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We should all be concerned by the news of the cancellation of a papal visit to a Rome university after students and faculty threatened to demonstrate against the pope.
The rector of the Sapienza University in Rome had invited the Holy Father to speak at the school’s opening of the academic year on Jan. 17. Those who opposed the visit did so because they claimed the pope is “opposed to science.”
Beyond the obvious factual inaccuracy of that assertion, this incident is a stark reminder of the new radical laicism that is progressively expanding in Europe and beyond. In this new way of thinking, the Church’s role as moral beacon of society should disappear; its voice should be ignored and, when possible, suppressed.
Those with this ideology claim to exalt freedom and call for tolerance but, as this incident shows, it often leads to an attitude of intolerance and totalitarianism that prevents dialogue and negates respect and the freedom of speech of those who hold differing views.
This sad incident gives new relevance to the famous Regensburg speech in which the Holy Father stressed the need for a dialogue in our culture about the relationship of faith and reason. “When reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it,” the pope said then, “disturbing pathologies of religion and reason ... necessarily erupt.”
With this pope, himself a renowned scholar, the Church is profoundly convinced of the urgency of engaging the culture in a serious conversation about the destiny of society. Either God and natural law are accepted as guiding principles of moral behavior or, as the radical forces of laicism proclaim, they are to be relegated to the realm of the subjectivity and away from any public influence in society.
The outcome of that dialogue will affect us and our children for generations to come. In fact, it will decide the future of our civilization. The Sapienza fiasco only reinforces the need to continue the conversation.