The conclave that met to elect a new pope in 2005 chose the scholarly Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI (1927 – ). Yet, despite being an intellectual, he possesses the rare art of being able to express his views with crystal clarity. He is perhaps the most articulate spokesman today on the dangers of “relativism”—the view that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context and are not absolute.
In his homily on the morning of April 18, 2005, the day the conclave to elect a new pope began, Cardinal Ratzinger declared that the Western world was in the grip of a “dictatorship of relativism.”
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves—flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St. Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4:14) comes true.
Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled 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.1
Joseph Ratzinger (homily delivered at the Vatican Basilica, April 18, 2005), The Vatican Website (accessed October 11, 2010).