Papal visions supply convergent, yet diverse faculties
By Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo
The B.C. Catholic
We have a Cartesian instinct to ascribe contrasting qualities to our civil or religious leaders. We therefore find the intellectual, social, and spiritual faculties of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI convergent yet diverse, according to their attitudes and circumstances.
While Pope John Paul worked to end the Bolshevik regime in Eastern Europe, Pope Benedict wants to alert the West to the dangers of relativism and the need for a new evangelization.
Immediately after Pope Benedict's election, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago compared the two Popes in a press conference at the North American College in Rome: "In 1978, when Karol Wojtyla was elected, his primary challenge to the Catholic Church came from the East, in the form of Soviet communism, and John Paul II came from an Eastern Soviet country. Today the most difficult challenge comes from the West, and Benedict XVI is a man who comes from the West, who understands the history and culture of the West" (L'Osservatore Romano, April 2005.)
If resistance to the atheistic Soviets was a key feature of John Paul's papacy, Benedict's leadership, from the very first day of his pontificate, has been marked by his fight against the "dictatorship of relativism" that reigns in the West.
The Soviet empire was brought down by its suppression of freedom and liberty. Pope Benedict has observed that the West could be brought down by its abandonment of objective truth. "All is relative," the West teaches and practises.
Hence he started a moral crusade, arguing that all is not relative. There is an objective truth. He reminds the world that relativism is being diffused everywhere: in religion, in family, in daily life.
It is an amorphous, unsystematic doctrine which declares that everything is right, and it leads us to think we can live a blameless existence where there is no sin, no fault, no need of apology or confession. Everything is acceptable.
The sense of sin is disappearing.
Couples living common law go to Communion with cherubic faces, because cohabitation is legal and socially accepted. In France a certificate of concubinage can be issued by city hall!
Staunch Catholic families allow their children to live in the basement with a "partner" to save them paying rent. Their justification: "Otherwise we won't see them anymore."
Yes, it was wonderful to see the World Youth Day celebrations around the Pope, but how many proclaimed their loyalty to the Pope yet missed Mass the next Sunday?
There are nominal Catholics who eschew the Sunday obligation but attend Mass perhaps at Easter or Christmas as a family social happening and go up for Communion with no compunction.
This is what Benedict XVI is striving against. He is fighting to make people realize that they are victims of the "dictatorship of relativism" which is dominating our moral conduct.
Consistent with his theories, Benedict XVI has urged the European Union to keep alive its Christian roots, its cathedrals, its streets named after saints, and its treasury of Christian classic writers such as Milton (Paradise Lost), Dante (Divine Comedy), and Cervantes (Don Quixote).
He has opposed the acceptance of Turkey into the European Union because it is a Muslim bastion. Its Ottoman Empire once dominated part of Europe, North Africa, and all the Middle East. Turkey's roots are Islamic, not Christian. Ataturk tried to transform it into a secular state and failed.
This "dictatorship of relativism" will prove catastrophic for the grand dreams of the European Union, and in the plight of the euro we can perhaps discern that the Towers of Babel built by men who challenge God's power can be destroyed.
The tragedy of Europe stems from the eclipse of the Christian identity of individual European nations. A kind of Christophobia is rife in the European Union, a fear of Christ, not just a withdrawal from Him.
Will Pope Benedict be able to bring to the people of Europe a new, rediscovered sense of the dignity of what it means to be a child of God?