Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

THEO 266 Church in the World

Spring 2015

Church in the World: The Theological Legacy of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) for a Church in transition

THEO 266| Spring 2015


Instructor information


Fr. Philipp G. Renczes, SJ


Office: JFRC, 103

Office Hours:  M 15:00-16:00  


Phone:  (0039) 06 6701 5378

Email: pgrencze@luc.edu



Please email to arrange appointments outside office hours.


Course description

The course will introduce to the former pope’s theological vision of the Roman Catholic Church in interaction with contemporary thought. It will do so by way of a hermeneutic that parallels his central work as theologian, Introduction to Christianity (1968) with successive writings, including Jesus of Nazareth and the Encyclical Letters (Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi and Caritas in Veritatem), published during his pontificate. A focus will be placed on topics which are situated at the intersection of Church and modernity, such as Christian Faith in dialogue with Atheism/Agnosticism, Catholic Tradition versus Reform in time (Aggiornamento), the Quest for Justice and economy models and Catholic Church and World Religions. 

If numerous portraits label Joseph Ratzinger as conservative or hardliner, at closer inspection it appears that his thought requires careful and measured analysis, revealing the acute awareness of the need to articulate a theology which aims at engaging with the most pertinent incentives and issues that theological thought received from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in which Ratzinger himself participated as adviser to highlight the essence of Christian doctrine in dialogue/confrontation with contemporary thought. Classes will be a combination of lecture, discussion, papers and exams.


Course objectives

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

(1) analyze and interpret the theological understanding of Joseph Ratzinger’s stances towards the “dialectics of secularization”, in particular his emphasis on the requirement to (re)build relations between Faith and Reason.


(2) form and articulate a personal judgment regarding the points of continuity and change in Ratzinger’s thought over time, in dialogue and dispute with contemporary thought and different theologies.


(3) carefully and intelligently apply key concepts found in theological texts to concrete contemporary issues


Course required text and materials

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Introduction to Christianity (Rome: Ignatius Press 2004)

All additional material (required readings) will be made available through Loyola SAKAI.

Note: Satisfies Loyola's requirement in the Core area of Theological and Religious Studies Knowledge. Also satisfies the Core value of Understanding Spirituality or Faith in Action in the World

Requirements for the course and evaluation

In accordance with the JFRC’s Academic Policies, it is expected that students will attend and participate actively in all class meetings. Absences require prior permission from the instructor or the JFRC direction, or medical certification. Absences beyond two classes will mean an automatic reduction of the final grade.  Late arrivals and early departures will also be noted. 

Class will consist of an introductory lecture and the discussion of the primary texts and secondary literature assigned for that day. All lectures, except for the textbook references, will be found on Blackboard, most of them in the Rome Center Library. Students must bring the textbook and (digital) copies of the assigned secondary sources to each meeting in order to facilitate class discussion.

The mid-term and final examinations, covering material in the lectures and assigned reading, will each count for one third of the final grade, leaving the last third for a term paper of 6-8 pages plus bibliography. Paper topics must be approved in advance by the instructor. Extra consideration in the final grade will be given to students who demonstrate consistent participation in class discussion.

Grading Scale

A                 93-100                                                    C          71-74.5

A-                89-92                                                      C-         68-70.5

B+               86-89                                                       D+       63-67.5

B                 81-85                                                       D         60-62.5

B-                78-80                                                       D-        57-59.5

C+               75-77                                                       F          below 57


Academic Integrity

Plagiarism in academic work or dishonest examination behavior will result in the instructor’s assigning the grade of “F” for the assignment or examination. Moreover, all instances of academic dishonesty must be reported to the Rome Center’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the consideration of additional sanctions.




1.                    Introduction to the course; biographical and bibliographical information concerning Joseph Ratzinger.

I. Humanity Facing God in Today’s World

2.  “I believe – help my disbelief” (Mk 17,24) – Presuppositions of belief

Required Readings:

“Belief in the world of Today”, Introduction to Christianity (German original 1968), pp. 39-81

“Formal Principles of Christianity – Catholic View” in Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology  (German original 1982), pp. 67-84

3.    “I believe – we believe” – Faith in a communion of believers

Required Readings:

“The Ecclesiastical Form of Faith”, Introduction to Christianity, pp. 82-100

“The spiritual basis and ecclesial identity of theology”, in The Nature and Mission of Theology. Essays to Orient Theology in Today’s Debate (German original 1993), pp. 45-72


4.   “I believe – I think”  –  Christianity as co-existence of faith and reason in regard with God

                         Required Readings:

                         “Christianity, the Religion According to Reason", lecture given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy, April 1st 2005 (http://catholiceducation.org/articles/politics/pg0143.html)

                          “Prolegomena to the subject of God”, “The Biblical Belief in God”, Faith in God Today”, “The God of Faith and the God of the Philosophers”, Introduction to Christianity, 103-161.



II. God facing humanity in today’s world

5.                      The meaning of “Triune God”

Required Readings:

“Faith in God Today”, “Belief in the Triune God”, Introduction to Christianity, pp. 162-190

Encyclical “Deus Caritas est”, Part 1



III. Jesus Christ

6.                      The “heart” of Christianity: Jesus the Christ

Required Readings:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord”, Introduction to Christianity, pp. 193 -  270

Jesus of Nazareth, Foreword and Introduction, pp. Xi-XXiV; 1-8

7.                      The “beating of the heart”: Jesus Christ according to the Christological articles

                Required Readings:


                “The development of Faith in Christ in the Christological Articles of the Creed”, Introduction to Christianity, pp. 271-327






8.                      MID-TERM EXAMINATION


IV.  The Church as Temple of the Holy Spirit



9.                      The dynamic (eschatological) understanding of the Church’s interaction with                          the world


                      Required Readings:


                      “The intrinsic unity of the last statements in the Creed”, “Two Major Questions posed by the articles on the Spirit and the Church”, Introduction to Christianity, pp. 331-359


                      “The Immortality of the Soul and the Resurrection of the Dead”, in J. Ratzinger, Eschatology, death and eternal life, Washington D.C., 1988, 104-161


                      Encyclical, In Spe Salvi, no. 1-15



10.                   The Commun(i)al structure of the Church’s interaction with the world

Required Readings:

“The Origin and Essence of the Church” in Called to Communion. Understanding the Church today, pp. 13-45.

Encyclical, Caritas in veritate, no. 21-42, 68-79


Philipp G. Renczes, “Grace reloaded. Caritas in Veritate’s Theological Anthropology” Theological Studies 71/2 (2010), 273-290.



11. The Liturgical structure of the Church

                      Required Readings:


                      “Liturgy and Life: The Place of the Liturgy in Reality” in The Spirit of the Liturgy (German original 2000), 13-61


                      “Form and Content in the Eucharistic Celebration”, in The Feast of Faith. Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, pp. 33-60


12. Israel and the Church

               Required Readings:

                “Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish-Christian Relations” in Communio 25 (1998): 29-41 http://www.communio-icr.com/

                The Sermon on the Mount in Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 64-127.



13.                   The Church and World Religions

Required Readings:

“Truth-Tolerance-Freedom”, in Truth and Tolerance. Christian Belief and World Religions, pp. 210-231

“Regensburg Lecture”: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html


14.                   FINAL EXAMINATION (as scheduled by the JFRC)



Examples of paper topics

Faith and Reason: A Return to an Augustinian Perspective in the Theology of J. Ratzinger

The Mystery of the Eucharist as center of a modern theology

How to speak about God with J. Ratzinger’s theology in today’s world

The significance of the “Regensburg” speech for the interreligious dialogue

Salvation for the World: an analysis of its theological significance

Church Reform: what can Theology do to support it?

Grace: a pervasive theme in Ratzinger’s theology and its relation to the current culture