Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Holy Father Defines Totalitarianism

This part of Benedict XVI's homily during the Vigil tonight in Marienfield, reminds me of the scene in Weigel's Witness to Hope about Pope John Paul II's first visit to communist Poland after his election, and how the young people came to him chanting, "We want God!" From God comes grace, and it is with grace* -- not programs -- that the world is changed.

The saints, as we said, are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world. In the last century we experienced revolutions with a common programme – expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for the cause of the world in order to change it. And this, as we saw, meant that a human and partial point of view was always taken as an absolute guiding principle. Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism. It does not liberate man, but takes away his dignity and enslaves him. It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true. True revolution consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?

*This is not to say that believers in God, or even Christians, have an automatic lock on Grace, because we don't. Much of the time we cooperate with Grace even less than the non-believers. But a worldview that acknowledges the difference between the Creator and the created, and acts in accordance with that viewpoint, is much more likely to place the will of humans in service to Everlasting Love, rather than to ideologies.