Similarities between the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal John Henry Newman are detailed in Wednesday's edition of Il Foglio. According to the author, at least one major element unites their thought - their aversion to a relativistic society.
Vatican expert Paolo Rodari examines the Pope's interest in the soon-to-be beatified English cardinal in an article titled, "The fight against relativism of B-XVI is the same as Newman's one hundred years ago."
The Il Foglio writer refers to the argument of Msgr. Roderick Strange, who in his "spiritual biography" of Cardinal Newman, illustrates a moment when then-Cardinal Ratzinger showed a "bond" with the founder of the Birmingham Oratory.
Holding the floor before the College of Cardinals on the eve of the papal enclave in which he was elected in 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the "dictatorship of relativism" threatening the world, in which nothing is definite and the only thing that remains is "oneself and one's desires."
This, wrote Msgr. Strange, is a "not necessarily coincidental" link to Cardinal Newman's own premise of a "simply non religious world."
Relativism, explained Rodari, represents a "threat" for the Pope, "because when truth is abandoned, freedom is also left behind... and it slides towards totalitarianism."
In his book on Newman, Msgr. Strange goes on to describe a further occasion for comparison, when at a conference for the 100th anniversary of Cardinal Newman's death, "Ratzinger makes reference to the link between truth and personal conscience."
Newman, pointed out Cardinal Ratzinger, "taught that the conscience must be nourished as a way of obedience to objective truth.
"And Newman's entire life witnesses that conviction," he said.
So, continued Msgr. Strange, during World War II, the future Pope "experienced what Newman had predicted: the consequences of when revealed religion is not recognized as true (and) objective, but is considered as something private from which the people might choose for themselves whatever they like."
Newman, concluded Rodari, went "straight to the heart" of the issue when, on being named cardinal in 1879, said "Religious liberalism is the doctrine according to which there doesn't exist any positive truth in the religious field, but that any creed is as good as any other; and this is the doctrine that, day after day, is acquiring consistency and vigor.
"This position is incompatible with every recognition of a religion as true."
And, as this worried Cardinal Newman, it also "worries Ratzinger today," concluded Rodari.