Pope says world failed to learn lessons of 20th century
Reporting of Pope John Paul II's new book following Tuesday's Rome launch has focused on his disappointment that society has failed to turn its back on the forces of evil.
Summarising the message of Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums, Catholic News Service says the Holy Father is convinced that good has triumphed, but worries that not all the lessons have been learned.
It says he warns that despite the failed ideologies and tragic lessons of the 20th century modern society still acts as if it can determine good and evil without reference to God.
"If man can decide alone, without God, what is good and what is evil, then he can also decide to exterminate a category of human beings," the pope wrote.
The 228-page book was unveiled by the Italian publisher Rizzoli at Tuesday's press conference in Rome. It was due out in English in coming months.
Based on conversations between the pope and several Polish academics, the book is essentially a papal reflection on the ideological struggles that played out in Europe over the last 100 years and their significance for the 21st century.
He noted that Hitler used legal means to open the way to aggression against other European countries, the passage of racial laws, the creation of concentration camps and the introduction of the so-called "final solution" to eradicate the Jewish race.
The pope then connected those historical developments with worrisome signs in modern Europe and elsewhere, and he warned of a dangerous detachment from traditional moral and religious values.
"The most immediate association of ideas that comes to mind are the laws on abortion," he said.
Jewish groups expressed outrage after they felt he trivialised the suffering of the Holocaust by comparing it with abortion. But Catholics convinced that the killing of the unborn represents evil on a comparable scale, have remained unapologetic.
The Holy Father also speaks of a new type of totalitarianism that threatens basic human values by promoting moral permissiveness, abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulation, contraception and divorce, he said.
The pope said one egregious example was the recent legislative push to have homosexual unions recognised as an "alternative form of family."
After some Australian coverage of the book focused on his condemnation of gay unions, the Sydney-based Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby issued a statement yesterday insisting that "Lesbians and gay men have the same committed, loving and fulfilling relationships as everyone else" and that "for the Pope to call these relationships part of "an ideology of evil" reflects a lack of understanding and tolerance".
In new book, pope says society did not learn from 20th century (Catholic News Service 22/2/05)
Pope John Paul II: Memory and Identity - Personal Reflections (Rainbow Books - Australian distributor)
Memory and Identity: Personal Reflections (Amazon)
Mixed signals on Pope recovery (CathNews 23/2/05)
New Pope book hits Jewish sensitivities (ICathNews 21/2/05)
Pope tells media to promote truth, not trash (CathNews 22/2/05)
Vatican official urges effort to reach lapsed Catholics (CathNews 4/6/04)
Pope again encourages use of Internet for evangelisation (CathNews 18/2/04)
Vatican official urges advertising that promotes human dignity (CathNews 29/10/03)
64% in US use Internet for religious reasons (CathNews 19/5/04)
Pope says truth in media serves cause of peace (CathNews 26/3/03)
Pontiff slams gay marriages as evil (The Courier Mail/Reuters 24/2/05)
Pope's new book presented last night (Catholic News Agency 23/2/05)
Gay Activists Outraged by Pope's Comments on Gay Marriage (Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby 23/2/05)
Pope names Italian bishop as secretary-general of Vatican City State (Catholic News Service 22/2/05)
Pope uses closed-circuit TV to greet pilgrims at audience (Catholic News Service 23/2/05)
Pope addresses crowd through TV, asks to live a Lent of solidarity (Catholic News Agency 23/2/05)
Cardinal George Pell: Pope a 'living symbol of unity' (Catholic Weekly 27/2/05)
Frail Pope returns to work (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 23/2/05)
Pope holds 'virtual' general audience (The Advertiser 24/2/05)
Pope back at work (The Age 23/2/05)
For John Paul II, Communication Is Communion (Zenit 22/2/05)
24 Feb 2005