On 19 April 2005, the College of Cardinals elected Joseph Ratzinger to follow Blessed Pope John Paul II on the Chair of St. Peter, and on that day he became Pope Benedict XVI. The day before his election to the papacy, Joseph Ratzinger, in his capacity as Dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated a Mass “Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice” (For Electing the Roman Pontiff) which was the last public event before the beginning of the Conclave in the Sistine Chapel.
During that Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the Cardinals concelebrating, Ratzinger preached about the importance of them all understanding the situation of the Church in our time, and he pointed to the principal danger confronting Christianity in the early 21st Century:
“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.”
The dictatorship of relativism is the means by which those who hate Christianity will attempt to drive Christians from the public square, and this dictatorship, like all dictatorships, will almost certainly lead to fierce persecutions of those who will not submit to its illegitimate rule.
I thought of that this week as I watched the absurd little storm surrounding a Southern fast food chain named Chick-fil-A. The man who founded the company is a serious Christian, and so is his son who now runs the company. The owners of Chick-fil-A have attempted from the modest beginnings of their enterprise to conduct business as Christian gentlemen; for example, their stores are never open on Sunday. It should come as no surprise, then, that these purveyors of delicious chicken sandwiches think that the word marriage means the lifelong bond of one man and one woman. But the mayors of Boston and Chicago, among others, were shocked (Shocked!) to learn that anyone alive today held such primitive, retrograde, bigoted and hateful notions, let alone that they had the temerity to admit such things in public. And that’s when the dictatorship of relativism bared its teeth. Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel both declared in public that they would oppose the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain expanding in their cities because the CEO had engaged in hate speech by suggesting that God’s eternal plan for marriage had something to do with the propagation of our species and that no legislature or judge could rearrange the natural order of things by declaring falsehood to be truth.
For now, both of these ideologues have backed off from their overheated rhetoric, and one or two voices in the land have been raised in defense of the First Amendment. But the honest ferocity of the first response of Menino, Emanuel and their fellow travellers should not be forgotten: they wanted to put a Christian businessman out of business because he has “a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church” which they regard as fundamentalism. That is the dictatorship of relativism, and this is how it starts.