Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Pope Teaches How Church’s Truths Educate The Heart

By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published April 27, 2006

At the National Catholic Educational Association convention, Father Bevil Bramwell, OMI, Ph.D., affirmed Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching that the most profound, authentic education leads the student to both knowledge and reverence for God through which one becomes more fully human and integrated in the truth.

One must have an openness to God who enlightens one on the path of learning in the hard work of understanding the temporal world, said Father Bramwell of the German pontiff’s writing on education. God has revealed His truth and love so intellectually and morally that the faithful are not without the light that humans need to think and make decisions, he said, as faith is intimately connected with the development and civilizing of man in openness and depth.

“Real education is not possible without the light of truth,” Father Bramwell, an associate professor of theology at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., quoted from remarks made by the Holy Father during a 2005 diocesan convention. Father Bramwell spoke of how “we are created for this light and if we’re not looking for it, we are going to find all the fake truths.”

The priest, a native of South-West Africa (Namibia), said that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, is the most published pontiff in church history, which has uniquely prepared him for his leadership of the church. Although he has no text specifically on education, one can find principles scattered throughout his work that address education, including in “Principles of Catholic Theology,” a collection of 12 of his major speeches. He recommended “Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Third Millennium” as a good introduction to the pope’s teachings and his life through his responses in an interview.

“One of the beauties of Cardinal Ratzinger’s work is that he has a very felicitous way of speaking, a way of formulating things that is incredibly clear,” he said.

The pope addresses the subject from the Christian perspective on being human, which recognizes the centrality of truth and the freedom to embrace it, which demands the freedom of religion in the culture. In this freedom, the church can speak the Gospel in such a way as to enhance culture and show its ultimate focus of developing the full humanity of its members, explained Father Bramwell. The pope wrote his doctoral thesis on St. Augustine, who helped to shape his perspective and who offers timeless insight for the quest for knowledge. “Wisdom is concerned with the intellectual cognizance of eternal things and knowledge with the rational cognizance of temporal things,” wrote St. Augustine, so that “it is not hard to decide which should be preferred and which subordinated to the other.”

Father Bramwell believes that one of Pope Benedict’s most salient statements on education can be found in “Principles of Catholic Theology,” where the German pope wrote that “for the Christian, the learned person is not one who knows and can do the most but the one who becomes and is most purely man. There is something about discovering humanity that is very closely tied into the truth. … But one cannot be that without letting oneself be touched by Him who is the ground and the measure of man and all being.”

Father Bramwell also addressed the pope’s writing about faith as the center of culture, which even the Greek philosopher Plato knew, opening his academy outside of a temple.

“The nucleus of culture is faith itself. Faith does not take its place, as it were, alongside learning and cultural knowledge as an area of darkness cut off from enlightenment,” the Holy Father wrote in “Principles.” He also wrote that “that is why a very simple person who bears within himself a sense of values and thus a sensitivity towards others, toward what is right and beautiful and true, is immeasurably more learned than the most experienced technocrat with his computer brain.”

“The computer doesn’t know there is a ground of all being, a personal God who is revealing His truth to us both through creation and through the revelation of Christ,” said the priest.

Another theme in his writings is about the cultural crisis in Europe and its removal of God from public life, and consequential dangers of deifying the sciences and human reasoning devoid of theological insight. It is rooted in the 18th-century Enlightenment period in Europe when great advancement took place in terms of empirical philosophic ideas and development of a rational and scientific approach to religious, social, political and economic issues.While some aspects of the Enlightenment are “very rich, useful and powerful and we need them,” the pontiff laments the aspect of the radical detachment of Enlightenment philosophy from the Christian roots, which cuts man off from God and becomes contempt for man. The pope’s reference to God as the measure of man relates to the assertion by the French Enlightenment writer Voltaire who wrote that man is the measure of all things.

“Ratzinger is saying we have to find our measure from God. That’s how we discover who we are,” he said.

This Holy Father who grew up in Nazi Germany “knows Europe very, very intimately. He offers us insight by showing the problems that have developed in European thinking, and what Europe is going through now we will go through in 10 or 15 years,” he said. “This is why he’s very deeply concerned about the cultural crisis in Europe. Scientific rationalization has very, very useful applications in certain areas but to deal with the whole, the integrity of the human simply isn’t enough.”

The pope also addresses the problem in modern Western culture of ethical and intellectual relativism, which is founded on agnosticism. The pope has defined it as reducing the essential things of human life to subjectivism resulting in the loss of ethical foundations of the common life, and the individual’s belief without regard for the absolute truth for all humanity.

“If we’re making up ourselves according to our own criteria then all ways of thinking are equal hence relativism, another recurring theme,” Father Bramwell conveyed of the pope’s teaching. “We’re all in one common reality, one common world and it is reality for all of us and should be reality in forming us” through the common source of truth.

The common good is rooted in God’s love for all people and His demands for each individual morally and intellectually to fulfill their vocation. The church guards the timeless truth in each age that is not changed according to the momentary spirit of the age.

“The church is the guardian and teacher of this revelation. The church is responsive to this relativism which is destructive of common life,” he explained. It exposes the lies found in the culture as it “can look at things in the world and bring the light of truth to bear.”

Pope Benedict, he continued, has stated that eucharistic adoration must be emphasized as a way to lead people away from forming oneself to one’s own criterion and lift the soul to God as this prayer before the Blessed Sacrament purifies the heart and mind.

Denise Madgey of Atlanta, who works in teacher formation training, likes the logic and lucidity of the pope’s teachings that make complex ideas understandable. She believes that Catholic educators need to always analyze their curriculum and institutional practice to ensure it is leading students to the truth.

“We have to define relativism and teach teachers where it exists within curriculums and society,” she said, as teachers often use the same textbooks as used in public schools.

“Does it bring kids to a greater understanding of the truth? That should be our mission. How do we get that whether in math or science?”

Good Web sites to consult for more of Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings include and