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Pope John Paul II Leadership for a Modern World, and Advocate for Social Justice

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We speak of a culture war. John Paul II fought a cultural war against the communist and won. Indeed, countless images of this momentous victory filled the screens of televisions around the globe last month. The crumbling of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union were sure signs: The cold war was over. Now, people in their twenties have little more than vague memories of a nuclear threat. Who discusses the possible cataclysmic battles threatening the future of humanity nowadays? What totalitarian regime does Benedict XVI face?

"A dictatorship of relativism," as Cardinal Ratzinger identified it in his homily on April 18th, before entering the conclave. "The real culture clash in today's world", he said in a speech given on April 1st, "is not between different religious cultures, but between those who seek a radical emancipation of man from God and the major religions." A radically secular culture, one dubbed by John Paul II as the culture of death, is the totalitarian regime of our time.

But what do relativism and radical secularism have to do with each other? And how do they oppose the culture of life? The soon to be Pope explains. "Relativism, which is the starting point of this secularist mentality, becomes a kind of dogmatism that believes it has reached the definitive stage of awareness of what human reason really is." Modern philosophers, politicians and scientists alike have commonly brushed religion aside when discussing matters of morality. Why? Religious beliefs are relative to each person, so we cannot risk slowing down scientific advances to pay heed to personal opinions. In one fell swoop all religions are swept into a silent corner as equally useless. Faith certainly aids people in their personal lives, but science serves the needs of the community as a whole. Such ideas have rocketed technologies forward at a dizzying pace. Ethical considerations crawl along with dwindling hope of catching up.

"Our capacity to make moral decisions has not kept pace with technical progress. Rather," the cardinal argues, "it has diminished, because the scientific and technical mentality that now dominates thinking in contemporary society confines morality to the purely personal and subjective realm. This places us in a situation of grave risk."

Sound like idealistic philosophy? Terri Schiavo's parents might not agree. Painting the picture a little too bleak? The remains of millions of aborted babies suggest otherwise.

The situation is ironic. On one hand, society has an ever growing need for a morality that influences the public sphere. On the other, that same society labels as fundamentalist, those who uphold the values of their faith. A secularist culture, the culture of death, denies the social application of any conscience binding standards. In this way, they eliminate essential weapons in the battle for life.

This extreme secularism, based on relativism, is not a new topic for the papacy. A message continuously repeated by John Paul II will not be forgotten by this new pontiff. Pope John Paul drew a clear line between two concepts not always distinguished: separation of church and state correctly understood, and extreme secularism, or "laicism," which seeks to deny all public manifestation of religion. "A well-understood secularism must not be confused with laicism," John Paul insisted. "To try to remove from the social field this important [religious] dimension in the lives of persons and peoplesÐ'... would go against a well-understood freedom," he explained. "Religion cannot be reduced only to the private sphere."

Secularism has a literal death grip on Europe. George Weigel refers to the phenomena engulfing Europe as, "a demographic vacuum." 18 countries report a non-replacement birthrate, that is more deaths than births. Despite this cultural suicide, European intellectuals and political leaders deem any reference to the Christian sources of contemporary European civilization a threat to human rights and democracy.

Just a few examples: In Sweden, a Protestant pastor preaches about homosexuality, based on Scripture, and as a result goes to jail for a month. The French public school system prohibits students from wearing religious articles to class, be they turbans or crucifixes. Cardinal Alfonso LÐ"Ñ-pez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family speaks out



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