PALERMO, MAR 15, 2000 (ZENIT.org).- Yesterday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned some 1,500 persons against what might well be the gravest danger facing humanity at present: the destruction of the image of God, by reducing fatherhood to a merely biological phenomenon. The Bavarian Cardinal addressed a congregation gathered in the Cathedral of Palermo, as well as students of the Theology Faculty of Sicily, during the inauguration of the Third Diocesan Week of Faith.
Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who was invited for the occasion by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi of Palermo, said that God himself “willed to manifest and describe himself as Father.” “Human fatherhood gives us an anticipation of what He is. But when this fatherhood does not exist, when it is experienced only as a biological phenomenon, without its human and spiritual dimension, all statements about God the Father are empty. The crisis of fatherhood we are living today is an element, perhaps the most important, threatening man in his humanity. The dissolution of fatherhood and motherhood is linked to the dissolution of our being sons and daughters.”
However, there are examples, like Maximilian Kolbe and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who demonstrate how it is possible to live fatherhood and motherhood in the most real and profound sense, even without the biological aspect. The risk the Cardinal is concerned about, is intimately linked with our technological era. “At present, man has power over the world and its laws. He is able to dismantle this world and reassemble it.”
Cardinal Ratzinger spent some time reflecting on the “name of God.” “The Apocalypse speaks about God’s antagonist, the Beast. This animal does not have a name, but a number.”
In order to understand what this means, he recalled the dramatic experience of the concentration camps. “In their horror, they cancel faces and history, transforming man into a number, reducing him to a cog in an enormous machine. Man is no more than a function.”
This is a risk being repeated today. “In our days, we should not forget that they prefigured the destiny of a world that runs the risk of adopting the same structure of the concentration camps, if the universal law of the machine is accepted. The machines that have been constructed impose the same law. According to this logic, man must be interpreted by a computer and this is only possible if translated into numbers. The beast is a number and transforms into numbers. God, however, has a name and calls by name. He is a person and looks for the person.”
To have a name means to have the possibility of being called, it means communion. If through biotechnology man becomes a laboratory product, along with the biological he will lose the human and spiritual relation with his father and mother. Then the threat mentioned by Cardinal Ratzinger will become a dramatic reality.