2016-06-30
When in May 2004 Pope John Paul II warned U.S. bishops that America might yield to a "soulless vision of the world," the pontiff was sounding a theme he's often preached on. Below are excerpts from addresses and homilies in which he cautions against materialism, secularism, and more.

On Consumerism and Materialism

"Christ alone can free man from what enslaves him to evil and selfishness: from the frantic search for material possessions, from the thirst for power and control over others and over things, from the illusion of easy success, from the frenzy of consumerism and hedonism which ultimately destroy the human being." --Homily, March 1, 1998

"The spread of depressive states has become disturbing. They reveal human, psychological and spiritual frailties which, at least in part, are induced by society. It is important to become aware of the effect on people of messages conveyed by the media which exalt consumerism, the immediate satisfaction of desires and the race for ever greater material well-being. It is necessary to propose new ways so that each person may build his or her own personality by cultivating spiritual life, the foundation of a mature existence." -Address to conference on the theme of "Depression," November 14, 2003

"You who have been freed from the nightmare of Communist dictatorship, do not let yourselves be deceived by the false and dangerous dreams of consumerism. They also destroy the future." --Address in Romania, May 9, 1999

"I invited the young people to be increasingly men and women of strong interiority, ceaselessly contemplating, together with Mary, Christ and his mysteries. Indeed, this is the most effective antidote to the snares of consumerism to which people today are exposed. It is urgently necessary to counter the suggestion of the fleeting values of the visible world, broadcast by a certain type of media, with the lasting values of the spirit, which can only be achieved by entering once again into one's own interiority through contemplation and prayer." --General audience, May 7, 2003

On Secularism and Relativism

"An effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary Western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason's ability to know the truth which alone satisfies the human heart's restless quest for meaning. ... The Church in the United States is ....called to respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world." --Address to U.S. bishops, May 28, 2004

"...there is spreading in every part of the world a sort of practical and existential atheism which coincides with a secularist outlook on life and human destiny. The individual, "all bound up in himself, this man who makes himself not only the center of his every interest, but dares to propose himself as the principle and reason of all reality,"(12) finds himself ever more bereft of that "supplement of soul" which is all the more necessary to him in proportion -- as a wide availability of material goods and resources deceives him about his self - sufficiency. There is no longer a need to fight against God; the individual feels he is simply able to do without him." --Pastoral letter to priests, March 25, 1992

"Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned.

"This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread scepticism." --Encyclical "Fides et Ratio"

On Globalization

"However, if globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority. While acknowledging the positive values which come with globalization, the Church considers with concern the negative aspects which follow in its wake." --Address in Mexico City, January 22, 1999

On the Media

"And what should we say about the cultural globalization produced by the power of the media? Everywhere the media impose new scales of values which are often arbitrary and basically materialistic, in the face of which it is difficult to maintain a lively commitment to the values of the Gospel.

"The negative influences of the mass media, secularism, materialism and consumerism, compounded by the false promises of a few fundamentalist groups, have lured some Catholics into giving up their faith." --Address to bishops in India, June 3, 2003

On the "Culture of Death"

"A model of society appears to be emerging in which the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless: I am thinking here of unborn children, helpless victims of abortion; the elderly and incurably ill, subjected at times to euthanasia; and the many other people relegated to the margins of society by consumerism and materialism. Nor can I fail to mention the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty ...This model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the Gospel message." --Address in Mexico City, January 22, 1999

On Finding Meaning

"The task now is to present Jesus Christ to those whose faith has grown weak under the pressures of secularization and consumerism and who tend to regard the Church as just another of the many institutions of modern society that influence people's thinking and behaviour." --Address to the church in Oceania, November 22, 2001

"With the help of almighty God, your meeting will also be an additional way to encourage a change in the deepest reasons behind political decisions, so that instead of being guided by a hedonistic life-style and by selfish and excessive consumerism the hearts of men and women will always be attuned to a clear perception of their social responsibilities, even towards the poorest of their brothers and sisters who live in the most remote and forgotten regions of the world." --Address to the "Union Interparlamentaire," November 30, 1998

"...we perceive the search for meaning by our contemporaries, ...the desire of all men and women to understand the deep meaning of their lives, to respond to the fundamental questions on the origin and the end of life and to journey towards the happiness to which they aspire. Over and above the crises of civilizations and the forms of philosophical and moral relativism, it is up to Pastors and faithful to identify and examine the essential questions and aspirations of our contemporaries..." --Address, March 13, 2004


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