One of the most serious faults of reasoning is allowing some conman with an agenda to set the terms of a debate. "Clear faith" hasn't anything to do with fundamentalism. The Cardinal, now Pope knows as much. He's a well educated and knowledgeable man whose faith, I presume, is "clear". Like most people of "clear faith" Josef Ratzinger has found that faith and reason have come to him together. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive.
Fundamentalism, however, is exactly the antithesis of Josef Ratzinger's path. It insists on blind faith, not clarity. Fundamentalism insists that reason is faith's enemy, that mindless acceptance of absurd literalism is the true path of belief, and that questioning the Bible and the teachings of your church or preacher is heresy. (And, yes, I too have an agenda about which I’m being far more honest than Benedict XVI.)
So let’s continue to parse the Cardinal/Pope’s homily. Relativism is “letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’….” in Ratzinger’s phrase but is it? I am an atheist who comes by his lack of faith through a solid grounding in the teachings of the
According to the Catholic Church and certainly in the view of Benedict XVI, life begins at the moment of conception. In that moment an act of god has occurred. I think that the Pope and I could agree that in that moment there are the stirrings of the great mystery of life and that something sublime is occurring but we would be talking of very different things. What to the Pope is an act of god is, to me, an act, sweaty, gasping, straining and delightful, of two people carrying out a biological imperative and the entirely random, haphazard serendipity of male and female cells meeting.
So where does relativism enter the picture? In our attitudes to the results of those stirrings of the great mystery of life.
For about three week of initial development the fertilized egg remains a mass of largely undifferentiated cells. Only in the eighth week does that mass of cells begin to resemble anything like a human baby. And even then the organs are undeveloped and there’s no possibility that the fetus could exist outside the mother’s body. Only after about 12 weeks is the fetus sufficiently formed to be viable outside the mother’s body. Therefore, I don’t think that there is anything “relativist” about acknowledging that the fertilized egg up to the 12th week of pregnancy is entirely a function of the mother’s body. Yet Catholic dogma says otherwise. The dogma here relies on blind faith rather than “clear faith”.
Absurdly, the Roman Catholic Church opposes all methods of birth control. Catholic dogma insists that methods of birth control whether physical or chemical interfere with “god’s plan” as if any god had the time to determine a plan for pregnancy in every copulating couple. I personally have some squeamishness about abortion. I think it far better to reduce or eliminate the risk of pregnancy before the fact than after yet the Roman Catholic Church and certainly Pope Benedict XVI will not hear of birth control as a means for reducing the need for abortion.
Similarly the Catholic Church preaches against a “morning after pill”. The fertilized egg hasn’t even attached itself to the uterine wall to begin developing into a fetus but chemically preventing that attachment is anathema to Benedict XVI. Thus Roman Catholicism places itself in an absurd and self-defeating straight-jacket. Preventing pregnancy is a violation of “god’s will” and abortion is too. Again blind faith paints the Catholic Church into a corner into which “clear faith” wouldn’t have allowed it to go.
But the most troubling aspect of this fundamentalist blind faith is the attitude toward the living. Steeped in the dogma of sin abortion is impermissible even if the life or health of the mother hangs in the balance. The reasoning appears to be that the baby is innocent of all but “original sin“ (a pretty dodgy concept in itself) while the mother is ipso facto a sinner. Therefore, preserving the baby’s life is preferable to that of the mother. Is it any wonder that some have seen a gross anti-feminine bias in this dogma?
So it’s “relativism” to see that a woman might have other children if this fetus that threatens her life were aborted and, therefore, save her. It’s relativism to weigh the two lives and find in favor of the woman rather than the baby. If that’s relativism then so be it. I will proudly wear the mantle of relativist.
And, yet again, comes the con that relativism has “has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires." Josef Ratzinger did not become a cardinal or pope without setting his own ego and desires ahead of everything else. To fail to see that this pot is calling all the other kettles black is utter absurdity. I’m sure that he would tell you that he was elected by the holy spirit moving amongst his colleagues rather than by careful pruning of the College of Cardinals throughout most of the last 3 papacies, ruthless attacks on all liberal interpretations of Catholicism and incessant politicking with his colleagues. Convenient how the holy spirit is so in tune with Josef Ratzinger’s ambitions, isn’t it? But the biggest con of all is the characterization of relativism as a dictatorship. One has to expect that one’s audience is willing to jettison all rational thought to accept that oxymoron. Relativism, also known as empiricism, by definition, looks at the circumstances of a given situation and tries to find the least hurtful or most accurate resolution to the situation. It is fundamentalism and dogma that impose an immutable will on the world and all circumstances admitting of no other choice but that dictated by its hidebound inflexibility. It’s dogma that insists that the mother must carry to term a child of rape, incest or one whose continued development jeopardizes her own life, not relativism.
Pope Benedict XVI has taken some pains to distance himself from his past as a member of the Hitlerjugend. What he’s not done is reject the inflexibility of his Nazi past. Certainly he may visit a synagogue or confer with some Imams but Benedict XVI, like Cardinal Ratzinger and young Josef Ratzinger before him believes in a totalitarian dictatorship of his version of Catholicism. In that sense he has merely exchanged Hitler for Roman Catholic dogma. That Dubya should give lip service to the Cardinal’s oxymoron is both typical and blatantly dishonest. For Dubya and his mal-administration to condemn “relativism” when they have parsed the meaning of torture in ways that make Bill Clinton’s parsing of “is” look inconsequential. For a man who insists that his government does not torture people to attack relativism while his top advisors manage the very torture he denies is beyond despicable. But then again, Dubya is probably too “incurious” to realize that he’s contradicting himself. I wonder what Pope Benedict’s excuse is?