From Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics (New York: Crossroad, 1988) pp. 147-151.
The state is not the whole of human existence and does not embrace the whole of human hope. Men and women and their hopes extend beyond the thing that is the state and beyond the sphere of political activity. This does not only apply to a state that is Babylon but to any and every state. The state is not the totality: that takes the load off the politician’s shoulders and at the same time opens up for him or her the path of rational politics. The Roman state was false and anti-Christian precisely because it wanted to be the totality of human capacity. In that way it claimed what it could not achieve; and in that way it distorted and diminished men and women. Through the totalitarian lie it became demonic and tyrannical. Getting rid of the totality of the state has demythologized the state and thereby liberated men and women as well as politicians and politics.
But when Christian faith, faith in man’s greater hope, decays and falls away, then the myth of the divine state rises up once again, because men and women cannot renounce the totality of hope. Even when such promises dress themselves up as progress and monopolize the concept of progress and of progressiveness, nevertheless considered historically they are a going back behind the Christian thing that is new, a turning back on the scale of history. And even when they proclaim as their goal the complete liberation of mankind and the elimination of all domination, they stand in contradiction to the truth of man and in contradiction to his or her freedom, because they force people into what they can achieve themselves. This kind of politics that declares the kingdom of God to be the result politics and distorts faith into universal primacy of the political is by its nature the politics of enslavement; it is mythological politics.
To this, faith opposes the standard of Christian reason, which recognizes what man is really capable of creating as the order of freedom and can be content with this because it knows that man’s greater expectation lies hidden in God’s hands. Rejecting the hope of faith is at the same time rejecting the standard of political reason. To renounce the mythical hopes of a society free of domination is not resignation but honesty that maintains men and women in hope. The mythical hope of a do-it-yourself paradise can only drive people into fear from which there is no escape; fear of the collapse of their promises and of the greater void lurks behind it; fear of their own power and its cruelty.
So the first service that Christian fait performs for politics is that it liberates men and women from the irrationality of the political myths that are the real threat of our time.
It is of course always difficult to adopt the sober approach that does what is possible and does not cry enthusiastically after the impossible; the voice of reason is not as loud as the cry of unreason. The cry for the large-scale has the whiff of morality; in contrast limiting oneself to what is possible seems to be renouncing the passion of morality and adopting the pragmatism of the faint-hearted. But in truth political morality consists precisely of resisting the seductive temptation of the big words by which humanity and its opportunities are gambled away. It is not the adventurous moralism that wants itself to do God’s work that is moral, but the honesty that accepts the standards of man and in them does the work of man. It is not refusal to compromise but compromise that in political things is the true morality.