Pope Benedict speaks about anti-Catholicism in Seewald interview (I)

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:

Peter Seewald: In a world that has become relativistic, a new paganism has gained more and more dominion over people’s thoughts and actions. It has long since become clear not only that there is a blank
space, a vacuum, alongside the Church, but also that something Dictatorship of Relativism like an anti-church has been established. The Pope in Rome, one German newspaper wrote, should be condemned for the sole reason that by his positions he has “transgressed against the religion” that today “is valid in this country”, namely, the “civil religion”. Has a new Kulturkampf started here, as Marcello Pera has analyzed it? The former president of the Italian Senate speaks about a “large-scale battle of secularism against Christianity”.

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.


10 comments to Pope Benedict speaks about anti-Catholicism in Seewald interview (I)

  • John

    Excellent analysis by Pope Benedict! I look forward to reading the book (it may end up a Christmas present).

    Anyway, this is the irony of the culture wars and the era of relativism. The secular establishment is not tolerant or diverse in opinion. It is, in a sense, a religion – and one that wishes to impose itself on everyone else.

    It’s curious that the neo-atheists, hard-line secularists, social liberals etc. fail to realise the simple reality that as they fight against “organised religion” they themselves have become enveloped in their own religion, with its own set of beliefs and goals which must be accepted by everyone!

    • ninoinoz

      Thank you for your post, John.

      I’m developing my own thoughts on ‘government as a religion’, but my starting point is Carl Jung.

      Jung stressed the importance of individual rights in a person’s relation to the state and society. He saw that the state was treated as “a quasi-animate personality from whom everything is expected” but that this personality was “only camouflage for those individuals who know how to manipulate it”, and referred to the state as a form of slavery. He also thought that the state “swallowed up [people's] religious forces”, and therefore that the state had “taken the place of God” — making it comparable to a religion in which “state slavery is a form of worship”. Jung observed that “stage acts of [the] state” are comparable to religious displays: “Brass bands, flags, banners, parades and monster demonstrations are no different in principle from ecclesiastical processions, cannonades and fire to scare off demons”. From Jung’s perspective, this replacement of God with the state in a mass society led to the dislocation of the religious drive and resulted in the same fanaticism of the church-states of the Dark Ages—wherein the more the state is ‘worshipped’, the more freedom and morality are suppressed; this ultimately leaves the individual psychically undeveloped with extreme feelings of marginalisation.


      • John

        Interesting stuff, Ninoinoz.

        I’ve heard about Carl Jung before but never invested any time into researching the guy. Though from what you say, he sounds like an interesting fellow and may be worth investigating.

        Indeed, I believe there is a complete incompatibitiy between a large state and a free and relgious people. When the government assumes the powers to control healthcare, education and large sectors of the economy, the Church inevitably shrinks and the role of the laity in civil society is diminished.

        One only need look at Western Europe today (or Eastern Europe during Soviet times) to see what socialism does to the religiosity of the people. When we rely on the state, we stop relying on each other. Our compassion, charity and consideration of others reduces when those responsibilities are taken away from the people.

  • Lionel

    What says Pope Benedict XVI is indeed totally right! It is a short and fair analysis…

  • Andrzej

    Finally, here is the official agitprop, just in case someone dared think independently:


    • John

      Recently, I’ve been wondering who in this world has a correct understanding of reality. For example, in the link that you provide, the woman thinks that the Pope said condoms could be used in certain situations, which is nonsense, but this is a belief that many in the media (and by extension, now many in the public) cling to. But this is not the reality.

      Indeed, we could say the same about other issues, like economics. I happen to believe that, again, the media are absolutely clueless about what’s going on in the world and how an economy really works and why we have booms and busts etc.

      The same could be said for military adventures. Who knows the real facts in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea etc?

      The world is full of so much false information that it’s no wonder we, as a civilisation, are making as many mistakes as we are. I heard the Vatican is making a new website – I hope they do a good and thorough job of clarifying everything on there and making it easy for everyone to understanding Catholic social doctrine.

      • James H

        Andrzej, John,

        Dead right! If they can be this clueless about something we know about, what does that say about things we don’t know about? I hope the Pope’s book becomes a best-seller on the strength of this publicity, because people will be able to contrast the Pope’s words with the twaddle peddled by the lamestream media.

        As a pre-teen considering the charms of atheism, one of my epiphanies was in the book of the Cosmos series by Carl Sagan, where he stated categorically that Christians believe the universe is only 6,000 yrs old. I thought to myself, ‘If he’s got something this basic wrong, what does that say about the rest of the book?’

        Truth is the best antidote to the poison of lies.

        • Tim H

          Sagan of course was not an atheist. As he said in his interview with Joel Achenbach: “An atheist has to know more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no God.”

          And according to plenty of Polls summarised here http://www.pollingreport.com/science.htm between 40 and 55 % of Americans (which probably give you a very slight majority of American Christains if you assume that 80+% of Americans are Christains) believe that the world was created in the last 10,000 years. So Sagan was not completely wrong just guilty of over simplification.

  • Powerfull words spoken by the holy father. They defined for me whats going on in the western world.

  • Lisa

    I agree with Pope Benedict.

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