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Apr 19

Panzerkardinal’s Anathema, etc.

Inside the Vatican – Monthly Catholic Magazine carries the full text of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s exhortation to his fellow princes of the Church to anathemize all the wrong “isms”. The following passage in particular, has caused quite a buzz among observers (emphasis added):

We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today! How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… 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). 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. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “Adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature.

Meanwhile, in The Incredible Shrinking Planet – What liberals can learn from Thomas Friedman’s new book. By Robert Wright, there’s a provocative review of Tom Friedman’s new book, which I hope I’ll get to read soon:

And it’s true that in a “flattened” world, dominoes can fall fast once they get started. Internet and satellite TV let people anywhere see what people everywhere are doing without relying on their government’s version of events. (“Peer-to-peer,” you might call it.) Much of the inspiration for Lebanon’s “cedar revolution” came from watching Georgia’s Rose Revolution and then Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (on Al Jazeera). And Palestinian aspirations to democracy were nourished by Israel’s televised parliament -one reason the ground for democracy was fertile when Yasser Arafat died.

So, was the Iraq invasion really an essential domino-feller, given the increasing contagion of liberty and the various nonmilitary levers with which we can encourage it? It would be one thing if Bush had tried those levers and failed -systematically deployed trade and aid and other tools against authoritarianism. But for him soft power was a convenient afterthought. He didn’t renounce America’s longstanding attraction to authoritarian stability and start nudging Egypt et al., toward democracy (as many liberals had long favored) until he needed a cosmic vision of global democracy to justify an unexpectedly messy war.

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