On the final day of 2022 at the age of 95, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed into the next world. His last words were “Lord, I love you.” Sic transit Gloria mundi.
He will be remembered as a gentle and saintly man, and a brilliant theologian. But he was also a philosopher with a keen eye for errors in thought that plagued the modern world.
In his homily at the opening of the conclave on April 18, 2005, which would conclude with him being elected the Church’s 265th pope, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made the following statement: “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s reference to “a dictatorship of relativism” has become an identifying phrase with him for it captures in a nutshell the essential philosophical pathology of the modern world.
A particular example clearly illustrates the error of relativism and its march toward dictatorship.
A certain lady by the name of Monique Dostie operated a home for developmentally disabled adults. The level of maturity of the residents was comparable to that of 3-5 year olds. The Home had its rules, which included the prohibition of sexual activities and the viewing of pornographic material. The bureaucrats representing the Department of Human Services in the State of Main, however, had its objections. According to DHS rules, mentally challenged and autistic adults who live in a group home have right to participate in sexual activities of their choice. And if residents want to participate in group sex, a special room should be provided for them.
A war of rules ensued. The state held a hearing in which Monique Dostie, a devout Catholic, should change her rules or face the revocation of her license. Dostie was accused of “denying human sexuality”. It was also stated that the “biases” of Ms. Dostie should not overtake the “choices” of individuals.
Catholic teaching, even the rules of common sense, were thus relativized so that there would be no objective standard by which a rule could be established. In the absence of any objective standard dictatorship became inevitable. Power ruled.
There is a happy ending to this saga. Agents for a group home for developmentally disabled individuals in West Virginia liked what they saw in Monique Dostie and invited her to operate a home there. She happily complied.
Choice cannot resolve a conflict of choices. There must be an objective standard. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a champion of orthodoxy because he was a champion of truth. Let his reign continue from heaven and in the minds and hearts of all those who sincerely desire to live in harmony with God’s Word.
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