When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke just before the conclave that would see him elected Pope, he criticised what he saw as a ‘dictatorship of relativism that does not recognise anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consist solely of one’s own ego and desires.’ In identifying the increasing overreach of this particular world view the soon-to-be Holy Father was identifying the cause of Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarre claim that Facebook can replace the Church.
We live in an age where people are restless. Debt ensures that many simply ‘just about manage’, terrorism is gripping the pulse of the nation, and a goldfish would represent us better than most of our elected MPs. People are looking for truth, something that will provide us not only with comfort but with answers, and this can be found within the Catholic Church. Let’s look at it in the broadest way: the Church has a collection of teachings, the Catechism, whilst Facebook has, well, precisely.
Despite claims to the contrary, the Catholic Church has an inherently universal nature. When Jesus Christ was crucified, he exclaimed that ‘this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for the many, for the remission of sins’ (Matthew 26:28.) It is this value, that Christ and therefore the Church should be accessible to everybody, which the early Catholics internalised, and is one which modern Catholics are duty bound to express.
And yet these unique claims are constantly being undermined by a secular relativist culture. A culture that whispers in the ear of its subjects ‘you don’t need to worry…just buy the new iPhone and you’ll be happy’ or ‘you are the most important person, do whatever you want whenever you want’ or ‘who needs church when you can have Facebook?’ Instead of it being made abundantly clear that an objective truth is far better than a subjective hypothetical, news outlets and public figures preach the value of an anything goes approach.
Of course, on certain issues, it is not easy to accept the Catholic Church; it is often difficult to embrace a Church veiled in the counter-cultural, and so easy to turn instead to Facebook. Allow us, then, to consider the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who had anticipated such an issue: ‘the Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life.’ This is what, at the very core of their being, people are truly yearning for.
In an age of terror, of unease, of commercialisation, people call to be respected as the autonomous beings that they are. We must embrace that it is the Catholic Church, and not Facebook, that can provide this radical difference. If we do not, Zuckerberg’s plan for the Church of Facebook may well come to fruition.