Meanwhile, in Australia, addressing 350,00 Roman Catholic pilgrims, not to mention millions watching on television, Pope Benedict XVI drew attention to the "spiritual desert" spreading through the world -- "an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair," being the product of de-spiritualization.
Anglicans would be right in saying it's not just us. It's one of those seasons when spiritual sails -- to extend the pope's metaphor -- dangle in exhaustion, waiting for a breeze. The quasi-secular liberals who operate Anglicanism talk as though some or all of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals -- e.g., "halve extreme poverty," "ensure environmental sustainability," "promote gender equality and empower women" -- are the tickets to renewal.
One problem arises: By and large, working through secular questions is what secular entities like governments equip themselves to do. Religious institutions, for all their great works of mercy, have a still larger function; namely, the presentation of reality -- the truths, permanent in character, about who these crazy humans are and what they need to do about it.
What they don't need to do is attempt to reorder reality on their own: the reality of relationships, the reality of joy and satisfactions achieved within a grand design not of human authorship. Or so Anglicans used to understand the matter before the Millennium Development Goals came along and sighs of joy arose in high places.