[The following three paragraphs were striken from the end of my earlier review of this book due to length restrictions. The beginning of the review, of which these three paragraphs form the concluding portion, appears immediately below this review.]
Cardinal Ratzinger is forthright in his pessimistic assessment of the time ahead. "The danger of a dictatorship of opinion is growing, and anyone who doesn't share the prevailing opinion is excluded, so that even good people no longer dare to stand by such nonconformists [i.e. Christians]. Any future anti-Christian dictatorship would probably be much more subtle than anything we have known until now. It will appear to be friendly to religion, but on the condition that its own models of behavior and thinking not be called into question." (153) The Church must attorn to the zeitgeist in this scheme. These themes are explored in Michael D. O'Brien's "Children of the Last Day" novels.
It is time for the faithful, Cardinal Ratzinger says, to form "vital circles." [T]here are great, vibrant new beginnings and joyful forms of Christian life that don't figure much statistically but are humanly great and have the power to shape the future." (143). "Particularly when one has to resist evil it's important to not to fall into gloomy moralism that doesn't allow itself any joy but really to see how much beauty there is, too, and to draw from it the strength needed to resist what destroys joy." (69)
In his autobiography, the novelist and historian Russell Kirk wrote, "Not by force of arms are civilizations held together, but by the threads of moral and intellectual belief. In the hands of the Fates are no thunderbolts: only threads and scissors." Throughout this book, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger shows that in most parts of the world that the Roman Catholic Church is the last defense against the decay of human civilization. By defending revelation and sacred tradition against the moral anarchy of the age, the Church withholds disorder of the soul and the commonwealth, the idolatry of man as god, and preserves man, as a creature of God, against transitory and often violent popular passion. The ambitions of those men who would bring about and celebrate her demise are dangerous. Implicit in Cardinal Ratzinger's words and lifetime service is the message that it is time for serious men of serious purpose to come to her defense.
There are so many fabulous insights in this book, and such honesty that it should be required reading for high school religion classes. Cardinal Ratzinger has really hit the nail on the head, giving all of us an inside view of the issues that are important to the Church. "In today's whirl of instant bliss, religion, too, is socially respectable only as a dream of happiness without tears, as a mystical enchantment of the soul. Perhaps the Church comes under heavier fire because she talks about sin and suffering and rectitude of life....Just one curious example - when it comes to the state, as soon as crimes begin to multiply and society feels its safety threatened, there is an immediate demand for tougher laws. In relation to the Church, whose laws are moral in nature, the exact opposite happens - there is a demand for further relaxation."