Winter 2011

Difficulties Confronting the Faith in Europe Today

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

"We can give a meaningful answer to the questions raised only if we . . . are able to express the logic of the Faith in its integrity, the good sense and reasonableness of its view of reality and life."

As bishops who bear responsibility for the faith of the Church in our countries, we ask ourselves where especially do the difficulties lie which people have with the faith today and how can we rightly reply to them.

We need no extensive search in order to answer the first of these questions. There exists something like a litany of objections to the practice and teaching of the Church, and nowadays its regular recitation has become like the performance of a duty for progressive-thinking Catholics. We can ascertain the principal elements of this litany: the rejection of the Church’s teaching about contraception, which means the placing upon the same moral level of every kind of means for the prevention of conception upon whose application only individual “conscience” may decide; the rejection of every form of “discrimination” as to homosexuality and the consequent assertion of a moral equivalence for all forms of sexual activity as long as they are motivated by “love” or at least do not hurt anyone; the admission of the divorced who remarry to the Church’s sacraments; and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

As we can see, there are quite different issues linked together in this litany. The first two claims pertain to the field of sexual morality; the second two to the Church’s sacramental order. A closer look makes it clear, however, that these four issues, their differences notwithstanding, are very much linked together. They spring from one and the same vision of humanity within which there operates a particular notion of human freedom. When this background is borne in mind, it becomes evident that the litany of objections goes even deeper than it appears at first glance.

 

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1. A meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the Presidents of the European Doctrinal Commissions was held at Laxenburg (Vienna), 2–5 May 1989. This text is a translation of the opening address delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger, then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Published in L’Osservatore Romano (24 July 1989). Reprinted by kind permission of Libreria Editrice Vaticana.