Tuesday 23 July 2019

David Quinn: Pope replaces George Bush as the man some people love to hate

Pope Benedict XVI pauses during an open-air audience in St Peter's Square, the Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI pauses during an open-air audience in St Peter's Square, the Vatican

David Quinn

Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II five years ago this week. Already a controversial figure, he has since gone on to become the hate figure du jour in certain circles, a sort of replacement bogeyman for George W Bush.

Those circles include aggressive secularists, angry ex-Catholics and some within the Catholic Church itself who still suffer from the delusion that the purpose of the Second Vatican Council was to turn the church into another form of failed liberal Protestantism.

Obviously, Benedict is in the news now because of the scandals and the ongoing, and mostly unfair, attempts to implicate him in the mismanagement of those scandals. But even without the scandals, Benedict was and is a hate figure for some.

Admittedly he has not always helped his own cause. For example, he would have been better off not quoting that Byzantine emperor's criticisms of Islam in his Regensburg address of September 2006.

He was also unwise to lift the excommunication order on Bishop Richard Williamson -- a Holocaust denier -- without, at a minimum, a full and proper explanation.

But in other respects he has been attacked without any proper justification. For example, in December 2008 he was widely condemned for comparing homosexuality with the destruction of the rainforests, except that he did no such thing. In that speech, he never even mentioned homosexuality.

A few weeks later, on his way to Africa, he defended the church's opposition to condom promotion in fighting the spread of HIV/Aids. He was excoriated for this and blamed for helping to cause the deaths of millions.

But none of his critics paid any attention to the actual scientific evidence, which shows that no condom promotion campaign aimed at general populations has ever succeeded in reducing the spread of HIV/Aids. What works, according to the evidence, are fidelity campaigns.

Attacks on Benedict, and on the Catholic Church generally, come from many directions. The church is attacked over its supposed attitude towards Protestants, Jews, Muslims and the other religions generally.

Benedict and the church are attacked over their attitude towards homosexuality and human sexuality generally. They are attacked over their defence of the right to life of the unborn, the elderly and the sick. They are attacked over their defence of marriage.

But in a way, all these attacks are an attack on the same thing, namely Benedict and the church's defence of objective truth and morality, its belief that certain things are right or wrong in themselves regardless of opinion or circumstance.

In an age of moral relativism, nothing is more offensive than the person who says, however calmly, that not all 'truths' are equal, that morality is not simply a matter of opinion, that religions are not all equally true or equally false, and that not all lifestyle choices are equal.

With regard to sex, for example, the church says that sex has an objective meaning and purpose and that one such purpose is procreation, which is intrinsically linked to heterosexuality.

This is connected to the defence of marriage. One reason the church says men and women should marry before they have sex is because it believes children have a right to be raised by their two married parents.

But many people, not least cohabiting couples, single parents and homosexuals find this offensive and it leads them into a denial that children have any need for, or right to, a married mother and father. The church cannot go down that road.

Nor can the church say all religions are equal because then it would have to deny that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But this doesn't mean the church can't treat other religions with respect.

Why is this so difficult to grasp? Presumably we're all able to treat most of the people with whom we disagree with respect. Well, the church does the same, contrary to popular prejudice.

The paradox of relativism is that it claims to treat all points of view equally but in fact it damns and condemns those who deny relativism.

In other words, relativists defend their point of view as trenchantly and aggressively as the worst fundamentalists and will brook no opposition.

The Pope calls this ultra-aggressiveness the 'dictatorship of relativism'. The main reason these liberal fundamentalists spend so much of their time and energy attacking the Pope and the church is because they are the foremost defenders of objective truth and morality in the world today.

Destroy Benedict, damage or co-opt the church he leads, and you go a long way towards destroying opposition to liberal fundamentalism. This is a cataclysmic battle between those who believe in objective morality and those who think morality is relative. Joseph Ratzinger is smack bang in the middle of the hottest part of this battle.

Irish Independent

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