Benedict in Britain: Resisting the Dictatorship of Relativism

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John Henry Newman. G.K. Chesterton. Belloc. Tolkien. Sayers. C. S. Lewis.  Malcolm Muggeridge — discovering Something Beautiful for God.

Wow. What has happened to Britain? Cardinal Newman’s warnings about relativism, over a century ago, have come true. Relativism reigns supreme, elevated above the towering halls of the monarchy, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, Westminster. What dominates Britain is precisely that. It is, in fact, a dictatorship of relativism.

Remember when Cardinal Ratzinger warned of such a thing in April 2005, shortly after the death of John Paul II, and just before Ratzinger himself took the chair of Saint Peter?

Alas, this September 2010, there was Ratzinger again, now as Pope Benedict XVI, in Britain, echoing words of five years ago — his own — and of a century-plus ago: Cardinal Newman’s. Benedict admonished the Brits, speaking again of “the dictatorship of relativism.”

Britain, where abortion is so enshrined as a “right” that isn’t even debated. Britain, which is voluntarily depopulating itself. Britain, which is willfully de-Christianizing, like the rest of Europe, under no threat by vandals at the gate. Britain, where the cynical musings of Dawkins and Harris and Hitchens — “secular fundamentalists,” to borrow from the brilliant Brit Joseph Pearce — have replaced the joyful profundities of Chesterton and Lewis and Sayers.

But, of course, what applies to Britain is not limited to Britain. Pope Benedict set his gaze far beyond that “blessed plot.” He looked at the entirety of the West, including across the pond.

Will America, which the sociologist Peter Berger listed as one of the most religious nations on earth, go the way of the UK? A century from now, will we be in the same boat? That dictatorship of relativism threatens to reign over us as well.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • Reilly

    Sadly, a century seems terribly optimistic. Conversely, we still have the opportunity to, not only forestall but, reverse the decline into the abyss, into which we are rapidly sinking. It will take the combined efforts of steadfast Catholics and our separated Christian brethren to make this happen; whilst we still enjoy a modicum of freedom to speak and act. We are fast losing that right.