In a sermon at a church in Erfurt, during his current “state visit” to Germany, Pope Ratzinger had this to say:
The more the world moves away from God, the more clear it becomes that man, in the hubris of power, the void in his heart and in the longing for fulfillment and happiness, is losing ever more touch with his life.
The unmitigated presumption and gall of this man never ceases to amaze! Being out of touch with life! As one of the pope’s supporters — Simon Rapp, the federal chaplain of the Association of Catholic Youth — said:
I hope he finds some other themes. It’s not that he has to just take up every request from the people, but there has to be a sign that something is moving.
So far the pope has concentrated on getting Christians to join together in a struggle against the growing tide of secularism:
The most urgent thing for ecumenicalism is, namely, that we can’t allow the push of secularism to force us, almost without noticing, to lose sight of the major similarities that make us Christians, and which remain a gift and a challenge for us.
This was said by the same man who shamelessly offered disaffected Anglican priests a way to make the transition to Catholocism through an Anglican Ordinariate in the Catholic Church. One Catholic observer in England said, last year, “that Anglo-Catholics have recognized their battle is “lost.” However, Pope Benedict’s appreciation of their tradition and his establishment of a special church structure for them will help restore their patrimony to the Catholic Church.” So much for ecumenism, and for the major similarities between Christians! Just google ‘Anglican Ordinariate’ to see the fizz of excitement amongst conservative Anglicans that this has generated; and think how much corresponding damage has been done by the pope to Anglican unity, and consider the pope’s present appeal in the light of that.
One thing that is worth mentioning, considering that Church of England has said that during the next five years one of the major emphases of the church should be countering the effect of the new atheists, and seeing that the pope is now urging Christians to gang up against secularism, is that clearly, whatever the loudest critics of the new atheism have been saying, the new atheism is on the right track. We’ve got them worried. We are now a force to be reckoned with. Of course, Mooney and Baggini and Stangroom, you don’t have to thank us; but you should be able to see now how wrong you have been. And, anyway, you knew it all along. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
But just think what a transformation this is. Four hundred years ago Christians fought amongst themselves almost to a standstill. Parts of Germany were depopulated by the murderous violence of Christian against Christian. Now they need each other just to make themselves look strong! The pope is no longer confident in his millions of Catholics. Perhaps they don’t all really believe that strongly after all! Just for insurance, perhaps we can get other really serious Christians to join us to fight the awful apparition that seems poised to take over and alienate us even further from ourselves!
However, what angers me more than anything is that this is an effort by the pope — and, he hopes, by other Christians — to intrude their beliefs into the public sphere where they don’t belong. And before anyone goes off on a tangent about democracy and majorities, consider this. I’ve been doing some research over the last few days into the assisted dying legislation in the Netherlands and Belgium. In Belgium, it turns out, many Catholic doctors do not refuse assisted dying to their patients, not because they are not, as good Catholics, opposed to assisted dying, but because, in their relationships with what are called ‘moral strangers’, Catholic morality is not the issue. What is important in relations with ‘moral strangers’ is a morality based, not on revelation or special doctrines, but on what can be shared with others on the basis of reason. This is, in fact, whether the pope knows it or not, what secularism is all about.