On the occasion of his ninetieth birthday – and with his accustomed reticence and modesty – Pope Emeritus Benedict has given us a salutary reminder of what we are lacking in this present pontificate.
Whilst Francis flirts with ecology (a subject best left to experts, and treated with caution even amongst them) and tinkers with matrimony (the results of which adjustments it does not take a sociologist to predict), Benedict continues to address the big issue of our time: the rise of both radical atheism and fundamentalist Islam.
In a letter to a conference on his theology sponsored by the President of Poland (will anyone live to see conferences on the theology of Jorge Mario Bergoglio?) Benedict wrote:
‘ …the contrast between the concepts of the radically atheistic state and the creation of the radically theocratic state by Muslim movements creates a dangerous situation for our age, one whose effects we experience each day.
These radical ideologies require us to urgently develop a convincing concept of the state that will stand up to the confrontation between these challenges and help to overcome it.’
Here he pinpoints the dilemma which Western politicians are unwilling or unable to address. How to adapt the Christian democratic humanism which has evolved in most of Europe to the new circumstances of the post-communist world, when the enemy is already within the gates, and seeks to exploit the virtues of Christian democracy to wicked ends.
Francis, alas, is too enamoured of the values of the soi-disant modernisers in Western culture either to see the dangers or sound the alarm.