The Soft Tyranny of Sentimentalism
A Church rooted in the truth is one that will dare to teach the faith throughout the ages, rather than allow the ages to instruct the faith.
The notion of a "dictatorship of relativism" is the blunt recognition that the subtle and not-so subtle pressure to conform to the age—and to the world—has become an overheated, will-sapping climate that demands comprehensive and non-negotiable obedience to the Zeitgeist: a surrender of thought, a surrender of reason, of individualism, identity, and conscience. The Sentimentalism that D. H. Lawrence described as "the working off on yourself of feelings you haven't really got," demands the habitual redressing of the old man in the latest fashion, and bleakly denies that a new man may ever be put on. It sets one upon an unstable pathway, where stones are yanked out from under the feet because they suddenly do not fit, or are needed elsewhere to bolster another idea.
Childlike or Childish?
By repeating Benedict's exhortations to maturity, am I suggesting that the Sentimentalist is immature, or childlike? Well, yes and no. There is no shame in being immature unless one steadfastly insists on remaining so, simply because it is expedient. But to be childlike is different from being childish. The first denotes a quality of innocent trust that one cannot cultivate while committed to cynicism and doubt, which is where the Sentimentalist resides. Children are not cynics and they push doubt away with both hands, because they want to believe. They know that without belief, there is nothing to hold on to but time, which is an illusion.
The world is a dangerous and complicated place in which the Church, populated and served by those flawed and faulty humans who seek their redemption in the worship of something greater than themselves, survives wholly through grace of the Holy Spirit. But the fact that it does still survive should indicate, as mankind cannot, God's presence within it.
Ultimately, our lives within the world and within the Church are between ourselves and God. One can stave off Sentimentalism by resisting the urge to get so caught up in the forest of trends and ideas that one cannot locate the Tree of Life which is the Church, or be nourished by its fruit, which has largely built and sustained the very culture some now believe has grown in wisdom by sawing off its own roots.