April 25, 2005


The Last European Pope?: The mission of Benedict XVI. (Joseph Bottum, 05/02/2005, Weekly Standard)

A FAILING CIVILIZATION CAN'T BE argued out of its failing. It can be led, perhaps, or inspired, or converted and reformed. But argument requires the application of universal truths to the particular facts of the moment, and when a culture is tumbling downward, all its truths and facts--indeed, the whole idea of truth and fact and argument--are exactly what its people increasingly disbelieve.

Does anyone doubt that Western Europe is tumbling downward? It cannot summon the will to reproduce itself. It has aborted and contracepted its birthrate down toward demographic disaster: perhaps 1.4 children per couple across the western end of the continent, when simple replacement requires a rate around 2.1. It can discover neither how to absorb nor how to halt the waves of Islamic immigrants swamping its cities, and it has proved supine in the face of those immigrants' anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism, and even anti-Europeanism.

Meanwhile, Western Europe's economies are soft, its unemployment rates are shocking, and its emerging continent-wide government is elitist and antidemocratic. Its people are hedonists and materialists, its soccer clubs are nativist militias in waiting, its churches are empty, and--well, that's the problem Joseph Ratzinger faces, isn't it? The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI has just inherited the world's greatest pulpit, but, on his home continent at least, there's hardly anyone in the pews to listen.

He can preach to the choir, of course: After nearly three centuries of enlightened disdain for religion, Europe is about as dechristianized as it's likely to get; everyone who's going to leave the Church already has, and still there are millions of believers scattered across the continent--to say nothing of the billion or so who don't happen to live a train ride away from Rome. In all likelihood, the European Union and the national governments will soon cave in and grant their Muslim immigrants the religious exemptions those governments have consistently refused to grant Catholics. And that will prove what the Vatican claimed all the way back in its struggles with the French Revolution: The European form of Enlightenment secularism and laïcité was never some purely philosophical stand on the necessary political separation of church and state; it always began and ended with anti-Catholicism.

You'd have to think one of the main sources of the Left's anger at the choice of Pope Benedict XVI was indeed that the Church marches into the 21st Century little changed from what it was centuries ago while the secularist project in Europe (and on America's Coasts) is dying before our eyes.

Behind the rage at Benedict XVI (Patrick J. Buchanan, April 25, 2005, Creators Syndicate)

"Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you."

Hearing Jesus' words in the synagogue at Capharnum, many of his disciples said, "'This is a hard saying, who can hear it?' ... From that time many ... walked no more with him."

This episode from the Gospel of St. John is instructive. For today, scores of millions do not believe that John Paul II taught infallibly when he condemned abortion, contraception, homosexuality and the idea of women-priests. They cannot accept church teaching as settled and final, and want it changed to reflect their own beliefs. Yet, all the modern popes, and now Benedict XVI, refuse to change doctrine to accommodate them.

Thus, the rage, resentment and frustration that the conclave chose Cardinal Ratzinger as pope. They are like children who have been told by a stern but loving father that their tantrums are to no avail and they are not going to get their way, though they have been used to getting their way for most of their pampered lives.

And so the new pope is denounced as "God's rottweiler," "der PanzerKardinal," John Paul II's enforcer and the chief inquisitor who cruelly silenced the voices of dissent after Vatican II. What the hostility of the liberal media to the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger tells us is that the conclave got it right.

The secular world, too, hoped the church would alter its doctrines to conform to a moral relativism that teaches there is no law above manmade law, and that what is right and wrong is decided by each generation. The notion that there is a higher law – God's law, permanent law – to which all manmade law and human conduct must conform is anathema.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2005 12:00 AM
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