|New Ally Joins Europe and the UN
By Carl Anderson
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, 4 MAY 2009 (ZENIT)
Several events in the past few months
and in particular the response of the media and governmental
organizations to statements and actions by Pope Benedict
have made clear that the Pope and the Church face an increasingly
The international attacks on the Pope, by governments and the media
alike, most recently on the solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa, show
an increasingly secular orthodoxy. This outlook places no value on
Christian morality and is willing to ignore facts in its quest for a
secular, valueless solution to any social problem.
Pope Benedict's discussion of this phenomenon in the European context
goes back many years. As Europe abandons its Christian roots, it
increasingly creates a future where religion has no place in the public
square. Some commentators have gone so far as to refer to European "Christianophobia."
After all, polling shows that a third or less of people living in
Britain, Germany, Italy and France say that religion plays an important
role in their lives.
Speaking to a group of European politicians in 2006, Benedict
encouraged them to support the Christian heritage of the continent, and
warned of the dangers to democracy of excluding Europe's Christian
tradition from a public role.
He said that "support for the Christian heritage" could help to
"defeat a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which
relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of
one's own religious convictions." Citing "Evangelium Vitae," he also
warned that such a secularism "exclude[d] engagement with Europe's
religious tradition ... thereby threatening democracy itself, whose
strength depends on the values that it promotes."
In contrast to Europe's increasing hostility to the Church, Pope
even before his election
saw a more hopeful, less hostile secularism in America. Speaking in the
United States just over a year ago, Benedict noted: "It strikes me as
significant that here in America, unlike many places in Europe, the
secular mentality has not been intrinsically opposed to religion. Within
the context of the separation of Church and state, American society has
always been marked by a fundamental respect for religion and its public
role, and, if polls are to be believed, the American people are deeply
However, he didn't see the American model as free from secular attack
either, and he added a sobering sentence: "It is not enough to count on
this traditional religiosity and go about business as usual, even as its
foundations are being slowly undermined."
In the past year, that last sentence has proven increasingly
While still not quite as strident as secularists in Europe, secular
forces within the United States have become increasingly emboldened,
seeking to marginalize the Church, and label its teaching on marriage
and life as outdated at best and bigoted at worst. In at least one case,
a state government actually considered (unsuccessfully) legally
reorganizing the Catholic Church by stripping its bishops and priests of
their control over dioceses and parishes.
In the media too, hostility has increased. Just before Easter, the
American media was confronted with two polls from prominent polling
institutes. One poll
commissioned by the Knights of Columbus
showed overwhelming appreciation of Easter by Americans. The other poll
showed a modest decrease in the number of Americans who identified
themselves as Christian. The secular media chose to give widespread
coverage to the "decline of Christianity," and far less to the high
regard for Easter and remarkable number of Americans who planned to
attend Church services.
We have also an apparently similar bias in attacks on the Pope's
correct and empirically proven
statements on AIDS and condoms. Key officials at the United Nations,
from several European countries, as well as the international media led
by outlets in the United States and Britain were quick to assume that
Benedict was wrong.
With an increasing political hostility in the United States to its
Christian heritage, it now seems clear that Pope Benedict and the
Catholic Church face an axis of secularism, made up of significant
elements in the European Union, the United Nations, and, now, the United
States as well. This latter addition is notable both because it is a
recent addition and because the United States exerts a great deal of
influence generally and in terms of its media.
We have also seen the effects. Cut off from its moral compass, which
the Pope has referred to as "the pre-political moral foundation of a
free state," this axis has shown itself unwilling or unable to accept
anything but its own values. In the name of a radical commitment to
reason alone, we have witnessed a rush to judgment against the Pope,
despite scientific evidence. A so-called commitment to reason
cut off from faith
has proven unreasonable in its hostility toward morality and religious
Such a trend, as Benedict has pointed out, is disturbing for the
future of democracy. And for a world that has already experimented with
radical secularism in the form of Marxism and National Socialism, this
trend is too familiar. Cut off from its moral compass, the world risks
embracing a familiar dictatorship
in Benedict's words
"dictatorship of relativism."
This "hubris of reason," then-Cardinal Ratzinger once warned, "poses
an even greater threat
it suffices here to think of the atom bomb, or man as a product.'"
Our response will require close cooperation between bishops, priests
and the laity
which Pope Benedict has proposed as the key to the success of the new
evangelization. Nothing less will bring the Gospel effectively to these
increasingly secular landscapes.
Following Pope Benedict's lead, each of us must work to bring the
message of Christ to our neighbors and our nations through our witness
to the truth in public as well as private spheres. As has been the case
every time that the Church has faced the challenges of a hostile
environment, our Christian witness, our love of neighbor, is the most
powerful witness we can provide to our ever more secular society.
* * *
Carl Anderson is the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and a
New York Times bestselling author.