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Beyond the controversy, a revealing glimpse into the mind of the Pope

Some really wonderfully thought provoking quotes from Pope Benedict XVI in this article. Here’s one of my favorite sections:

“Light of the World” presents the Pope as one of the world’s foremost public intellectuals, a man who has thought deeply about the modern world, with all its problems and its promises.

At the root of the problems in the world today is what he calls “the question about God.”

“For many people today, practical atheism is the normal rule of life,” Pope Benedict says. “Maybe there is something or someone, they think, who once set the world in motion eons ago, but he does not matter to us at all. If this attitude becomes a general existential position, then freedom no longer has any standards, then everything is possible and permissible.”

As he sees it, God has been displaced in a society that now puts all its confidence in the capacities of human reason and science and technology. “Today man thinks that he himself can do everything that he once awaited from God alone,” he states.

The Pope calls for a “major examination of conscience” of modern assumptions about the uses of knowledge, power, and freedom, and about the meaning of progress.

“This is the question: What is good? Where should knowledge lead power? …” he asks. “Is it progress if I can destroy? Is it progress if I myself can make, select, and dispose of human beings?”

He rejects what he calls a “fundamental concept of the modern era: freedom, which is understood as the freedom to do anything.” This understanding of freedom leads to the dangerous belief that “whatever one can do, one must also be allowed to do,” he says.

He also warns of the rise of a “new intolerance” in secular society that rejects traditional religious symbols and teachings as incompatible with modern freedoms. He notes that Christians and Church institutions are increasingly being pushed to the margins of society.

“When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity … In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is the real threat we face.”

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