Cardinal Ratzinger Blames 1968 and 1989 for the Contempt of Ethics

Says Postwar Cynicism and Marxism's Fall Paved the Way for Pragmatism

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2004 (Zenit.org).- After the fall of the Marxist ideologies, there has been no rediscovery of ethics, but rather contempt of it and refuge in pragmatism, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.



The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states this view in the latest edition of his "Introduction to Christianity" (Queriniana), just published in Italy. The book includes material from his days as a theology professor at Tübingen, Germany, in the 1960s.

The book, in its 12th edition, has a new introduction in which the cardinal assesses the effects of the last 30 years on the Church.

Cardinal Ratzinger believes that 1968, the year of student revolutions, and 1989, the pivotal year for Marxism's decline, are key to understanding the late 20th century.

"The year 1968 is linked to the rise of a new generation, which not only regarded the work of reconstruction after the Second World War as inadequate, full of injustice, egoism and the urge to possess, but conceived the whole evolution of history, beginning with the era of the triumph of Christianity, as an error and a failure," he writes.

"Wishing to improve history, to create a world of freedom, equality and justice, these young people thought they had found the best way in the great current of Marxist thought," the cardinal continues.

"The year 1989 witnessed the amazing collapse of the Socialist regimes in Europe, which left behind them a sad heritage of destroyed lands and souls," he laments.

"The Marxist doctrine of salvation, in a word, was born in its many versions articulated in different ways, as a unique and scientific vision of the world, coupled by an ethical motivation and capable of supporting humanity in the future. Thus can be explained its difficult demise, even after the trauma of 1989," Cardinal Ratzinger explains.

"Suffice it to think of how discreet the discussion on the horrors of the Communist 'gulags' has been, and the little that Alexander Solzhenitsyn's voice has been heard: Nothing is said about all this," he affirms.

"The silence has been imposed by a certain sense of shame," he contends. "Even Pol Pot's bloody regime is only mentioned, in passing, every now and then. But the disillusion has remained, together with a profound confusion. Today no one believes any longer in any great moral dictates."

"Marxism had been conceived in these terms: a current that augured justice for all, the advent of peace, the abolition of unjustified relations of man's dominance over man, etc.," he adds.

"To reach these noble objectives, it was thought that one had to give up ethical principles and that terror could be used as the instrument of good. When the time came that all could see, if only on the surface, the ruins caused in humanity by this idea, people preferred to take refuge in a pragmatic life and publicly profess contempt of ethics," the cardinal contends.

"Where has the voice of Christian faith been all these years?" he asks. He believes that the answer to the question is the Christian challenge of the moment.