It is relative
: Cardinal Ratzinger issued his attack against “relativism” as the cardinals went into their conclave. Of course, one can easily turn that around and say that he was merely defending orthodoxy — his orthodoxy:
“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism that has at its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger told his fellow electors….
In his sermon, Ratzinger called on cardinals to defend Catholic orthodoxy and reject attempts to update or change church teaching. He did not cite any specific teachings under fire, but the church is struggling to deal with demands by many Catholics for changes in the rules banning contraception, married priests, ordination of women and expanded rights for gays and lesbians.
“Adult faith is not one that follows tides of trends and the latest novelties,” Ratzinger said.
He saved his harshest condemnation for “relativism,” which he said denies absolute truths. “Relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable by today’s standards,” Ratzinger said.
He also defended fundamentalism, saying it was under attack because it was based on “clear faith.”
I harken back to a post I wrote a few days ago, saying that we are still going through the Reformation as Ratzinger et al defend an orthodoxy of (their) institutional authority and the religious right defends an orthodoxy of (their) reading of the word. Meanwhile, the reformers — myself among them — argue that we each must work to discern morality and God’s will the face of life (and if we did not, then, as someone pointed out on the radio this morning, the Catholic church would still be against usery and not against slavery and regarding slavery, the same could be said of many Protestant denominations).
This is not moral relativism. This is moral responsibility.
These are three radically different worldviews, so different that adherents to one have trouble understanding or even tolerating adherents to another. And the conflict is getting greater as the forces of orthodoxy and fundamentalism in many cloaks face an era of
This is an age when the individual is more empowered than ever. You can publish your message to the world from anywhere in the world. You can learn and start a business and organize a cause the globe around thanks to the internet. You can question authority.
In many spheres, we see the bearers of authority and orthodoxy fighting against this trend of empowering individuals. It’s happening in religion, journalism, media, politics, world relations, academics. And the dinosaurs roar.
: At NRO, Michael Novak praises Ratzinger’s speech:
This, Ratzinger fears, is a move back toward the justification of murder in the name of ìtoleranceî and subjective choice.
Along with that move, he has observed (havenít we all?), comes a dictatorial impulse, to treat anyone who has a different view as ìintolerant.î For instance, those (on the ìreligious rightî) who hold that there are truths worth dying for, and objective goods to be pursued and objective evils to be avoided, are now held to be ìintolerantî fundamentalists, guilty of ìdiscrimination.î
In other words, the new dictatorial impulse declares that the only view permissible among reasonable people is the view that all subjective choices are equally valid. It declares, further, that anyone who claims that there are objective truths and objective goods and evils is ìintolerant.î Such persons are to be expelled from the community, or at a minimum re-educated. That is to say, all Catholics and others like them must be converted to relativism or else sent into cultural re-training camps.
Charles Norman Todd at Freiheit und Wissen responds forcefully to Novak:
Novak argues that the success of the Nazis depended upon a culture that embraced relativism. Shocking, isnít it? Novak claims that in order for the Nazis to succeed, the people had to dismiss truth or meaning and embrace the individual will as the only source of significance.
Now, Novak is being sly here and he knows it. He knows that many on the Left see a tendency towards fascism in the current Bush administration. He also knows that many self-identified liberals think it would be dangerous to further integrate Christianity into the workings of the federal government, particularly into the judiciary system. And so, Novak attempts to rewrite history by saying, no, no, no, the real success of the Nazis had nothing to do with authoritarian rule or the merging of Christian rhetoric with politics, they were just modern day liberal relativists! And so, implies Novak, if you want to keep the dangers of Nazism out of this country, then you better reject relativism and embrace the absolute will of God. Scary, huh?
I cannot believe that Novak would have the balls to write something so perverse on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing in which a right-wing Christian terrorist massacred 168 people. It wasnít relativism that led to that bombing, but fanatical Christian extremism and the belief in an absolute truth.