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Transport minister: Benedict XVI was right about relativism

John Hayes gives a speech to the Conservative party conference in 2011 (Getty)

A member of the British government has cited Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on “the dictatorship of relativism”.

John Hayes, who is Minister of State at the Department of Transport, was speaking at an event organised by the think tank ResPublica, as part of their Backing Beauty project.

In his speech, Hayes said that we should value beauty because “Truth is an absolute. And beauty the means by which it is revealed to us in its most comprehensible form.”

However, he said, “We have lost our faith in beauty, because we have lost our faith in ideals. As Pope Benedict lamented: ‘We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as definitive and has as its highest value one’s own ego and one’s own desires.’”

Hayes said that he wanted “to challenge the character of what passes for acceptable design in much road and rail construction of recent times.”

Much of the ugliness of modern art and architecture, he said, comes from “the Nietzschean idea that the past is irrelevant and that we can create our own value system. It is not for nothing that the ‘hero’ of Ayn Rand’s despicable book The Fountainhead is an architect.”

Hayes said that as a transport minister, he wanted to prioritise beauty, and would be setting out plans to make sure roads and railways would exhibit “Beauty at every turn, every stop.”

Hayes, a member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, is an Anglican. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 and has served as a junior minister in various departments since 2010.

Benedict XVI’s comments on the “dictatorship of relativism” were made when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in a homily to his fellow cardinals before entering the 2005 conclave which elected him Pope.