CHRISTIANITY AND THE CRISIS OF CULTURES
by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
(Ignatius Press, 2006, 116pp, hardback, $29.90. Available from Freedom Publishing)
This is a short, elegantly produced volume of ten pithy essays based around three major headings, "The Crisis of Cultures", "The Right to Life" and "The Meaning of Belief". There is a scholarly introduction by Marcello Pera.
These essays were written shortly before Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to the Papacy as Pope Benedict XVI.
The principal focus is the crisis of culture evident in contemporary Western Europe where a majority of the European Parliament would vote to exclude all reference to God or the Christian roots of European civilisation from the Preamble to the European Constitution. The Christian roots and foundation of Western civilisation are being replaced by "modern Enlightenment philosophy".
Such philosophies recognise only what can be proven mathematically or scientifically and deny any metaphysical reality. They do not acknowledge God's existence or objective truth and therefore reduce morality to a relative concept, leading to a confused ideology of freedom. What Europe requires, said Cardinal Ratzinger, is spiritual renewal, not a secular denial of its Christian heritage.
The book is not for the general reader for the material is challenging and crafted at a high level of generality. It presumes a reasonable knowledge of philosophy, theology and the public debate in the West on religious and moral issues.
The book should be in religious community and tertiary libraries along with the author's many other works, both as Cardinal Ratzinger and Benedict XVI, in which he explores a wide range of religious and moral issues.
Dr Barry Coldrey is a former teacher in Christian Brothers colleges and is active in youth ministry.