As the world bids a final adieu to Pope Benedict XVI and Conclave is called to elect a successor, I am reminded that the state of our world mandates the appointment of a successor who will display similar strengths of conviction. The theological and moral conviction displayed by Benedict in the Papal office should be a lesson for Christian leaders worldwide, and is needed by the next Catholic leader as well.
We live in a world that has shifted: In America, whereas we were once a nation that largely believed in God and lived according to Judeo-Christian principles of morality, we are now mired in the chaos and confusion of postmodernism, and with it, moral relativism. This shift in worldview has been embraced by much of the country, and I believe has led to the incremental but tangible decay of our culture.
Christian leaders have warned of the results for years, though unnoticed by much of the public (and even by church goers, who might have done more, and sooner, to stem the rising tides of relativism, secularism, and hedonism). Now, years of spiritual and moral drift have coalesced into an America that is on the brink of financial ruin and spiritual ruin. Excess and gluttony in most areas of life, and a culture in which "self is supreme" have resulted in isolation, loneliness, and spiritual emptiness for a great many people.
But into this quagmire of chaos and isolation, Pope Benedict was a shining beacon of hope for Catholics worldwide. I recall an introduction he penned as Cardinal to a 1984 book titled The Intellectuals Speak Out About God." The book was an ecumenical "tour de force" of Christian apologetics that provided reasoned, rational responses to attacks on Christian faith. The book was significant for many reasons, but perhaps most important was the breadth of its list of contributors: leaders ranging from then-president Ronald Reagan to Cardinal Ratzinger gave their endorsement, and urged people around the world to read and internalize the principles and defenses the book provided. Ratzinger, who in 2005 became Pope Benedict XVI, clearly, faithfully and with great predictability defended faith as the basis for life regardless of public thought.
In a world of moral relativism, he was courageously steadfast in defense of Biblical Christianity. Even before becoming Pope, he was a Christian apologist of the highest order, and we need more like him today. At a time when political correctness dictates that all religions are one and Christianity is the same as Islam, that marriage doesn't need to be between one man and one woman, or that unborn life is disposable, we need leaders with the theological backbone Pope Benedict XVI exhibited. Many elected leaders and citizens today reject the idea that God is real, that morality is fixed and absolute, and that sin will one day be judged. But this Pope (and all Christian leaders who uphold God's revelation) remind a prodigal world that if we abandon God and His Truth, there will be consequences - both in this life and the life to come.
I thank God for this pope and pray that the Conclave will exhibit similar fortitude in its choice of a successor. The world needs Catholic – and overall Christian - leadership that, like Pope Benedict, will stand firmly but compassionately for Christian orthodoxy despite the crashing waves of public opinion.