|Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J.|
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the boldest challenge yet offered to the cultural relativism that
currently threatens to erode the contents of Catholic faith. According to a widely prevalent view, religious truth consists in an ineffable encounter with the transcendent. This encounter may be expressed in symbols and metaphors, but it cannot be communicated by propositional language, since it utterly surpasses the reach of human concepts. All statements about revelation, moreover, are said to be so culturally conditioned that they cannot be transferred from one age or one cultural region to another. Every theological affirmation that comes to us from the past must be examined with suspicion because it was formulated in a situation differing markedly from our own. Each constituency must reexperience the revelation of God and find language and other symbolic forms appropriate to itself.
Mystical empiricism of this type inevitably devalues specific beliefs. It makes light of the efforts of previous generations to formulate the faith in creedal and dogmatic assertions. In this perspective the traditional view that a dogma is a divinely revealed truth is no longer taken seriously. The struggle to maintain doctrinal consensus in the universal Church is viewed as a threat to the creativity of local churches.
This sophisticated relativism, widespread though it may be among intellectuals, has had only limited impact on the mass of the Catholic faithful and is firmly rejected by the hierarchical leadership of the Church. Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who are the intellectual equals of any other religious thinkers of our day, have consistently opposed this trend. In their view divine revelation can be formulated, at least in part, in irrevocably and universally true creedal and dogmatic propositions. Recognizing the need to defend the doctrinal patrimony of the Church from present-day skepticism and relativism, many leaders of the Church became convinced that the time had come for a new universal catechism.
Link (here) to the lengthy piece by the Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles at First Things