venerdì 11 dicembre 2015

Habermas and Pope Ratzinger. A possible combination between Rationalism and Christianity

 by Sandro D. Fossemò

(Translation by Gentile Anna)

“Science without religion is lame, 
religion without science is blind.”
(Albert Einstein)

    Of course we are used to see a meeting between a theologian and a philosopher, but having a great representative of the church like Pope Ratzinger and a heir of the Frankfurt thought like Habermas , no doubt things change becoming more interesting. In January 2004, cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, afterwards turning into Pope Benedetto XVI, had a fairly spoken interview at the Catholic Academy in Munich with the ‘methodical atheist’ Philosopher Jurgen Habermas, one of the top secular rationalist’s of our days.
The reciprocal understanding , although different shades between these two scholarly, show how Christianity is either spiritual and extremely rational as to be morally valuable by an unbeliever . Both agree that a strongly secularized society like ours, has to establish a constructive communication with Religion, if it doesn’t want to lose the value of solidarity, essential to protect and enrich public functions in a healthy democracy. In fact, Habermas, claims: «An aberrant modernizing society, taken as a whole, could render weaker the democratic connection and deplete that particular solidary form which the Government depends on, without being able to impose it legally. It ends up to show that the situation which Bockenforde sees: the transformation of citizens from a wealth liberal and peaceful society to an isolated monadi, who act according to their interests and use their interests and individual rights as weapons against others».1 Faith and Reason, is explained, have to find a reciprocal balance in exchanging ideas, where one moderates the other to a complementary relationship giving positive and beneficial results to human existence. The Pope analysis deeply such connection and proposes a sample of reciprocal identification, between Faith and Reason, where Christianity can illuminate Western rationality in an atypical manipulative direction but humanly creative : «It is important to accept them, trying a polyphonic correlation, which opens spontaneously to an essential faith and complementary Reason, allowing the growth of a Universal process of clarification. Here essential laws and values, known and perceived somehow by human beings, can acquire a new power to illuminate whatever keeps the world unified reaching again an effective power on Humanity.» 2
The Religious evaluation is unavoidable because strongly secularist system risks to drown in its own materialist nihilism if it does not find a fruitful comparison with Religion. How can we save certain crucial points of reference when we do not know how to balance the importance of some criteria. Habermas agrees: «Nowadays the theorem finds resonance according only to religious orientation towards a transcendent reference point, pulling out contrite impasse modernity.» 3 For a secularized society, it is impossible, to self-regulate important social principles, like solidarity or something else when nothing else is left to believe in. Certainly Democracy risks to suffocate in an anti confessional State to make way to a dominating Technocratic structure, purely functionalist and hardly democratic. In this manner, our secular political model has to find “lifeblood” in the moral context of Christianity. The drastic claim of Absolute Secularism is a complete failure considering the German philosopher’s and the Pope’s teachings. If we cannot allow democracy to work in our post-secular society without a critical religious contribute, because we risk, as I repeat, to standardize fully our thinking, it means that it is completely meaningless the request of radical secularism to isolate the Catholic World inside a private sphere. The will of confining the church, with the purpose of reciting, causes hard cultural destruction of centuries of History and denies men’s important spiritual opening , with the dangerous risk to be trapped in an uncritical dimension of life, where germs of a Totalitarian Mentality might spread free. Habermas, the post-Frankfurt, is still one of the few Scholar Atheists and Left Party who maintains a real critical speech towards those social systems administrated considerably by the Scientific and Technological power. This is because the famous “Critical Theory” of the Glorious Frankfurt school does not just represent aversion from Marxism to the current Advance Capitalism, which Marcuse fairly defines one-dimensional, but also the evaluation and the emancipation of human condition, within a technological Universe always more approved and automated where human mastery over nature, how they claim in “La dialettica dell’Illuminismo” (“Illuminism dialetic”) by Adorno and Horkheimer, it has altered in the man’s domain against man himself, abusing ‘Instrumental reason’. Genetics Engineering , when due to Scientism is completely left to the hands of wicked experimentation, it goes back to dangerous preeminence of men over Nature, provoking severe consequences on strong control over life, limiting seriously the freedom to live according to autonomous will. Habermas, in his book, “Il futuro della natura umana” (“The future of Human Nature”), published by Einaudi and subtitled “I rischi di una genetica Liberale” (“Risks of liberal Gentics”), underlines, through post-metaphysical and Kantian argument, the danger of Liberal Genetics manipulation, where laws like “shopping at the genetics supermarket” end up on affecting freely Individual Genetics, heritage up to causing the violent and treacherous Eugenics. Habermaes, even if he does not exclude the value of therapeutic intervention, intended to avoid serious diseases, refuses fairly that sophisticated particular addressed to potentiate the individual’s genome; this way not only the citizens Equal opportunities will be seriously hampered, fundamental for a democracy ethic, but also mining up to the root of the subject’s attitude to choose freely the end of ones own life. For example, just thinking about the cloning drama which would be transformed into a trap for whom wants to be given birth with free initiative to build oneself’s future on ones own strength. One who does not want to be a “photocopy” of a life which does not belong to himself. Though the post-Frankfurt philosopher disapproves genes scheduling, preserving instead the Genetics fatality, which means preserving the spontaneous fortuity of Mother Nature. Both to elude to limit the existence and to avoid psychological disorders to the man genetically altered who of course would feel alienated to be scheduled as a machine, well tested since ones birth. Habermas’ important thought was captured in its ‘irregularity’ not a missing but an opportunity. Due to the fact that we do not « have an objective knowledge of values »4 its probably true «parents could never know when a little physical deficiency of the child could turn out to be an advantage.»5 Diversity, frequently an object of derision or marginalization by friends or acquaintances , could always be transformed in a mean of psychological diversification from the group. Especially in adolescence, the diverse is socially taken to unconventionality, due to the thorny integration with the others, this way difference become luck. Professor Habermas criticizes also the abuse of Genetics Engineering of the final use of pre-implantation diagnosis and the research of stem cells, taken from human embryos. Freely Controlling and Deciding the embryos future, according to our personal necessities, causes a heavy form of exploitation of life, creating injustice to dignity. In the pre-implantation diagnosis the embryos are conceivedin vitro until an adaptable healthy one is ready to be implanted in the mother’s womb. In pre-implantation diagnosis it is avoided to give birth to the development of embryos suffering serious hereditary diseases. Following this direction limits Habermas worries about the future risks, will be exceeded reaching a possible genetics strengthening or conditioning of the analyzed embryos. I think, liberal Eugenics is becoming a sort of selective framework of life, according to an efficient and infallible programming logic which reminds somehow madness related to Nazi Eugenics. The Cruel National Socialism planned the safeguard of a particular race with destroying consequences of races considered “inhuman”, not worth living. It is useless to hide Genetics manipulation or destruction of unappreciated embryos risking Hitler’s similar story. The embryo cannot be used as a sort of anonymous object converted as a good, because it is an unrepeatable living creature with its own genetic originality, who should become a complete human being. Even if the embryo hasn’t completed its own development yet, to be considered by many people a real person, remains a truth the fact that it is becoming so and things do not change. It is always a life destroyed cruelly. Let’s realize: being generated in a test tube just to become a medicine! It ‘s hideous further than foolish and totalitarian. Nothing may justify this attitude which honestly finds its own absurd explanation in the criminal plan launched by economic interests of the Pharmacological Industry or by a Science closed circuit, totally enslaved to the market. Habermas, to witness the sacredness of prenatal life, reports a singular event connected to a mournful particularity of Brema. Premature birth, stillborn or fetuses ripped off by pregnancy interruption aren’t thrown away but they are collectively buried at the cemetery in a proper and anonymous grave, as respectful symbol towards whom never came into the world. 6 It is useless to continue declaring, Scientific research regarding stem cells taken from embryos, shouldn’t stop otherwise the truth is exactly the opposite: this way Science just ends up to flow, it limits the way of another useful dramatic route as the one of the stem cells derived from bone marrow or blood by umbilical cord. Science, this way, slows down its own research because it restrains the possibility to expand new discoveries following alternative ideas. We shouldn’t delude ourselves, the treatment is reserved to the embryo, it is something far from us and doesn’t concern us. Using embryos the system ends up dealing with us: we are just used as objects to exploit, to be completely thrown away like rubbish when we’re no more useful. If existence starts from conception it means human’s dignity has to be absolutely respected, also in embryonic stage. Habermas, in an interview about stem cells from embryos, declares:«Using human embryos for research risks to let us exploit human life with an aberrant attitude. Doing so, we risk to reaching a broken level.»7 According to this, Habermas does not avoid totally experimentation but believes it’s just a «restricted regulation.»8 The German philosopher, on one hand disapproves wild research on embryos and on the other hand defends abortion freedom, in some cases, because he refuses the instrumental use of life. Somehow the situation is very similar to the concept connected to the Great Apparatus of Heidegger who transforms men, within the society, to a working object of a complex and anonymous technical machine.
Eugenics, in this manner, tries to influence the instruction of Genetic Engineering for a Fundamentalist Science, organized as a kind of “perfect religion”, to have an inquisitive attitude towards those who are imperfect from the beginning of life. All those genetically imperfect embryos are considered “useless” living beings to the social gear, tragically eliminated before birth, hopeless, precarious though, to an eventual survival because the Absolute efficiency world cannot make mistakes. Nowadays in Positive Scientism, the Great System rises by the mechanization of Modern Thinking, demonstrating what’s “scientific” or considered so, mustn’t be limited or criticized by anyone, sorting out as an Absolute and positive truth, practicing an arbitrary control over life and death. It seems everything technically realizable become morally acceptable, as Pope John Paul II reminds. It is a real dogma of Atheist Rationalism extremely Utilitarian which finds its perverse and cruel apology in a sort of material-mechanistic, to see man as a real “biological machine”. As Pope Ratzinger’s words affirm the imminent Human danger caused by Eugenics: «In the meantime another form of power appeared which seems beneficial and approval of merit, but can become a new threat for Human Being; nowadays men can create Human beings, they can be produced in a test tube. Men become a product, and change men’s attitude towards themselves. It isn’t anymore a Gift of nature or a Gift of God the Creator, it’s a product of themselves. Men reached the source of power in their original existential place. The temptation to create a perfect man, to conduct experiments on human beings, to see them like rubbish and to put them aside, it isn’t fantasy of Moralist enemies of progress.» 9
Facing Science Inquisitors, we have to defend ourselves saying it is always scientific but voluntarily human, where the ethical aspect isn’t wanted by external institutions but within Science through a possible convergence of religious values, as the Jesuit Enrico Cantore suggests in his essay “L’uomo scientifico. Il significato umanistico della scienza” (“Scientific man. The humanistic meaning of Science”). The resistance to the destruction of Science technicality, definable like Scientific Humanism, isn’t against Science, on the contrary, wants a Human Science able to be wider in integrating several Humanities and more complete in the Metaphysics inclusion, realizing the Christian overcoming of Positivism on Scientific approach, to look towards man not as a “composed” but as a Unique living organism, in its completeness, Infinity is his horizon.


1) J. Habermas – J. Ratzinger, <<Ragione e fede in dialogo>>, Marsilio, page 51
2) Ibidem, page 81
3) Idem,page 53
4) cfr. J. Habermas,<<Il futuro della natura umana. I rischi di una genetica
liberale.>>,Einaudi,2002,page 90
5) Ibidem, page 86
6) cfr. Idem ,page 38
7) Pedemonte’s interview to Habermas is taken from L’espresso 19th September 2002. You
can read it on
website Einaudi, link:
8) Idem
9) J. Habermas – J. Ratzinger, op. cit., pp. 71-72

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