A few years ago then-Cardinal Ratzinger took part in a public dialogue, later expanded into a book, with neo-Frankfurt School hot dog Juergen Habermas. In the course of the discussion Habermas was asked “how should believing and unbelieving citizens treat one another?” His answer was quite interesting in its way:
The understanding of tolerance in pluralistic societies with a liberal constitution demands that in their dealings with unbelievers and those of different faiths, believers should grasp that they must reasonably expect that the dissent they encounter with go on existing; at the same time, however, a liberal political culture expects that unbelievers, too, will grasp the same point in their dealings with believers…. The expectation that there will be continuing disagreement between faith and knowledge deserves to be called “rational” only when secular knowledge, too, grants that religious convictions that have an epistemological status that is not purely and simply irrational. And this is why, in the public political arena, naturalistic world views, which owe their genesis to a speculative assimilation of scientific information and are relevant to the ethical understanding of the citizens, do not in the least enjoy a prima facie advantage over competing world views or religious understandings.
So Habermas says that pluralistic society should actually be pluralistic and accept the equal legitimacy of religious views and naturalistic views (which, as he points out, involve a speculative and ethical extension of actual science and thus their own form of faith).
In present-day terms, that makes him squishy soft on theocracy, since “theocracy” is now held to include any substantive religious influence on public life. It’s good that he feels that way, at least from my point of view, but hard to see how such views can have much to do with reality. Their realization would require a social order and conventions of public discussion not based on any view whatever as to the nature of man, ethical obligation or the world. How can that be, though, when modern governments raise children, take on comprehensive responsibility for human relations and human welfare, and simply as governments must decide matters of life and death and demand loyalty sufficient to override personal interests and ideals?
I can’t help but think that statements like Habermas’s will function as part of a giant bait-and-switch. As usual in advanced liberalism there will turn out to be some minimal set of principles required for the system to work at all, the implications of which—as the implications of the sole view recognized as authoritative for all—will, in an age in which government gets involved in everything, eventually crowd out all other views.