Benedict XVI and Relativism in the Life of the Church

Issue 1705

15 June 2017

The problem of relativism was dealt with on numerous occasions in Joseph Ratzinger’s intellectual life. Studies of his thought highlight its importance. In the practice of his Petrine ministry, we find a developed formulation of this theme. This article considers four occasions when Benedict XVI has addressed the issue. In two of them he gave original answers about truth at the service of unity, and in two others the criterion of discernment was for the good of the faithful and of the Church. There is a relativism that reaffirms the truths of faith in such a way that abstract definitions of anathemas do not end up “relativizing” mercy and salvation, making them dependent on compliance with a norm specified in minute detail.