Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weigel on Benedict on Europe

Happy New Year to all!

To begin the year on a thoughtful note, George Weigel reflects on Pope Benedict's comments in Germany.

Weigel:

Europe is dying, and Benedict knows it. It is dying demographically, which is one root of its current fiscal and political mess. But self-destructive birthrates do not just happen, absent wars, plagues, and natural disasters; Europe’s self-destruction is a by-product of a deep spiritual malaise that has led to both demographic winter and cultural crisis. Thus Benedict XVI in Germany intended to be far more than Professor Ratzinger, teaching a needed lesson in cultural history. He was also the pastor, speaking to what he described to seminarians in Freiburg im Breisgau on September 24 as a “poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere” in a country of great material abundance.

That abundance, he suggested, had corrupted the Church and weakened its evangelical edge: “The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the living God? We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit . . . [for] the real crisis facing the Church in the Western world is a crisis of faith.” And the only answer to that is evangelization: The Church in Germany and elsewhere in Europe must “resolutely . . . set aside her worldliness,” as Benedict put it the next day to a mixed group of clerical and lay Catholic activists, and take up once again the task of becoming a community that offers the “nourishment of love [in]concrete friendship with others and with the Lord” — an evangelical task that can only be accomplished by regular worship in the Sunday Eucharist (which some 7 percent of urban Germans attend).

The future of Europe, in other words, depends on whether Europe becomes, once again, a continent of saints. It may seem a quaint, even quixotic, notion. But as the pope put it to a large gathering of young people, it’s wrong to think of saints as “remote from the world, naïve and joyless,” men and women of impossibly great “ascetic and moral achievements . . . who could never be imitated in our own lives.” This is a wrongheaded view of sanctity, for “Christ is not so much interested in how often in our lives we stumble and fall, as in how often with his help we pick ourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements . . . but [rather] wants to make you his friends,” who can be holy “if we allow his grace to work in us.”

Benedict understands Europe's death spiral. Western civilization is under siege from the idolatry of material prosperity, from scientism, from simmering Marxism and fascism, from functional and confessional atheism, from resurgent Islam. Europe, brought to life by Christian spirituality over two millennia, is dying spiritually.

The Pope is right. Sanctity alone can save Europe, just as sanctity gave birth to it.

20 comments:

  1. Oh no! The Muslims are out-breeding the Christians! Quick, Catholics, get your women out of the office, away from the computer, and back into the kitchen and bedroom. Throw away the birth control. Hurry! Jump aboard the holy procreation train and fornicate with a mission!

    It never occurred to me how well a Catholic cleric would have fit in at the conference table in Dr. Strangelove.

    Of course, there is another approach - educate Muslim women, get them out of their burqas and bedrooms, get them into the office and in front of the computer. There is a way to accomplish your goal by increasing freedoms rather than taking them away.

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  2. Ironically, according to Greek mythology, Europa was a princess from the middle east, and now the racist Weigel bemoans the immigration to Europe by people from, among other places, that region.

    The European population is still growing, yet Weigel pretends it isn't. To him, and to Egnor, the immigrants are just Untermenschen, apparently. Those Catholic fascists (but I repeat myself) long for a fascist Europe once again under control of that ancient criminal organization in the Vatican.

    Ain't gonna happen.

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  3. Happy New Year, Everyone

    Doctor,
    Hope you managed to send the last one out with some fun.
    Interesting take on the cultural decline of Europe. Spiritual deficit brought on by material prosperity? No doubt. The same prosperity has softened the entire western world immeasurably.
    It goes to figure that some of that laziness and 'spoiled' attitude should result in a decline in faith, and thereby direction.
    I applaud the Pope for holding up the mirror. It will not make him very popular among those making their fortunes on the energy of that downward spiral, but it is truth. May God Bless him for it, and give him the strength to keep Rome on a Spiritually rich path - even if it's 'worldly' allies think it unfashionable.
    Fascinating read. Cheers, Mike.

    @RicK
    "It never occurred to me how well a Catholic cleric would have fit in at the conference table in Dr. Strangelove."
    One of my all time favourites. BIG Sellers fan. We just watched 'The Party' here the other night with a younger relative who had never seen it. It was a hit. Birdy num nums.
    All that said the movie is not about religious mania or fanaticism, is it? There is no need for a priests, rabbis, or charity workers as the subject it addresses is SCIENCE (ie DOOMSDAY machines)
    It is a dark satire about a world gone with batshit mad with political ideology, and utterly reliant on technology that ultimately destroys it. It is not a jab at religious fanaticism (although Gen Ripper's character is a shot in that direction).
    Let's write out the FULL title:
    "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"
    I think that says it all.

    Troy foams:
    "[T]he racist Weigel bemoans the immigration to Europe by people from, among other places, that region.....for a fascist Europe once again under control of that ancient criminal organization in the Vatican."
    Holy solvent sniffing, Batman!
    Is there a shortage of lithium or thorazine in Troy-land(world?), Doc? Maybe I could call a friend in Ottawa and have some airlifted that way?
    LOL

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  4. Happy New Year to all, Godless and Godfull alike!

    Thanks for the stimulating discussions. It's great to correspond with people with such passion, regardless of our differences.

    Here's to a happy and healthy New Year for all!

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  5. This year, I promise not to say bad things about atheists, so here goes: they are all children of God even if they don't want to acknowledge it.

    I wish health and happiness to all and paradise at the end of your days!

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  6. Crusader,

    No need for the airlift, I'll be in Ottawa soon enough, here.

    Happy new year 2U2.

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  7. Crusader - I referred to Dr. Strangelove in response to Michael's article about one group out-breeding another. If you know the movie so well, then you really don't need me to explain the reference, do you?

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  8. @troy,
    Alma Mater!
    I hold a Masters from Carleton.
    Enjoy. Fantastic school, and great programs.
    Ottawa is a pretty little city full of museums and culture.Great location for a conference of that magnitude. Hull (across the river) is a really fun town too. Lots of casinos and night clubs etc.
    I have stayed all over an in that town, but if you're there just for the conference I would recommend the Travel Lodge downtown. Great rates and just around the corner from the campus, if you have any business there.
    For the conference centre, you may want something closer to the airport.
    BUT>>>>>
    Look into some of your favourite mood calming drugs before crossing the border. Reason? Much of what you write about Roman Catholics, for example (a target group) would be on the verge of legal here in Canada, under our hate crimes charter. You are not permitted to target specific groups and organizations for hatred.
    Talk evolution? Fine. Spread scientific elitism, libels and religious bigotry? Look out.
    You will be persona non grata faster than you can say 'eh?'.
    I know a lot of you Americans view this kind of acrimonious rhetoric as an exercise of you rights, and do not even mean half of it....but we do not concur - at least legally. We place a different level of responsibility on speech and writing.
    We are very polite people in Upper Canada and we do NOT tolerate hatred - ESPECIALLY of the imported variety.
    Spread hate and get kicked out and banned from re-entry. That means hate against ANYONE, including the RC Church and Christians.
    Be forewarned.

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  9. "I referred to Dr. Strangelove in response to Michael's article about one group out-breeding another. If you know the movie so well, then you really don't need me to explain the reference, do you?"
    No. I understand your connection, I just see it as a leap.
    You are talking about the 'mineshaft gap' etc. Funny stuff. Again, it is a Social Darwinist Nazi who suggests this to a liberal president and a cadre of hawkish (and TOTALLY positivist) generals.
    No need for a priest.
    Scientism and it's worshippers do not need organized religion. They have their own.
    You may wish to watch the film again.
    I know I will :P

    A fan note: Every time I watch it I cannot get over how YOUNG James Earl Jones looks in in the bomber crew!

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  10. Crusader,

    Thanks for the travel advice. I'll keep that Travel Lodge tip in mind.


    Look into some of your favourite mood calming drugs before crossing the border.

    No need for that. I used to teach/research at the Queen's U maths/stats department in Kingston, Ontario. They smoke much more pot over there (and in the rest of Canada I'm told) than they do over here in the Netherlands, where it's semi-legal. I'll be fine smoking some Canadian product.

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  11. @Troy,
    You're right on that.
    You Dutch actually import from us. Recent polls showed just under 80% of Canadians support legalizing and TAXING Cannabis, and over 60% of law enforcement and military personnel. I am one of them.
    I should also add: I do not smoke.
    Queens, eh? Good school.
    I was offered a gig there in the 90's, but chose the military route via RMC and COTC. We may have almost met! Weird.
    Well, all disagreements aside - I hope you have a safe and fun trip.
    Remember: If your young(ish) and/or like to party, definitely do the Hull thing.

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  12. Crusader,

    Glad to hear you support legalization of pot. The government has no business in telling us what to smoke or not.

    I'll be bringing the wife and kids along to Ottawa, so I won't be wild partying too much (but a little bit anyway I expect). I do remember from my Kingston days the numerous strip bars in Canada. I enjoyed going there. Can't do that anymore.

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  13. @Troy
    "Glad to hear you support legalization of pot. The government has no business in telling us what to smoke or not."
    It is more than a horrific abuse of legal power to me, Troy. The 'war on drugs' is a phenomenal waste of our resources. It not only reduces capability, it costs an increasing sum to lock up otherwise productive citizens. Those citizens lose their jobs, contact their children (evil), and are abused etc. So there is both a human and fiscal side to this, in my eyes. A real NO BRAINER.
    Also...as a soldier, I require a living, real enemy to fight. An state, and army, a group, sure - but DRUGS?
    That 'war' is against our own population and thus by definition a civil conflict. I did NOT sign up for that. Neither did most of us in the forces and/or law enforcement.
    If the Crown, PM, and DnD decided to wage war on a NATION for smuggling contraband into Canada... fine!
    But on my OWN people for eating, smoking, or drinking a native PLANT - F THAT.
    I do not see, for example, how it can be legal to kill an infant (abortion), indulge in sexual vices (homosexuality, sex clubs etc),drive a car or truck(all that Co2 and carcinogens), own fire arms, or even own a poisonous plant like a poinsettia - but you can go to prison for possessing some dried plant matter grown locally. Makes NO sense.
    Luckily many of our provinces have effectively decriminalized it. It is the Feds that still have a problem, and they blame treaties.
    Still: BE CAREFUL. Ottawa is the capital and thus quite strict. You CAN be deported and BANNED for engaging in any such activity.

    "I'll be bringing the wife and kids along to Ottawa, so I won't be wild partying too much (but a little bit anyway I expect)."
    Then def do the travel lodge. They have a wave-pool and HUGE play area for the kids.

    "I'll be bringing the wife and kids along to Ottawa, so I won't be wild partying too much (but a little bit anyway I expect)."
    HULL! (you can sneak across the bridge with all the other dads)

    "I do remember from my Kingston days the numerous strip bars in Canada. I enjoyed going there. Can't do that anymore."
    Kingston is near the border. That is where MOST of those places are. They cater to truckers, outlaws, and TONNES of American kids, as our drinking age is 19 in Ontario and 18 in Quebec. Frankly those places have always made me nervous. Saw a fellow stabbed to death in one when I was a young guy.
    Anyway, in Ottawa the PUBS rule, not the 'peelers'.
    It is a shame the conference is not during the winter (for canal skating/kids) or spring (tulips festival - big nod to the Dutch)... but I am sure you'll have fun.
    Make sure to visit the War Museum ;) I may be a display by that point :P

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  14. I should add:
    I am not a smoker. Nor do I think it wise.
    I am pro temperance and moderation, but firmly ANTI prohibition.
    I would not want any of the readers think I find self-medicating and frequent intoxication admirable or productive behaviour. We NEED our pain and discomfort.
    My take: Being 'high' on booze or drugs is not an escape, it is merely a form of sedation. Too much makes you weak.

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  15. Crus andTroy:

    I share your disdain for the methods and consequences of prohibition of drug use. Many otherwise law-abiding people-- especially young people-- have been punished by the law in ways that are almost certainly excessive.

    That said, there are many things we prohibit for the sake of a decent cultural climate in which to live. Is widespread legal drug use good for our society?

    There are countries that do legalize much drug use. I don't know much about the results, but the fact that opponents of prohibition rarely cite them leads me to suspect that the result is not good.

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  16. In addition, if someone sold one of my kids-- even one of my adult kids-- a serious drug (cocaine or heroin or meth) I'd want to kill the dealer, whether he was legally doing so or not.

    I have a colleague I went to medical school with whose son died of a drug overdose. I pass the kid's grave everytime I go to church. I often have seen his dad alone there, just standing.

    There was a little boy in our neighborhood who played with my older kids when they were little. His father died of a brain tumor, and the family had a lot of turmoil. The kid died of an overdose when he was in his 20's. His mom-- a sweet lady who worked so hard for him-- found him dead in bed the day he was going to rehab.

    I'm not saying that things like this are reasons to outlaw drugs. There are strong arguments made by the libertarians.

    But it's a complex issue. And I'd still want to kill anyone who sold my kid a hard drug, whether it was legal or not.

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  17. "There are countries that do legalize much drug use. I don't know much about the results, but the fact that opponents of prohibition rarely cite them leads me to suspect that the result is not good."

    I am free to walk into a "coffee shop" (which has a official license to sell) and pick my preferred pot from an impressive menu with a wide variety of choices. I can then smoke it (or eat it) right there and then or take it out. Hilariously, it's illegal to smoke tobacco in coffee shops.

    So you'd expect cannabis use to be very widespread in the Netherlands, right? Half the population must be walking around stoned, right? Wrong. Cannabis consumption is less than half of that in the US and Canada.

    A for more serious problem from a public health perspective is binge alcohol drinking by teenagers.

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  18. @troy:

    You are exactly right about the horrendous toll that alcohol takes on us. Half of the people I operate on for brain trauma were drunk.

    If there is genuine evidence that legalization of a particular drug (e.g. marijuana) makes it safer, or at least does not make it more of a problem, I would certainly support legalization.

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  19. Indeed, I just read that binge drinking costs the US over $200 billion per year, or about $2 per drink. Incredible.

    The stuff is just too cheap. More tax on it might help. Although that doesn't seem to prevent Scandinavians from binge drinking. Ever bought a drink in Norway? Costs a fortune.

    I used to work for a while in Finland, where it was not uncommon for my fellow biologists to binge on cheap lab alcohol at the end of the working day, chased by soft drinks. Moonshine was also very popular. During midsummer the whole country is drunk for a week. It's unbelievable. Plenty of people drown trying to swim across the lake drunk.

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  20. Any intoxicant isnt good - in excess. They're all basically slow poisons. Why do you think marijuana has psychedelic properties? Because it acts as a poison against pests. Think of the cactus - spines..

    Moderation, people. Thats the key. Unfortunately with some of these created drugs - crystal meth, cocaine, etc. That moderation part is just too tough for most people.

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