Secularism Needs Christianity, Says Vatican Official

Bishop Crepaldi: If Reason Doesn’t Open to Faith, It Absolutizes Itself

BOLOGNA, Italy, FEB. 2, 2006 ( Secularism is not simple acceptance of religion “as a private event, as a sect in the market of religious sentiments or as a vague and generic mysticism,” says a Vatican official.

These “three attitudes,” observed Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, “deny a public dimension to religion.”

The Vatican official expressed this viewpoint last Saturday in a lecture on “Secularism According to J. Ratzinger, Benedict XVI,” delivered at the School of Sociopolitical Formation at the Bologna-based Veritatis Splendor Institute.

The prelate stressed that “if reason does not open itself to faith, it absolutizes itself.”

“Absolute laicism or secularism become faith,” he said. “Therefore, it is not true secularism but arrogance of reason, which is transformed into arrogance of indifference.”

This idea of secularism engendered the thought that politics and the state should have nothing to do with the truth, but only with rational argumentation according to correct procedures, said the secretary of the Vatican dicastery.

Rejecting reason

“By rejecting Christianity, the Western state also rejected reason which Christianity carried within itself,” said Bishop Crepaldi, 58. And “by rejecting God, it gives itself to the gods” because “when man subtracts himself from God, the gods crash down on him.”

The bishop explained that Christianity did not join any of the myths that abounded in the religious panorama of the age, but with the truth of the “Logos,” with the God of the philosophers, and in so doing assumed in itself the topic of truth.

“The Christian God is not, however, only truth but also love,” he said. “But the fact that he is love does not eliminate his being truth.”

The bishop lamented the emergence of a “dictatorship of relativism, which leads to the nihilism of technology” and “decrees the untenability of a secularism separated from transcendence.”

“True secularism,” he insisted, “is the one that not only admits or tolerates transcendence but understands its necessity and promotes it.”

“Only a secularism that does not exclude transcendence can be truly secular,” assuming at least the postulate of creation, that is, of an “intelligent design that governs the world,” he stressed.


Observing that the Christian faith holds that “only creative reason … can truly show us the way,” Bishop Crepaldi said that secularism should allow or better desire “that Christianity spread this conviction in the culture.”

“Transcendence is therefore both an exigency of secularism itself and of the assessment of the public role of religion,” he continued. “It is the condition for secularism to be able to preserve itself from the temptations of the dictatorship of relativism.”

Bishop Crepaldi concluded affirming that “opening itself indiscriminately to all that is external, without any more confidence in itself and without counting on its connection with Christianity, the West can no longer integrate anything, not even itself.”

Thus “the West cannot allow itself to demolish the bridges with Christianity,” the prelate contended. “Secularism is not possible without Christianity.”

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