Thursday, April 21, 2005
Pope Benedict XVI
Rome's Radical Conservative: "One of Cardinal Ratzinger's central, and most misunderstood, notions is his conception of liberty, and he is very jealous in thinking deeply about it, pointing often to Tocqueville. He is a strong foe of socialism, statism and authoritarianism, but he also worries that democracy, despite its great promise, is exceedingly vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority, to 'the new soft despotism' of the all-mothering state, and to the common belief that liberty means doing whatever you please. Following Lord Acton and James Madison, Cardinal Ratzinger has written of the need of humans to practice self-government over their passions in private life.
He also fears that Europe, especially, is abandoning the search for objective truth and sliding into pure subjectivism. That is how the Nazis arose, he believes, and the Leninists. When all opinions are considered subjective, no moral ground remains for protesting against lies and injustices.
Pope John Paul II thought the first issue of his time was the murderous politics that resulted from the separation of Europe into two by the Soviet Union. He saw it as chiefly a political issue, to be defeated by moral means.
Pope Benedict XVI, like several of his namesakes back to St. Benedict himself (the founder of Western monasticism and patron saint of Europe), is more likely to take culture as the central issue of the new millennium: What is the culture necessary to preserve free societies from their own internal dangers - and to make them worthy of the sacrifices that brought them into being? "