Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 13, 2006
Pope targets relativism
Author discusses Benedict's plan for the church
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"He (Pope Benedict) is simply the most intellectually profound global leader on the stage today."
- John Allen
"The sophisticated response seems to be relativism."
This enshrining of diversity, however, has led to the abandonment of the idea of objective truth and the inviolability of human dignity, he said, placing the most vulnerable in society at risk.
Second on his agenda will be to challenge the libertarian idea of freedom, which the pope sees as a "tremendously impoverished view."
Allen says in Benedict's view, true freedom comes in finding one's "whole human potential" and becoming "who God wants you to be."
The pope's view is not about limiting behaviour, "it's about opening a door to walk through to open up full human potential."
Benedict's first encyclical Deus Caritas Est - God is Love - is meant to combat the notion that the Church is "about control, about a power-hungry Church afraid of the modern world." Instead, the encyclical is about a "love affair with Christ.
"At least he seems to have people's attention," Allen said. "Church insiders have been absolutely dazzled by what they've seen from this pope."
"He is simply the most intellectually profound global leader on the stage today."
"Whether he is able to change hearts and minds, at least he has engaged the conversation."
Allen said Benedict recognizes the adult generation in today's Church is "stuck in the ideological battles of Vatican II" in categories of left vs. right, traditional vs. avant-garde.
The pope is "going to appeal over our heads to the next generation" that is "not socialized into the same wasteland," who do not see the Church as a "terrain where ideological battles are fought."
While he will not have the same "razzle dazzle" as Pope John Paul II, he will continue to be preoccupied with youth, he said.
"Church insiders have been absolutely dazzled by what they've seen from this pope."
- John Allen
Allen said the growing evangelical movements in the United States and Latin America pose different sets of advantages and problems for the Church.
Benedict welcomes the fact that there is a public religiosity in the U.S. that does not exist in Europe, he said.
In America, however, there has been an alignment of conservative and liberal believers that transcends denominations, he said. A liberal Catholic and a liberal Protestant now seem to have more in common than they do with conservatives of their respective denominations, and vice versa.
The pope would probably say he doesn't know much about Canada, Allen said, but he has an "odd symbiosis" with the political leadership in Washington.
On one hand, the pope appreciates the leadership of the Bush government on cultural matters, such as stem cell research or euthanasia, but remains critical of its approach to foreign affairs, especially the war in Iraq.
The Church will continue to actively oppose euthanasia, protect human life from conception to natural death, and oppose genetic screening of embryos and finds the Bush administrations opposition "a great source of consolation."
The pope, he said, is a realist, who recognizes the Church is not likely to represent the majority in the West, but instead will become an "influential minority."
Allen said the developed world's priest shortage is also on the pope's radar screen, but countries like Canada should not expect to be able to poach priests from Third World countries. While seminaries are attracting new priests there, the growth of the Church is exponential and they need the priests far more than the developed world does.
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