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Benedict on the Rise of Secularism as the Root of all Evil in Western Europe

April 11, 2007

A poster over at Mad Priest’s pointed out this excellent article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine, Keeping the Faith. It’s long, so get a cup of coffee, and settle in to read it.

Very interesting ideas presented on how Benedict has “changed” his image and presentation from the ultra-doctrinal enforcer that was Cardinal Ratzinger, to a more soften pastoral role as Benedict. Not sure I buy in to this, though. I think his papacy struggles against his former “inquisitional” role, and, some in the article agreed. It may be far too little, far too late for the revival of RCism in Western Europe.

I have to say that I agree and disagree with the Pope’s assessment. I think it is important to recognize the Christian aspect of Western culture – that it comes from being a Christian. But, I reject the notion of a need to return to a Christian foundation or focus as the cure to all that ails the modern world, especially in terms of it being “forced” through a call to continued rigid adherence to dogma and ancient doctrine.

I’m not sure how this would function to further ecumenical relations among Christian sects and/or other world religions. It’s still smacks of a hierarchical power play to me.

However, I do take note of the loss of spirituality or soul among Westerners, and, I also note the relative success of lay movements “outside” the institutional structure of the RCC, as pointed out in the article. Makes me think of Taize services and such. I don’t think it’s that people have stopped having spiritual needs, in so much as they have no place they trust and find meaning in to get them met. Interesting stuff, and definitely my own experience of the lacking spiritual nourishment in the RCC.

The article also notes the lack of “community” inspired by the RCC – there is no fellowship – no relating to fellow parishoners or the priest in a meaningful way outside of mass. Lining up outside the church to sort of wave hello to the parishoners after mass doesn’t count, either. This was also my experience in the RCC, and part of what drove me away, and into the arms of the very warm and welcoming TEC parish I now call home, where my priest is someone whom I can call on, and whom I know, and who knows me.

Thoughts on this article? Please read and share when you have time.

For some futher, and far more erudite thoughts on this, please see Mystical Seeker’s Europe and the Failure of Orthodoxy. MS’s recent trip to Europe adds some first hand experience to her thoughts on this topic. Also, she basically has highlighted all the money quotes from the article that struck me as very interesting.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mystical Seeker permalink
    April 11, 2007 10:05 am

    I wrote a blog posting Monday that included some comments on the Times article. I think that the problem that the Pope faces is that he is reducing the problem to one of secularism versus Catholic dogma, when in fact the real reason that so many Europeans in particular have rejected organized Christianity is that they are told that they have to hold their rationalism in check in order to be Christians. The Times article mentioned that there is a lot of lay-led worship going on in Catholic Europe that shows that people still crave spirituality even in supposedly secular Europe.

    You are completely right that it is really a hierarchical power play. The Catholic Church wants to control the means by which spirituality is expressed. As long as they try to set the terms by which spirituality is expressed, Europeans will continue to flee the organized Christian church in droves.

  2. Eileen permalink
    April 11, 2007 10:40 am

    I think the point Benedict makes about rationalism and spiritualism not being necessarily at odds, is a good one. I don’t however, agree with his continued call to return to the dogmatic, traditional “truths” of RC spirituality. Moderns are running in the other direction from that, I think.

    The Western world is no longer medieval: people can read and write, and are learning to think for themselves. Theological thinking, through mass media and college education, has become much more accessible.

    If the theologians throughout time haven’t been able to come up with a single, unified theology, I can’t for the life of me figure out why we are trying to force one into play, over and over.

    The line about how Western Europeans are suspicious of any institution hit home with me. Most Western Europeans have good reason for their suspicions – lots of institutional damage has been done.

    People don’t need authoratative leaders any longer. They need leaders who can lead them to be leaders within their own Christian or spiritual lives.

    There is no One True Church. It doesn’t exist.

    Secularism isn’t as dangerous as dogmatism. I think this is where the true tension lies. People don’t want to believe things blindly – and they don’t want to check their brain at the door. Calling for a return to dogmatism will only help to slam the institutional door more firmly, in my mind.

  3. Mystical Seeker permalink
    April 11, 2007 11:13 am

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Eileen.

  4. Grandmère Mimi permalink
    April 11, 2007 7:35 pm

    The article also notes the lack of “community” inspired by the RCC – there is no fellowship – no relating to fellow parishoners or the priest in a meaningful way outside of mass.

    Eileen, when we were first married – lo, these many years ago – we moved to Mobile, Alabama. We attended the Catholic church for the three years we lived there. We made no friends through the church.

    My co-worker, who attended a Baptist church made nearly all her friends through her church.

    We could have gone to that church for ten years and not made a friend. We went to church, and then we left. There was no coffee, no socializing, nothing but the Mass.

  5. Eileen permalink
    April 11, 2007 9:18 pm

    I have made more friends through TEC both in person, and online, then I made in 17 years as an adult RC.

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