Imagine that. Joseph Ratzinger wrote those words more than 60 years ago. Long before any Christians promoted the acceptance of homosexuality, agitated for the redefinition of marriage and family, advocated a liberal sexual morality, adopted the new categories of gender identity, or welcomed the freedom of choice in which babies might be killed in the womb. Long before it became commonplace for any Christian to publicly disagree with what the Bible says, the creeds confess, or the liturgy prays and still be a member in good standing. Long before poll and survey meant more about what any church believed or taught than its formal confessional documents.
Ratzinger had his finger on it. It is not a simple matter of liberalizing or modernizing the faith as much as it is the wholesale adoption of positions and beliefs that once would be considered pagan. It is probably not very popular for positions and leaders of the Church to be labelled as such but the word fits -- we live at a time in which pagans who publicly disavow the faith live side by side with the faithful -- seemingly without challenge or consequence.
The English have a way of satire which makes you both laugh and wince at the same time.
The line there that jumps out to me is that politicians want to speak on moral issues while bishops want to speak on political issues. When we justify politics in the name of religion, we often tend to distort and betray the very truth we seek to protect. The other line that is worth pondering is what happens when God is an optional extra to the Church's life and work?
How many books have been written by those who present themselves as the voice of the Church only to contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, violate the sacred tradition handed down over the years, and empty the Church of any conviction except social or political? How many of those entrusted with the solemn offices that oversee doctrine and practice stand down or join in those who proudly reject the Christian faith when that faith is unpopular, misunderstood, or rejected by the public square? Is there such a thing as being too faithful? Because there seems to be no consequence for being less than faithful. If that was true already in 1958, it has not become less true in 2021.
The call of God is not for us to understand Him or to speak where He has not spoken or even to consent to His will and ways. The call of God is for us to be faithful -- faithful to His Word, faithful to the sacred deposit once delivered to the saint, faithful in confession and witness -- for such faithfulness is ultimately not to a thing or an idea but to Christ Himself. The byword of our era is diversity and yet such a word implies and even compels diminishing the exclusive revelation and truth of Jesus Christ and allowing the Word of God to become merely another unfounded idea among a sea of unfounded ideas. The profound challenge before us lies in the great temptation to turn Christianity into another farce of a diversity that stands for everything and therefore for nothing, a pagan religion which accepts as equal the truths of competing religions, the feelings of the heart, and the judgement of reason. The replacement of Christianity with a faith that is unsure of its truth, uncertain of its doctrine, and unwilling to risk bucking the political and social orders of the day is exactly what we face. Radical faithfulness is no longer an option, it is our only means of survival in the midst of a pagan culture than has sadly found a home within the Church of Jesus Christ.