11/19/2012, 00.00
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Relativism, the death of faith and mission

by Piero Gheddo
The secularised mindset accuses missionaries of imposing their truth without respect for others. Even within the Church, the 'dictatorship of relativism' appears to be spreading, extinguishing love for the truth of Christ and mission. A so-called 'adult' faith tries to do without Church and true humanism.

Milan (AsiaNews) - On 4 October, I held a conference on the persecuted Christians in Nigeria at the Philharmonic Hall in Rovereto, Trentino (Italy), a place that has special relationship with the Church in Nigeria. One member of the audience said, "You say that missionaries bring the truth of Christ and sometimes die as martyrs. But in the modern world, there is no absolute truth. Everything is dialectics. People can say what they think and show respect for others; he cannot impose on others a truth that does not exist. But you missionaries do exactly that."

In our secularised world, where state and religion are separate, I think that this way of thinking is quite widespread. My answer to that is that if there is no absolute Truth, and that everything is relative and changes over time, then there is no God whose opinions remain unchanging at each passing human generation. If there is no God, then there is also no moral law. Everyone comes up with his moral order, in accordance with his own ideas and tendencies. Finally, among the baptised that lost their sense of the faith, there is not even the faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God-the 'solid rock' of the Gospel on which to build our lives.

When participating in meetings and conferences in secular venues, more than once I have had to listen to questions, objections and opinions that cast doubts on the universal mission of the Church. Even the proposal of faith in Christ is seen as an attack against other people's freedom.

The radical individualism that rules modern culture (individuals count, not the family or the common good), which it brings to human freedom, is an expression of the "relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own 'ego'," Benedict XVI said in a speech to the diocese of Rome in 6 June 2005. Similarly, in his encyclical Fides et Ratio (1999, n. 5), John Paul II wrote that amid today's "different forms of agnosticism and relativism," a "legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today's most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth."

I have cited the last two popes to stress the most provocative aspect of the Year of Faith (11 October 2012 - Feast of Christ the King 2013) that is currently underway, i.e. the struggle against "relativism," which represents the death of faith and the mission to the nations.

It is a struggle that each Catholic must carry out in his conscience even before carrying it out in society. It is easy in fact in today's society, where everyone can do their own thing, where the only danger is being caught breaking the law and having to pay fines, stand trial and go be convicted (with perhaps years of prison), that Catholics might develop a mindset that will gradually move them towards relativism. How many times have we heard significant remarks like: "Everybody does it." . . . "So what, what's wrong with it?" . . . "I have my conscience; I don't need the Church." . . . "I am an adult Catholic, not a bigot." . . .

The Year of Faith is above all an appeal to question ourselves about our faith, our way of being disciples of Christ, convinced that the faith that can be a smoking and flickering wick can also become the midday sun that shines bright, bringing warmth and joy to life, easily passed onto others.

Titled 'The new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith,' the Episcopal Synod that took place in the Vatican on 7-28 October embodies a commitment by the entire Church and all believers in Christ. For this to be, the faith must be fully experienced and lead to a truly Christian life that bears witness to the truth of Christ. All those who are baptised are the first missionaries of the faith. Living in the world without being of the world, they show how faith experienced in situations everyone experiences is a source of serenity, joy and hope, a boost in life.

In order to defeat relativism, we must begin with a return to a convinced faith. A few days before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Card Ratzinger said in the Missa pro eligendo Pontifice on 18 April 2005, anticipating the traits of his pontificate, that "Today having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labelled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be 'tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine', seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires." However, we "have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An 'adult' faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ."

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