Helpless in the Vatican The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI

AFP

Part 4: Traumatic Experiences


Instead, he quickly embarked on a career as a theologian. In 1958, at the age of 31, he became a professor of dogmatic and fundamental theology. In 1962, he served as a theological consultant to the Second Vatican Council, where Ratzinger championed views that were both liberal and critical of the Vatican, views that advocated the individual freedom of a Christian and opposed the Roman Curia's claim to omnipotence. At the time, Ratzinger argued that the Church had "reins that are far too tight, too many laws, many of which have helped to leave the century of unbelief in the lurch, instead of helping it to redemption."

After the Council, Ratzinger, together with Hans Küng and Karl Rahner, was considered one of the reformers in the Church. In 1966, he brought his friend Küng to the University of Tübingen in southern Germany as a professor of dogmatic theology. In 1968, Ratzinger and 1,360 other theologians worldwide signed a resolution drafted by Küng, titled "For the Freedom of Theology."

In the same year, however, Ratzinger had a traumatic experience that explains his thoughts and actions to this day. During the 1968 revolt, he witnessed his students reviling the image of Christ on the cross as a "sadomasochistic glorification of pain" and chanting "Jesus be damned!" during one of his lectures. In a 1983 SPIEGEL interview, he said that it became clear to him in the lecture halls at Tübingen, then under the spell of the great Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, that the outcome of the Council had been the "opposite" of what had been intended.

Guardian of the Truth

For the 41-year-old cleric, the Tübingen experiences were a deep shock that changed him radically from a cosmopolitan theologian to a timid dogmatist. Since then, the unalterable, God-given truth has meant everything to him. For Ratzinger everything had to be subordinate to this truth.

Ratzinger also believed that the Catholic Church is the guardian of the absolute moral truth. As archbishop of Munich and Freising, Ratzinger had the motto "Cooperatores veritatis" ("Worker of Truth") embroidered onto his shoulder shawl. As Ratzinger often points out disdainfully, he believes that the notion that truth only reveals itself in fragments to people, including those who believe in God, and that truth is therefore not a fixed variable but takes on different forms in time and space, depending on culture and tradition, is nothing but condemnable "relativism."

In Ratzinger's world, man is more of an object than an active subject. Critics of this pope have noticed, again and again, that he comes across as distant and cold, even when he turns to people with deliberate affection. He completely lacks the charisma of palpable brotherly love that John Paul II exuded.

In 1981, John Paul II brought Ratzinger, then an archbishop who had already been elevated to the rank of cardinal, to Rome to head the CDF. At the pope's request, Ratzinger first turned his attention to Latin America. The Polish pope believed that leftist priests there were trying to lead the faithful astray into Marxist convictions. He pilloried the liberation theologian Leonardo Boff and condemned the movement's commitment, which was based on theology, to a Church of the poor.

Staunch Crusader

For more than two decades, Cardinal Ratzinger, from his office in Rome, kept watch to ensure that the faithful around the world -- including, in particular, the Church's functionaries, its priests and bishops -- toed the line. His soft gestures, shyness and high voice can be deceptive. In truth, Ratzinger is also a staunch crusader.

When Ratzinger became pope, he met with nothing but enthusiasm in the first few months of his papacy. Soon, however, he quickly became the target of criticism. His Regensburg speech in September 2006 provoked Islamists around the world to commit acts of violence against Christians. It was only with difficulty that the Church managed to smooth out the waves of outrage Benedict's words had triggered. Nevertheless, many still believed that it was all a misunderstanding, and that the learned professor had only expressed himself awkwardly when he said, quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman."

The next scandal came in January 2009, when the pope rehabilitated Holocaust denier Richard Williamson, an excommunicated bishop of the Society of St. Pius X, a reactionary faith group that Benedict XVI was determined to bring back into his church. It was all the more controversial because Benedict is German. For fear of a permanent rift, the pope risked the reputation of Catholicism worldwide.

When Benedict XVI visited Israel a few months later, a trip that was only made possible after a number of pretexts and explanations, his appearance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial was sharply criticized as being "almost sterile," "unemotional" and simply "disappointing." Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau had expected to see more human sympathy for the suffering of murdered Jews. Instead, he said, the pope's speech was "devoid of any compassion, any regret, any pain over the horrible tragedy." He also criticized the pope for not using the phrase "6 million Jews" in relation to the number of Holocaust victims.

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Norberto_Tyr 04/07/2010
1. We do not have to pick on the Pope just because he is German
Unfortunately all this corruption and corrosion affected the church as it affects everything. Polansky is in gaol in his Swiss chalet, and there are numerous cases of pedophilia outside the church. The issue is more general. For example there is the industry of sex tourism; today a conservative paper will show photographs in the main page that would be considered pornographic 20 years ago. The truth, is that the West (whatever this means today, not Christianity any more) have lost its moral compass, it has been utterly subverted, and the Church is not an exception. I am not a moralist, I believe that an adult have their own right on his / her sexuality; the issue here is about minors, education, mass media, the right of the parents to educate their own children in the way they want to be educated. It is clear that this is impossible today due to peer pressure, the sate educational system, and fundamentally, mass media permeating all. We all have a right to live with the people we want surrounding us. Why ? Because this is the only way we can educate our kids in the way we want to be educated. But, this is impossible now, the state chooses the people we MUST live with based on the obscure and fallacious argument of ‘multiculturalism’. In the past, believing that Jesus Christ was God was the main tenet of the Western society, today this is irrelevant, the principal mantra is multiculturalism. This is wrong. If I want to educate my children as Christians, it is very difficult if my neighbors are atheists mocking about the Virgin Mary’s virginity, Christmas (Santa Claus, a Coca Cola advertising), and the Holy Spirit. It is very difficult to ask our teenagers to be chaste if their neighbors and ‘friends’ run sexy parties every week, and the TV, movies (‘I like to movit movit…’), and the whole mass media entertainment actively encourages them in the opposite direction with the complicity of the secular environment imposing the use of prophylactics and sexual education in the manner and WHEN they decide. There are serious studies proving that early ‘sexual education’ greatly reduces the age of the first sexual experience in kids (average). The real issue here is the obvious and colossal fact that we cannot place the fox with the chickens in the same cage. It does not matter how much education in tolerance we give to the incumbents, it is nature, it is as simple and natural as it is sex. The problem, as things are now, is that the fox, if he is expelled, will cry foul and appeal to the sacrosanct MULTICULTURALISM to avoid having to go and hunt (and be hunted) by himself.
sribeiro 04/07/2010
2. Should I continue to think of you as credible?
I signed Der Spiegel newsletter under advice of a Professor, who told me this was a credible and important newspaper because of its good journalism. Sadly, I find it very difficult to see this in previous week’s news on the Catholic Church and the Pope and the sexual abuses question. In fact, each day you have a new text on the subject that gives the impression that Catholic Church is the meanest institution on earth and that the Pope is the devil in person. If this was the only information source I had, it would seem like the whole world is against the Church and the Pope is some kind of a mafia chief felt in disgrace within its organization and that he will be replaced anytime… In fact, haven’t been able to find in this newspaper one text – only one – presenting the Catholic Church’s and the Pope’s defence, point of view or even an independent study on the issue as to let your readers know the other side of the story or just plain facts on child abuse worldwide and over the years; percentage of catholic priest involved in these cases; what this Pope has in fact done and is doing in order to address the problem, etc.. I find it difficult to believe you do think these problems are only felt within the Church, or mainly in the Church – DS journalists do know better. Then why, if I may ask, this one-sided, inequitable, way of presenting the news on this subject? I’ll have to go back to my Professor and discuss this with him – is DS really reliable? Should I take it for granted that the news you publish are in fact news… or just opinion articles, and not what democratic free societies consider news (even if formally they look like news, and are put in the news, not opinion, section)?
plotinus 04/07/2010
3. ...unless they make him an offer he can't refuse
Zitat von sribeiroI signed Der Spiegel newsletter under advice of a Professor, who told me this was a credible and important newspaper because of its good journalism. Sadly, I find it very difficult to see this in previous week’s news on the Catholic Church and the Pope and the sexual abuses question. In fact, each day you have a new text on the subject that gives the impression that Catholic Church is the meanest institution on earth and that the Pope is the devil in person. If this was the only information source I had, it would seem like the whole world is against the Church and the Pope is some kind of a mafia chief felt in disgrace within its organization and that he will be replaced anytime… In fact, haven’t been able to find in this newspaper one text – only one – presenting the Catholic Church’s and the Pope’s defence, point of view or even an independent study on the issue as to let your readers know the other side of the story or just plain facts on child abuse worldwide and over the years; percentage of catholic priest involved in these cases; what this Pope has in fact done and is doing in order to address the problem, etc.. I find it difficult to believe you do think these problems are only felt within the Church, or mainly in the Church – DS journalists do know better. Then why, if I may ask, this one-sided, inequitable, way of presenting the news on this subject? I’ll have to go back to my Professor and discuss this with him – is DS really reliable? Should I take it for granted that the news you publish are in fact news… or just opinion articles, and not what democratic free societies consider news (even if formally they look like news, and are put in the news, not opinion, section)?
The pope *is* a mafia chief, but he won't be replaced anytime soon. .
endovelico 04/07/2010
4. Why?
Catholic priests come often from very strict families, where sex is, at best, an undesirable subject. Future priests often repress their sexuality beyond what would be advisable. Once they grow up and become priests this excessive sexual repression means that they have never dealt properly with their sexuality. In many cases, sooner or later, this will lead to adults trying to "fix" their unsolved sexuality by focusing on the age group which should have had their attention when they were children or teenagers. Child molesting is not a consequence of priest celibacy, but of excessive sexual repression as youngsters. It's a cultural problem which has no quick solution. And the question is: would normal children, with a normal sexuality, ever become interested in becoming priests in a Church which sees sexuality as disgusting? If not, then I'm afraid child molesting is going to remain a problem for the Catholic Church.
goliah 04/07/2010
5. This church has no future...
"The waves of accumulating scandal engulfing the roman catholic church will look a mere trifle compared to the 'perfect storm' that is shortly coming. For these growing, worldwide sexual scandals and endemic institutional corruption, having destroyed virtually any remaining 'moral' authority or presumption to understand human nature, are just setting the stage for the 'churches' worst nightmare: the questioning of it's very origins! And that has already begun on the web. Not by any atheist ravings, but with first wholly new interpretation for 2000 years of the Gospel and moral teachings of Christ. Redefining everything from the nature of faith to the Resurrection, for the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must now measure for itself, the reality of a new claim to revealed truth, a moral tenet not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief!* This is not reformation but revolution. We may very well come to 'remember' the church as two thousands years of hubris, theological self deception, retailing a counterfeit copy of revealed truth. Check it at: http://www.energon.org.uk "*
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