I must make an apology. I have inadvertently, if only slightly, misquoted the Pope.
In reference to climate change, I wrote the Holy Father had said “[The Church] not only has a major responsibility; she is, I would say, the only hope.”
In fact another word appears in the Pope’s thoughts. It is the word “often”.
The full quote should therefore read: “She not only has a major responsibility; she is, I would say, often the only hope.”
I had read the Pope’s words in a British Catholic journal, which I trusted. From this error, I will learn the importance of going to the original source – which in this case is Light of the World – the recent book length interview with the Holy Father.
While I have made a mistake, for which apology is necessary, may I personally say that I am unclear as to how much that single word matters?
Certainly it makes the Holy Father’s words a little less dramatic or sensational. Popes however are not given to sensation. The Papacy has been steeped in long centuries in the art of diplomacy and careful, considered statements. Frequently, diplomatic statements may conceal a more burning agenda.
It is thus entirely possible that the Holy Father may well consider the Catholic (and Orthodox) Church, the last remaining significant hope in terms of reaching the human conscience – at least in the secular and materialistic Western world.
This latter is of course the major locus for the materialistic consumerism that threatens us all (Even if China and India are racing to catch up, Westerners should be sobered by this).
Significantly in Light of the World, Benedict speaks not only very warmly of Judaism, but acknowledges Islam as a “great religious reality”. He also speaks of finding “ways of facing this difficult hour of history together” with Islam.
Whatever one makes of that, for those following this Papacy it will be clear that the Pope’s attention is very oriented towards materialistic secularism as a very grave world problem.
Unlike Popes in previous centuries, Benedict XVI may be less concerned about the threat to the Faith of long-established religions than that of the new religion or cosmology of a secular materialism, which robs people of the transcendent and tries to establish values in purely humanistic and relative terms.
In other words, we are threatened today by a new creed – a creed spread in all our Western media and educational institutions – that God (if He even exists) – is unimportant and purely human and materialistic categories are now suitable as a foundation for society.
Thus despite my unfortunate omission of the Pope’s word “often”, I stand by the essence of what has been said in the last blogs.
It is clear to the Holy Father and many others that the will to sacrifice for the sake of the world – to live more simply or “do without” as the Pope put it – is weak. There is a shallow popular consensus of sorts that is not translating into effective action.
It can be at least said that the Church – by which the Holy Father means the Sevenfold Sacramental Church manifesting in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy –is in the Pope’s view “often” the only hope.
Now the Holy Father is speaking about the world situation as a whole, which includes the vast tract of populations for which Islam is in his view, a “great religious reality”.
I wonder indeed, if the Holy Father had been commenting on the Western Euro-American culture alone, rather than the world as a whole, he might have dared to say the Church is the only hope?
Certainly, there is one passage in Light of the World that suggests this to me. The Pope is speaking with evident concern about the situation in Latin America where the Sevenfold Sacramental Faith is being eroded. Benedict XVI clearly sees the cause of this in certain North American currents of Protestantism and secularism as a powerful mind altering force:
On the one hand, evangelical sects are plowing up the religious landscape – though they themselves are quite volatile and are also incapable of generating any permanent sense of belonging. On the other hand, secularism has come to exercise a powerful influence through the media, and it is changing the way people think.
I have added the italics, myself. I would like to draw meditative attention to what the Holy Father has said.
For it is a well-remarked notion that North (and increasingly South) American evangelical and Pentecostal Protestantism is something of a revolving door. Frequently people enter it for a while – and later leave it forever, never to return to religion. (By contrast, the situation with conversions to Catholicism is very different.)
This is what I think the Holy Father means by “plowing up” … Faith is destroyed. Meanwhile, it is all-too-evident how the materialistic bias buried in a supposedly “neutral” secularism destroys faith.
To my mind, all of this speaks further to the idea – indicated in my last blogs – as to why the Holy Father is doing all he can to orient us to the Church of the Seven Sacraments …
A final personal note.
Over these nights of Christmas through Epiphany, I have tried to re-orient my attention to the gravity expressed in the Holy Father’s words.
Out of that effort, new directions for this website will be emerging.
For trying to work ever more seriously with the idea of the Catholic Church as the only hope for at least the Western world, my convictions are being renewed, strengthened and clarified.
Among these is the conviction that a major responsibility lies in simply this – Making the Catholic Church Visible.
As a first step.
In a world that tries very hard to render Her invisible …
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
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