19 April 2005

Ratzinger on relativism

Cardinal Ratzinger, one of the possible contenders for the papacy, was John Paul II's right-hand man as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In this position he became something of a lightning rod for dissidents within the church and critics without. Zenit reports on Ratzinger's homily delivered at mass yesterday, in which he warned of the dangers of relativism.

Writing in The Washington Post, E. J. Dionne, Jr. (who, judging from his surname, must surely have French Canadian roots) argues that, for the African, Latin American and Asian cardinals, "the battle over relativism is far less important than the poverty that afflicts so many of their flock." Although I don't doubt that poverty throughout the two-thirds world definitely needs to be addressed, Dionne's observation strikes me as deeply patronizing. Surely the cardinals are intelligent men, fully capable of understanding the connection between truth and life, between theory and praxis. In fact, it is often precisely nonwesterners who see most clearly how the secular ideological commitment to the expansive self has led to the current western cultural malaise and exacerbated social and economic ills elsewhere.

Later: Here is the full text of Ratzinger's homily.

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