Sunday, September 10, 2006

From the Pope

The Pope has been visiting Germany and has had a few very interesting things to say. Here are a few little clips from an article about his visit where he says things with which I wholeheartedly agree.

He also stressed the role of faith in fighting AIDS "by realistically facing its deeper causes," indirectly confirming the Church view that pre-marital abstinence and fidelity in marriage are the way to combat sexually transmitted diseases.

It has always amazed me to hear people who think that sexual promiscuity is not the largest single factor in the spread of any STD and that eliminating promiscuity would not have a greater effect than all other aid money combined in combating these epidemic problems. I guess the truth is that they probably admit that eliminating promiscuity would have that kind of effect, but they want to solve the problem without making any social changes.

"Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable," said the Pope. "When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little," he said, hammering away at his central concern that secularisation and materialism have replaced faith in Western thinking.

That is similar to the realizations that have led me to put less stock in the intrinsic value of new technology.

At the morning mass Benedict said that Western societies had become "hard of hearing" about God, saying: "There are too many other frequencies in our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited for our age."

That sounds like he just identified the central and subtle problem in Western societies. If you were to ask a Muslim they would probably cite the same problem.

"People in Africa and Asia admire our scientific and technical prowess, but at the same time they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision, as if this were the highest form of reason," he said.

They sensed a "contempt for God" in Western societies and "a cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and hold up utility as the supreme moral criterion for the future of scientific research," he said.

Doubtless we should spiritually be much more like these developing nations in the way we view faith and technology. Utility is the very reason cited in support for stem-cell research. I do not intend to take a position on such research, but rather to suggest that we must base our decisions on more solid arguments than "I can find a way to make this useful."

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