Dictatorship of Relativism – Cardinal Ratzinger

Mass for Papal Conclave

Date: 2005-04-18
Cardinal Ratzinger Warns of “Dictatorship of Relativism”
Presides Over Mass for Election of a Pontiff
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- At a Mass prior to the conclave, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger asked God for “a new pope, like John Paul II, who will guide us to the love of Christ.”

He also warned of the “dictatorship of relativism” that is confronting the world.

“In these hours, above all, we ask God with insistence so that, after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, he will again give us a pastor according to his heart, a pastor who will lead us to knowledge of Christ, to his love and to true joy,” said the dean of the College of Cardinals today.

He was presiding over the Mass “for the election of the Roman Pontiff” before the start of the conclave to elect a new pope.

The cardinal, who for two decades had been prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concelebrated a solemn votive Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica together with 114 cardinal electors.

Many non-elector cardinals (older than 80), hundreds of bishops, the diplomatic corps, and thousands of faithful also attended the Mass.

In his homily, Cardinal Ratzinger referred to the maturity of the faith of Catholics and said that they cannot remain “immature in the faith, in a state of inferiority, as they run the risk of being tossed about and carried here and there by any doctrinal wind.”

“How many doctrinal winds we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many styles of thought,” he lamented.

“The thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves, tossed from one end to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism, from collectivism to radical individualism, from atheism to religious mysticism, from agnosticism to syncretism,” the prelate observed.

Cardinal Ratzinger added that, meanwhile, “to have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church,” is labeled “fundamentalism.”

“And this while relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be led here and there by any wind of doctrine, is seen as the only behavior abreast of the times,” he said.

We are now witnessing the “dictatorship of relativism” which “does not recognize anything as absolute and leaves as the ultimate measure only the measure of each one and his desires,” Cardinal Ratzinger added.

Christians, however, have another measure, which is the Son of God true Man, the cardinal emphasized. Mature faith, he said, does not follow fashions and the latest novelty, but is profoundly rooted in “friendship with Christ.”

In his homily, which was received with prolonged applause, Cardinal Ratzinger also said that priests are here to serve, and must give fruit that endures.

In this connection, the cardinal cautioned people who wish to leave their mark in life; he said that money and buildings and books do not last as, after a certain time, “everything disappears.”

What “remains eternally,” he added, “is the human soul.”

Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal

The biography of Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, begins, of course, with his birth in Bavaria, Germany, on April 16, 1927, Holy Saturday, and baptized the very same day, in the newly blessed Easter water. This special baptism was seen from the beginning of his life as a very special blessing of Divine Providence.

Though he and the Ratzinger family saw Naziism as the spirit of Anti-Christ, Joseph was forced into the German army near the end of World War II. He escaped, surrendered to the US forces, and spent a few months in a POW camp. Upon his release, he and his brother Georg entered the seminary and were ordained priests together on June 29, 1951. After receiving his doctorate in theology from the University of Munich in 1953, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger became a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Bonn. When Vatican Council II began in 1962, Fr. Ratzinger, only 35 years old at the time, was named chief “peritus” or theological advisor to the Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Cardinal Frings and accompanied him to all four sessions of the council, having input on the writing of several of the Council Documents. From 1969 until 1977 Fr. Ratzinger taught theology at the University of Regensburg and, from 1969 until 1980, he was a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. In 1972, together with French theologian Henri de Lubac and the Swiss priest Hans Urs von Balthasar, Ratzinger founded the theological journal Communion which now has editions in 14 countries. It is notable that the Polish edition of Communio was brought about by the archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla.

Fr. Joseph Ratzinger was ordained archbishop of Munich-Freising on May 28, 1977 and was created a cardinal priest by Pope Paul VI on June 27, 1977, his titular church in Rome being St. Mary of Consolation (in Tiburtina).

On April 5, 1993 Cardinal Ratzinger was transferred by Pope John Paul II to the order of cardinal bishops as titular bishop of the suburbicarian see of Velletri-Signi. In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger became the Prefect (head) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department in charge of protecting the sacred deposit of the faith handed on from the apostles. As such, he was Pope John Paul II’s chief assistant in the formulation of the Pope’s teaching and writing. There is perhaps no one who worked more closely with Pope John Paul II during the course of his pontificate. Cardinal Ratzinger would generally have lengthy private meetings with the Pope twice per week. Before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger also served president of the Pontifical Biblical and Theological Commissions.

On November 6, 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed Vice-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. Prior to the death of Pope John Paul II, he served as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Council for Christian Unity, the Council for Culture, the Commission Ecclesia Dei, and the Commission for Latin America. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger had a decisive role in the writing of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” signed in October 1999 by the Holy See and the World Lutheran Federation in Augsburg, Germany. The declaration, one of the most important ecumenical steps since Martin Luther’s split with the Catholic Church in the 16th century, took place thanks to the dialogue held in November 1998 between Cardinal Ratzinger and Lutheran Bishop Johannes Hanselman in Munich.

As he approached his mid-seventies, Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to retire several times, but Pope John Paul II would not accept his resignation.

It seems Pope John Paul II knew God had other plans for the German Cardinal. At 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005, only the second day of the conclave. This speedy election demonstrates a remarkable consensus on the part of the 115 Cardinals who elected him by a two-thirds majority. Their vote was for a defender of the truth, a man of prayer, a humble servant of the servants of God.


Besides his academic articles and official Church documents, the new Pope Benedict XVI provides us with a window into his mind and heart through several books, the Ratzinger Report (1996), The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000), God and the World (2002) and Introduction to Christianity. Joseph Ratzinger is the oldest cardinal to be named pope since Clement XII, who was also 78 when he became pope in 1730. He is the first German pope since Victor II (1055-1057).