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Meditation 353
Dangers to the faith

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Today, the conclave to elect a new Pope starts. In the days preceding this meeting, several of the Cardinals celebrated a Mass. The final one of these was conducted by Cardinal Ratzinger.

"Cardinal Ratzinger, the powerful dean of the College of Cardinals, used his homily at the Mass dedicated to electing the next pope to warn cardinals and the faithful about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects, ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism — the ideology that there are no absolute truths."[1]

It's nice to see that the Cardinal recognized the danger agnosticism presents to faith, and I feel we are in good company grouped with liberalism,[2] atheism, and relativism - all ideas that encourage us to think for ourselves.

But, I am not comfortable being lumped in with Marxism and cults, both of which are essentially authoritarian. Perhaps it is surprising that fascism was not mentioned, but then the Catholic Church seems to have had little problem coexisting with fascist regimes, or their feudal predecessors.

The Catholic Church, like cults and like Marxism, tells people how to think and does not brook dissent from dogma. Cardinal Ratzinger himself, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (an organization which is Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition, twice renamed,) has been zealous in stamping out independent thought among those Catholic scholars and theologians who have a different interpretation of doctrine.

Which is really the greater danger to the faith in the long term? Is it that Catholics might switch their allegiance to other authoritarian organizations that also tell them what to think? Or is it that they might adopt a philosophy that allows them to think for themselves?



  1. Globe and Mail, 18 April 2005
  2. I think it is safe to assume that Cardinal Ratzinger was referring to liberalism in its classical sense rather than the pejorative "left wing" associations it has taken on in recent years.