VATICAN, December 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In his traditional Christmas greeting to Vatican officials this morning, the Pope drew a link between the times of the fall of the Roman Empire and our own times, arguing that “the future of the world is at stake.”

Read the pope’s complete talk here.

Describing the decline of the Roman Empire he said, “The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples.

“The sun was setting over an entire world,” he continued. “Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline.“

Comparing those times to our own he said: “For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.”

The pope tied the priestly sexual abuse crisis, which he referred to as “the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year,” into the overall theme of the talk.

He began by pointing out that the past year had been designated the “Year of the Priests.” “We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime,’” he said.

While he spoke of the need for the Church to reflect upon its own inner workings to determine how such a thing could have happened, he also pointed to the moral disintegration of society as a contributing cause. We cannot, he said, “remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light.”

In this context the Pope noted child pornography, sex trafficking and drug abuse, saying that, “No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.”

The Pope stated that in order to resist these evils it is necessary to resist relativism, and the warping of the idea of the conscience:

In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today.

He also called on political leaders to “put a stop to Christianophobia,” and noted that “healing can only come from deep faith in God’s reconciling love.”

In the final analysis, he suggested that “only if there is …  a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function.”  The Pope explained that the public agreement on essential truths which is “derived from the Christian heritage” is at risk from an approach where morality is ignored in the pursuit of certain goals.

He concluded: “To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.”