Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa has an interesting post examining an intellectual influence on the Pope:
His name is Alberto Methol Ferré. An Uruguayan from Montevideo, he often crossed the Rio de la Plata to visit his friend the archbishop in Buenos Aires. He died in 2009 at the age of eighty. A book-length interview of 2007 has been reprinted in Argentina and now also in Italy, of capital importance for understanding not only his vision of the world but also that of his friend who went on to become pope:
In presenting the first edition of this book in Buenos Aires, Bergoglio praised it as a text of “metaphysical profundity.” And in 2011, in the preface to another book by a close friend of both men – Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, the Uruguayan secretary of the pontifical commission for Latin America, the highest ranking layman at the Vatican – Bergoglio once again offered his gratitude to the “brilliant thinker of the Rio de la Plata” for having laid bare the new dominant ideology after the fall of the Marxism-inspired forms of messianic atheism.
“Hedonistic atheism and its neo-Gnostic trappings have become the dominant culture, with global reach and diffusion. The constitute the atmosphere of the time in which we live, the new opium of the people. The ‘sole form of thought,’ in addition to being socially and politically totalitarian, has Gnostic structures: it is not human, it recycles the different forms of absolutist rationalism with which the nihilistic hedonism described by Methol Ferré expresses itself. It dominates the ‘nebulized theism,’ a diffuse theism without historical incarnation; even at its best it produces Masonic ecumenism.”
In the book-length interview that has now been republished, Methol Ferré maintains that the new atheism “has radically changed its face. It is not messianic, but libertine. It is not revolutionary in a social sense, but complicit with the status quo. It has no interest in justice, but in all that permits the cultivation of radical hedonism. It is not aristocratic, but has transformed itself into a mass phenomenon.”
“This is what happened with the Protestant Reformation, with Enlightenment secularism, and then with messianic Marxism. An enemy is defeated by taking the best of his intuitions and pushing them further.”
“The truth of libertine atheism is the perception that existence has an intrinsic destination of enjoyment, that life itself is made for satisfaction. In other words: the deep kernel of libertine atheism is a buried need for beauty.”
Of course, libertine atheism “perverts” beauty, because “it separates it from truth and from goodness, and therefore from justice. But – Methol Ferré warns – “one cannot redeem libertine atheism’s kernel of truth with an argumentative or dialectical procedure; much less can one do so by setting up prohibitions, raising alarms, dictating abstract rules. Libertine atheism is not an ideology, it is a practice. A practice must be opposed with another practice; a self-aware practice, of course, which means one that is equipped intellectually. Historically the Church is the only subject present on the stage of the contemporary world that can confront libertine atheism. To my mind only the Church is truly post-modern.”
There is a stunning harmony between this vision of Methol Ferré and the program of his disciple Bergoglio’s pontificate, with his rejection of “the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be imposed with insistence” and with his insistence on a Church capable of “making the heart burn,” of healing every kind of illness and injury, of restoring happiness.
Libertine Atheism? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, does sum up a perennial philosophy in this Vale of Tears. It is also a deeply unsatisfying one, which is why those who embrace la dolce vita can often be fertile ground for evangelization, just as they can be suckers for substitute religions.