Monday, June 26, 2017

Priests Must Determine the Role of Religion in the World Today, Which is Essential

When one looks back at the history of our century, it is very easy to discern three great turning points that have affected initially and immediately the structure of life in Europe, but all three have also affected and continue to affect the history of the world as a whole. First, we must mention the transformation of the external and internal map of Europe that resulted from the First World War. It brought with it the collapse of the monarchies in central Europe, the end of the Czarist Russia and the restructuring of the whole of Europe in keeping with the nationalist principle--which, of course, on closer inspection proved externally impracticable and inherently insufficient as the foundation of a new order of peace. The Second World War was followed by the partition of Europe and of the world into two mutually opposed power blocs: the Marxist and the liberal capitalist. Now, at the end of the century, we have experienced the internal disintegration of Marxist ideology together with the structure of power it had created. The special characteristic of this third turning point is that it took place without a war and almost without any bloodshed, simply through the internal collapse of a system and its intellectual foundations, that is, through the powers of the spirit and not through military or political force. Herein lie both the hope and the special responsibility of this event, and we are still very far from meeting the challenge it poses.

Liberalism and Marxism were in agreement in refusing religion both the right and the capacity to shape public affairs and the common future of mankind. In the maturation process of the second half of this century, religion has been discovered anew as an ineradicable force both of individual and of social living. It has become clear that one cannot plan and shape the future of mankind while prescinding from religion. This process gives comfort to faith, but faith will not fail to recognize at the same time the dangers inherent in it, for the temptation is obvious on all sides to take in religion as an instrument to serve political ideas. In this situation it is an absolute obligation for the theologian and for the pastor of the Church to enter the dispute about the correct understanding of the present time and about the path into the future, in order both to clarify faith's own proper sphere and at the same time to fulfill his own share of responsibility at this hour.

From the preface to the publication (German edition 1991) of Turning Point for Europe: The Church and Modernity in the Europe of Upheavals, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994, 7-8. (Emphasis by Plinthos).
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