The Vatican today published extracts of unscripted remarks Pope Benedict XVI made on Monday in which he warned against a culture which “uses morality as a mask to confuse and destroy” and disguises falsehood “as truth and information.”

As is often the case, Benedict XVI’s most pithy and lucid comments are made when he speaks off-the-cuff, when he can once again return to the role of a professor, and this was no exception.

Speaking in the basilica of St. John Lateran, where he inaugurated a Rome diocesan congress dedicated to the sacrament of baptism, the Holy Father first of all addressed the second of three baptismal renunciations: “Do you renounce the lure of evil?”

The Pope stressed that this renunciation in the early Church referred to the rejection of “a certain kind of culture”, one that involved brutal killing as a form of entertainment. Baptism, therefore, fundamentally means “freeing oneself from that culture,” he said.

But he also stressed that today “we see cultures in which the truth does not count, in which all that counts is the spirit of calumny and destruction; a culture which does not seek goodness;  a culture which uses its morality as a mask to confuse and destroy.

“To this culture, in which falsehood is disguised as truth and information, to this culture which seeks only material wealth and denies God, we say 'no'", he said.

Referring to the first renunciation – “Do you renounce sin to live in the freedom of the children of God?” – the Pope said that today being Christian is viewed as “a kind of slavery and freedom is seen as emancipation from Christian faith, in the final analysis emancipation from God.”

“Yet God made Himself vulnerable ... because He loves us,” the Pope said, adding that “our first concern” must not be “to destroy His love” because to do so is to “go against our own selves and our own freedom".

The Pope also addressed common charges made against the Church and infant baptism: that it is a form of imposing a religion on them, and that it would it be better for them to follow a catechumenal journey before baptism.

But the Holy Father said “the true question” is actually: “is it right to give life in this world without having received consent?”. He continued: “I would say that it is possible and right to do so only if, along with life, we also give the guarantee that life, despite all the problems of the world, is good [and] protected by God.”

“Only the anticipation of the meaning can justify the anticipation of life,” the Pope said. “Therefore baptism as a guarantee of God's goodness, as an anticipation of meaning, as an anticipation of God's 'yes' which protects this life, justifies the anticipation of life.”