My second favorite living historian, Michael Burleigh, who has written stunningly original works on subjects as diverse as Nazi Germany, religion and politics in the last two centuries, terrorism, and morality and World War II, has taken up the cudgels against the despicable attitude of many Brits of the chattering classes regarding the visit of the Pope to the Island next to Ireland.
Under normal circumstances, one might say “welcome” rather than “receive”. But the multiple sexual scandals that have afflicted parts of the Catholic Church have created a window of opportunity for sundry chasers of limelight – including human rights militants, crusading gays, Islamist fanatics, and celebrity God-botherers – to band together to “arrest” the Pope under laws so obscure that few knew they existed. Because child abuse is involved, rather than the more widespread phenomenon of homosexual predation on young men, these manifestations will receive much media attention, especially from the BBC, to the guaranteed perplexity of a less involved general public in a nominally Protestant country. It will require some effort of mind to tune out this noise to hear what the Pope will be saying.
The stations of Josef Ratzinger’s life are almost guaranteed to make unthinking liberals recoil, just as his classical European erudition does not sit well with a local culture that has taken irony and philistinism to levels whose self-satisfied provincialism are not hard to parody. Britain may be bankrupt, but we have “comedians” aplenty.
As a 14 year-old, the future Pope was conscripted into the Hitler Youth, along with the majority of his age cohort. That year, 1941, one of his cousins, who had Down’s syndrome, was murdered in the Nazis’ monstrous “euthanasia” campaign. As the Nazis ran out of cannon fodder, even young seminarians were drafted into such tasks as manning anti-aircraft batteries, which Ratzinger did in the years before he briefly entered Allied captivity.
That typical German experience made Ratzinger especially receptive to the Church’s multiple condemnations of totalitarianism, perhaps nowhere better expressed than in Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical “With burning anxiety”. Rabid anticlericalism and credulity towards the wonder-working state was the common denominator between 19th-century liberalism and the totalitarian creeds of the 20th century. Starting with the Russian Bolsheviks, followed by revolutionary Mexico and Spain, the progressively murderous Left sought to wipe out the Christian churches, which were sometimes intimately associated with inequitable social orders. Ironically, the late 19th-century papacy of Leo XIII had been in the forefront of demanding that industrial workers receive their due dignity and respect.
Both Communism and Nazism inaugurated what Churchill accurately described as “man worship” while the state barged its way into such spheres as the family and education, usually through dedicated youth organisations of the kind Ratzinger was impressed into. Although the Pope is not a political animal, there can be little doubt that he was influenced by that remarkable generation of post-war Christian Democrat leaders, such as Adenauer or De Gasperi, who did so much to restore the self-confidence of a continent turned into a desert of despair by totalitarianism.
As a distinguished academic theologian, Ratzinger was again exposed to the rabidly intolerant Left during a spell at the University of Tübingen in the 1960s. Whereas it would be axiomatic to an apprentice cobbler or mechanic that a master craftsman knew his trade, campus Marxists imagined that their dogmas explained both the entirety of history and all human knowledge. Entire disciplines had either to be re-forged in accordance with their materialist creed or considered redundant.
Go here to read the brilliant rest. The Pope addresses a Britain, and a Europe, that are morally bankrupt, and mired in a desperately dour hedonism and a hopeless atheism. Drowning victims often thrash about and fight someone attempting to rescue them. That is precisely what the Pope is attempting to do for a Western Culture that finds itself a hollowed out husk, bereft of the Faith that guided it for 2000 years. Burleigh understands this:
Secularism is at the heart of Benedict’s concerns. By this the Pope does not mean the delimitation of Church and State, the sacred and profane – which is intrinsic to Christian culture as well as political society since the Reformation – but the amnesiac eradication of one of the principal roots of Western civilisation and the deliberate marginalisation of all religion to the private sphere. In its stead has come a society that thinks its existential despairs can be ameliorated by limitless consumer goods, or worse, by a state that racks up fathomless amounts of debt so as to throw money at problems that may have no material resolution.
The hatred directed against the Pope is merely an anger by blind guides being reminded that they are blind and leading their societies to the pit.