Pope Benedict XVI on Society and Truth

Today at the Practical Catholic, we’ll be looking with Pope Benedict at the erosion happening in societies across the world and what Christians can do in response. So here we have a few Pope Benedict XVI quotes from various sources to help us along the way.

The Holy Father says:

If we cannot have common values, common truths, sufficient communication on the essentials of human life–how to live how to respond to the great challenges of human life–then true society becomes impossible.

How true this is. Where there is no communication, no culture, no shared experience, there is no society; because there is no people. There remains only a vast and foreboding, unforgiving sea of individuals ready to crash upon each other and the world with the slightest wind. Without a common basis, we have not the vaulted pluralism we’re taught to embrace, but Babel, in all the confusion and madness of a society with no binding forces. Already we are seeing the tensions of this fragmentation breaking out across cultures.

Without common values and truths, such as in the socieites we find ourselves in, we find the fabric of society torn like Joseph’s cloak, by a great many tribes which would like to lay claim to the title of favored. Leftists, conservatives, anarchists, nihilists, secularists, objectivists, the shallow, the entertainers, the entertained, all vying for control against each other. Tribalism can indeed spawn differentiation, but without some common ground, and in the face of increasing jargon not only in the academies but in the cultures; we shall be left with madness. In the end this tribalism can only result in the decline of all their claims, and the alienation of one from the other. Babel is the happenstance when society tries to become God.

Pope Benedict XVI goes on to say:

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. The church must defend itself against threats such as “radical individualism” and “vague religious mysticism”. [emphasis added]

Pope Benedict does not play language games, he is unconcerned with the postmodernist’s corner on untruth. Neither should we be. Notice how he calls relativism a “dictatorship” instead of agreeing that no values and no Truth are the way forward for society. What many fail to recognize is that imposing nihilism and arbitrary tribalism is a form of dictatorship. Where untruth or half truth is the common order, there can only be oppression. Political correctness has asked us to abandon our value-laden language and to pick up a new language proper to the secular forum. However, this secular newspeak is value-laden against the traditional claims of the Western world and as such, is a poison rather than a new order. We can and should bring our own conviction laden language to the table, if we’re going to have any sort of real dialogue at all. Misinformation and restrained convictions are not the proper building blocks for a democracy. The Holy Father offers us a visions of the State according to our Catholic heritage:

The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern.

We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need.

The Church is one of those living forces.

The State is incapable of providing everything, as it should be. America is not God. It cannot provide our financial or societal security forever. It cannot even do that today. Recent economic woes prove this to many, if not all of us. Perhaps these economic straits might detach some American from unnecessary levels of patriotism and return them to the Church. As Pope Benedict says, “Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic.”

Let’s bear that in mind, as we approach issues of social justice, Truth, and society. Because, it is not politics that binds us all together, nor even culture, it is Christ. The Church is the institution which binds up culture, God and man, and encapsulates their various energies into a life-giving force for the betterment of the world. Where socieities make room for Christ and His Church, they too shall be recognized, and He shall make room for them.

This is the Holy Father’s final verdict on Truth’s relation to the Christian life:

Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity. Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon.

Christians, faithful flock of the risen Lord: Be not afraid! Defend Truth in Love, and fear not the wolves that have been sent among you. We live in dark days, but we have hope, hope that our suffering is not in vain, hope that God is with us, and a firm faith that Love is True. Be Hopeful, through the virtue of patience, and await the redemption of all things. Keep your eyes fixed on that, as you enter into your daily lives. Be unshaken in the midst of trial. Be saints.


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