Ratzinger Conference in Steubenville

I just attended a conference on the Josef Ratzinger’s/ Pope Benedict XVI’s theology of the Church in Steubenville, jointly organized by the Holy See’s Josef Ratzinger Foundation and Franciscan University of Steubenville (October 20th-21st). The conference was lively and extremely thought provoking, with a large number of scholars, of various schools of thought, addressing all aspects of Ratzinger’s ecclesial theology.

Fr. Lombardi reads the Pope Emeritus’s letter to the conference

The highlight of the conference came right at the start, when Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, of the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation reading a letter that the Pope Emeritus sent to the conference. The letter is a notable document of Ratzinger’s memory of Vatican II and its background. He wrote about the situation after World War I in Germany, recalling Guardini’s famous dictum about the Church awakening in souls. I could not help wondering, what Vatican II would have been like had it been held in the interwar period, with the strongly anti-individualistic, corporatist ethos of those days. Pope Benedict went on to discuss his own work on Augustine’s City of God after World War II. He sees that work, and the great Augustine Conference in Paris in 1954 as being essentially in continuity with the interwar “awakening of the Church,” but there are of course significant differences, to do (in part) with the anti-authoritarian reaction of the postwar period. In any event, Pope Benedict emphasized the way the new interpretation of Augustine to which he contributed decisively broke with the liberal reading of Augustine found, for example, in Heinrich Scholz. This was certainly an important achievement. Pope Benedict also, however, reiterated his acceptance of the Paris Conference’s rejection of medieval political Augustinianism’s interpretation of Augustine (a rejection that I myself find somewhat questionable).

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Upcoming Visit to the US

I am going to be traveling to the States soon.

On October 20th I will be presenting a paper entitled “Hierarchy and Synodality: Ratzinger and the Anti-Authoritarianism of Post-War German Theology” at the Ratzinger Conference in Steubenville.

And on October 28th I will be giving a lecture entitled “Universal Predicates and Universal Causes” at St John’s College in Annapolis.

It would be splendid to see any of you, readers, at either event.

St Thérèse and the Contemplative Heart of the Intellectual Life

A Sermon Preached at the Katholische Hochschule ITI on the Feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Trumau, October 1st, 2022. PDF.

Yesterday we already anticipated the Feast of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. And today we celebrate again fittingly giving our patroness a double Feast. From the very beginning of the ITI, her holy countenance has watched over us with generous and benevolent love.

When the ITI was first planted, like a delicate seedling,[1] it more than once seemed that it would wither and fail. On each occasion, the intercession of St Thérèse saved us. For example, one occasion, when the ITI was about to be closed for lack of funds. The president was in America, making a last-ditch effort to find enough donations to keep the Institute going. The students prayed a novena to St Thérèse. And then, quite unexpectedly, help came from St Thérèse’s own country, from France, from Monsieur Michelin, the pious industrialist— a generous gift that kept the ITI in existence.

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Praise God

Thanks be to God for the overturning of Roe vs Wade. Abortion is one of the great evils of our time. As Pope St. John Paul II put it:

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

Evangelium Vitae 58

Many innocent human beings will be saved from murder through the Court’s decision. Thank God!

I want to take this opportunity of eating a bit of humble pie: In 2016 I wrote that Catholics were mistaken who were voting for Donald Trump in the hope that he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe. I thought such strategic votes mistaken, because I did not expect the calculation to come off: I did not expect Trump to appoint judges who would actually overturn the decision. Well, those voters were right and I was wrong. Trump’s appointments to the Court were indeed key to attaining this long hoped-for victory.

Even if this victory is only a first step, it will surely save countless innocent lives, and will give hope for the continued struggle against the great evil of our times.


After three years as parish priest in Gaaden I will be returning soon to Heiligenkreuz to take up a new post as director of the new “János-Brenner-Haus” at our theological college, as well as continuing with teaching and research. The “János-Brenner-Haus” will be a house of discernment for students at our theological college, who have begun studying theology, but are still trying to decide whether to enter the religious life, or the secular priesthood, or to continue in lay/secular life. The new building is named for Blessed János Brenner, Hungarian priest and martyr, who was a Cistercian novice under the name of Frater Anasztáz.

I am happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz, although a part of me is sad to be leaving the parish of Gaaden. Three years is not very long to be pastor of a parish, but here are a few things I learned about that difficult but beautiful vocation. In dividing the active and the contemplative life, St Thomas tells us that the division is based on a difference in what different persons delight in most, and on which they are most intent:

Properly speaking, those things are said to live whose movement or operation is from within themselves. Now that which is proper to a thing and to which it is most inclined is that which is most becoming to it from itself; wherefore every living thing gives proof of its life by that operation which is most proper to it, and to which it is most inclined. Thus the life of plants is said to consist in nourishment and generation; the life of animals in sensation and movement; and the life of men in their understanding and acting according to reason. Wherefore also in men the life of every man would seem to be that wherein he delights most, and on which he is most intent; thus especially does he wish to associate with his friends (Ethic. ix, 12). Accordingly since certain men are especially intent (praecipue intendunt) on the contemplation of truth, while others are especially intent (principaliter intendunt) on external actions, it follows that man’s life is fittingly divided into active and contemplative.

Parish work certainly has a contemplative side, but it is principally vita activa. I have always felt myself drawn more towards the vita contemplativa. For this reason, I am mostly happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz.