 13 Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing,18. 14 Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 114. 15 Habermas, Time of Transitions, 164. See also, Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 113 and 245. 16 Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 142. 17 Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 110. See also Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 211. With respect to the success of Kants project of translation, see Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 110. 18 Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 245. See also, Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing, 21. Habermas does suggest that both Kant and Hegel illegitimately attempt to determine what is true and false in the content of religion. See Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 109. 19 Ibid., 243. 20 Ibid., 246247. 21 Ibid., 104. 22 Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 204205. 23 Joseph Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, translated by Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 42 and Joseph Ratzinger, The Essential Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches, edited by John Thornton and Susan Varenne (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2007), 334. 24 Joseph Ratzinger, Faith and the Future (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 80. See also, Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 110. V25 Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 204205. 26 Joseph Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 156. 27 Joseph Ratzinger, A Turning Point for Europe The Church in the Modern World: Assessment and Forecast (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 33. 28 Joseph Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, translated by Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 31. 29 Ratzinger, The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, 22 and Joseph Ratzinger, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 128. 30 Ratzinger, The Essential Benedict XVI, 330. See also, Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 43. 31 Benedict XVI, The Regensburg Address 32 See also, Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 40 and Ratzinger, A Turning Point for Europe, 44. 33 Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 68. On this point see Gerald McKennys insightful article on Ratzinger and Alasdair MacIntyre entitled, Moral Disagreement and the Limits of Reason: Reections on MacIntyre and Ratzinger, in Intractable Disputes about the Natural Law: Alasdair MacIntyre and Critics, edited by Lawrence Cunningham (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), 195226.



34 Ibid., 69. 35 Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 205. 36 Ratzinger, The Essential Benedict XVI, 333. 37 Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 135136. 38 Ratzinger, Europe Today and Tomorrow: Addressing the Fundamental Issues, translated by Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 93. 39 Ratzinger, The Essential Benedict XVI, 229. 40 Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 56. See also, Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 29, 3334, 55, 29 and Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 216. 41 Ibid., 57. 42 Ibid., 56 and Ratzinger, A Turning Point for Europe, 60. This, of course, would stand in marked contrast to Habermass Kantian claim that citizens of the state understand themselves to be authors of the law as well as its addressee. Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 104. 43 Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 68. 44 Ratzinger, A Turning Point for Europe, 60. Against Habermass claim that citizens are the authors of the law Ratzinger claims that there can be no foundation for law without transcendence. See Habermas, Between Naturalism and Religion, 104. 45 Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 214. 46 Ibid., 207. See also, Ratzinger, Europe Today and Tomorrow, 99. 47 Adriaan Pabst, Modern Sovereignty in Question: Theology, Democracy, and Capitalism, Modern Theology 26 (2010), pp. 570602, 594. 48 Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 38. 49 Ibid., 3839 and 56. 50 Ratzinger, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 51, and 8788. 51 Ratzinger also suggests that non-religious persons accept the Ten Commandments as an authoritative code of moral truth claims. According to Ratzinger, the Decalogue constitutes a sublime expression of moral reason, and as such it nds echoes in the wisdom of the other great cultures. Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 29. 52 Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 206. 53 Johann Baptist Metz, Loves Strategy, edited by John Downey (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International, 1999), 167. 54 Johann Baptist Metz, Hope against Hope: Johann Baptist Metz and Elie Wiesel Speak Out on the Holocaust, translated J. Matthew Ashley (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), 15. 55 Johann Baptist Metz, A Passion for God: The Mystical-Political Dimension of Christianity, edited and translated by J. Matthew Ashley (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), 130. See also Metzs comments in Metz, Hope against Hope, 34. 56 Metz, A Passion for God, 86. 57 Ibid., 142143. 58 Metz, Hope against Hope, 37. 59 Johann Baptist Metz, God: Against the Myth of the Eternity of Time, in The End of Time? The Provocation of Talking about God, translated J. Matthew Ashley (Mahweh, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 42. See also, Metz, Hope against Hope, 24. 60 Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, translated by J. Matthew Ashley (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2007), 212. 61 Metz, A Passion for God, 3, 134, 144 and Metz, Loves Strategy, 170. 62 Metz, A Passion for God, 138. 63 Ibid., 138. 64 Ibid., 138. 65 Ibid., 137. 66 Ibid., 143. Metz observes that: when obedience to discourse and communication has primacy over the authority of those who suffer, then the basis of all morality is lost. Metz, Loves Strategy, 171. 67 Metz, A Passion for God, 144145. 68 Metz, God: Against the Myth of the Eternity of Time, 90. 69 Metz, A Passion for God, 149. 70 Metz, Loves Strategy, 170. Also, see Metz, A Passion for God, 134, 143 and Johann Baptist Metz, Toward a Christianity of Political Compassion, translated J. Matthew Ashley in Love that Produces Hope: The Thought of Ignacio Ellacura (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2006), 252. 71 Metz, Loves Strategy, 171. 72 See, for instance, David Tracy, The Uneasy Alliance Reconceived: Catholic Theological Method, Modernity, and Postmodernity, Theological Studies 50 (1989), pp. 548570., Joseph Komonchak, Vatican II and the Encounter Between Liberalism and Catholicism, in Catholicism and Liberalism: Contributions to American Public Philosophy, edited by R. Bruce Douglass and David Hollenbach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 7699, and Lieven Boeve, Europe in Crisis: A Questions of Belief or Unbelief? Perspectives from the Vatican in Modern Theology 23 (2007), 205227. 73 Benedict XVI, The Regensburg Address. (Accessed October 5, 2010).



74 Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 95. See also, Benedict XVI, The Regensburg Address and Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics, 216217. 75 Ratzinger, Faith and the Future, 62. 76 Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 126. 77 Benedict XVI, The Regensburg Address. 78 Ratzinger, Faith and the Future, 9091. 79 Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 135. See also, Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 140141. 80 Metz, Faith in History and Society, 63. See also, Metz, A Passion for God, 33. 81 Notwithstanding Milbanks inuential reading of political and liberation theology through this lens in John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1990). 82 Metz, A Passion for God, 64. 83 Ibid., 64. For his part, Ratzinger has criticized these moves, suggesting that radicalized political theologians have returned the New Testament to the horizon of the Old Testament by interpreting the kingdom of God as a human socio-political act. Ratzinger, A Turning Point for Europe, 77. 84 Johann Baptist Metz, On the Way to a Christology after Auschwitz in Who Do You Say That I Am? Confessing the Mystery of Christ, edited by John C. Cavadini and Laura Holt and translated by J. Matthew Ashley (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), 149. In a passage that damns with faint praise Metz observes: not even the so-called Johannine way of believing stands wholly under the spell of Gnosticism. Metz, A Passion for God, 192. 85 Ibid., 149. 86 See, for instance, Metz, A Passion for God, 58 and Metz, Toward a Christianity of Political Compassion, 250. 87 Ibid., 148. 88 Johann Baptist Metz, Memoria Passionis: Ein provozierendes Geda chtnis in pluralistischer Gesellschaft (Verlag Herder: Freiburg im Breisgau, 2006), 171. My translation. On the authority of suffering, see Metz, Memoria Passionis, 173, Metz, Loves Strategy, 170, Metz, God: Against the Myth of the Eternity of Time, 8990, Metz, A Passion for God, 4, 144146. 89 Hans Kung, A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics, translated John Bowden (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). 90 Metz, Loves Strategy, 171. 91 Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 155. 92 Ibid., 155. 93 Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance, 9495. 94 Ratzinger, Values in a Time of Upheaval, 5657. Ratzingers statement stands in marked contrast to Metzs claim that theory and praxis are not seen here in their usual linear relationship, according to which praxis means carrying out, applying, or concretizing a theory that has already been formulated. Metz, Faith in History and Society, 61. 95 See the reections on dialogue in Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance. 96 Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing, 22. 97 Ibid., 22. 98 Ibid., 2223. 99 Jurgen Habermas, A Postsecular World Society? On the Philosophical Signicance of Postsecular Consciousness and the Multicultural World Society, interviewed by Eduardo Mendieta. (Accessed September 10, 2010). 100 Ratzinger and Radical Orthodoxy share a critical opposition to Kants critique of metaphysics and the modern invention of the secular. In opposition to these tendencies in modern culture Ratzinger and Radical Orthodoxy call for a retrieval of Christian metaphysics as a means of resisting the problematic consequences of the project of modernity. John Milbank has suggested that there is close the relationship between Radical Orthodoxy and the theology of Ratzinger (now pope Benedict XVI): I would say that I see a very large congruence between Radical Orthodoxy and the theology of the Pope: both stress the unity of faith and reason, the natural desire of the supernatural, the importance of the Platonic legacy for the development of Christian understanding and the view that only a Christian humanism can overcome the inherent drift of secularism towards an amoral nihilism. Culture-Religion/2010/9/18/Newman-a-saint-for-our-age/1/113310/(Accessed September 15, 2010).