Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Pope on Secularization and the Culture of Images

On Monday of this week, Benedict XVI addressed a conference taking place in Vatican City.

Note firstly that the conference was “organized to address the increasingly secularized state of the world.” I’m encouraged to hear that such urgent conferences are being hosted by the Holy See. I guess what is most encouraging about it is that such meetings take place in a setting and spirit of co-operation with the Successor of Peter.

I realize that a great many Christians, as well as Catholics, might discount this element as irrelevant, claiming that the outcome of a discussion on secularization has nothing to do with the Pope—or his blessing. However, it must be pointed out that Catholic teaching makes the Pope to be the vital link on this earth with Christ Himself. For this reason, among others, the Pope is said to be the Vicar of Christ.

I suppose the point I am making is simply that if Jesus Christ the God-Man wishes to provide to His Church a solution to the gargantuan threat of secular humanism—and I can’t help believing that He does—then He will provide it through His chief, and duly appointed, representative on earth, the head of His earthly flock. In turn, the Pope will guide Christians to mount a successful campaign against the evil of secularization—if they but listen and obey.

All this, of course, is rather elementary Catholic doctrine, but I point it out simply for perspective.

But the fact is that there are conferences and discussions taking place all over the world on the subject of secularization and which have no connection to the Pope and are not “in communion,” so to speak, with the Pope. I hold very little hope for such conferences to achieve their goals.

To illustrate my misgivings, I point to the recent article I posted entitled, “It’s Not the Homosex, Stupid.” If you care to read it and then imagine how much easier it would be to deal with our demographic decline, which is directly related to a falling birthrate caused by a contraceptive and sterile sex mentality, if the participants in a conference were willing to accept the Pope’s teaching on birth control.

But I really didn’t intend to go off quite as far in this direction.

What I found especially interesting—and unique—about the Pope’s remarks in the CNA report was his emphasis on the role of images in the establishment of a secular society.

According to Benedict XVI, secularism spreads its Godless worldview by conditioning people with a "culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses, with the effective negation of God". Hence people come to believe "there is no longer any need for God, to think of Him or to return to Him", said the Pope. "Furthermore, the predominant hedonistic and consumer mentality favors, in the faithful as in pastors, a drift towards superficiality and selfishness which damages ecclesial life".

I hope the Bishops especially are listening because it is certain that "as go the Bishops so goes the Church" and "as goes the Church, so goes our society."

The Pope is on to something here. Where did he come up with such a novel insight? I wonder.

[I do remember he said something similar at the beginning of Lent. I remember thinking at the time that this was an extraordinary call from the Pope to fast from TV and other such image-dominating influences in our lives.]

To make a final push for the point of my post, take a look at the very last paragraph of the CNA report and you’ll note the Pope concludes by calling on the Bishops to conduct a tireless mission (is that like a crusade?) to fight secularization.

"Above all", he added in conclusion, "I exhort pastors of the flock of God to a tireless and generous mission to counteract - in the field of dialogue and meeting between cultures, of announcement and testimony of the Gospel - the worrying phenomenon of secularization which weakens man and hinders his innate longing for the entire Truth".

As my own personal quest to join the Pope in his world-saving strategy continues to unfold, I am thinking that the way to get the Bishops moving is to have the Holy Father squeezing on one side and to have the laity squeezing on the other side. How can that be done? How about writing your Bishop, reminding him (in detail if necessary) of what the Pope said and asking him what his plan is to combat secularization. And let that first letter be the first of a regular series of letters.

Too busy to do that? If so, you really have no reason to think anything will change and you can add your own name to the list of those who have given up.

One more thing. You needn’t bother with those other kinds of conferences.

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