"dictatorship of relativism"

You’ve got to hand it to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the late pope’s enforcer of orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. The phrase was part of a homily he delivered before the cardinals went into closed door session to choose the next pope. While especially relevant for matters of faith, the phrase may also easily be applied to many spheres of modern life, which has seen moral relativism and individual ego become the lodestars.

The problem for liberals generally, and for Catholics who wish their church would, somehow, become less Catholic, is that Cardinal Ratzinger speaks with clarity on what he believes his faith requires. Since he is also the guy in charge of orthodoxy for the Roman Catholic Church, he isn’t merely voicing another opinion; his words have the weight of the Church behind them. From the Washington Post, an extract:

“To have a clear faith according to the church’s creed is today often labeled fundamentalism,” he told the cardinals and the congregation packed into St. Peter’s Basilica. “While relativism, letting ourselves be carried away by any wind of doctrine, appears as the only appropriate attitude for the today’s times. A dictatorship of relativism is established that recognizes nothing definite and leaves only one’s own ego and one’s own desires as the final measure.”

The church has been shaken by “numerous ideological currents,” Ratzinger said. “The boat has been unanchored by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and on and on.

“An adult faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelty,” he concluded.

The left wing of the Catholic Church is already up in arms against this ecclesiastic clarity, as it has been for years and years. The message for Catholics is clear. The message for non-Catholic Christians should be just as clear. When you lose your anchor, you are cast adrift. This is a danger in politics and other things of this world. In matters of faith, it may place your very soul in danger.

Update: Welcome to your new office, and may God bless you in all your endeavors, Pope Benedict XVI — the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

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  1. “modern life, which has seen moral relativism and individual ego become the lodestars.”

    I disagree. Relativism really isn’t the scourge that Christians want to believe it is. With respect to homosexuality, for example, it’s not OK because of some relativistic paradigm; it’s just OK as a matter of objective fact. In other words, it’s not permissible for Mr.X because Mr.X believes it is; it’s simply permissible.

    We disagree on what is morally acceptable and not on the logical form of moral acceptability, in other words.

    This is why Christians that think homosexuality is morally permissible engage seriously with the text – the core of the Bible isn’t true because I believe it to be so, it’s true for all. Thus, one has to square one’s belief in the acceptability of homosexuality with the text qua source of objectively true moral propositions. If the Bible weren’t objectively true, we wouldn’t see such wrangling with the text.

  2. Mark Daniels · · Reply

    A good, insightful post.

  3. Anonymous · · Reply

    well said, sir.
    keep fighting postmodernism!

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