A Reasonable Faith? Pope Benedict's Response to Rawls

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Abstract

In this contribution, it is argued that there is a transcendent moment in Rawls’s treatment of religions by exploring Pope Benedict’s engagement with Rawls, and particularly their differing positions on the role that “truth” or “reason” may play in resolving political conflicts in a morally pluralist society. Pope Benedict insists on a divine truth for politics and Rawls on a deliberative one, and that in this respect each misrepresents the other—Rawls in identifying divine truth with authoritarianism, and Pope Benedict in reducing deliberation to an agreement based on citizens’ particular interests. But the author argues that, from these different perspectives, both Pope Benedict and Rawls ultimately arrive at a Kantian sense of “faith.” This “faith” consists in affirming what cannot be theoretically verified but must be postulated as the regulative referent for human reason in a pluralist politics. Rawls expresses this with his “reasonable faith” in the possibility of a just constitutional politics, while Pope Benedict expresses it with his proposal that nonbelievers in pluralist societies act “as if God exists.” By comparing these different “faiths,” the author concludes that, while Rawls’s “faith” reveals Pope Benedict’s to be overly demanding of a pluralist society, Pope Benedict’s “faith” reveals Rawls’s to be insufficiently demanding, leaving political conflicts inadequately regulated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRawls and Religion
EditorsTom Bailey, Valentina Gentile
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherColumbia University
Pages221-241
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780231167987
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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