By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
From the very beginning of the Enlightenment, belief in progress has always set Christian eschatology aside and eventually replaced it entirely. Happiness is no longer anticipated in the afterlife but rather in this world. The attitude of Albert Camus, who resolutely opposes to Christ’s words “my kingdom is not of this world, his affirmation that “my kingdom is of this world,” is emblematic of modern man’s disposition.. If in the last century belief in progress was still a generic optimism that anticipated progressive betterment of the world’s condition and an ever closer approach of a kind of paradise from the triumphant march of the sciences, such faith in our century has taken on a political turn.
On the one hand, there have been systems of Marxist orientation that promised the attainment of the desired reign of man by way of their ideologically-driven politics; an attempt that obviously failed. On the other hand, efforts to build the future have been made by attempts that draw more or less profoundly from the source of liberal traditions. Under the title New World Order, these efforts take on a configuration; they increasingly relate to the UN and its international conferences, especially those of Cairo and Beijing that transparently reveal a philosophy of the new man and of the new world, as they endeavor to map out the ways of reaching them.
Such a philosophy is no longer utopian, in the sense of a Marxist dream. On the contrary, it is very realistic: it determines the limits of the well-being sought from limited means for attaining it. This philosophy recommends, for example, without seeking to justify itself, not worrying about taking care of those who are no longer productive nor have any hope of a quality life. Furthermore, it no longer expects that people, used to riches and well being, be ready to make requisite sacrifices, on the contrary, it recommends ways of reducing the number of participants at humanity’s table, so that at least the so called happiness, already acquired by some, will not be touched. The typical character of this new anthropology, which is at the basis of the New World Order, is revealed above all in the image of woman, in the ideology of “Women’s empowerment,” proposed at Beijing. The goal is the self-realization of women for whom the principle obstacles are the family and maternity. Thus woman must be liberated above all from what characterizes her and very simply makes for her specificity: this must disappear before “Gender, fairness and equality,” before an indistinct and uniform human being, in whose life sexuality had no other meaning than as a voluptuous drug that can be used in any manner conceivable.
In the fear of maternity that gripped a great number of our contemporaries, there is something more profound at play. The other person is always, in the end, a competitor who takes away part of my life, a menace to my Ego and my free development. Today we no longer have a “philosophy of love,” but only a “philosophy of egotism.” The notion that I can enrich myself simply in the gift that I can find beginning with the other and through my being-for-another—- all that is rejected as an idealistic illusion. But it is precisely there that man is deceived. In effect, when he is advised against loving, he is actually counseled not to be man.
And so, at the stage of the present development of a new image of a new world, we reach the point where the Christian—-not only him but especially him—-is obliged to protest. We must thank Michel Schooyans for having, in this book, given energetic voice to the protest needed. He shows us how the idea of man’s rights that characterize the modern epoch, which is so important and positive in many ways, suffers right at the very beginning from the fact that it is founded on man alone and therefore on his ability and his will to carry out the general recognition of these rights. If, from the start, the reflection of the luminous Christian image of man protected the universality of rights, new questions arise to the degree that this image becomes blurred. How will the rights of the humblest be respected and promoted when our conception of man so often is based, as our author says, “on jealousy, anxiety, fear and even hate? How can an ideology, that recommends sterilization, abortion, systematic contraception and even euthanasia as the price of an unbridled pansexualism, bring men to the joy of living and loving?” (CH 6)
It is here that we clearly find that the Christian has something positive to offer in the struggle for future history. In effect, it is not sufficient that he opposes eschatology to the ideology of “postmodern” constructions of the future, Certainly he must do this and do this resolutely. But our voice has become all too feeble and timid in this regard over the last decades. In fact, in his earthly life mans is but a straw without meaning if our gaze is turned away from eternal life. The same thing holds true for history as a whole. In this sense, reference to eternal life, if it’s made correctly, never has the character of a flight. It simply gives to earthly existence its responsibility, its grandeur, its dignity. But precisely these repercussions on the “intermundane” must be articulated. It is certain that history much never be simply reduced to silence: one cannot, it is not allowed, reduce liberty to silence. That is the illusion of the utopians.
We cannot impose on tomorrows models, which will then be yesterday’s models. Nevertheless, we must plan the proposals for a path to the future, proposals for generally overcoming the new historical challenges. That is what Michel Schooyans does in the second and third parts of his book. Above all, he proposes, in contrast to the new anthropology, the essential traits of the Christian image of man and then applies them in a concrete way to the big problems of the future world. (especially Chapters 10-12) He thus gives a concrete and politically realistic and realizable content to the idea of a “civilization of love,” so often expressed by John Paul II.
Michel Schooyans’ book thus goes to the heart of the great challenges to our historic moment with vivacity and great competence. We hope that it will be read by people with varying orientations, that it will stir up lively discussion and thus contribute to prepare the future models worthy of the greatness of man, as well as insure the dignity of those who are unable to defend themselves
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Rome, April 25, 1997