Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Very soon, it will no longer be possible. . . ."

"The motivations of this double refusal are deeper than one might suspect from the reasons we actually hear.  They presuppose the idea that only the radical culture born of the Enlightenment, which has attained its full development in our own age, can be constitutive of European identity.  Alongside this culture, various religious cultures with their respective rights can coexist, on condition (and to the degree) that they respect the criteria of the Enlightenment culture and subordinate themselves to it.  This Enlightenment culture is substantially defined by the rights to liberty.  Its starting point is that liberty is a fundamental value and the criterion of everything else:  the freedom of choice in matters of religion, which includes the religious neutrality of the state; the liberty to express one's own opinion, on condition that it does not call precisely this canon into question; the democratic ordering of the state, that is, the parliamentary control of the organs of the state; the freedom to form political parties; the independence of those who administer the law; and finally, the protection of the rights of man and the prohibition of discrimination.  On this point, the canon is still in the process of formation, since there exist contrasting human rights, as we see in the conflict between a woman's right to freedom and the unborn child's right to life.  The concept of discrimination is constantly enlarged, and this means that the prohibition of discrimination can be transformed more and more into a limitation on the freedom of opinion and on religious liberty.  Very soon, it will no longer be possible to affirm that homosexuality (as the Catholic Church teaches) constitutes an objective disordering in the structure of human existence, and the fact that the Church is convinced that she does not have the right to confer priestly ordination on women is already seen by some as irreconcilable with the spirit of the European Constitution.  I mention only some points here; I do not intend to provide an exhaustive list of the contents of this canon of the Enlightenment culture.  It is obvious that it contains important values that are essential for us, precisely as Christians, and we do not wish to do without them.  At the same time, it is equally obvious that the concept of liberty on which this culture is based inevitably leads to contradictions, since it is either badly defined or not defined at all.  And it is clear that the very fact of employing this concept entails limitations on freedom that we could not even have imagined a generation ago.  A confused ideology of liberty leads to a dogmatism that is proving ever more hostile to real liberty."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Christianity and the crisis of cultures, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 2006 [2005]), 33-36.  "even the concept of liberty, which initially seemed capable of expanding without any limits, leads in the end to the self-destruction of liberty itself" (40).  "The failure to mention Christian roots is not the expression of a superior tolerance that respects all cultures in the same way and chooses not to accord privileges to any one of them.  Rather, it expresses the absolutization of a way of thinking and living that is radically opposed (inter alia) to all the other historical cultures of humanity.  The real antagonism typical of today's world is not that between diverse religious cultures; rather, it is the antagonism between the radical emancipation of man from God, from the roots of life, on the one hand, and the great religious cultures, on the other (44).  "this double refusal" is the refusal of any reference to either 1) God or 2) the Christian roots of Europe in the preamble to the European Constitution (32).

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