There’s an article in the NYTimes Magazine this Easter Sunday that discusses the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and the program his has undertaken for his time in office.
The article suggests that one of the primary formative experiences of the Pope was coming of age in Nazi Germany and seeing first hand the shattering of society as it fully embraced modernity and rationalism.
The article discusses how this colors what Benedict is doing during his time on as the Vicar of St. Peter:
Benedict is one of the most intellectual men ever to serve as pope ‚Äî and surely one of the most intellectual of current world leaders ‚Äî and he has pinpointed the problem of the age, as well as its solution, at the level of philosophy. His argument, elaborated in the years leading up to his election and continuing through his daily speeches and pronouncements, reduces to something like this: Secularism may be one of the great developments in history, but the secularism that holds sway in much of the West ‚Äî that is, in Western Europe ‚Äî is flawed; it has a bug in its programming. The mistaken conviction that reason and faith are two distinct realms has weakened Europe and has brought it to the verge of catastrophic collapse. As he said in a speech in 2004: ‚ÄúThere exist pathologies in religion that are extremely dangerous and that make it necessary to see the divine light of reason as a ‚Äòcontrolling organ.‚Äô . . . However . . . there are also pathologies of reason . . . there is a hubris of reason that is no less dangerous.‚Äù
The article goes on to discuss the challenges Benedict and the Church in general face in the west – especially as more and more people in Europe find the attraction of secularism a greater draw than that of Christianity.
It’s a long article, but worth a careful read.