“Without Christ there is no true humanism” – The Pope – Urbi et Orbi (Osservatore Romano – January 1st, 1970)
It is almost amazing to notice again and again how seemingly well-educated men like the Pope abase themselves from time to time by expressing such statements as above. One would hardly believe the press agencies until one – at last – has got the official weekly edition in English of the Osservatore Romano.
And, mark you, the Pope really said those things, apparently ignoring the aims and ideas of two thirds of mankind. And he adds:
“He (the Christ-less humanist) lacks the moral strength which makes him really a man; he lacks the capacity to judge the hierarchy of values”.
As though the Pope has never heard of Socrates, or Zarathustra, or Confucious, or Buddha. Or in modern times of Jaurés, Nansen, Huxley or Russell. Why would he feel compelled to add to the strength of faith by degrading the belief of humanists? Surely we know that no moral conviction can guarantee human virtues, but how can one think that the catholic faith could provide an exception in this regard? Quite naively (or not?) the Pope declares:
“A brief relaxation on what the history of yesterday and today teaches us would be enough to convince us that human virtues, developed without the Christian charism, can degenerate into their contradictory vices.”
Of course, they can! But it is suggested that they are particularly bound to do so if they are not supported by the Christian faith. Are they? What does history teach us about virtues? Is it difficult to ascertain that. Anyhow, I content myself with stating that in many periods the catholic church not only incidentally but systematically denied and endangered human virtues like tolerance, respect for human life and freedom of thought. It simply burnt “Christ-less humanists” like Giordano Bruno and made alliances with Christian tyrants and exploiters.
No one would think of evoking these memories in a period of laboriously growing and for that matter highly essential understanding between people of various creeds in an endangered world. But if we humanists are supposed to contribute to such a better understanding, e.g. by means of our relations with the Secretariat for Non-Believers, the least we expect is that we are not insulted with regard to the essence of our conviction: i.e. that man – even if he is “Christ-less” can contribute to seeking a humane world.
Statement by Prof. Dr J.P. van Praag – 1970
'The Pope's message (1970)', Humanists International, Board of Directors, 1970