Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict criticizes religious relativism and utilitarianism

Pope Benedict spoke to bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Michigan Ave in NE Washington DC Wednesday evening, April 16, one day before his mass at the new Nationals Park.

The main media story so far is by Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor for Reuters, “Pope say U.S. society can undermine Catholic faith,” link here.

The Pope indicated that Americans are less secularized than much of western Europe, but that American “relativism” tends to “reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator.” That last term (from arithmetic) reminds me of arguments I used to have with my father as a tween, about "irrationality" and my "going to the root"! This comment also sounds like a criticism of “utilitarian” religion: an attempt to rationalize individual rights as much as possible, while skipping a genuine need to accept uncertainty and serve others in the context of grace and faith, without too much self-conciousness. This went on at the same time that Clinton and Obama, debating in Philadelphia, had to touch on religion in a general way (my tv blog).

The Pope seemed to indicate that the call for sacrifice sometimes is real and should be experienced as part of faith. He commented on the lack of Catholic marriages, the availability or pornography or self-serving or narcissistic entertainment, and the reluctance of people to make real emotional commitments.

He did comment on the priests’ scandal, characterizing it as a “deep shame” and “gravely immoral behavior” that had been inadequately addressed by the Church. ABC News has been reporting on a Cardinal George who did not remove a priest in Chicago under investigation.

Today, demonstrators displayed signs saying that the Church should end its requirement for priests’ celibacy and allow priests to marry. Many of the demonstrators were men formerly abused or their family members.

The CNN story is here.

The Reuters blog on the visit (by “Andy Sullivan”) is here.

See also an earlier posting on the celibacy matter Feb. 22 2008 on this blog.

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