Why We Must Not Give Up The Fight | Joseph Ratzinger on why there are no "small murders" | From Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures (Ignatius Press, 2006)
One widespread section of public position in the educated bourgeoisie may find it exaggerated and inopportune--indeed, downright distasteful--that we continue to remind them that the problem of respect for a life that has been conceived and is not yet born is a decisive question.
In the last fifteen years, almost all Western countries have legalized abortion, to the accompaniment of lacerating debates; ought we not today to consider the problem settled and avoid brushing the dust off antagonistic ideological positions that have been made obsolete by the course of events?
Why not accept that we have lost the battle and choose instead to dedicate our energies to initiatives that can hope to find support in a broader social consensus?
Indeed, if we remain on the superficial level, we could be convinced that the legal approval of abortion has not really changed much in our private lives and in the life of our societies; basically, everything seems to be going on as before.
Everyone can act in accordance with his conscience: a woman who does not want to have an abortion is not compelled to do so, and a woman who does have an abortion with the approval of a law would perhaps have done so in any case (or so we are told).
It all takes place in the silence of an operating room, which at least guarantees that the "medical intervention" will take place with a certain degree of safety: and it is as if the fetus that will never se the light of day in fact never existed.
Who notices what's going on? Why should we continue to speak publicly of this drama? Is it not perhaps better to leave it buried in the silence of the consciences of the individuals involved?
The Book of Genesis contains a passage that addresses our problem with impressive eloquence: the blessing the Lord God pronounces on Noah and his sons after the flood. After the event of sin, God reestablishes here, once and for all, the only laws that can guarantee the continuation of life for the human race.
The disorder and degeneration that followed the fall of our first parents have left their mark on the creation that God's hands had made absolutely perfect. Violence and an unending chain of reciprocal killings have spread through the world, making impossible the peace of a social life ordered in keeping with the principles of justice.
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Now, after the great purification of the flood, God lays aside the bow of his wrath and embraces the world anew in his mercy, indicating (in view of the future redemption) the essential norms for the world's survival: " For your life-blood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will it and of man; of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image" (Gen 9:5-6).
With these words, God claims the life of man as his own specific possession: it remains under his direct and immediate protection. It is something "sacred". When a man's blood is shed, it cries out to him (Gen 4:10), because man is made in his image and likeness.
The authority of society and the authorities in society are instituted by him precisely in order to guarantee the respect of this fundamental right, which is endangered by the wicked heart of man.
It follows that the recognition of the sacred character of human life and of its inviolability--a principle admitting no exceptions--is not some trivial little problem or a question that may be considered relative, in view of the pluralism of opinions we find in modern society.
The text from Genesis guides our reflections in a double, which corresponds well to the double dimension of the questions we asked at the beginning of this essay:
First, there are no "small murders". The respect of every human life is an essential condition if a societal worthy of the name is to be possible.
Secondly, when man's conscience loses respect for life as something sacred, he inevitably ends by losing his own identity.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger | Introduction by Marcello Pera | Translated by Brian McNeil
Written by Joseph Ratzinger shortly before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures looks at the growing conflict of cultures evident in the Western world. The West faces a deadly contradiction of its own making, he contends.
Terrorism is on the rise. Technological advances of the West, employed by people who have cut themselves off from the moral wisdom of the past, threaten to abolish man (as C.S. Lewis put it)--whether through genetic manipulation or physical annihilation.
In short, the West is at war--with itself. Its scientific outlook has brought material progress. The Enlightenment's appeal to reason has achieved a measure of freedom. But contrary to what many people suppose, both of these accomplishments depend on Judeo-Christian foundations, including the moral worldview that created Western culture.
More than anything else, argues Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, the important contributions of the West are threatened today by an exaggerated scientific outlook and by moral relativism--what Benedict XVI calls "the dictatorship of relativism"-in the name of freedom.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures is no mere tirade against the moral decline of the West. Razinger challenges the West to return to its roots by finding a place for God in modern culture. He argues that both Christian culture and the Enlightenment formed the West, and that both hold the keys to human life and freedom as well as to domination and destruction.
Ratzinger challenges non-believer and believer alike. "Both parties," he writes, "must reflect on their own selves and be ready to accept correction." He challenges secularized, unbelieving people to open themselves to God as the ground of true rationality and freedom. He calls on believers to "make God credible in this world by means of the enlightened faith they live."
Reflections on the Cultures in Conflict Today
The Significance and Limits of Today's Rationalistic Culture
The Permanent Significance of the Christian Faith
Why We Must Not Give Up the Fight
The Law of the Jungle, the Rule of Law
We Must Use Our Eyes!
Faith and Everyday Life
Can Agnosticism Be a Solution?
The Natural Knowledge of God
"Supernatural" Faith and Its Origins
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was for over two decades the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II. He is a renowned theologian and author of numerous books. A mini-bio and full listing of his books published by Ignatius Press are available on his IgnatiusInsight.com Author Page.
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