No era prior has been as facile, as superficial, in the vision it has formulated about man's nature and destiny, as our own. This is all the more remarkable in that our
era knows so little about what man really is.
Modernity in the West has brought us a devotion to boredom, a consumerism of the available. The human spirit rambles in the labyrinth of the universe. The labyrinth
becomes an end in itself.
This is our predicament: the modern world has become incapable even of asking St. Thoma’ question: “Lord, we don't know where you
are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) not to mention incapable of hearing the answer of the Lord: “I am the way, the truth and the light” (John 14:6).
The world no longer understands either the question or the answer. And this is the true measure of our crisis.
The dominant philosophy of our time has argued the impossibility of every absolute truth, of every god, of every foundation for human nature which withdraws that nature
from the contingent process of becoming. In short, the dominant world view of our age is a thorough-going relativism, without any absolutes.
Out of a relativism with regard to the nature and behavior of human beings ? with regard to what is “right” and what is “wrong” ? comes a more general relativism about the nature and structure of reality itself. A world with no absolutes, with no fixed point outside of space and time, with no God, is a world without any horizon outside of itself. It is a thoroughly “secular” world.
And this is the world we now inhabit, not only in the West, but throughout the world, in the early 21st century.
Secularism, secular relativism: this the great challenge of our time. Pope Benedict said this in a meeting with the young from the diocese of Rome on April 6, 2006.
Secularism means “a type of living, in which the world is presented ‘si Deus non daretur’, as if God does not exist,” he said.
Secularism is a condition of being in which transcendence, God, and religious life are banned into the privacy of emotional sentiments and can no longer be experienced,
accepted and lived as an objective, true reality. In a secularized world, religious language is emptied of its content, for everything which points beyond the secular, beyond “this age,” is no longer real.
This is why it is so difficult to be at once part of the modern world, and a believer. This is the root of our crisis of faith.
Science and technology have taken over the outer authority and left the person alone. In this isolated loneliness, different “lifestyles” face each other, with none of them being more “right” than any other. All is relative. And what is the final result of this worldview, the dominant world-view of our age? In the end, it is a view of things which proves unlivable, leading to a loss of all meaning, and so to despair.
In this world ? our world ? the presence of God becomes a limitation of one's freedom, instead of defining the nature of true freedom in a personal experience and
encounter with Him.
What our forefathers in faith saw and taught as the intellectual-spiritual-material unity of mankind, under God, is, step by step, being reduced to its ever-changing,
always unreliable, “relative” individual aspects.
Benedict XVI observes: “The contemporary world is marked by the process of secularization. Through complex cultural and social
events, the modern world has not only claimed a just autonomy for science and the organization of society, but it has all too often also obliterated the link between temporal realities and their Creator, even to the
point of neglecting to safeguard the transcendent dignity of human beings and a respect for human life itself.”
And now, the paradox. This secular world view, this way of living “as if there were no God,” no transcendent “truth” of any type, as it grows ever more radical, no longer satisfies men.
Benedict has noted this. And this has led him to say that there is hope, even in this perilous situation of a world that seems to have abandoned God. Because, if this
world no longer satisfies human beings, it suggests that “perhaps new spaces are opening up for a profitable dialogue with society and not only with the faithful, especially on
important themes such as those relating to life.”
Why is there this individual and social discomfort with radical secularism? Because the Christian tradition has deeply formed the occident. In peoples with a long
Christian tradition, says the Pope, there are still seeds of a humanism which the arguments of nihilistic philosophy have not yet reached. Indeed, these seeds tend to germinate more vigorously, the more serious the
Thus, the time of crisis becomes a time of a potential return to a contemplation of the personal roots of our lives.
These roots have a double nature for every Christian: in the natural law, and in faith; and these two are in harmony. The faithful are well aware, says Benedict XVI, “that the Gospel is in an intrinsic harmony with the values engraved in human nature. Thus, God's image is deeply impressed in the soul of the human being, the voice of whose
conscience it is far from easy to silence.”
Here, Benedict XVI lays down an anthropological- theological argument which can help us move toward recovery of faith and authentic human life.
From the concept of man as an image of God there follows a conviction of the inalienable dignity of his being. This has been formulated in our codes of human rights.
The Church, says the Pope, “proclaims and proposes this truth (of man's dignity) not only with the authority of the Gospel, but
also with the power that derives from reason. This is precisely why she feels duty bound to appeal to every person of good will in the certainty that the acceptance of these truths cannot but benefit individuals and