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A Priest’s View of Science, Religion and Secularization

John on February 19, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Scott and I are back from the mountains…

Interesting interview with Monsignor Fazio, rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and author of a newly published book History of Contemporary Ideas: A Reading of the Process of Secularization:

The book’s thesis consists in affirming that there are two processes of secularization: a strong one, which is identified with the affirmation of man’s absolute autonomy, cutting off any relationship with a transcendent authority.

From a Christian perspective — though not only from a Christian perspective, but also from an anthropological one — this is a very negative process, as the human person cannot be understood without his openness to the transcendent.

However, there is another process of secularization, which I have called “de-clericalization,” which consists in the awareness of the relative autonomy of the temporal, which I judge to be profoundly Christian.

The distinction — not the radical separation — must be established between the natural and the supernatural order, and between political and spiritual powers. In other words, there must be coherence with “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”


Q: Liberalism, nationalism, Marxism and the scientific spirit are, according to you, “substitute religions.” Is it unthinkable that they coexist with religion?

Monsignor Fazio: The ideologies that characterized the 19th and 20th centuries pretended to be complete explanations of man and his destiny.

In this sense they are incompatible with religions, which also attempt to give a total explanation of the world.

However, the ideologies mentioned in the book are not identical to one another, and there are some toned-down versions of them which are not so radically opposed to religion.

In my book I attempt to tone down the presentation of ideologies, though I criticize clearly the reductive anthropologies that are at their base.

Q: The contemporary world continues to be in a state of crisis. Is it basically an anthropological crisis?

Monsignor Fazio: I am convinced that the present crisis is a crisis of the truth about man; hence the insistence of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to trust the power of reason, which can arrive at objective and normative truths.

Truth can be known — “Fides et Ratio”; it can be lived — “Veritatis Splendor”; and it must be spread — “Redemptoris Missio.”I believe that John Paul II’s magisterium can be presented as an attempt to make manifest the beauty of the truth about man. Truth can be known — “Fides et Ratio”; it can be lived — “Veritatis Splendor”; and it must be spread — “Redemptoris Missio.”

The present Pope is making a great effort to have us discover the natural law, which sheds light on the main problems of contemporary culture: family, life, peace, intercultural dialogue, etc.

I realize it’s popular among a certain type of evangelicals to bash the Catholic church. Personally, I feel I have more in common with this priest than with anti-science stalwarts like John MacArthur. Perhaps that’s overstating it, but it certainly feels that way.

Fides et Ratio…Veritatis Splendor…Redemptoris Missio — when was the last time an evangelical said something that grand? Not since Francis Schaeffer perhaps.

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Category: Religion & Faith, Science & Tech |

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