I spent quality time in the morning of Tuesday, April 19, 2004, reading up anything I could find on the internet about Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and by noon that day, I was almost certain, and had even begun to say it to those around me, that Ratzinger would most likely replace late John Paul II as pope of the Roman Catholics. Perhaps, I was not just guessing, but merely expressing some latent wish, tucked away somewhere in the inner recesses of my mind. Indeed, after examining some portions of Cardinal Ratzinger’s pre-conclave homily delivered at St. Peter’s Square the previous day, I became convinced, for some reasons that may not appeal to too many people, including even Ratzinger himself, that this is the man needed for this eleventh hour, to set the tone for an urgent revival of vigorous evangelization which an ill-digested and grossly misapplied notion of ecumenism and inter-religious cooperation have since murdered and buried in a shallow grave.
Said the 78 year old Cardinal from Germany who became Pope Benedict XVI later on Tuesday, April 19: “A dictatorship of relativism is being built that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires …Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the church, is often labeled as fundamentalism…Yet, relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’, appears the sole attitude acceptable to today’s standards.”
Since this statement reverberated around the world, and the man who made it was later named the next pope, the press, especially, in Europe and the United States, have been awash with commentaries conveying the unsparing disapproval and disappointment of majority of Westerners. They had expected, they said, that the new pope would lower the ropes to accommodate their boundless hedonism and sickening licentiousness, which now constitute another form of religion in those parts. The Western world, proud heir to a most decadent culture, has been totally overrun by several degenerate “liberals” whose sole aim is to collapse the thin wall between the body of Christ and extreme and insidious secularism.
I have no problems with the new pope’s stance, and have in fact, been a bit worried by statements that have lately emanated from the Vatican appearing to hint at a likelihood of slight shifting from that “hardline” position. It is quite clear to me that the pope was merely echoing a very simple, but eternally rock-solid fact, namely, that the opposite of truth can only be a lie, not another kind of truth. Truth is immutable. Everything around truth can change and be corrupted, but truth retains the unfailing capacity to survive the storms of innovations, revisions and modernism. Perhaps, people may claim to have revised the truth, but they have only deceived themselves, because what they have actually done was to devise a caricature, a parody of the truth. The original truth remains, untampered with, and only discovered and cherished by sincere seekers of it.
These days, we hear people, even those who purport to be Christian religious leaders, say: if a traditionalist endeavours to remain faithful to the tenets of his religion, and equally keeps his hands straight (whatever that means), he will surely make heaven. In the late 1980s, I used to listen to one Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Raymond Arazu, a very intelligent man, on the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS), Enugu, and was always shocked hearing him defending such things as heathen incantations, sacrifices, and lots of pagan practices and beliefs. There are many others like him, who have written extensively with deep conviction and fervour in that vein. Now, this is the kind of confusion that waters the ground for what Ratzinger had called, “dictatorship of relativism.” Nothing is definite any more. Nothing is totally true or totally false. These are purporting to propagate a Christ they have never met, and preach a gospel they have never believed. They are “tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching.’” For them, “seven is good, eight is also good,” like one village drunk used to say.
Indeed, because what is involved here is the very important issue of one’s eternal abode, I am not ready to get caught up in any maze of confusion, and get my soul damned. Now we hold it to be true that NOT every religion or even group within Christendom has the truth of God. There is no denying the fact that a lot of them were unambiguously inspired by the devil himself, to mislead men and women and lure them away from the truth that saves. And because, I know precisely what I am saying, I think it would amount to asking too much to expect me to go out of my way to endorse any other religion or even group within Christendom whose teachings and practices clearly contradict God’s revealed Word, the Bible. The same way, I do not expect any of them to readily endorse mine, without first of all being unreservedly convinced about the genuineness of what I am propagating. If they truly believe that they have found the way of salvation, they should try to persuade me (not force me) to follow them. So long as violence is eschewed, and the right of the other party to either accept or reject our message is recognized and respected, every attempt to win others over to our faiths is healthy.
Now, let me give one personal example to buttress the point I am making. I used to be an ardent Roman Catholic. I began serving at Mass at the tender age of nine. By 1978 when Karol Josef Wojtyla emerged victorious in the papal election and became Pope John Paul II, I was in the Seminary training to be a priest. But right now, I am no more a Roman Catholic. My decision to discontinue my priestly training was a costly one, because, years were really wasted. But I had to stand by my decision, preferring Bible-backed teachings over and above any other doctrine, no matter how beautifully crafted. Now, I do not expect my Roman Catholic friends to just look at me and say: it is okay, stay where you are; so long as you remain faithful to the truth you have discovered, then you will go to heaven from there; and don’t also try to win us over; we will equally go to heaven, by remaining with the teachings you no longer believe in!
I think there is a problem here. Between the two of us, one party must be right, and we do not need to pass on to the great beyond, when every opportunity to make amends has been lost, to know who is right. We need to, in an atmosphere, devoid of rancour, try to help each other, and decide what is the truth, in the light of the Scriptures, and then
follow it. Or is there any other thing at stake here beyond getting our souls saved? Indeed, there must be a definite, unambiguous truth about salvation, not a multiplicity of ways. That’s the point, I think, Ratzinger was making, and if ecumenism or inter-religious harmony are meant to smother this fact, then the devil has played a fast one on us, to kill and bury evangelization as the Apostles practiced it, keep multitudes in perpetual darkness and damn their souls eventually.
Indeed, if all faiths are genuine Jesus would not have given us the Great Commission, to go and win the souls of men and women held captive by diverse sins and erroneous religious beliefs. When Paul arrived in Athens and saw that the town was wholly given to idolatry, he didn’t encourage them to remain steadfast to their various faiths. He instead, preached to them the God they did not know. And many of them were won over. Take also the case of Cornelius and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Peter and Philip were sent to them respectively, to show them the Way. So there is a Way, one Way, to salvation. And any arrangement that discourages its propagation, is totally anti-Christ and un-Christian. So, I want to have “a clear faith”, but not “according to the credo of the (Roman) Church”, as Ratzinger declared in his homily, but according to the Scriptures of truth, where God revealed His mind to mankind.
Finally, men and women should stop deceiving themselves. Homosexuals and Sodomists also want the Church to grant them license to go on with their abominable acts. Now, assuming the Church endorses their action today, does that then make it right before God? How can a stamp of approval from Rome make abortion to be anything less than undisguised, cruel murder? Why are people bent on deceiving themselves?
My take is that these people might as well stay put at their dark corners, wallowing in their cherished abominations until they are prepared to be Christians. After all, the whole thing about going to Church is to hear the truth that will help one get one’s soul saved. The decision to spend eternity in hell, no doubt, is the right of everyone to make.