From Pope Benedict’s Speech on Tertullian

From Pope Benedict’s Speech on Tertullian May 31, 2007

Thanks to Zenit, we can read more of the Pope’s reflections on non-violence; this time it is found in his catechetical series of lectures based upon the early Church Fathers. Hopefully these lectures will be collected and published together in a their own volume; if done right, it could bring people back to studying patristics for the sake of theology and a much needed renewal in the field of Patrology.

Benedict reminds us how the early Christians dealt with the harsh, tyrannical regime of their time. “Martyrdom and suffering for the truth are victorious in the end and more effective than the cruelty and violence of totalitarian regimes.”They didn’t come together, ask other countries to invade Rome to protect them from a cruel, murderous dictator; they gave witness to their Christian faith up to the point of their death, showing the love they had, even for their enemies. “He shows the triumph of the Spirit, who pits the violence of persecutors against the blood, suffering and patience of the martyrs. ‘As refined as it is,’ he writes, ‘your cruelty serves no purpose: On the contrary, for our community, it is an invitation. We multiply every time one of us is mowed down: The blood of Christians is a seed’ (Apologeticus 50:13).” This fact, combined with the active social work Christians engaged in, changed the hearts of the Romans and helped secure the conversion of the Empire to Christianity. Thus, perhaps as Benedict suggests, one of the greatest things we can learn from Tertullian is that which Catholic Social Teaching continues to teach us: “And his other reflection, taken from the Gospels, says ‘the Christian cannot hate, not even his own enemies’ (Apologeticus 37), where the moral implication of the choice of faith, proposes ‘nonviolence’ as the law of life: And who could not see the relevance of this teaching today in light of the fervent debate on religions.”

Isn’t it rather odd that the two greatest ways early Christians engaged their society are those issues which many (who claim to be traditional and conservative, whatever they mean by this) find most controversial with Catholic Social Teaching today?

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