Benedict XVI in FatimaThe latest example of what I like to refer to as “the Christian martyr complex” comes in this pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic News Service reports that the Holy Father has declared Christianity — and even religion itself — to be in danger of extinction (WebCite cached article):

Christianity and even religious belief are in grave danger across the globe, risking oblivion, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Across vast areas of the earth, faith runs the danger of extinguishing like a flame that runs out of fuel,” he said.

Last I knew, religious faith was still going strong. The vast majority of people in the world are religious, and while religious fervor is fading in a few places such as Europe, in most regions religion is going strong and is nowhere near dying out.

It almost goes without saying that, in those few places where religion is becoming less common, the Roman Catholic Church’s own conduct has very likely contributed to this trend. “Charity begins at home,” or so the saying goes, so maybe the Pope should look in his own mirror and figure out how he might try to reverse this trend that so alarms him? My guess is he’ll refuse to do so and continue to wail about the evils of “secular humanism,” rather than examine and ferret out the evils within his own Church.

The article includes an additional quote, though, which I find remarkable:

“Without faith, the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of ‘social contract’ that’s adhered to out of common interest,” the pope said.

I’m not quite sure what Benedict’s problem is with a “social contract” that people embrace “out of common interest.” Wouldn’t that be the best thing … for people to get along with each other, because it’s in their own best interest to get along? And isn’t this precisely how the Ethic of Reciprocity works — a principle which, ironically, none other than the founder of the Pope’s own religion promoted? If this is something Jesus taught, why would the Pope find it objectionable?

None of this should be news to any Vatican-watcher. As the clerical child-abuse scandal has hammered the Catholic Church around the world, the current Pope and his predecessor both staunchly refused to acknowledge any part in it; they both tried to prevent bishops from allowing abusive clergy to be investigated by local authorities; and Benedict remains committed to a policy of evading responsibility for it, becoming offended when he’s forced to face it. He could, in one moment, restore the credibility of his own Church — and by extension, that of Christianity and of religion generally — by dealing with the scandal in a contrite and moral manner. But he never will. Count on it.

Hat tip: CNN Belief Blog.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England & Wales).

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