Catholic scholar Daniel J. Mahoney has written a book entitled The Idol of Our Age: How the Religion of Humanity Subverts Christianity. It argues that the humanitarian notion of compassion has displaced the Christian understanding of compassion, grounded in Divine Mercy and Christian love.
From Chandler Lasch’s review, “Why ‘The Idol of Our Age’ Resonates with Readers“:
The humanitarian version of compassion is, Mahoney said, motivated by a desire to be nice to other people and understand their perspectives. While these are admirable goals, this compassion is clearly different from the biblical concept of divine mercy. “Compassion without a rooting in principle and a call to a change in behavior can lead to an abandonment of moral truth, and Christianity can become about ‘cheap grace’ way too easily,” Mahoney explained. “The modern sensibility is to identify forgiving and forgetting without a need for repentance. This also has a political dimension, and identifies Christianity with a kind of softness and relativism.”
In a review of the book, Rémi Brague, a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris and the University of Munich, addresses this substitution of humanitarian compassion for divine mercy in writing, “Christ said: ‘Ye are the salt of the earth, love your enemies.’ The new humanitarian religion says: ‘Ye should be the sugar of the Earth, you have no enemies…’ The new idol is all the more dangerous [in] that it apes Christian charity and tries to replace it.”
In his book, Mahoney writes that Francis has left the Church “divided and vulnerable to an unthinking political correctness,” and critiques his opposition to capital punishment. Though Francis opposes abortion, his understanding of mercy seems to prevent him from speaking out against it when it is difficult to do so, preferring to condemn what is considered evil in leftist circles. In fact, “Pope Francis has recently said that life imprisonment is just as immoral as capital punishment,” Mahoney said. “I think that does not reflect Christian judgement. The Biblical tradition makes clear that it’s possible for human beings to reject God’s love and grace, and Hell is a real possibility, but the humanitarian logic would lead to absolute rejection of punishment.”
Mahoney says that humanitarianism is “the secular religion of our day.” And he shows, with scholarly thoroughness, that this religion is quite different from Christianity, even though many Christians have been unwittingly following it. He further argues that humanitarianism can have toxic social and political effects.