Pope Francis said that old age brought the challenge of “disenchantment,” which had to be resisted because of its “demoralizing effects.”
“If the elderly, who have seen it all by that time, keep intact their passion for justice, then there is hope for love, and also for faith,” he said.
“And for the contemporary world, the passage through this crisis, a healthy crisis, has become crucial. Why? Because a culture that presumes to measure everything and manipulate everything also ends up producing a collective demoralization of meaning, a demoralization of love, a demoralization of goodness.”
The pope said that collective demoralization sapped humanity’s will to act.
“In this form — cloaked in the trappings of science, but also very insensitive and very amoral — the modern quest for truth has been tempted to take leave of its passion for justice altogether. It no longer believes in its destiny, its promise, its redemption,” he commented.
“For our modern culture, which would like, in practice, to consign everything to the exact knowledge of things, the appearance of this new cynical reason — that combines knowledge and irresponsibility — is a harsh repercussion.”
“Indeed, the knowledge that exempts us from morality seems at first to be a source of freedom, of energy, but soon turns into a paralysis of the soul.”
Pope Francis said that the Book of Ecclesiastes captured this dynamic, in which “an omnipotence of knowledge” leads to “an impotence of the will.”
He noted that the early Church described this condition as “acedia,” which he said was not simply laziness or depression, but “the surrender to knowledge of the world devoid of any passion for justice and consequent action.”
He said: “The emptiness of meaning and lack of strength opened up by this knowledge, which rejects any ethical responsibility and any affection for the real good, is not harmless.”
“It not only takes away the strength for the desire for the good: by counterreaction, it opens the door to the aggressiveness of the forces of evil.”
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“These are the forces of reason gone mad, made cynical by an excess of ideology.”
The pope noted that “weariness” was a hallmark of contemporary society.
“We were supposed to have produced widespread well-being and we tolerate a market that is scientifically selective with regard to health,” he said.
“We were supposed to have put an insuperable threshold for peace, and we see more and more ruthless wars against defenseless people.”
“Science advances, of course, and that is good. But the wisdom of life is something else entirely, and it seems to be stalled.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis urged the elderly to help combat demoralization.