Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Schall on the pope's USA visit

Read what Fr. James Schall, who always has some interesting things to read, anticipates will be the focus of the pope's message to Americans and Catholics.

The pope's general reaction to America is that this nation has a fine founding in its classical writers. We are a generous people. However, somehow Americans have more recently drifted away from these founding principles. "As a first step, go back!" he will urge. He will mention the obvious relativism and secularism, which has too often replaced the central values of western civilization, including that of America and even in the Church.

"Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to Transcendence," Benedict told the members of the Pontifical Council for Culture, "is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness. This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within..." [3] The inner relation of believers-Church-nations-world to the final destiny of each human person and that of our kind to God is constantly before the pope's mind. This is, after all, why his office exists, that men may know the truth about themselves and their final destiny. Everything else has its importance relative to the final end of our being.
Ever since his address on modern religious movements in Mexico several years ago, the pope has paid attentions to cults and spiritualities that seem to prevail in a society evidently returning to pagan origins on its rejecting Christianity. Thus, he continues in the same address to the Council for Culture: "The 'death of God' proclaimed by many intellectuals in recent decades is giving way to a barren cult of the individual. In this cultural context there is a risk of drifting into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart, sometimes characterized by surrogate forms of religious affiliation and vague spiritualism." It has frequently been said that, unexpectedly, the aftermath of Marxism has not been a return to Christianity or to science even, but to eastern religions and "spiritualism" movements.
No doubt the pope will say something about life, about abortion, skewered views of marriage, including homosexual "marriages." These are issues about which many American politicians would like to think are "settled constitutional issues." That is, beyond criticism or intellectual discussion. In his Salt of the Earth, Joseph Ratzinger made a comment that I think is pertinent here: "Evil has power via man's freedom, whereby it creates structures for itself." [4] This is pretty much where we are. We have a protective "structure" of evil that claims immunity because we are so "settled" about it that we need not examine what it means. Even though here and in Europe, the decline of population is of major political import, we pretend not to see the connection between our future and new human beings coming into the world. We are blind to the needed reforms of our lives, families, and state that would make this renewed attention to the need of new members of our society possible.

Read the whole article here.

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