In a lengthy interview in 1984 with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori (and published in the book The Ratzinger Report), Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) opined on the various crises plaguing the West and the Church at that time: the separation of sex from marriage and childbearing, the promotion of the homosexual and transgender agendas, radical feminism, pornography, leftists—including Catholic clerics—calling for the destruction of Western institutions, and liberal theologians undermining the Church from within, especially in regard to moral issues. (Sounds just like today….) The three solutions Cardinal Ratzinger proposed then—nonconformity to the world, conversion of individual hearts, and the need for saints—are just as valid today as they were in 1984.
The first solution proposed by Cardinal Ratzinger to the problems plaguing society and the Church four decades ago was the need for Christians to live like Christians and refuse to live according to the standards of the world. He declared:
“We have lost the sense that Christians cannot live just like ‘everybody else’. The foolish idea according to which there is no specific Christian morality is only an expression of the loss of a basic concept: what is ‘distinctly Christian’ with respect to models of the ‘world’….Today more than ever the Christian must be aware that he belongs to a minority and that he is in opposition to everything that appears good, obvious, logical to the ‘spirit of the world’, as the New Testament calls it. Among the most urgent tasks facing Christians is that of regaining the capacity of non-conformism, i.e., the capacity to oppose many developments in the surrounding culture.”
The second solution Cardinal Ratzinger proposed was the need for the inner conversion of each Christian so that he completely surrenders his will to Christ. In the 1980’s “liberation theology” had infected many Catholic clerics, especially in Latin America. According to liberation theology, the Church must work with leftist activists to tear down unjust societal structures, by revolution if necessary, in order to create heaven on earth. There were two main flaws with this theology. First, the real reason for unjust structures was the failure of Christians to live for Christ, not the structures themselves. Second, earthly means were being used to try to create supernatural ends. As Cardinal Ratzinger stated:
“[T]he danger of some theologies is that they insist on the immanentist perspective, the exclusively earthly standpoint of secularist liberationist programs. They do not and cannot see that from a Christian point of view, ‘liberation’ is above all and primarily liberation from the radical slavery which the ‘world’ does not notice, which it actually denies, namely, the radical slavery of sin.”
Later in the interview he added:
“It is also painful to be confronted with the illusion, so essentially un-Christian, which is present among priests and theologians, that a new man and a new world can be created, not by calling each individual to conversion, but only by changing the social and economic structures. For it is precisely personal sin that is in reality at the root of unjust social structures.”
Finally, and related to the second point, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the need for more saints to help solve the problems of the world and Church. In regard to saints being needed to reform the Church, he declared:
“Saints, in fact, reformed the Church in depth, not by working up plans for new structures, but by reforming themselves. What the Church needs in order to respond to the needs of man in every age is holiness, not management…And the Church, I shall never tire of repeating it, needs saints more than functionaries.”
In regard to saints being needed to attract people to Christianity, Cardinal Ratzinger stated:
“The only really effective apologia for Christianity comes down to two arguments, namely the saints the Church has produced and the art which has grown in her womb. Better witness is borne to the Lord by the splendor of holiness and art which have arisen in the community of believers than by clever excuses which apologetics has come up with to justify the dark sides which, sadly, are so frequent in the Church’s human history.”
Sky-high rates of out-of-wedlock births, divorces, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases. Rampant degradation of women, especially through the denigration of motherhood and the ubiquitousness of pornography. The radical LGBT agenda dominating the commanding heights of culture in the West, including among the ranks of prominent Catholic clerics and theologians. Leftists calling for the destruction of the structures of Western Civilization. The problems Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned back in 1984 have only gotten exponentially worse by 2023. If we can find the courage to finally implement the solutions proposed by Cardinal Ratzinger four decades ago—non-conformity to the world, a conversion of heart, and the need for more saints—we may be able to save West from leftist elites intent on destroying it.