During Pope Benedict’s wide-ranging interview with Peter Seewald published in ‘Light of theWorld’ the Holy Father makes a number of references to the growing anti-Catholicism in western secular societies. Protect the Pope has identified the following references to this important topic:
Pope Benedict: A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. These are then announced in terms of so-called “negative tolerance”. For instance, when people say that for the sake of negative tolerance [i.e. “not offending anyone”] there must be no crucifix in public buildings. With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.
When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom—for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation.
In reality, however, this development increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion, which pretends to be generally valid because it is reasonable, indeed, because it is reason itself, which knows all and, therefore, defines the frame of reference that is now supposed to apply to everyone.
In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason— so-called Western reason—claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.
The aggressiveness with which this new religion appears was described by the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel as a “crusade of the atheists”. It is a crusade that mocks Christianity as the “God delusion” and classifies religion as a curse that is also to blame for all wars. You yourself have already spoken about a “subtle or even not so subtle aggression against the Church”. Even without a totalitarian regime, you say that there is pressure today to think the way everybody thinks, that attacks against the Church show “how this conformity can really be a genuine dictatorship”. Harsh words.
But the reality is in fact such that certain forms of behavior and thinking are being presented as the only reasonable ones and, therefore, as the only appropriately human ones. Christianity finds itself exposed now to an intolerant pressure that at first ridicules it—as belonging to a perverse, false way of thinking—and then tries to deprive it of breathing space in the name of an ostensible rationality.
It is very important for us to oppose such a claim of absoluteness conceived as a certain sort of “rationality”. Indeed, this is not pure reason itself but rather the restriction of reason to what can be known scientifically— and at the same time the exclusion of all that goes beyond it. Of course it is true that historically there have been wars because of religion, too, that religion has also led to violence. . . .
But neither Napoleon nor Hitler nor the U.S. Army in Vietnam had anything to do with wars of religion. On the contrary, exactly seventy years ago atheistic systems in the East and the West reduced the world to ruins, in an epoch distanced from God that the American writer Louis Begley called “a satanic requiem”.
It is all the more true that there is still the great power of good, also, which was delivered by religion and is present and resplendent throughout history—think of great names such as Francis of Assisi, Vincent de Paul, Mother Teresa, and so on. Conversely, the new ideologies have led to a sort of cruelty and contempt for mankind that was hitherto unthinkable, because there was still respect for God’s image, whereas without this respect man makes himself absolute and is allowed to do anything—and then really becomes a destroyer.