home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted April 11, 2006

Book: Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam: Joseph Ratzinger now Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera
Translated by Michael F. Moore
Basic Books, New York, 2006, pp. 159

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Can a civilization exist without any sense of the sacred? That is the question at the heart of Without Root, which was born of a dialogue between Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — and Marcello Pera, president of the Italian Senate.

On May 13, 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger addressed the Italian Senate on the state of the West. The day before, Marcello Pera gave a lecture at the Lateranese Pontifical University. Though the juxtaposition of the talks was pure chance, the two leaders arrived at strikingly similar conclusions about the spiritual, cultural, and political crisis facing the West. Together they developed their ideas into a book that challenged Europe to address its moral and cultural malaise. Now Without Roots takes on even more importance as a window into the mind of a pope, who, as George Weigel explains in his foreword to the American edition, “was elected, in part, because of his long experience with, and profound understanding of, the current crisis of European civilization.”

With Europe shaken by violence, terrorism, strained relations with the United States, immigration, and the rejection of the EU constitution in both France and the Netherlands, the issue of European identity has profound implications for the rest of the world. Bringing together their unique vantage points as leaders of Church and State, Cardinal Ratzinger and Marcello Pera challenge us to examine anew the fate of a civilization that has abandoned its spiritual roots. The question is urgent not only for the United States and Europe but fo all democratic cultures.

An Excerpt from the book:

By contrast to Europe’s denial of its religious and moral foundations, Asia’ s great religious traditions — especially the mystical component expressed in Buddhism – have been elevated as spiritual powers. The optimism in European culture that Arnold Toynbee could still voice in the early fifties sounds strangely antiquated today: “We are faced by the fact that, of the twenty-one civilizations that have been born alive and have proceeded to grow, thirteen are dead and buried; that seven of the remaining eighth, which is our own, may also have passed its zenith.” Who would repeat these same words today? Above all, what is European culture, and what has remained of it? Is European culture perhaps nothing more than the technology and trade civilization that has marched triumphantly across the planet? Or is it instead a post-European culture born on the ruins of the ancient European cultures?

There is a paradoxical synchrony in these developments. The victory of the post-European tecno-secular world and the universalization of its lifestyle and thinking have spread the impression — especially in the non-European countries of Asia and Africa — that Europe’s value system, culture, and faith — in other words, the very foundations of its identity — have reached the end of the road, and have indeed already departed from the scene. From this perspective, the time has apparently arrived to affirm the value systems of other worlds, such as pre-Colombian America, Islam, or Asian mysticism.

At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life, subjecting it to transplants that erase its identity. At the same time as its sustaining spiritual forces have collapsed, a growing decline in its ethnicity is also taking place.

Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future. Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present, as if they were taking something away from our lives. Children are seen as a liability rather than as a source of hope. There is a clear comparison between today’s situation and the decline of the Roman Empire. In its final days, Rome still functioned as a great historical framework, but in practice it was already subsisting on models that were destined to fail. Its vital energy had been depleted.

Table of Contents:

Relativism, Christianity, and the West
by Marcello Pera

The Spiritual Roots of Europe: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
by Joseph Ratzinger

Letter to Joseph Ratzinger
from Marcello Pera

Letter to Marcello Pera
from Joseph Ratzinger