Pope Benedict warns of the dangers of hedonism joined to technological Prometheanism

During his address to Cor Unum, the Holy See’s development agency, Pope Benedict XVi warned of the dangers confronting us from materialistic hedonism joined to technological Prometheanism:

‘In every age, when man has not sought such a plan he has fallen prey to cultural temptations that have in the end enslaved him. In recent centuries, ideologies that praised the cult of nation, race and social class have proved to be real idolatries; and the same could be said of reckless capitalism with its worship of profit that results in crisis, inequality and poverty. People today share more and more a common feeling about the inalienable dignity of every human being and about our reciprocal and interdependent responsibility for it; and this is to the advantage of true civilization, the civilization of love. However, unfortunately, our time also knows the shadows that hide God’s plan. I am referring above all to the tragic anthropological reduction that reproposes the age-old hedonistic materialism, but to which a “technological Prometheanism” is added. From this union of the materialistic vision of man and the great development of technology a fundamentally atheist anthropology emerges. It presupposes that man is reduced to autonomous functions, the mind to the brain, human history to a destiny of self-realization. All this disregards God, his properly spiritual dimension and the horizon of the afterlife. In the perspective of a human being deprived of his soul and consequently of a personal relationship with his Creator, what is technically possible becomes morally licit, every experiment is acceptable, every demographic policy permitted, every manipulation legitimized. The most dangerous snare of this current of thought is in fact the absolutization of man: man wants to be ab-solutus, freed from every bond and from every natural constitution. He claims to be independent and thinks that his happiness lies in his own self-affirmation. “Man calls his nature into question…. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be” (Discourse to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2012). This is a radical denial of the nature of the creature and child in man, which ends in tragic loneliness.

Protect the Pope comment:The Holy Father is continuing his analysis of the threats to humanity that he began in his Christmas address to the Curia when he analysed the false ideas about human nature in modern ‘philosophies of gender’.  In one of his first addresses of 2013 he analyses the related threat from materialistic hedonism united with technological Prometheanism, exemplified by IVF, designer babies and surrogacy.  In the UK alone one million embryonic human beings have been discarded as the waste products of the IVF industry. This is a crime against humanity that goes unnoticed and unacknowledged.


20 comments to Pope Benedict warns of the dangers of hedonism joined to technological Prometheanism

  • Robin Leslie

    God bless Benedict for his appraisal of turbo-capitalism, technocratic practice and systemic nihilism. This is just what we all need, a mature and clinical diagnosis of collective evil. Now we need to be engaged in an appropriate pastoral and hermeneutic praxis centred on the Common God and a devotional life centred on Jesus and his Cross.

  • Robin Leslie

    This must be the most authoritative statement from a Pope that I can remember, no social scientist, philosopher or theologian who is at all critical could fail to endorse this. This has made my day, now there is work to be done on transforming this neo-liberal evil into Good.

  • amator Dei

    Like his predecessor Pope Benedict seems much inclined to this kind of sweeping abstract generalisation – “man” wants to be absolute etc., but such attempts to characterise a whole culture tend to exaggerate one or two features and ignore everything that does not go with that, and hence are of little real value. What may be true is that some people may want to behave as if they are free of every bond and natural constitution, and there may be some influences today that support that desire, but experience shows that many if not most people simply want to live as they always have done, in peace with their neighbours, doing their work, caring for their families. Ordinary people like this are much better at live and let live, overlooking mistakes, living with imperfections and uncertainty. It is Catholic leaders and other ideologues who see themselves as engaged in a grand crusade against society or “collective evil” who want everything to conform to their distorted picture. The one thing the Catholic Church could usefully do, help people to know that there is a loving God by appealing to the good in them and society, is the thing it seems to be worst at.

    • John Dare

      I’m with you on that AM.

    • spesalvi23

      Maybe a short clarification – you can view the Papal address from various perspectives:

      1. The Average Working Joe Catholic (with capital C):
      - will believe in the Trinity
      - will work hard and struggle to stay on track
      - will value his family and treat people with respect
      - will have a grounded sense of morals and values and will apply them – even if difficult at times
      - will act according to the teachings of Christ and the Church

      2. People running Governments / Industry / Banks / Global Organizations:
      - God is becoming more and more obsolete to them
      - will always seek profit
      - will always seek re-election and fame
      - are re-writing, re-designing and re-defining human nature
      - have no legitimate public mandate for above projects
      - oftentimes are not informing their citizens about those projects
      - will not yield to the opinion of the majority when it suits them
      - believe science and technology are the answer to everything
      - are doing it all in the cloak of ‘human rights’
      - will push their crazy social engineering projects on their ‘subjects’
      - etc…

      Whom do you think the Holy Father might have been addressing?
      Isn’t it obvious what’s going on? Do you actually still believe we live in a real democracy where Joe has anything to say? It doesn’t matter who’s in charge. At the end, it’s practically all the same!
      People are realizing that. Fewer and fewer people are politically active – the grass roots of the big, political parties are breaking away –> identification problems. Fewer and fewer people actually vote!

      Of course the Pope knows that regular people are doing their best to live their lives as caring, loving and compassionate persons.
      But he clearly knows that political, industrial, financial and UN/EU leadership is turning away from God. They have to; otherwise they couldn’t face themselves in a mirror anymore.
      They serve money, power, glittery prizes, vanity, fame, each other and their ideologies.
      He’s addressing them! And it seems that, the older he gets, the more urgent his please become!

      Sure, one can keep the blinkers on – thinking we’re all so free and educated and all this newly acquired pseudo tolerance and equality will lead to a bright future.
      Dream on, then and keep thinking the Holy Father – and JP2 before him, had nothing better to do than generalizing people.

      • Haslam

        I don’t disagree with any of you post, but the majority of people in the world or in fact in the church in the UK fall into neither group 1 nor 2. They are ordinary people with a sense of God, a mixture of fondness and skepticism towards the Church and a desire to get on with their life in peace.

        Group 2 will never be defeated without involving this third group. My concern is that the Church finds it easier to wind group 1 up against group 2 as some kind of side-show at the cost of ignoring (and worse still being ignored) by the third group.

        My fear is that the Church will die in Europe and contrary to the apocylytic ideas about a battle between the church and secular state (all this overblown stuff about – my sucessor will die in jail, the penal times will start again, etc, etc) the Church will die with not a bang but a wimper – it won’t be opposed, outlawed or anything, it will be ignored to death.

      • poverello

        I couldn’t have said it better, spesalvi23. Excellent smackdown.

        • amator Dei

          Interesting how contributors to these Christian blogs often seem to delight in administering smackdowns to those who will not take the party line. I would not deny for one moment that we face many serious problems in the world today – who could? nor that returning to Christian values would be a big help. I merely suggested that the kind of large-scale generalisation that the Pope goes in for gives a very inadequate picture and tends to ignore good features of the world that the Church could ally itself with. I do wonder about people who need the Church and its leaders always to be right about everything and find disturbing the current trend to set the Church against society. More openness and willingness to listen all round would not come amiss.

          • spesalvi23

            Sorry to be so blunt! But, have you ever read any Ratzinger? Do you know which words he actually says the most? If not mistaken it’s love, joy, Christ, God and peace.
            Is he a positive person? Are you familiar with Bavarian Catholicism which formed his personality?
            Do you listen to his Sermons?
            Do some research – you might be a tad surprised.

            And! Who is generalizing here?! The Pope? Or possibly you? Is it possible that your generalization of him, which seems due to the lack of a deeper understanding of his personality and his theology, is linked to your personal rejection of what he has to say?
            Why can’t a spiritual leader not hold a mirror in front of our faces? Who else is going to do it?
            What’s the use of praise without reprimand? Doesn’t that turn praise into a hollow farce!
            Is living in denial going to make things better? Do we have to act?
            John Allen created an interesting term for this current pontificate: affirmative orthodoxy!
            I think he gets it right.

    • Damian

      Distorted picture? Please clarify.

      • amator Dei

        Gladly. If you emphasise one or two elements of anything rather than present a rounded picture you end with a distorted view, like a caricature.

  • Pravin Thevathasan

    What a superb and succinct analysis of what is wrong with the world and what needs to be done.

  • Robin Leslie

    What nonsense you talk amator Dei. So you are a spokesman for ‘many if not most people’. Of course most of us want to ‘live…..in peace with their neighbours, doing their work, caring for
    their families’. The planet is heating up through the everyday folly of ‘many if not most people’ who drive their cars and work in industries that still continue to emit carbons. Many people work in armaments and security industries that kill many other people who like them just want to live in peace with their neighbours, the people we kill are our neighbours. Many people
    work in the armed forces invading other countries, killing civilians and buildings, destroying their cultures and installing ‘democracy’ ie. market capitalism. Many animal species die out as a result of our chemicalising the earth and many ‘peaceloving people work in chemical industries and on the land dispersing the stuff. Many people work in the British social services that cut off the benefits of poor and unemployed people. Powerful minorities
    make decisions about re-engineering housing so that poor people on benefits are uprooted
    from their homes and forced to move miles from friends and family because of a housing benefit cap. Many very rich people move their ill-gotten gains to tax-havens, many business executives purloin Pension funds in order to liquidate company debts. Many bankers speculated with hedge funds and other innovative financial schemes forcing the collapse of the entire global Capitalist system and the credibility of the ‘free’ market ideological fiction. Torrential rain and flooding destroys our neighbours homes worldwide, bush fires do the same and hurricanes uproot people leading to mass migrations. All of these people just want to ‘live in peace with their neighbours, doing their work, caring for their families.
    Are you seriously suggesting that we should just keep our noses to the grindstone and live
    in this phoney ‘peace’ while our neighbours are perishing in large numbers as a result of our way of life?

  • Haslam

    There is some truth in what you say. In my view the Church needs to both crusade against evil and help people know that there is a loving God. The latter without the former and you end up with a woolly faith which isn’t much of a faith at all. The former without the latter and everyone except the small group of hardcore faithful will simply ignore the message.

    The Church needs remember that it is no longer automatically listened to or taken seriously and needs to engage in the art of pursuasion much more effectively. Stage one should involved bringing people to Christ. Without that everything else is a waste of time.

  • comtedefrebonius

    Only last Sunday we all recalled the inquity of the Nazis and the Final Solution. Sadly the fruit of those evil times continue to grow apace; a growth which dares not to speak its name!

  • Pravin Thevathasan

    Haslam, I think I agree with you. We need to speak the truth with charity. The great Dietrich Von Hildebrand used to talk about the “charitable anathema.”

    • Haslam

      We need to speak the truth with charity absolutely, but we first need to re-earn the right to be listened to. Until we have done that we can speak the truth however we like but we will be preaching to the choir.

      To re-earn the right to be listened to we need to stop treating the world as something to crusade against and recognise it and the people in it as part of our common humanity and seek out oportunities where we can work together for the common good. That way we achieve common good and also earn ourselves friends so when we have to speak clearly on issues where we are out of step with secular society we might actually be listened to.

      Any parent knows that to bring up a child you can’t ignore their bad behavior but that criticism and disapline on its own isn’t a recipe for success.

      • Spesalvi23

        Sounds good, but in reality is doesn’t completely work.
        I don’t know where you get the ‘crusade’ / trench image from.
        For instance: the Catholic Church is a huge social welfare machinery in Germany.
        It supports children, the sick, elderly, homeless, poor, homes for the handicapped etc.
        It runs schools, universities, homeless shelters. Caritas is gigantic and perfectly organised.
        It employs thousands of people for great conditions.
        It never ceases preaching social justice, love, equality and tolerance.
        Our bishops are mild mannered and soft spoken. There is no demands, no reproach for unjust criticism, no insistence of supremacy!
        Political correctness is vital. Insulting Protestants is a mortal sin.
        Praising Luther seems rather popular.

        So. What’s the problem? Why aren’t people flocking to her fold?
        What’s with the empty churches?
        Why is it praised when the Pope demands peace for the Middle East, but, the second he asks for the adherence to core church teachings, he’s practically crucified! OMG!! The pope is catholic!!

        Is it the spiritual emptiness of this structure monster (in Germany)?
        Is it the missing authenticity?
        Is it the lack of spine in episcopal leadership?

        When you read the books and sermons of b16, you won’t find condemnations or threats.
        You’ll find clear, lucid and rational analysis of today’s world. He suggests, he never demands.
        All within the teachings of our Church.
        He is the best example if how to argue and explain our faith.
        We need to be soundly educated in the faith; well grounded, prayerful and gentle; but also confident and loyal; and willing to be called all kinds of things for that loyalty. Sometimes we do have to make sacrifices.
        I’m a Lutheran convert. I’ve lost friends who’ve called me insane for converting.

        Nearly every week we have vandalism in and on churches. Hostile graffiti is everywhere. Clergy is being insulted and assaulted on the streets. Sound familiar?
        The reason for our spineless bishops is the fact that they’re mercilessly ridiculed and publicly prosecuted by the mass media when they dare defending the faith.
        The last real courageous bishop was just made prefect of the CDF.

        Sure, we can sit back, be nice and not offend. Looking paranoid won’t help.
        But there are some things which are not negotiable. And those are the things we always get attacked and ridiculed for.
        Those are the things worth loosing friends for.

        Even Christ wanted nothing to do with the lukewarm.

        • Haslam

          An interesting diagnosis of the challenges you face in Germany. I’m not sure England is the same. I suspect Germans are rather more “ernst” about religion, politics etc than we are in the UK. I too am a convert from a protestant church but I can’t say I’ve lost friends over the issue. Most of my friends simply couldn’t care less what I believe. Many are not even comfortable talking about religion and rather surprised when I do (its rather seen along the same lines as if you were to talk about your sexlife to your friends). They are benignly indifferent. Which of course can present its own challenges.

          • Spesalvi23

            Due to a ****** genetic defect, we’re more ernst about things in general!
            Remember, Luther was German. He’s still quite popular with the Lutherans. ;)
            They don’t understand how anybody could defect to the roman side.
            It’s treason.

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