Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lack of love felt most by children ....

From Pope Benedict's message to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Certain demographic indicators have clearly pointed to the urgent need for critical reflection in this area. While the statistics of population growth are indeed open to varying interpretations, there is general agreement that we are witnessing on a planetary level, and in the developed countries in particular, two significant and interconnected trends: on the one hand, an increase in life expectancy, and, on the other, a decrease in birthrates. As societies are growing older, many nations or groups of nations lack a sufficient number of young people to renew their population.

This situation is the result of multiple and complex causes -- often of an economic, social and cultural character -- which you have proposed to study. But its ultimate roots can be seen as moral and spiritual; they are linked to a disturbing deficit of faith, hope and, indeed, love. To bring children into the world calls for self-centered eros to be fulfilled in a creative agape rooted in generosity and marked by trust and hope in the future. By its nature, love looks to the eternal (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 6). Perhaps the lack of such creative and forward-looking love is the reason why many couples today choose not to marry, why so many marriages fail, and why birthrates have significantly diminished.

It is children and young people who are often the first to experience the consequences of this eclipse of love and hope. Often, instead of feeling loved and cherished, they appear to be merely tolerated. In "an age of turbulence" they frequently lack adequate moral guidance from the adult world, to the serious detriment of their intellectual and spiritual development. Many children now grow up in a society which is forgetful of God and of the innate dignity of the human person made in God's image. In a world shaped by the accelerating processes of globalization, they are often exposed solely to materialistic visions of the universe, of life and human fulfillment.
One part that jumped out at me ... "This situation is the result of multiple and complex causes -- often of an economic, social and cultural character ..." -- I do hope there is some systematic study by this body of the ways in which the Industrial revolution and the rise of captitalism, while bringing about unprecedented prosoperity for sure, has also been a huge factor in the breakdown of the traditional family.

I was reminded of a correspondent writing in the April issue of First Things (not yet online. They're doing a two-month delay before bringing all the contents online.), responding to Pope Benedict's essay "Europe and its Discontents" in the January 2006 issue (really, an extract from the recently published Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam). The correspondent suggests that the Pope addresses Marxism only as a political theory, and neglects an important question: why did it draw so much support?
I would suggest that Marx gave a wrong answer to a right question: How shall we counter the dehumanization of the Industrial Revolution? If we wish to defend the family today, we need to understand the extent to which it was attacked by the sudden explosion of industrial capitalism. Almost overnight, cities replaced villages, factories replaced guilds, and the blue-collar commuter was born.

Mark defined the problem as a class struggle and insisted that classes had to be eliminated. ... We rightly rejected this proposition. I would argue, however, that we did not reject one of the insidious premises of Marxist theory: that the value of life is judged by its contribution to the economy. ... this is the origin of the self-hatred pervading the West.
The correspondent is Rev. Al Hoger, of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wichita, KS. Of course, not to ignore or diminish the Pope's assertion that the roots are deeper, of a spiritual nature.

[Aside, I absolutely loved the nonchalant way the author was identified in the January 2006 essay. "Pope Benedict is pope of the Catholic Church." That he is! Heh.]

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