The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

4/20/2005

Pope Benedict XVI, neo-conservatism and relativism

Eric over at classicalvalues.com has a discourse on the new pope and relativism. He makes a number of points, two of which I want to respond to:

First, Eric makes a plea not for "liberation" theology, which Pope Benedict XVI fought, but for "libertarian" theology, claiming that Christ's line "render unto Caesar" reveals Christ's libertarian leanings by "bordering" on calling for separation of church and state. Jesus most certainly was not libertarian. However, his teaching of "render unto Caesar" does not "border" on arguing for separation of church and state; it is stong unequivocal advocacy in favor of it.

Why would Christ teach us Jeffersonian separation of church and state? Because of the pharissees, who were church and state combined. Given the then-impending and pre-ordained role of the pharissees in the crucifixion (it wasn't just the work of a distant Roman Empire), it makes sense that he would be warning us keep the two separate in the future, as combining church and state was corrupting to both. There's no "border" to his comments, he was well behind enemy lines when he made this observation.

But my stronger disagreement is Eric's proposition (insinuation?) that Pope Benedict, being a true neo-conservative (in its proper definition of one who started his adult life as a liberal and evolved into a conservative), is symptomatic of inherent relativism: i.e., he is living proof of the triumph of relativism. He is the embodiment of the idea that there are no absolute truths because even he, the Pope, changed his mind, too. I don't think that's a fair reading of what this Pope stands for, so I respectfully disagree with Eric's proposition.

This is not "changing your mind," it's growth. I once used to lay in a crib and scream if I didn't have a bottle and pacifier. I don't do that anymore. Did I change my mind about the virtues of screaming for a bottle and pacifier? Or did I simply ... mature? I like to think it's the latter. As we sing in the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace," "was blind, but now I see."

Relativism is the idea that there are no absolute truths. What Pope Benedict XVI, in his Cardinal Ratzinger incarnation, stated was that there most certainly are absolute truths. The fact that these absolute truths are revealed to us over time, and not all at once, is not the same thing as these truths never existing. Pope Benedict XVI grew and matured from where he was in his youth.

I voted for John Anderson in 1980 and was convinced that Ronald Reagan was going to get us killed in nuclear war. I never stepped foot in a church during the 1980s except to go to weddings. That's not who I am now. Does that mean it's all relative? That the way I was in 1980 is just as appropriate as a way to live my life as the one I'm leading now? I hope not. With each day, I like to think that I'm learning more about the person I should be. I want the grace to understand the absolute truths. I know they're out there. I hope I'm following them (best I can). And if I find I've veered off on to the wrong path, and make a mid-course correction, that doesn't mean all roads lead to God. It just means that I'm seeing more clearly than I was the day before.

That's not relativism. It's education.

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