Ten things I'd love to hear him say.
Father Tim Berg
April 15, 2008
9:35 AM EST
n the (highly unlikely) event that I get a phone call later today from the Pope's secretary asking me for input on the speeches that Benedict will deliver here this week, here are some talking points I would offer for his consideration. These are the things I would love to hear Benedict say:
First, to Catholics in
* Contrary to recent news reports, I have not come to "give you a boost," or a "shot in the arm" or to lead a pep-rally for you. Actually, I've come to challenge you to be more authentically and thoroughly Catholic. Millions of your brothers and sisters throughout the world actually embrace the fullness of Catholic teaching, especially on moral issues, without picking and choosing-as too many of you do, cafeteria style-which doctrines you like and which ones you don't. Those who embrace the fullness of Catholic teaching are not mindless and subservient automatons. Rather, they have considered the reasons behind such teaching and found those reasons thoughtful and convincing.
* I've also come to remind you that the Catholic Church is bigger than the Church in the
* You presidents of supposedly-Catholic universities: do the human family a favor and please be authentically Catholic in your campus life and academic culture. Such "catholicity" on a Catholic campus does not translate into accommodating-in the name of "tolerance"-customs, behaviors, art forms, student associations or doctrines on campus or in the classroom whose core messages and philosophies are antithetical to the Gospel. (And, yes, I am referring to "The Vagina Monologues" among other things.) Tolerance, by the way, is not the core virtue of Catholicism; and there's much more to being Catholic than working for social justice.
* My brother priests: please recognize, if you haven't already, that the level of religious knowledge and practice in your parishes is often near zero. Treat your parish ministry as a genuine mission field. Far too many Catholics hold to a feel good, design-your-own brand of Christianity which is a hybrid of Catholic faith and modern therapeutic, self-absorbed Emotivism. If you fail to preach the whole Word of God, then the situation will continue to worsen until the actual Catholic faith is only a faint memory in the minds of most of the laity.
Then, to all Americans:
* Don't be afraid of asking the big questions (about God, truth, and ultimate reality). Instead, fear the peril of falling into that existential boredom so characteristic of Europeans these days.
* Be the leaders, culturally and politically, in rejecting the idea that science should be untethered from moral restraints.
* Keep the discussion about world religions honest, and don't let a misguided understanding of "tolerance" lead you to accept anti-Christian bigotry and hatred. And just because I give you reasons for the values that I uphold, it doesn't mean I am trying to "impose" my values on you.
* Remember that the moral principles which sustain a healthy society (sanctity of life, marriage, etc.) are not simply faith-based, but are in fact naturally human and rational.
* Remember that "democracy" is not a magic word. "Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a 'system' and as such is a means and not an end. Its 'moral' value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs. But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes." [Note to his Holiness: you will likely recognize this last paragraph; it's from Evangelium Vitae, n.70.]
* A religiously pluralistic society can co-exist peacefully without asking people of faith to suspend their commitment to the truth of their doctrine. Religious dialogue does not consist in everyone agreeing to abandon their particular truth claims in order to come together and profess that no one's vision of ultimate reality is any better than anyone else's. A mutual commitment to the truth and a healthy respect for our common struggle for it is the sounder basis of inter-religious dialogue and tolerance. Don't allow your religious and creedal beliefs to deteriorate into a tyranny of relativism.
Hmmm. Maybe I should go ahead and send these talking points along just in case. Now, where the heck did I put the Holy Father's fax number?