Is Pope Benedict Channeling Oswald Spengler?

In Asharq Alawsat, Amir Taheri reviews Pope Benedict XVI’s Values in a Time of Upheaval.

Although Pope Benedict does not quite tell us what “upheaval” he is referring to in the title of his new book, it soon become clear that he observes the present condition of mankind as a whole and Europe in particular with a degree of pessimism unexpected from a Christian prelate. After all, Christianity is known as the “faith of hope.”

The first cause of the Pope’s pessimism is the domination of the world by what he calls “the three mythical values of today”. These are progress, science and freedom.

The trouble is that the Pope dopes not spell out what he means by any of those terms. For example, does he mean to say that the recent unprecedented progress in medical sciences represent a threat to mankind? Should we steer away form a science that has helped us uncover more and more of the mysteries of nature and mobilize its resources for improving our lives? And, last but not least, in what way can freedom be regarded as a “mythical value”? By coincidence, the Pope’s book has been published at a time that the world prepares to mark the centenary of the ablution of slavery, an evil that Christianity, along with other faiths, never even questioned. For those released from the shackles, freedom was real, not mythical.

The second cause of the Pope’s apparent pessimism is the demographic decline of Europe. The Pope’s europhilia, not to say eurocentrism, is at times to passionate that one wonders whether he regards Christianity as little more than an ingredient in a more complex ideological mix in which the Hellenic heritage and medieval scholasticism are also present.

In this book, the Pope is so focused on Europe, which he believes is about to be lost to outsides, notably Muslim immigrants, that one wonders whether he has forgotten that more than half of his Catholic flock live on other continents. At one pint ( page 41, last paragraph), the Pope speaks of the ” actual non-universality” of the Christian faith.

Even then, the Pope’s lamentations about the decline of Europe, echoing those of his fellow-German Oswald Spengler more than a century ago, may well be misplaced.