Ratzinger, the new Pope, wrote
“Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards 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
Which is a very confused description of relativism. On the one hand it sounds like relativism = being open to “every wind of teaching”, that is to say it looks like our new Pope confuses relativism with open-mindedness — and opposes open-mindedness. The desire to be sure of the truth, to not be misled as a result of lack of exposure to ideas, which leads one to listen to “every wind of teaching” (the Pope says “swept along by” but that is mere hyperbole) he equates with being selfish.
It is selfish to want to know the truth, says our new Pope. It is selfish to listen to what reform Catholics — or God forbid non-Catholics — think. Relativism means simply “not bowing down to the wisdom of the Pope”.
In fact, what he said just before the part I quoted is telling,
“The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves — thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14).”
So that’s it. Relativism means people are abandoning the Church for other belief-systems. They are listening to other ideas.
Of course, that’s not what relativism means at all. Usually, when intelligent people talk about relativism, they mean to refer to the attitude that “what is true for you is true for you and what is true for me is true for me” or “there is no truth and we are free to make it up as we choose”. Or else, in the case of “moral relativism”, to the assertion that morality is ultimately a matter of individual or social taste, and does not have a source in anything more enduring.
Ratzinger/Benedict XVI is supposed to be a very sharp theologian, whose primary theme is opposition to “modernism” and “relativism”. But his real opposition appears to be simply to Catholics thinking for themselves, which he pretends is “relativism”. If they doubt the Pope’s decrees, that’s relativism.
I supposed that is why he condemned the Catholic theologian Hans Kung and others. No, the Catholic game of declaring itself “the one true faith” is laughable. Maybe there is one true faith. But whether it be the Catholic church is something every individual must question & investigate for themselves. As the saying goes, “God wouldn’t have given us each a brain if he didn’t intend for us to use it.”
Speaking of moral relativism, has anyone noticed that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is chock full of relativism? It seems to make each of us the judge of moral rightness. We are supposed to imagine what we would like done to ourselves in order to figure out how we should behave toward others. The moral reference is to me, myself, my own feelings and experiences. Not outside myself to God or to the dictates of the current Pope. But inside to me, how I would like to be treated.
Jesus, you moral relativist, you.
Fortunately Christians don’t have to worry about the teachings of Jesus. They’ve got the Pope.