In the most recent publication by Pope Benedict XVI, which is actually a collection of interviews by Peter Seewald called Light of the World, German philosopher Jurgen Habermas is mentioned once again. The context is the question about the relevance of faith to modern life, an issue which both Ratzinger and Habermas have been and are engaging carefully. Below the quote:
“Often this One [Christ] who is coming has been presented in formulas that, while true, are nevertheless at the same time outmoded. They no longer speak to our living situation and are often no longer comprehensible to us… We must therefore try in fact to express the substance as such– but to say it in a new way. Jurgen Habermas has remarked that it is important that there be theologians who are able to translate the treasure that is preserved in their faith in such a way that it the secular world it is a world for this world… he is right that the intrinsic translation process of the great words into the speech and thinking of our time is under way but has really not yet succeeded. It can be only succesful only if people live Christianity in terms of the One who is coming. ONly then can they also declare it. The declaration, the intellectual translation, presupposes the existential translation…”
This is probably a reference to the dialgue on the Dialectics of Secularization, though it could also be a allusion to Habermas’ more recent work on Between Naturalism and Religion and Religion and Rationality. The Pope embraces Habermas’ critique and his intuition on the need for faith to become evermore reasonable and more relevant for modern culture. What is interesting is how the Pope continually seems to refer to Habermas to discuss philosophical and political issues. He also mentioned him in the Address at La Sapienza here. Below an exerpt of the La Sapienza address:
“Jürgen Habermas expresses, in my view, a vast consensus of current thought when he says that the legitimacy of a constitutional charter, as a presupposition of legality, would be derived from two sources: from the egalitarian political participation of all citizens and from the reasonable form in which political conflicts get resolved. In regard to this “reasonable form” he notes that it cannot only be a struggle for arithmetic majorities, but it must be characterized by a “process of argumentation that is sensitive to the truth” (“wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren”)…. I find it significant that Habermas speaks about the sensitivity to the truth as a necessary element of the process of political argumentation, reinserting thus the concept of truth into the philosophical debate and into the political debate.”
I have talked about the two intellectual giants on a previous post. Fundamentally I think Ratzinger is embracing Habermas to a certain extent because both of them advocate for the power of reason and rational communication to deliver humanity from the evils and problems the world faces. Certainly Ratzinger also (and above all) has hope in faith and revelation, which Habermas doesn’t seem to share in the same sense… but who knows? I would not be surprised (this is a provocative leap I know) if perhaps Habermas dies Catholic. Habermas, so intent on the question of truth and as far as I can tell, true to his own criterion of sincerity in reasonable discourse, may come to embrace the synthesis between reason and faith which Ratzinger so insistently and reasonably advocates for. On the issue of Hebrmas’ beliefs and possible conversion see my post here.