The Challenge of Secularism by Allan Panozza


What is secularism? Webster's dictionary defines the term "Secular" as "...a system of doctrines and practices that rejects any form of religious faith and worship..."We are living in an age in which there seems to be an increasing emphasis on the culture of "if it feels right-then do it", or "what is in it for me"? Our Holy Father, John Paul II has on many occasions spoken out strongly against the dangers of the secularist society. Legal abortion, voluntary euthanasia, and the promulgation of homosexuality as an acceptable form of alternative lifestyle, are all expressions of a culture that has largely surrendered to worldly ways, and is critical or doubting of religious truths.

In a recent report issued by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in my own country (Australia) , Article 18 refers to "Freedom of Religion and Belief". Witchcraft, paganism and even atheism are defined as religions. It is also recommended that all laws concerning blasphemy, paganism, sorcery and witchcraft be struck out.

One only has to follow the daily news to see how elements within our society and even the institutions that we presume to be above reproach can succumb to the temptation of "me first - me second, and me again!." There has been much in the world press during recent times concerning the alleged underhand dealings by some members of the International Olympics Committee. What a sad example it is when individuals in positions of trust, and with responsibility for the integrity of a cherished institution, choose to put their own greed for personal gain before the well being of the majority.

The Olympic motto "faster, higher, swifter" seeks for excellence in the arena of sporting achievement. Youth from all over the world aspire to the hope that one day they may represent their own countries at the highest level of sport. What sort of message is being relayed to them by these recent revelations? With such examples of graft and corruption, coupled with the growing use of drugs by top athletes to improve sporting prowess, how can we expect the young people of the world to strive for honesty, integrity, and concern for the well-being of others?

the subtle danger we face as Christians is that when the going gets really tough, we sometimes forget that Jesus has promised to always remain with us. "And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Matt.28:20). Some 1200 years before Christ, after their liberation from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites entered the wilderness en route to the Promised Land. When food and water ran out they quickly lost faith in Yahweh and rebelled against the leadership of Moses "Who will give us meat to eat?" they said. Think of the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic! (Num 11:4) A return to slavery for them was preferable to believing in the promise of God. "...And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed..." (Ex.3:17).

At every International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Council meeting at Vatican City, members are required to present a report on the situation of the Renewal in their own regions. When I first attended a Council meeting, I listened to other members reporting on the various trials which the Church and the Renewal were suffering in their particular countries. When it was my turn to make a report, I remember reflecting that I came from a country that is blessed with great freedom and wealth. Nevertheless, as a Charismatic Catholic it is my belief that in some ways the difficulties which we experience in Australia where I live are more insidious than in many places where outright religious persecution is taking place.

In our affluent society we face all of the "isms" - secularism, materialism, consumerism, individualism - all the "isms' of self gratification and the pursuit of worldly reward. More and more people seem to find fulfillment through what has come to be known as "New Age Philosophy", the bottom line of which can be summed: "I have the power within me - I do not need God in MY life!" Jesus therefore becomes irrelevant as Lord and Savior.

St. Paul warns us "The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes;" (2 Tim 4:3). He also assures us "You are well aware then, that anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be attacked;" (2 Tim 3:12).

I believe that the primary grace of the Baptism of the Spirit is a desire for deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else flows out of that. Be assured my brothers and sisters that Jesus and you together cannot fail. Be assured that despite the onward march of secularism, the Catholic Church will remain the arbiter of truth, and that Charismatic Renewal within the Church will flourish as a means of grace and Holy Spirit power, as we the people of God journey together into the new Millennium.


Allan Panozza represents Australia on the ICCRS Council. 1999 ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City