In the spring of 2018, Friar Wilfrid Logsdon handed me an article from the May 14, 2018 issue of America magazine, suggesting that it was one of the more important articles he’s read this year so far. I must agree, and would suggest the article to others:
Aaron Pidel SJ, “Revisiting the Dictatorship of Relativism: Did Benedict XVI predict the rise of Trump and fake news?”, America Magazine, May 14, 2018, pp. 26f.
Link to online version: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/04/16/did-benedict-xvi-predict-rise-trump-and-fake-news
Ratzinger was ‘woke’ not by the student riots of 1968 but by the Nazi riots of 1933
A consistent criterion for judging a theological statement can be found in Ratzinger’s writings from “Salvation Outside the Church” (1965) through “Truth and Tolerance” (2003), namely:
would a Catholic, whose faith is built on such and such a principle, be less or more able to withstand the temptation of fascist populism?
Pidel claims that, for Joseph Ratzinger, the magical thinking of fascist populism is the greatest temptation of the postmodern world, whether the anti-truth siren is named Nicolás Maduro or Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán or the supposedly Catholic “Radio Maria”, the absolute dictatorship of the unbridled right to buy guns or the absolute dictatorship of the unbridled right to free abortion. All of these extreme positions, whether on the right or on the left, are built on Michel Foucault’s interpretation of the Nietzschean doctrine of a human will without foundation. Foucault taught that the difference between the true and the fake rests entirely on social convention, so that the very claim that there is an objective truth is merely an attempt by the powerful to keep their power. “All distinctions are acts of violence.”
Would a Catholic, whose faith is built on such and such a principle,
be less or more able to withstand the temptation of fascist populism?
This thinking became anchored in U.S. law in the 1992 Supreme Court case “Planned Parenthood vs. Casey”. The court ruled that requiring spousal notification prior to an abortion posed an undue burden on the woman’s freedom. How? The court wrote, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe”. Denial of the existence of objective truth thus became part of American law. This principle has been cited in other court cases and other pieces of legislation since.
Pope Benedict argued that we can come back from the abyss of relativism’s dictatorship, just as we did in 1945. We must simply embrace freedom’s need for truth. We can return to what Ratzinger calls “reality-based thinking”. “Freedom is linked to a yardstick, the yardstick of reality. Freedom to destroy oneself or to destroy another is not freedom but a diabolical parody. Human freedom is a shared freedom, freedom in a coexistence of other freedoms, which are mutually limiting and mutually supportive. Freedom must be measured according to what I am, what we are, otherwise it abolishes itself.” (p. 30)
Pope Benedict argued that we can come back from the abyss of relativism’s dictatorship, just as we did in 1945.
We must simply embrace freedom’s need for truth.
We can return to reality-based thinking.
Jürgen Habermas & Joseph Ratzinger. The Dialectics of Secularization. On Reason and Religion. English version: Ignatius Press 2006.
Here is a quote:
“This is why it is important for every society to overcome any suspicion that is cast on the law and its regulations, for it is only in this way that arbitrariness can be excluded and freedom can be experienced as a freedom shared in common with others. Freedom without law is anarchy and, hence, the destruction of freedom.”
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. The Dialectics of Secularization (Kindle Locations 372-374). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.