On the plane returning from his journey to Africa on November 30, Pope Francis condemned Catholics who believe in “absolute truths”, and labelled them as “fundamentalists”.
“Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions,” Francis said, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee, and similarly by other journalists on the plane. “We Catholics have some – and not some, many – who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil.”
“They do evil,” said the pope. “I say this because it is my church.”
“We have to combat it,” he said. “Religious fundamentalism is not religious, because it lacks God. It is idolatry, like the idolatry of money.”
Turning to Islam, the pope spoke of his friendship with a Muslim, adding, “You cannot cancel out a religion because there are some groups, or many groups in a certain point of history, of fundamentalists.”
“Like everything, there are religious people with values and those without,” he said. “But how many wars … have Christians made? The sacking of Rome was not done by Muslims, eh?”
Is There an Absolute Right and Wrong?
In September 2013, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Eugenio Scalfari, atheist founder and editor of the Italian publication La Republicca. This letter, together with a subsequent face-to-face interview conducted by Scalfari with the Pope, sparked massive media coverage – and widespread controversy.
During the one-on-one interview, Scalfari asked the pope: “Your Holiness, is there only one vision of the Good? And who determines what it is?”
The Pope answered:
Each one of us has his own vision of the Good and also of Evil. We have to urge it [the vision] to move towards what one perceives as the Good…I repeat it. Everyone has his own idea of Good and Evil and he has to choose to follow the Good and to fight Evil as he understands it. This would be enough to improve the world.
The Heresy of Relativism
The Pope’s letter to Scalfari, as well as his recent condemnation of “absolute truths” is, upon closer inspection, a support for the heresy of relativism – a dangerous heresy that, if adopted by the world, will cause widespread adoption of sin. According to relativism, we should not believe in “absolute truths”. We should not believe in absolute moral codes of conduct. No institution, no Church has the right to definitely say what is right and what is wrong.
To say that“each one of us has his own vision of the Good and also of Evil” is to give everyone the license to do whatever he or she wants to do in this life – it gives everyone the license to sin.
Pope Francis’ position is a complete reversal to Pope Benedict XVI’s view that relativism is a danger that the Church must fight. Just before the College of Cardinals entered the 2005 conclave to vote on the successor to John Paul II, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, warned against the dangers of relativism:
Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.
The Church Does Believe in Absolute Truths
In his 2009 Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI said that true love leads one to “defend the truth” and “articulate it with humility and conviction”:
Love — caritas — is…a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth…To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6).
In numerous occasions, St. John Paul II warned against the grave consequences of doctrinal relativism. In this 1981 address during a conference on popular missions, he said:
It is essential to realistically admit, with deep and pained sentiment, that in part, Christians today feel lost, confused, perplexed and even disillusioned; ideas conflicting with the revealed and consistently taught truth have been widely spread; real heresies in dogmatic and moral fields have been promoted, creating doubts, confusions, rebellions, even the Liturgy has been manipulated; immersed in the intellectual and moral ‘relativism’, and consequently permissiveness, Christians are tempted toward atheism, agnosticism, vaguely moralistic illuminism, and a sociological Christianity, without defined dogmas and without objective morality. ∎
by Pablo Mercer