Church: Pope Benedict XVI
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[Comment by Kwing Hung: Although Protestants do not agree fully with some doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, they are still part of the universal church of Christ. The strong pro-life stance of Pope Benedict XVI must be respected.]
The appearance of white smoke from the stack atop the Sistine Chapel signaled the election of a new pope after only four ballots—a fact that presumably indicated the election of one of the anticipated four frontrunners. Within the hour, the tolling of the Vatican’s bells gave way to the announcement and presentation of the new pope—Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Ratzinger had been understood to be the frontrunner as the cardinals entered their historic conclave. Labeled by the media as the Vatican’s “watchdog” for doctrine, Cardinal Ratzinger had played an important role as an intellectual and theological advisor to Pope John Paul II and as the Roman Catholic Church’s theologian charged with protecting the church’s authority and doctrine. Of course, anyone who carries these responsibilities is sure to acquire a list of wounded opponents and critics. In the case of the conservative Ratzinger, this was especially true, as the Cardinal Prefect had functioned for over two decades as an indefatigable defender of Catholic theology and moral teaching.
The early election of Ratzinger came after press reports indicated that he entered the conclave with at least 50 votes committed to his election. In this case, the old Vatican saying, “In a pope, out a cardinal,” was proved untrue. Though no one beyond the cardinals knows exactly what went on within the conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger emerged as the new pope after only two days of voting. By any measure, that was a remarkable achievement.
Observers quickly offered interpretations of Ratzinger’s election as pope. Predictions of a transitional papacy—Ratzinger is 78 years of age—were common. The long papacy of John Paul II casts an enormous shadow over any successor. Clearly, Pope Benedict XVI is unlikely to serve a term of any comparable length to that of his predecessor.
By all accounts, the theme of this papal election was continuity. Ratzinger was well understood to stand behind many of the most significant encyclicals and declarations of John Paul II. Indeed, Vatican observers routinely identified Ratzinger as the “hidden hand” of the last papacy. It was obvious that John Paul II placed great trust in Ratzinger—a fact hardly missed by his fellow cardinals.
Yet, if John Paul II was considered a conservative pope, Ratzinger is seen as a further shift to the right. That screeching sound you hear is the sound of liberal Roman Catholic theologians and activists seared and chastened by the election of the church’s most conservative leader as the next pontiff.
What are evangelicals to think of the new pope? By any measure, this is a difficult question, for it raises the entire universe of issues that stand between evangelical theology and the doctrines taught by the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, the papacy itself is a first-order issue of contention. Evangelicals, thankful for the last pope’s clear affirmation of human dignity and the objectivity of truth, must be relieved in some sense to see John Paul II followed by an ardent defender of the sacredness of human life, the integrity of marriage, and a commitment to truth. Yet, Ratzinger’s doctrinal conservatism will, of course, extend to the very issues most crucial to the evangelical/Roman Catholic divide.
Evangelicals rightly point to the papacy as an unbiblical office that, by its very nature, compromises the integrity of Scripture and invests an unbiblical authority in an earthly ecclesiastical monarch. Claims of papal succession, papal authority, and papal infallibility do nothing but widen the breach between evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church. The conservatism that leads Ratzinger to defend historic Catholic positions on abortion, euthanasia, and a host of other issues go hand-in-hand with his defense of the papacy, magisterial authority, and the evolving body of Catholic doctrine.
A theological advisor to the Second Vatican Council (along with the last pope), Ratzinger has written scathing critiques of the liberal proposals put forth by many contemporary Catholic theologians. As the Vatican’s doctrinal officer, he has taken disciplinary action against liberation theologians and others who have violated Catholic teaching. He has chastised Asian Catholic theologians for suggesting that Eastern religions may be as valid as Christianity, and he has been quick to defend the magisterium’s right to determine, define, and protect Catholic teaching.
Yet, there is no reason to believe that the election of Pope Benedict XVI will do anything to breach the divide between evangelicals and Roman Catholics on issues related to biblical authority, the Gospel, and a host of other essential theological questions. We hold no expectation that this pope holds views of justification and the Gospel that are any more harmonious with evangelical conviction than those held by his predecessors. Indeed, Ratzinger’s theological brilliance may be deployed in ways that will cause evangelicals even greater frustration.
In his previous writings, this new pope has indicated a clear and genuine understanding of what evangelicals believe. As a matter of fact, he may be the most well-informed pope in history, in terms of evangelical conviction and theological commitments. That is not to say that the pope is in any way sympathetic to those convictions. This much is clear—this papacy is likely to be both interesting and challenging.
One of the strange dimensions of this entire picture is the fact that evangelicals, concerned with the preservation of biblical truth and determined to defend biblical morality, will share much common ground with this new pope. In a sermon delivered to his fellow cardinals just two days prior to his election, Cardinal Ratzinger issued an eloquent and profound critique of postmodern relativism.
“How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many waves of thinking . . . The small boat of thought of many Christians has been tossed about by these waves—thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth,” he declared. As he continued, “We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain, and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
There is not one syllable in those statements with which evangelicals would not be in full and enthusiastic agreement. Indeed, Ratzinger’s writings reveal a keen theological mind that understands the contours of the postmodern crisis and signal a staunch defense of truth against a posture of relativism.
Similarly, in a lengthy interview published in 1985, Ratzinger went after liberal biblical critics who subvert the authority of Scripture. “Ultimately the authority on which these biblical scholars base their judgment is not the Bible itself but the [worldview] they hold to be contemporary. They are therefore speaking as philosophers or sociologists, and their philosophy consists merely in a banal, uncritical assent to the convictions of the present time, which are always provisional.”
Once again, evangelicals would be in fundamental agreement with that assertion.
Today’s evangelicals find themselves in a situation well described by J. Gresham Machen almost a century ago, when that great evangelical defender of the faith launched his attack on Protestant liberalism as a fundamentally new religion at odds with Christianity. Machen no doubt surprised many of his evangelical readers when he declared that evangelicals committed to the defense of the Gospel actually have more in common with orthodox Roman Catholics on issues such as the person of Christ and the Trinity than they would with their own liberal Protestant counterparts.
We should be chastened by the realization that so little has changed over the last century. Catholicism has undergone several significant transformations, but it still stands light years from clear biblical teachings such as justification by faith alone. If anything, the papacy is stronger than ever, bolstered by the long pontificate of John Paul II and now assumed by the energetic Benedict XVI.
All this will require that evangelicals think clearly, analyze carefully, and hold fast to our own theological convictions. We should be unashamed and unreluctant to state our agreement with this new pope in his analysis of the dangers of the postmodern challenge and in his defense of the sanctity of human life and the inviolability of marriage. In this regard, evangelicals, who rightly reject the papacy as an institution, find themselves nonetheless relieved that the vast energies of the Roman Catholic Church are not likely to be redirected in a way that is hostile to those shared convictions. But the institution of the papacy remains a great stumbling block, and this papacy will present its own challenges. Let’s hope that this generation of evangelicals is ready for this task.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Yesterday’s election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI is astonishing on both political and religious grounds. As head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office formerly known as the Inquisition, Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for defending Catholic teaching and punishing doctrinal dissidents. Essentially he was the Vatican’s top cop. His selection signals that church leaders want a disciplinarian to clean up some messes in the Roman Catholic Church.
The most obvious of these challenges will be restoring stability to an institution rocked by clerical sex-abuse scandals. But as one of the most prominent and highly published theologians over the past 40 years, he is also likely to address broader modern threats to religious belief. In a homily to commence the conclave on Monday, Cardinal Ratzinger specifically criticized Marxism, liberalism, libertinism, collectivism and atheism. He warned that, “We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goals one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
In his 24 years as the Vatican’s enforcer of the faith, Cardinal Ratzinger worked to restore abandoned traditions as an antidote to relativism. He wrote extensively about the need for beautiful liturgy and is an active proponent of bringing back the traditional Latin Mass that was suppressed after the revolutionary Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. One of the leading theologians at Vatican II, he is the only member of the existing hierarchy to consistently admit that its liberalizing reforms spun out of control. In 1982, he castigated reformers who “out of cowardice in face of the liberal public stood by fecklessly as faith was bit by bit traded off.”
Benedict XVI is likely not to be embraced by the mainstream media. He is more conservative than his predecessor. And unlike John Paul II, he is neither telegenic nor charismatic in public. However, he has important strengths the previous pope lacked. For example, while John Paul II had no interest in management duties of the papacy, the new pope is renowned as a skilled administrator.
One of the surprising aspects of the elevation of Benedict XVI is that the most liberal College of Cardinals in history elected the most conservative prelate among them to be their leader. This reflects an institutional self-evaluation in which cardinals decided it was necessary to scale back some 1960s reforms. It is often said that the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy look at the passage of time in centuries rather than days or years. If the ecclesiastical pendulum had swung all the way to the left in recent decades, the Roman Catholic Church now looks to be swinging back to the right.
As a theologian, the new Pope Benedict XVI has proven himself to be a subtle thinker able to see both sides of even the most violent disagreements — but one who in the end consistently came down on the side of obedience to the Church in Rome.
The young Bavarian prelate was considered a progressive reformer at the debates of the Vatican II council in the mid-1960s, but grew increasingly disillusioned by what he saw as a watering down of the faith and a loss of religious influence and direction across the Western world.
“That the expectations weren’t met, that can be documented purely empirically, statistically,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in “Salt of the Earth,” a 1996 book-length interview with a German journalist that is perhaps the most extensive and personal discussion of his thoughts.
“Today, it is above all progressive folk who speak of a ‘winter of the Church,’ “ he went on. “That we haven’t experienced a new hour of the Church, but that there have been a lot of crashes — alongside of new beginnings, which also exist — no one can contest.”
In the upheavals that followed Vatican II — from student protests of the late 1960s to Latin America’s Marxist-based liberation theology to clashes over sexuality, birth control and the role of women — Cardinal Ratzinger was a consistent, forceful voice for orthodoxy and submission to Rome.
The shift was only magnified by Pope John Paul II’s selection of Cardinal Ratzinger, a close theological ally, as the Vatican’s chief enforcer of doctrinal obedience in 1981.
Father Joseph Komonchak, Hubbard professor of religious studies at Catholic University and an expert on 20th-century Catholic theology, said the tensions in the selection of the new pope were already evident way back at Vatican II.
“There was a coalition of reformers there, including Ratzinger, who were only united by what they didn’t want — a pessimistic, text-based faith that was very formalized,” Father Komonchak said.
“One camp, which included the new pope, hoped for a return to the early biblical church, based on the beauty and truth of the gospels. The other camp favored more of a dialogue with contemporary life and with reason.”
In “Salt of the Earth,” Cardinal Ratzinger said too many Catholics came to believe the reforms of Vatican II “consisted in simply jettisoning ballast, in making it easier for ourselves.”
Post-Vatican reform movements in the Western church, he said, designed to keep the Catholic Church “relevant,” had produced only a “thinning of the faith.”
The attempt to reconcile the Church with modern life resulted in “fanatical ideologies” exploiting the faith for their own ends, he said.
He took a strict line against liberal theologians who challenged the Vatican line, such as the Rev. Charles Curran, who is at Southern Methodist University, and Germany’s Hans Kung, who taught alongside the new pope at Germany’s University of Tubingen in the 1960s.
The new pope also authored several Vatican condemnations of the Marxist-based “liberation theology” of Latin American clerics.
Liberal religious groups expressed fear over what they said was the new pope’s hard-line views on religious orthodoxy. Bernd Goehring, director of the German ecumenical group Kirche von Unten, called the election a “catastrophe.”
“We can expect no reform from him in the coming years,” Mr. Goehring told reporters in Germany. “I think that even more people will turn their back on the Church.”
With the collapse of Marxism in Europe during Pope John Paul II’s papacy, Cardinal Ratzinger turned his attention increasingly to the collapse of faith in the West, condemning the “dictatorship of relativism” in the very last homily delivered to the cardinals gathered in Rome before the voting conclave began.
Jewish and Muslim groups expressed hope yesterday that as pope, Cardinal Ratzinger will carry on the work of his predecessor in reaching out to the world’s other great faiths.
“Cardinal Ratzinger already has shown a profound commitment to advancing Catholic-Jewish relations,” said Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s international director of interreligious affairs.
WASHINGTON (AFP) - German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican theologian who was elected Pope Benedict XVI, intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry.
In a June 2004 letter to US bishops enunciating principles of worthiness for communion recipients, Ratzinger specified that strong and open supporters of abortion should be denied the Catholic sacrament, for being guilty of a “grave sin.”
He specifically mentioned “the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws,” a reference widely understood to mean Democratic candidate Kerry, a Catholic who has defended abortion rights.
The letter said a priest confronted with such a person seeking communion “must refuse to distribute it.”
A footnote to the letter also condemned any Catholic who votes specifically for a candidate because the candidate holds a pro-abortion position. Such a voter “would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy communion,” the letter read.
The letter, which was revealed in the Italian magazine L’Espresso last year, was reportedly only sent to US Catholic bishops, who discussed it in their convocation in Denver, Colorado, in mid-June.
Sharply divided on the issue, the bishops decided to leave the decision on granting or denying communion to the individual priest. Kerry later received communion several times from sympathetic priests.
Nevertheless, in the November election, a majority of Catholic voters, who traditionally supported Democratic Party candidates, shifted their votes to Republican and eventual winner George W. Bush.
Looking back on Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s historic homily.
THE MOST IMPORTANT STATEMENT Pope Benedict XVI may ever make was the one delivered before he was elected the successor to John Paul II. Just before he and his 114 colleagues entered the conclave, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger addressed the entire College of Cardinals, the whole Roman Catholic Church, and the entire world in a homily that was both brief and extremely profound. After this homily was concluded, no one among the cardinals, indeed no one with any capacity for thinking, could be mistaken about what Cardinal Ratzinger believed about the times in which we live and the role of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.
He finished his homily. The conclave began. And after less than a day and a half, he was elevated to the papacy.
Can you say “mandate”?
After this bold declaration, no cardinal can later claim that there was any doubt as to Benedict’s beliefs or the direction in which he would take the Church. If he replaces any of the 48 cardinal-electors who are 74-years-or-older with new cardinals of like mind, no fair observer can claim that the Church is being pulled in a direction it did not intend. He did not propose a “transitional” papacy or a period of consolidation.
It was a thunderous approval for a blunt and profound homily, and given that it was Benedict’s declaration of purpose before he became pope, it is useful to reprint it here in its entirety for those who either missed it, or who, upon consideration, conclude it is worth reading very carefully indeed:
CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER
HOMILY AT THE MASS FOR THE ELECTION OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF, April 18, 2005
At this hour of great responsibility, we hear with special consideration what the Lord says to us in His own words. From the three readings I would like to examine just a few passages which concern us directly at this time.
The first reading gives us a prophetic depiction of the person of the Messiah—a depiction which takes all its meaning from the moment Jesus reads the text in the synagogue in Nazareth, when He says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4,21). At the core of the prophetic text we find a word which seems contradictory, at least at first sight. The Messiah, speaking of Himself, says that He was sent “To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” (Is 61,2). We hear with joy the news of a year of favor: divine mercy puts a limit on evil—the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: encountering Christ means encountering the mercy of God. Christ’s mandate has become our mandate through priestly anointing. We are called to proclaim—not only with our words, but with our lives, and through the valuable signs of the sacraments, the “year of favor from the Lord.”
But what does the prophet Isaiah mean when he announces the “day of vindication by our God”? In Nazareth, Jesus did not pronounce these words in His reading of the prophet’s text—Jesus concluded by announcing the year of favor. Was this, perhaps, the reason for the scandal which took place after His sermon? We do not know. In any case, the Lord gave a genuine commentary on these words by being put to death on the cross. Saint Peter says: “He himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross” (1 Pe 2,24). And Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,’ that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3, 13s).
The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in His body and on His soul all the weight of evil, and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering, in the fire of His suffering love. The day of vindication and the year of favor meet in the paschal mystery, in Christ died and risen. This is the vindication of God: He himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with His suffering—and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1, 24).
In the second reading, the letter to the Ephesians, we see basically three aspects: first, the ministries and charisms in the Church, as gifts of the Lord risen and ascended into heaven. Then there is the maturing of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as a condition and essence of unity in the body of Christ. Finally, there is the common participation in the growth of the body of Christ—of the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.
Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards “the maturity of Christ” as it is said in the Italian text, simplifying it a bit. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the “measure of the fullness of Christ,”
to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!
How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. . . . The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves—thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching,” looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.
However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “Adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith—only faith—which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words—in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13,1).
Looking now at the richness of the Gospel reading, I would like to make only two small observations. The Lord addresses to us these wonderful words: “I no longer call you slaves . . . I have called you friends” (Jn 15,15). So many times we feel like, and it is true, that we are only useless servants. (cf Lk 17,10). And despite this, the Lord calls us friends, He makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in a dual way. There are no secrets among friends: Christ tells us all everything He hears from the Father; He gives us His full trust, and with that, also knowledge. He reveals His face and His heart to us. He shows us His tenderness for us, His passionate love that goes to the madness of the cross. He entrusts us, He gives us power to speak in His name: “this is my body . . . ,” “I forgive you . . . .” He entrusts us with His body, the Church. He entrusts our weak minds and our weak hands with His truth—the mystery of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn 3, 16). He made us His friends—and how do we respond?
The second element with which Jesus defines friendship is the communion of wills. For the Romans “Idem velle—idem nolle,” (same desires, same dislikes) was also the definition of friendship. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15, 14). Friendship with Christ coincides with what is said in the third request of the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. At the hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will in a will shaped and united to the divine will. He suffered the whole experience of our autonomy—and precisely bringing our will into the hands of God, He have us true freedom: “Not my will, but your will be done.” In this communion of wills our redemption takes place: being friends of Jesus to become friends of God. How much more we love Jesus, how much more we know Him, how much more our true freedom grows as well as our joy in being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!
The other element of the Gospel to which I would like to refer is the teaching of Jesus on bearing fruit: “I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15, 16). It is here that is expressed the dynamic existence of the Christian, the apostle: I chose you to go and bear fruit . . . .” We must be inspired by a holy restlessness: restlessness to bring to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, the love and friendship of God was given to us so that it would also be shared with others. We have received the faith to give it to others—we are priests meant to serve others. And we must bring a fruit that will remain. All people want to leave a mark which lasts. But what remains? Money does not. Buildings do not, nor books. After a certain amount of time, whether long or short, all these things disappear. The only thing which remains forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity. The fruit which remains then is that which we have sowed in human souls—love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching the heart, words which open the soul to joy in the Lord. Let us then go to the Lord and pray to Him, so that He may help us bear fruit which remains. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.
In conclusion, returning again to the letter to the Ephesians, which says with words from Psalm 68 that Christ, ascending into heaven, “gave gifts to men” (Eph 4,8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to humankind, to build up His body—the new world. We live out our ministry in this way, as a gift of Christ to humanity! But at this time, above all, we pray with insistence to the Lord, so that after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, He again gives us a pastor according to His own heart, a pastor who guides us to knowledge in Christ, to His love and to true joy. Amen.
Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.
VATICAN CITY — White smoke poured from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel in Rome, signaling that a new pope has been elected by the College of Cardinals.
Their eyes glued to the chimney, the crowd lingering in St. Peter’s Square cheered, clapped, laughed and honked horns as the white smoke wafted out.
At first, no bells rang, as they were expected to when a pope had been decided upon, so there was some initial confusion as to whether the cardinals had actually settled on a choice.
But then the Sistine Chapel’s big, old bell began tolling, signaling that the Vatican had chosen its next leader. The crowd went wild, waving flags and shouting in glee.
The 115 red-robed cardinals charged with electing the man who will lead the Roman Catholic Church and follow the late Pope John Paul II began their vote Monday.
Earlier in the day, black smoke rose from the chapel. The next pope will be the successor to Pope John Paul II, who died April 2 at age 84.
The two morning ballots Tuesday followed an early Mass in the cardinals’ high-security Vatican hotel. The prelates from six continents and 52 countries were to return to the chapel Tuesday afternoon for up to two afternoon ballots, with a new plume of smoke expected by late evening.
On Monday evening, black smoke that initially looked light enough to throw even Vatican Radio analysts off-guard poured from the chimney, disappointing a crowd of 40,000 pilgrims anxious for a sign that the cardinals had settled on a successor. That first puff followed the conclave’s initial vote.
A quick decision in the first round of voting on Monday would have been a surprise. The cardinals have a staggering range of issues to juggle as they choose the first new pope of the 21st century — fallout from priest sex-abuse scandals, chronic shortages of priests and nuns, as well as calls for sharper activism against poverty and easing the ban on condoms to help combat AIDS.
The next pontiff also must maintain the global ministry of John Paul, who took 104 international trips in his more than 26-year papacy.
“Keep praying for the new pope,” said 82-year-old Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez of Puerto Rico, who was too old to join the conclave, open only to cardinals under 80 years old.
The first conclave of the new millennium is being held amid unprecedented security, with the cardinals seated atop a false floor concealing electronic jamming devices designed to thwart eavesdroppers by cutting signals to cell phones or bugs.
It is also the first time in more than a generation that crowds have been staring at the chimney for the famous smoke and word of a new pope. In that time, the church has been pulled in two directions: a spiritual renaissance under John Paul, but battered by scandals and a flock pressing for less rigid teachings.
“It’s very powerful to be in the place where St. Peter was martyred and to pray to the Lord for a worthy successor,” said Brother Mateo Lethimonier, 30, a monk from Argentina in a light blue robe and sandals who was among those on the square.
He said he was praying for the cardinals to find “the one who loves Jesus most, the one who represents the church best.”
“All the people here have something in common: the religion, of course, but also being a part of history. This is a part of history,” said Adrien Asselin, 66, of Hawkesbury, Ontario, a retired art teacher who cut short a trip to South Africa to fly to Rome.
Before the conclave began, one of the possible candidates — German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — tried to set a tone of urgency, warning cardinals, bishops and others gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for a Mass that the church must stay true to itself.
“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” said Ratzinger, 78, who has been the Vatican’s chief overseer of doctrine since 1981.
“Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism,” he said, making clear that he disagrees with that view.
About five hours later, the electors walked in a procession into the chapel decorated with frescoes by Michelangelo. They bowed before the altar and took their places.
For 30 minutes, each walked up and placed his right hand — with the special gold ring of the cardinals — on the Holy Book and again pledged never to reveal what will occur in the conclave. The penalty is severe: excommunication.
Under conclave rules, four rounds of voting were being held per day beginning Tuesday — two in the morning, two in the afternoon — until a prelate gets two-thirds support: 77 votes. If they remain deadlocked late in the second week of voting, they can go to a simple majority: 58 votes.
No conclave in the past century has lasted more than five days, and the election that elevated Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to into the papacy as John Paul II in October 1978 took eight ballots over three days.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a longtime guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI.
Before the conclave began, one of the possible candidates — German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — tried to set a tone of urgency, warning cardinals, bishops and others gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for a Mass that the church must stay true to itself.
“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” said Ratzinger, 78, who has been the Vatican’s chief overseer of doctrine since 1981.
“Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism,” he said, making clear that he disagrees with that view.
By Uwe Siemon-Netto
United Press International
German Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI Tuesday.
Ratzinger, who turned 78 last Saturday, was viewed as a favorite to succeed Pope John Paul II who died earlier this month.
Ratzinger, once a teenage infantryman in the German army at the end of World War II, and then briefly an inmate in an U.S. prisoner-of-war camp, had repeatedly stated he would like to retire to a Bavarian village and dedicate himself to writing books.
But recently, after recovering from serious health problems, he told friends he was ready to “accept any charge God placed on him.”
As dean of the College of Cardinals and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Ratzinger had been closer to John Paul II than any other prince of the church.
The Pole and the German were intellectual bedfellows. For almost 20 years, they met at least once a week, usually Fridays, for a 90-minute discussion of doctrine and discipline. A working lunch followed, lasting often until late in the afternoon.
A theological liberal of sorts in his youth, Ratzinger was later nicknamed the “Panzerkardinal” for his iron hand in bringing Marxist priests in Latin America and clerics with more-liberal views on sexual ethics to heel.
Ratzinger is viewed as a gentle intellectual and pianist admired by his compatriots when he was a professor of fundamental theology and, later, archbishop of Munich and Freising.
Ratzinger has recently described Christianity as “tired” and has bemoaned the “almost total collapse of Christianity in Europe,” while recognizing movements of revival are making headway.
As a native of Germany, cradle of the Protestant Reformation, Ratzinger is intimately familiar with Lutheranism — all the more so as he is an expert on St. Augustine, whose theology has greatly influenced the thinking of Martin Luther, a former Augustinian monk.
Like John Paul, Ratzinger considered evangelization and fidelity of faith the church’s top priority, especially in the light of the growth of Islam in Europe and particularly in Italy where it is estimated to be the predominant religion in as little as 20 years’ time.
“In this situation, we need someone who is forthright in what the church teaches. We need consistency in our teaching, otherwise Muslims will not listen to us,” the Rev. Anthony Figueiredo, a former secretary of John Paul II, said earlier this month. “That’s why Ratzinger is so important — he will not flinch.”
By Daniel Williams and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; 12:48 PM
VATICAN CITY, April 19 — Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany Tuesday as the new pope to succeed John Paul II, reaching an early agreement on the second day of voting.
He took the name of Benedict XVI.
A cardinal from Chile, Jorge Medina Estevez, the Senior Cardinal Deacon, made the announcement before thousands of cheering spectators.
Earlier, white smoke from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney and the pealing of bells signaled the election of the new pope in a secret conclave.
There was initial confusion because of a false alarm Monday after the first ballot, when the smoke initially appeared to be white but then became black, indicating that no new pope had been elected. Although the smoke was white as it began flowing from the chimney shortly before 6 p.m. local time (noon EDT), it took several more minutes for the church bells to begin tolling — a second and newly instituted signal to confirm a conclusive vote.
As the white smoke rose, the assembled crowd in St. Peter’s Square burst into cheers and applause.
Upon hearing the church bells elsewhere in the city, thousands more poured into the square to hear the announcement of the new pope’s name. Many waved the national flags of their home countries, presenting the image of a faith that spans the globe and includes more thant 1.1 billion people.
Under the rules, the 115 voting cardinals chose the 265th pope with a two-thirds majority, or at least 77 voting in favor.
The election came 17 days after the death of John Paul, who succumbed to illnesses related to Parkinson’s disease at his residence in the Vatican on April 2.
The balloting followed a day of stately ritual. Ratzinger delivered a hard-hitting sermon at a pre-conclave Mass attended by the cardinals. A close associate of John Paul and the dean of the College of Cardinals, Ratzinger launched a passionate defense of strict orthodoxy.
“To have a clear faith according to the church’s creed is today often labeled fundamentalism,” he told the cardinals and the congregation packed into St. Peter’s Basilica. “While relativism, letting ourselves be carried away by any wind of doctrine, appears as the only appropriate attitude for the today’s times. A dictatorship of relativism is established that recognizes nothing definite and leaves only one’s own ego and one’s own desires as the final measure.”
Ratzinger’s speech expounded one side of an argument that is framing the conclave. Opponents say that Ratzinger and other Vatican-based prelates are stifling Catholic debate on religious and ethical subjects. A dispute between so-called conservatives and progressives in the conclave could overshadow issues of personality and geography in choosing the next pope, according to Vatican watchers.
The church has been shaken by “numerous ideological currents,” Ratzinger said. “The boat has been unanchored by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and on and on.
“An adult faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelty,” he concluded.
During the sermon, the cardinals sat stiffly on chairs arranged in a crescent in front of the canopied altar. At the homily’s end, many in the congregation behind them applauded. One ally of Ratzinger, Cardinal Camillo Ruini of Italy, discreetly clapped his hands.
In a series of speeches since late March, Ratzinger has emphasized shoring up faith and obedience as a cure for societal ills in modern industrialized countries. As head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger disciplined clerics and theologians who questioned John Paul’s teachings on subjects ranging from the ban on artificial contraception to the need for celibacy in the clergy. Over the past two years, Ratzinger also issued a number of controversial documents and statements, among them a letter decrying radical feminism, and in an interview opposed the proposed membership of Turkey — a predominantly Muslim nation — in the European Union.
The directness of Ratzinger’s sermon on Monday surprised some. “His speech was rather unusually straightforward,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a history professor at La Sapienza University in Rome. “Usually, just before a conclave, cardinals try to present themselves as a mediator. That’s not Ratzinger. You might say it was courageous.”
“I thought it was Ratzinger saying, in effect, what you see is what you get,” said the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things. “It was vintage Ratzinger — calm, deliberate, precise, incisive.”
The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, said Ratzinger’s homily indicated that he believes the pope’s role is to “protect the sheep from the prowling wolves of unorthodoxy and relativism. He wants to defend the fact that truth is absolute and the church must speak the truth and be faithful to it.”
McBrien added, “If Cardinal Ratzinger were really campaigning for pope, he would have given a far more conciliatory homily designed to appeal to the moderates as well as to the hard-liners among the cardinals.”
“I think this homily shows he realizes he’s not going to be elected. He’s too much of a polarizing figure,” McBrien said. “If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church.”
A potential rival to Ratzinger is another influential cardinal, Carlo Maria Martini, the retired archbishop of Milan, whose philosophy sometimes clashes with Ratzinger’s. Because of health problems, Martini is not regarded as a prime papal candidate, but he is a standard-bearer for change in the church.
A year ago in an interview with the Rome newspaper Il Tempo, he called for power-sharing with bishops — so that they become “a council of regents for the church, besides the pope” — and for discussion of the ordination of women, priestly celibacy and other controversial topics.
Historically, senior cardinals who were respected enough to be mentioned as candidates exerted strong influence at conclaves. Both Martini and Ratzinger are 78.
After Monday’s Mass, the cardinals filed out of the basilica for lunch at their residence within the Vatican walls. At 4:30 p.m., they began a slow procession from the Apostolic Palace, the huge Renaissance structure of frescoed galleries, apartments and meeting rooms, to the Sistine Chapel.
After the river of red caps and robes flowed through the chapel door, the cardinals stood behind long tables set up specially for the vote. Each then swore an oath of secrecy at a podium set under Michelangelo’s giant fresco of Jesus presiding over the Last Judgment; among other images, the fresco portrays evil-doers on their way to hell.
Ratzinger, as dean, was first to take the oath, which pledges “secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman pontiff.” He then placed his hand on an open copy of the Gospels to seal the promise.
After all the cardinals had made the same pledge, Vatican television cameras were turned off and the doors of the chapel were closed. Although the televised images were unprecedented, the broadcast fell into line with the broad media access provided for the several past days of transition ceremonies.
Reporters’ contact with the cardinals, however, was sharply proscribed shortly after John Paul’s April 8 funeral. In refusing to speak to journalists, the cardinals ended a tradition of open pre-conclave discussion of church issues.
Secrecy within the Sistine Chapel is safeguarded by new high-tech measures. A false floor was installed last week to accommodate electronic anti-bugging devices, Vatican officials said. Mobile phones, radios, television sets and Internet connections all are prohibited at the cardinals’ temporary Vatican residence to ensure no information leaks into or out of the conclave.
NEW YORK — The selection of Pope John Paul II’s right-hand man to lead the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics means little will change in the direction taken by the church, analysts and experts said Tuesday.
Pope Benedict XVI will lead the faithful in much the same fashion as John Paul — strictly adhering to conservative principles adopted by the church on topics such as birth control, inter-religious dialogue and homosexuality. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany and John Paul II were commonly referred to “intellectual bedfellows.”
“If they want to send a message to the whole world that the church is united in its perennial teachings ... then they picked the perfect man,” said Rev. John T. Zuhlsdorf of the Catholic Online Forum.
Before being elected to the papacy, the 78-year-old Ratzinger was named by John Paul II in 1981 as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The goal of this office was to promote and safeguard the doctrine of the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world.
“This will be a traditional pope you know, he will certainly embrace some of the old traditions,” Zuhlsdorf said. “He has been, shall we say, overseeing that the teaching of the truth all throughout the world has been in keeping with the church.”
FOX News correspondent Greg Burke, who has been stationed in Rome as a papal expert, said Ratzinger’s job as John Paul’s ally was often “holding the line” on rules and doctrines of the church.
“There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room and there shouldn’t be in that office,” Burke said. “But I think the election of Cardinal Ratzinger is less that the job he had than the continuation of the John Paul II papacy.”
Ratzinger delivered the homily at Pope John Paul II’s funeral last week and this week, as cardinals on Monday prepared to enter the conclave, he urged them to cling to church tradition and warned about the dangers of abandoning it.
“Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism,” he said. “Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards.”
He added: “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
Father Jonathan Morris, vice rector for the Legionaries of Christ and a FOX News analyst, said relativism is a common theme of Ratzinger’s recent teachings.
“What Cardinal Ratzinger is saying is, ‘if I say something that is truly contradictory to what you think, one of us is wrong. It’s dangerous to go down the road saying no matter what you think, you’re OK,’” Morris said. “Cardinal Ratzinger is saying, ‘you can respect the person but it doesn’t mean he’s right.”
Msgr. James Lisante of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Long Island, N.Y., stressed that Ratzinger believes that “truth is not relative.”
“He’s not going to water down ... teaching of the church’s truths … this is not a great departure [from John Paul II], just through a different prism,” said Lisante, a FOX News papal contributor.
Ratzinger’s blunt judgments and strict line on Catholic dogma have pleased conservatives and outraged liberal Catholics.
Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich before taking over as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. In that office, he has cracked down on liberation theology in Latin America and denounced sexual liberalism in the West. In 2000, his document, “Dominus Jesus,” (Lord Jesus) angered Protestants by saying their churches were “deficient”.
Ratzinger’s orthodoxy has earned him several nicknames, including the Enforcer, the Fundamentalist and Panzerkardinal, a German neologism that compares the Bavarian-born prelate to a battle tank.
In his early years as head of the CDF, Ratzinger tried to stamp out vestiges of liberation theology, a current of Catholic thought born in the 1960s that emphasized grassroots organization to free people from poverty. Liberation theology’s association with Marxist groups and revolutionary movements appalled both John Paul II and Ratzinger.
Ratzinger has also fought against trends in ecumenism that suggest that Catholicism is but one of many ways to salvation. He’s also called homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil.”
In more recent years, Ratzinger has taken on social and scientific trends that, he argued, attack the natural order. At one public debate in Rome, he likened cloning to “weapons of mass destruction,” while at the height of the sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests in the United States, Ratzinger blamed the uproar on a media conspiracy.
“I am personally convinced,” he said once in an interview, “that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the U.S., is a planned campaign.”
And in a July 2004 letter to Catholic bishops on women, Ratzinger criticized forms of feminism that made women “adversaries” of men. He wrote that the blurring of sexual identity had “made homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent.”
Many observers agree that Benedict XVI will be a powerful voice in the Vatican.
The new pope “always has been a presence” in workings of the high-level Catholic leaders, one American priest in St. Peter’s Square told FOX News. “When Cardinal Ratzinger is in the room, when he’s making a contribution ... he brings a different tenor to everything, so it’s just a tremendous moment for us.
“John Paul II is a hard act to follow but now with Cardinal Ratzinger — Benedict XVI — it’s just a new exhilaration.”
Added Burke: “I think Ratzinger is someone who knows what he believes and is not afraid to say it.”
As for those who have characterized Benedict XVI as perhaps being more of a transitional pope because of his age, Lisante said think again.
“Let’s not be writing him off as a transitional pope,” he said. “This man could be our pope for the next 10 to 15 years … he may have a very powerful influence for a long time.”
TRAUNSTEIN, Germany — A man of deep personal faith who choked up as he delivered the homily at Pope John Paul II’s funeral, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also has alienated some Roman Catholics with his zeal in enforcing church orthodoxy.
And on those issues, the new Pope Benedict XVI is immovable.
Even as the cardinals who elected him prayed before the conclave, Ratzinger urged them to cling to church tradition and warned about the dangers of abandoning it.
“Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism,” he said Monday. “Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards.”
“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” he warned.
They were words that would go over well in the conservative Alpine foothills of Bavaria where Ratzinger grew up and remains a favorite son.
Now, at 78, he has become the 265th pope of the Catholic Church and the first Germanic pope since monarchs imposed four men from that region in a row in the 11th century.
“Only someone who knows tradition is able to shape the future,” said the Rev. Thomas Frauenlob, who heads the seminary in Traunstein where Ratzinger studied and regularly returns to visit.
But opinion about him remains deeply divided in Germany, a sharp contrast to John Paul, who was revered in his native Poland.
A recent poll for Der Spiegel news weekly said Germans opposed to Ratzinger becoming pope outnumbered supporters 36 percent to 29 percent, with 17 percent having no preference. The poll of 1,000 people, taken April 5-7, gave no margin of error.
Many blame Ratzinger for decrees from Rome barring Catholic priests from counseling pregnant teens on their options and blocking German Catholics from sharing communion with their Lutheran brethren at a joint gathering in 2003.
Ratzinger has clashed with prominent theologians at home, most notably the liberal Hans Küng, who helped him get a teaching post at the University of Tübingen in the 1960s. The cardinal later publicly criticized Küng, whose license to teach theology was revoked by the Vatican in 1979.
He has also sparred openly in articles with fellow German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a moderate who has urged less centralized church governance and was considered a dark horse papal candidate.
“He has hurt many people and far overstepped his boundaries in Germany,” said Christian Wiesner, spokesman for the pro-reform Wir Sind Kirche, or We Are Church movement.
Ratzinger may have softened his image — at least among his colleagues — with the delivery of the homily at John Paul II’s funeral.
Choking back tears, the cardinal said that “we can be sure our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us.”
In his autobiography, Ratzinger said he sensed was out of step with his fellow Germans as early as the 1960s, when he was a young assistant at the Second Vatican Council in Rome.
Returning to Germany between sessions, “I found the mood in the church and among theologians to be agitated,” he wrote. “More and more there was the impression that nothing stood fast in the church, that everything was up for revision.”
Ratzinger left Tübingen during student protests in the late 1960s and moved to the more conservative University of Regensburg in his home state of Bavaria.
Catholics and Protestants each account for about 34 percent of the German population, but Bavaria is one of the more heavily Catholic areas.
“What Wadowice was for John Paul, Bavaria is for Ratzinger,” said Frauenlob, referring to John Paul II’s hometown in southern Poland. “He has very deep roots here, it’s his home.”
The cardinal was born in Marktl am Inn, but his father, a policeman, moved frequently and the family left when he was 2.
He and his older brother, Georg — former director of the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir — return annually to the peaceful halls of St. Michael’s Seminary to stay in the elegant, but sparsely furnished bishop’s apartment next to the church.
An accomplished pianist who loves Mozart, Ratzinger enjoys playing the grand piano in the seminary’s main hall, and walking through downtown Traunstein greeting people, Frauenlob said.
Traunstein was also where Ratzinger went through the harrowing years of Nazi rule and World War II.
In his memoirs, Ratzinger wrote that he was enrolled in the Hitler Youth, the Nazi youth movement, against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He said he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood.
Two years later he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper, a common taks for teenage boys too young to be soldiers. A year later he was released, only to be sent to the Austrian-Hungarian border to construct tank barriers.
He deserted the Germany army in April 1945, in the final weeks of the war in Europe, and returned to Traunstein — a risky move, since deserters were shot on the spot if caught, or publicly hanged as examples to others.
When he arrived home, U.S. soldiers took him prisoner and held him in a POW camp for several weeks. Upon his release, he re-entered the seminary.
Ratzinger was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. He then spent several years teaching theology. In 1977, he was appointed bishop of Munich and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI.
John Paul II named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981, where he was responsible for enforcing Catholic orthodoxy and was one of the key men in the drive to shore up the faith of the world’s Roman Catholics.
Ratzinger speaks several languages, among them Italian and English, as well as his native language, German.
Frauenlob calls him a subtle thinker with a deep understanding of Catholic tradition and a personal touch he’s not often given credit for.
He cites the example of the seminary’s 2003 confirmation service where no bishop was available. Ratzinger swiftly agreed to come, confirming the 14 boys, then taking time to speak personally to each one after the ceremony.
“I find it hurtful to see him described as a hard-liner,” Frauenlob said. “People are too quick to say that, it’s not an accurate reflection of his personality.”
Cardinal Ratzinger’s sermon on relativism at the Mass for the Election of a Supreme Pontiff hit the note most important both in his own life and in the coming life of the Church, in an age calling itself “post-modern” but perhaps more accurately described as the Age of Meaninglessness.
In his most formative years, Ratzinger heard Nazi propaganda shouting that there is no truth, no justice, there is only the will of the people (enunciated by its leader). As its necessary precondition, Nazism depended on the debunking of objective truth and objective morality. Truth had to be derided as irrelevant, and naked will had to be exalted.
To anybody who said: “But that’s false!” the Nazi shouted, “That’s just your opinion, and who are you, compared to Der Fuehrer?”
To anybody who said, “But what you are doing is unjust!” the Nazi shouted louder, “Says you, swine.”
Relativism means this: Power trumps.
Ratzinger experienced another set of loud shouters in the 1968 student revolution at Tubingen University, this time in the name of Marxist rather than Nazi will. Marxism as much as Nazism (though in a different way) depended on the relativization of all previous notions of ethics and morality and truth — “bourgeois” ideas, these were called. People who were called upon by the party to kill in the party’s name had to develop a relativist’s conscience.
In today’s liberal democracies, Ratzinger has observed, the move to atheism is not, as it was in the 19th century, a move toward the objective world of the scientific rationalist. That was the “modern” way, and it is now being rejected, in favor of a new “post-modern” way. The new way is not toward objectivity, but toward subjectivism; not toward truth as its criterion, but toward power. This, Ratzinger fears, is a move back toward the justification of murder in the name of “tolerance” and subjective choice.
Along with that move, he has observed (haven’t we all?), comes a dictatorial impulse, to treat anyone who has a different view as “intolerant.” For instance, those (on the “religious right”) who hold that there are truths worth dying for, and objective goods to be pursued and objective evils to be avoided, are now held to be “intolerant” fundamentalists, guilty of “discrimination.”
In other words, the new dictatorial impulse declares that the only view permissible among reasonable people is the view that all subjective choices are equally valid. It declares, further, that anyone who claims that there are objective truths and objective goods and evils is “intolerant.” Such persons are to be expelled from the community, or at a minimum re-educated. That is to say, all Catholics and others like them must be converted to relativism or else sent into cultural re-training camps.
On the basis of relativism, however, no culture can long defend itself or justify its own values. If everything is relative, even tolerance is only a subjective choice, not an objective mandatory value. Ironically, though, what post-moderns call “tolerance” is actually radically intolerant of any view contrary to its own.
Most of the commentators, however, even those who support him, are misinterpreting Ratzinger’s point. They are getting him wrong.
What Ratzinger defends is not dogmatism against relativism. What he defends is not absolutism against relativism. These are false alternatives.
What Ratzinger attacks as relativism is the regulative principle that all thought is and must remain subjective. What he defends against such relativism is the contrary regulative principle, namely, that each human subject must continue to inquire incessantly, and to bow to the evidence of fact and reason.
The fact that we each see things differently does not imply that there is no truth. It implies, rather, that each of us may have a portion of the truth, and that in this or that matter some of us may hold more (or less) truth than others. Therefore, since each of us has only part of all the truth we seek, we must work hard together to discern in all things wherein lies the truth, and wherein the error.
Ratzinger wishes to defend the imperative of seeking the truth in all things, the imperative to follow the evidence. This imperative applies to daily life, to science, and to faith. The great Jewish and Christian name for God is connected to this imperative — one of the Creator’s names is Truth. Other related names are Light, and Way. Humans are made seekers after truth.
It is no more than a fact that ours is a pluralistic world, in which individuals have virtually an infinite variety of views. For Ratzinger, not only is this individual variety normal and to be praised; it shows the infinite number of ways humans have been made in the image of the infinite God. Each one of us, as it were, mirrors a different aspect of the infinite abundance of God.
But the fact of human “relativity” — that is, the fact that we each see things differently, or that the life-voyage of each of us is unique and inimitable — should not be transformed into an absolute moral principle. The fact of relativity does not logically lead to the principle of moral relativism.
No great, inspiring culture of the future can be built upon the moral principle of relativism. For at its bottom such a culture holds that nothing is better than anything else, and that all things are in themselves equally meaningless. Except for the fragments of faith (in progress, in compassion, in conscience, in hope) to which it still clings, illegitimately, such a culture teaches every one of its children that life is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
The culture of relativism invites its own destruction, both by its own internal incoherence and by its defenselessness against cultures of faith.
This is the bleak fate that Cardinal Ratzinger already sees looming before Europe. His fear is that this sickness of the soul will spread.
For Cardinal Ratzinger, moreover, it is not reason that offers a foundation for faith, but the opposite. Historically, it is Jewish and Christian faith in an intelligent and benevolent Creator that gave birth in the West to trust in reason, humanism, science, and progress, and carried the West far beyond the fatalistic limits of ancient Greece and Rome.
To the meaninglessness of relativism, Ratzinger counter poses respect for the distinctive, incommensurable image of God in every single human being, from the most helpless to the seemingly most powerful, together with a sense of our solidarity with one another in the bosom of our Creator. This fundamental vision of the immortal value both of the individual person and the whole human community in solidarity has been the motor-power, the spiritual dynamic overdrive, of an increasingly global (catholic) civilization.
That, at least, is the way he sees it. He is willing to argue out his case with all comers.
— Michael Novak is the winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for progress in religion and the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Novak’s own website is www.michaelnovak.net.
Habemus papam! Now, what does that mean?
Within moments of the announcement Tuesday, the media was already trying to “frame” the situation, labeling the new pope, Pope Benedict XVI, as “controversial,” “conservative” — as if they think he is afraid of modernity and progress. Even some Catholics have gotten this idea in their head: a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, was quoted in Tuesday morning’s Washington Post, as dismissing Cardinal Ratzinger, “I think this homily shows he realizes he’s not going to be elected. He’s too much of a polarizing figure. If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church.”
Thank goodness for Catholic theologians, eh? (With all due apologies to my father, Catholic theologian Michael Novak.)
Perhaps McBrien ought to understand the Church must stand for something — or it will fall for anything. And what is the point in believing in something that does not seem to believe in anything? Perhaps McBrien ought to try reading some of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings, or listening to his arguments.
For example, when then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in May 2004: “The Council, in fact, wished to show that Christianity is not against reason, against modernity, but that on the contrary it is a help so that reason in its totality can work not only on technical questions, but also on human, moral and religious knowledge.”
That doesn’t sound exactly controversial, anti-modern, or, for that matter, polarizing. Or maybe it is this thought that McBrien finds polarizing (from October 2001): “The Church will continue to propose the great universal human values. Because, if law no longer has common moral foundations, it collapses insofar as it is law. From this point of view, the Church has a universal responsibility.”
The truth is, this new pastor of the flock is a gentle, but fiercely intelligent man. He has thought deeply about many of the pressing issues facing the citizens of the world — as well as the Catholic Church itself. He is indeed conservative, in the sense that he believes strongly that there are absolutes, rights and wrongs, and that the Church must make a stand on these. It has long struck me as laughable that somehow it is controversial to believe that the Church should continue to stand for such things as life (from the beginning to the end). What is more controversial? To embrace and hold on to long-held principles? Or to discard them like used tissue?
Long before Monday’s homily, Cardinal Ratzinger propounded about the dangers of relativism, of not believing that not only there is truth, but also that one can seek to understand it. As he noted in 2002, “I would say that today relativism predominates. It seems that whoever is not a relativist is someone who is intolerant. To think that one can understand the essential truth is already seen as something intolerant.” He has also pointed out this fundamental truth about Christianity itself: “Christianity is not “our” work; it is a Revelation; it is a message that has been consigned to us, and we have no right to reconstruct it as we like or choose.” In other words, if to be “progressive” or “modern” is to reconstruct Christianity as we like or choose, than that is abandoning Christianity.
This is not a wholly unpopular message. Interestingly enough, it is in those parishes that are “conservative” and those vocations that are “conservative” and those countries where the faith is still “conservative,” where the data shows that the Catholic numbers are growing. So it is clear that holding dear to Catholic Church principles is not controversial — it is in fact, expansive. So while this may leave the Church, in some communities, “on the margin of society” (as the cardinal put it), in many it does not — far from it.
That is not to say this is not — and will not be under Pope Benedict XVI — a vibrant, living, and breathing Church. The pope may understand that there are essential truths or principles that the Church must uphold — but he is also at heart a scholar and a pastor. He understands that faith is much like science — you cannot simply ignore those truths that are “inconvenient” to your thesis, and every day you must constantly seek truth.
Perhaps most important, though, is the pope’s understanding of the human condition itself. He knows — and has experienced himself — of the suffering and pain of life. But he has learned it’s redemptive value. As he so eloquently put it, “Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.”
This is not a man not of this world. This is a man who is firmly aware of its conflicts and despairs — and of its peace and joy. He is, indeed, the perfect “beast of burden” (his coat of arms reflects a bear to represent this sense as a beast of burden for the Church) for the Church to depend upon at this time in history. It seems the Holy Spirit was indeed at work over the last couple of days.
— Jana Novak is currently working on a book on George Washington and his religion. She is the co-author of Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter’s Questions About God and a part-time dogwalker who lives on Capitol Hill.
The election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI may be regarded by American Jewish leaders as an unwelcome omen for interfaith relations. It needs to be remembered, however, that our community’s leadership doesn’t necessarily represent the views of most Jews — and it certainly doesn’t represent Judaism.
On Monday, as the cardinals were about to enter upon the awesome task of choosing a new pope, Ratzinger delivered a sermon that sounded a striking call to resist relativism and secularism. For all that the German cardinal has been called a clone of his predecessor, Ratzinger seems if anything to exceed John Paul II in the vehemence of his opposition to the idea that there is no singular truth about God. On the contrary, Ratzinger powerfully insists that there is such a truth and that his church is in possession of it.
His words, which will become famous, are worth contemplating: “Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards. We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
At the highest reaches of our Jewish communal-bureaucratic structure, this is not a popular theme. That’s putting it mildly. It’s one of the melancholy facts about Jewish life in modern America that the closest thing we have to a leading moral authority, representing us as Jews to the world, is not a rabbi or any spiritual exemplar. Rather, whenever you see a Jewish leader on CNN or Fox, commenting upon the “Jewish” position vis-à-vis events of the day, it is most likely to be someone from one of the anti-defamation organizations, most likely Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
For all the undoubted value of its stated goal of fighting anti-Semitism, the ADL has committed itself to a program of relativism. As Foxman himself has said, “It is pure arrogance for any one religion to assume that they hold ‘the truth.’” Presumably this would apply to Judaism too. For Ratzinger to assert the truth of his religion was therefore wrong, in the ADL’s eyes, as it would be wrong to assert the truth of Judaism.
In Ratzinger’s important sermon, which will likely be remembered (so presumably he intended it) as striking the keynote of his papacy, he cited a prophecy from Isaiah looking forward to “a year of favor unto the Lord and a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort mourners” (61:2). Apart from the allusion to the mourning going on among Catholic worldwide at the death of a beloved leader, one key phrase of the verse was clearly intended to be understood as fighting words. Isaiah promises “favor” for the Lord’s servants, but “vengeance” for His enemies.
No verse in the Bible makes it clearer that God asks us to take sides. In the great controversy of our own day — the controversy surrounding the question of truth versus relativism — Ratzinger knows on what side he comes down. The most prominent American Jewish leader comes down on the other side.
Alas, the ADL’s viewpoint is all too commonly encountered in our community, as I have been reminded from the very recent personal experience of publishing a book that argues for the truth of Judaism. Although my book, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, a history of the Jewish-Christian debate about Jesus, can be seen as a critique of Christianity, I’ve found that in speaking to mixed groups of Jews and Christians, it is often the Jews who take umbrage at being told their religion is true while the Christians genially accept that it entirely appropriate for a Jew to argue in this way.
What’s going on? Only that Christians, including traditional Catholics like Joseph Ratzinger, perhaps more than many Jews today, appreciate the deepest assumption that our two religions share: the assumption that there is a truth out there, a singular truth, to be found and embraced.
Pope Benedict XVI has his truth. Jews who believe in Judaism, as opposed to relativism, have ours. The pope and the Jews can’t both be right — but that fact, that there can only be one truth, is a singularly important truth in itself, arguably more important than any of the doctrinal points on which Jews, Catholics, and other Christians differ. Let’s hope the Jewish community can rise to meet the new pope, seeing in him the fellow believer in truth that he is, offering him our sincere congratulations and good wishes for a blessed and successful papacy.
— David Klinghoffer is author of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History. His website is www.davidklinghoffer.com.
That’s Latin for “We have a pope!” With those words the College of Cardinals announced that the world’s Catholics have a new spiritual leader, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
As the Vatican’s chief defender of theological doctrine, it’s no surprise he’s already being condemned as a “traditionalist” and a “hardliner.” Of course, if some of the modernizers had their way, a new pontiff would be announced with the declaration, “We got pope!” Or maybe “The pizzy is in the hizzy!” Then Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake would bump and grind a bit before His Holiness rolled out in a newly pimped-out Pope-mobile.
But my guess is that won’t be happening any time soon, and not just because Ratzinger’s the new pope. Some believe there is a radical left wing in the Catholic Church that seeks to unravel the teachings of John Paul II, but this is an exaggeration of the Western — particularly, the American — press. The notion that you could find any cardinal eager to change church policy on abortion, for example, is simply a fantasy concocted by liberal journalists. Excepting, maybe, the issue of distributing condoms in Africa, it’s hard to think of a hot-button social issue that divides the church’s leadership a fraction as much as American editorial pages seem to suggest.
If a committee made up of Andrew Sullivan, Gary Wills, Andrew Greeley, Paul Begala, and Nancy Pelosi were given the power to select a pope from the current College of Cardinals, we would still have a pope opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
The issues that truly divide the church have to do with questions of local autonomy, global economics, and the like. It takes the solipsism of American liberals to imagine that simply because America is divided over certain issues, the Vatican must be, too. And it takes the ignorance of the American media to think that a “liberal” in America is a liberal in Rome, Buenos Aires or Lagos.
That said, there’s still a good lesson for the American right and left to draw from Ratzinger’s election. One of the most interesting aspects of his story is that he was, by all accounts, a liberal until the year 1968. But during student riots at Tübingen University, where he was teaching, he looked into the soul of the New Left and saw a deep void. “For so many years,” he said in an interview years ago, “the 1968 revolution and the terror created — in the name of Marxist ideas — a radical attack on human freedom and dignity, a deep threat to all that is human.”
Again, Americans tend to think of 1968 as a uniquely American upheaval during a uniquely American decade of unrest. Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and all that. But the reality is a bit different. The 1960s saw student uprisings not only in America but in France, Britain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Senegal, Argentina, Indonesia, and Mexico. Obviously, each had its own unique flavor, but there was also something in the global water in the 1960s. What it was, exactly, is still hotly debated today. But the violence of ‘68ers surely had something to do with the comfort and guilt that comes from being the prosperous offspring of the World War II generation.
Not everyone in the so-called New Left was physically violent, and by no means was every young person alive then a member of the New Left, but almost everyone in the so-called “generation of ‘68” was intellectually violent — to tradition, to old-fashioned notions of decency, to truth, etc. And a great many of them refused to draw principled distinctions between rhetorical violence and the real thing.
In America, students took over schools like Cornell University with rifles and threatened to kill professors they considered to be “reactionary.” Many older liberals had minds so open, their brains fell out. Others recognized the threat posed by the new barbarians and almost instantaneously became “conservatives” or — shudder — neoconservatives because they chose to stand firm in support of American liberal institutions — institutions that, in the new climate, were defined as right wing and oppressive. Clinton Rossiter, the decent, humane liberal scholar of American politics, tried to reconcile these competing forces, and his failure made suicide all the more attractive as an option.
Cardinal Ratzinger is a veteran of similar struggles. Whether you think Pope Benedict represents a move toward steadying the civilizational pendulum or a major counter-swing depends on your own spot on the ideological spectrum. And while it is too soon to know whose version of Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI will become — the radical Inquisitorial “enforcer” of cold steel doctrine or the humble and curious teacher — the lesson remains the same. Civilization is a balancing act. When you lose your balance on the tightrope, you must make great swings in your stance just to get centered again. And even then, the odds are you fall off. The real trick is avoid making sudden moves in either direction.
The self-effacing modesty of Pope Benedict XVI.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN of Benedict from his first appearance? Much can be gleaned from a first impression, and the eyes of the world are always upon the newly appointed bishop of Rome when he takes his first steps out onto the loggia to address the crowds, urbi et orbi. Benedict’s predecessor instantly communicated his magnetic personality, and, with the exclamation Be not afraid, sounded the clarion call of his pontificate.
The first keynote of Benedict’s papacy was one of utterly self-effacing modesty. The most sophisticated theologian to ascend to the papal throne in fifteen centuries disarmingly referred to his indisputable gifts as “insufficient instruments.” The latest successor to St. Peter appraised himself “a simple, humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.”
This is no newfound humility; the statements are in perfect keeping with the man. When he was appointed archbishop of Munich-Freising, for instance, Ratzinger added two new symbols to the episcopal coat of arms—both of which were intended to underscore his unworthiness. The first symbol was a shell. According to legend, St. Augustine was one day walking along a beach, grappling with the mystery of the Trinity, when he came across a child who was playfully pouring seawater into a shell. That, Augustine instantly realized, was precisely his problem: the human mind could no more comprehend the mystery of God than the shell could hold the waters of the sea. Ratzinger thought the account pertinent to his own theological work, which always acknowledged “the greatness of the mystery that extends farther
than all our knowledge.”
The other symbol that he added to the coat of arms was a bear. It comes from a legend told of St. Corbinian, the founding bishop of Freising. While Corbinian was traveling to Rome, his horse was set upon and torn to shreds by a bear. Corbinian rebuked the bear, and ordered it to carry his pack to Rome. The repentant bear did as he was told. And therein Benedict saw something of himself: He too was to be a beast of burden, called to the service of the Lord.
Perhaps the new Pope’s most noteworthy decision was to adopt the name Benedict. Before the announcement, it was widely rumored that, if elected, he would take either the name Boniface (after St. Boniface, the Apostle to the Germans) or Leo (after Pope St. Leo IX, a great Germanic saint, whose feast day, incidentally, is April 19). Instead he settled on the name Benedict. Comparisons were immediately made to Benedict XV (1914-1922), a Pope who labored in vain to bring the carnage of the First World War to an early and just conclusion.
That may be, but the decision probably reflects a deeper spiritual sensibility. Saint Benedict of Nursia is, after all, one of the most important figures in the history of Roman Catholicism. From Benedict, the Western empire first learned the ascetic rhythms of the monastic life. Monasticism first emerged in the East with exemplary figures such as St. Antony and St. Pachomius. But it fell to Benedict to assemble the first communities in Latin Christendom dedicated to the pursuit of spiritual perfection. His disciples were to live simply, working with their hands and praying at regular intervals throughout the day. Theirs was a rigorous vocation, one of utter self-abasement, of withdrawal from the world for the sake of the world.
Many will no doubt balk at calling Benedict XVI humble. To the contrary, they insist, he is an arrogant, uncompromising hard-liner. Such complaints usually refer to his having been tasked—for almost 25 years—with the thankless job of patrolling the boundaries of Catholic theology. Bishops have, of course, long wrestled with theologians; as early as 1277, Stephen Tempier, bishop of Paris, was compelled to restrain university theologians from replacing Christ with Aristotle. Though this tension between authority and inquiry is actually quite creative, in an age that smirks at the idea of objective truth, it struck critics as needlessly heavy-handed.
It was a burden that Ratzinger bore, dutifully and patiently, in the service of the Church. He pleaded with John Paul II, begging permission to retire so that he could at last return to the quiet academic life he left in Regensberg. As he writes in his memoirs, Benedict XVI finds much consolation in Psalm 72:23: ut iumentum factus sum apud te et ego semper tectum. Unlike most modern translations, the new Pope follows Augustine’s rendition: “A draft animal am I before You, for You, and this is precisely how I abide with you.” Like Augustine, he sees himself as a “good, sturdy ox to pull God’s cart in this world.”
Benedict XVI will probably not carry the papacy with John Paul’s seeming ease. His pontificate will rather be a steady shoulder to the plough, the work of an unassuming servant, a servant of the servants of God.
Christopher Levenick is the W. H. Brady doctoral fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
(CNSNews.com) - Not everyone had words of praise for the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope.
A homosexual advocacy group expressed “concern” that Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, “does not present a hopeful vision of the future or inspire optimism for affirming language, policies or outreach.”
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) noted that Ratzinger “authored a Vatican document condemning marriage and adoption by gay men and lesbians in July 2003.”
The Washington Blade described the document as a “battle plan for Catholic politicians.” According to PLFAG, the document calls on the Catholic Church to “reject gay and lesbian families on the basis of ‘basic values.’”
“Religious leaders like Ratzinger cannot dictate to us what our family values must be, particularly when their idea of family values excludes all GLBT people and loved ones,” said PFLAG’s Executive Director Jody Huckaby, a homosexual former Catholic, in a statement.
“Our PFLAG families have values of love, respect and compassion — perhaps the most distinguishing thing about those values is that they don’t exclude anyone,” said Huckaby, who urged “GLBT people and their families to confront bigotry” in the Catholic Church “and other faith traditions.”
“We cannot shy away from explaining how discrimination in organized religions can tear families apart. The fight for GLBT equality must include our willingness to challenge our religious leaders,” Huckaby added.
PFLAG said the Catholic Church should be celebrated for its advocacy for the “marginalized and maligned people of the world — the poor, the politically oppressed and those in war-torn countries.”
“Ironically, however, the Church refuses to recognize the injustices it inflicts on its own families each time leaders like Cardinal Ratzinger vilify GLBT people. We hope that, as PFLAG families reach out to leaders of their faith, members of the clergy will realize the need for responsible religious rhetoric and the strength that comes from embracing all families,” the group concluded.
In 1999, I was writing about the archdiocese of San Francisco as editor of a reviled publication called San Francisco Faith. Basically my mission was to draw attention to the sewer of phony, scandal-ridden Catholicism that flowed through the Bay Area in the quixotic hope of spurring orthodox reforms in its parishes. Consequently, I almost never got a civil call back from the archdiocesan press officials who considered me a tiresome bottom-feeder. That is, until Joseph Ratzinger came to San Francisco for a visit. Suddenly, the archdiocese was frantically calling me — they placed multiple calls to me the day after he arrived — to see if I would attend a press conference the archdiocese was holding for him at St. Patrick’s Seminary.
It was an amusing and puzzling turn of events: Why the frantic invitation? Did the San Francisco archdiocese need a warm body who wouldn’t hurl insulting questions at him? Were chancery officials scrambling to build a little Potemkin village to show John Paul II’s doctrinal chief the care with which they reached out to traditional Catholics?
I never figured it out, but I went to the press conference as a suddenly respectable journalist, and found myself in a near-empty room with Ratzinger and some glaring bishops. Maybe two or three other reporters were also there. What I mainly recall was the stark contrast between a serene Cardinal Ratzinger and the dismal, shifty-eyed bishops surrounding him (Ratzinger was using San Francisco’s seminary as a meeting spot to hold talks with bishops from North America and the Pacific region).
He projected an aura of self-possession, peacefulness and a quality bordering on good-humored bemusement, made more noticeable by the aspect of humorless desperation on the faces of American bishops who were soon to be exposed by the abuse scandal. I was permitted to ask a question of Cardinal Ratzinger, which I used to complain about the bishops’ accommodation of pro-abortion Catholic public figures. Was supporting abortion a grave, communion-denying sin or not? I asked. Daniel Pilarczyk, the bishop of Cincinnati, sitting near Ratzinger, looked ready to beat me up. Ratzinger responded that if the Catholic public figure acts with knowledge and consent his “collaboration with abortion is a grave sin.”
During that visit to San Francisco, Ratzinger also gave a speech on the very theme he used to begin the papal conclave — the secularist dictatorship that arises when God is no longer the measure of all things and man’s ego becomes the measure of morality and culture. The wording of the theme was slightly different. Before the conclave he used the phrase, the “dictatorship of relativism.” In San Francisco, he spoke of the “dictatorship of appearances” and described skepticism and relativism as prisons, chaining man’s mind to fictions and his will to soul-destroying sin.
Now Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger, using such potent phrases, will prove a devastating foe to a misnamed Enlightenment culture that has long eyed the Church as the only institution left to neutralize through “liberal reforms.” The power of his election can be measured in the escalating hysteria in the wake of it: like clockwork, the elite’s fake love and interest in the Church after John Paul II’s death has reverted to real hate now they know it’s hopeless to try and steer it. One thing animates the hate: the new pope’s unwillingness to substitute the ever-changing tenets of modern liberalism for the timeless teachings of Jesus Christ.
In every age but particularly in modern times a worldly elite, full of self-love and non serviam subjectivism, clangs the gates of hell against the Church, demanding that the Church serve the false philosophies and desires of sinful men instead of the changeless will of Jesus Christ. But the gates of hell have not prevailed. Ratzinger made enemies, inside and outside the Church, because as doctrinal head of it he was determined to vindicate the Church’s authoritative account of reality which recognizes God’s intellect and will, not man’s, as the source of all truth. He saw that submission to the world’s philosophy would mean taking Catholicism out of Catholicism, reducing it to Christianity without Christ that serves neither God nor man as it spirals into paralyzing doubt.
History will move out along the line Pope Benedict XVI has already marked: Will God be the measure of morality and culture, or will the desires of men be? The culture wars to come turn on this question. We have already seen the consequences of the “dictatorship of relativism”: not civilization but barbarism as humans discover that once they reject the authority of God — ignoring his intentions for the human nature he designed and the established order he created — they soon find themselves living under the pitiless and arbitrary authority of men who see no restraining truths above them.
Pope Benedict XVI, as did his namesakes, faces a dark age of Western paganism that now goes by the name of modern liberalism, and he will use a lucid orthodoxy to drive out its many shadows.
George Neumayr is executive editor of The American Spectator.
By Daniel P. Moloney
In the media coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, a number of commentators have mentioned that the young Josef Ratzinger grew up in Nazi Germany. It was a motif of John Paul II’s biography that growing up under the Nazis and the Communists influenced his theology and outlook, encouraging him, for example, to place the dignity of the human person at the center of his theological agenda. So it is natural to ask of the new pope whether his experience under the Nazis affected his theological outlook. Not to suggest that his experience with fascism taught him how to be a hard-line enforcer of Catholic orthodoxy — that line of thinking is beneath contempt. But whether having seen totalitarianism as a youth gave him an intellectual agenda comparable to that of his predecessor’s.
On PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill asked just this question of Bernd Schaefer, a research fellow at the German Historical Institute. Amazingly, Schaefer denied that Ratzinger was influenced by his experience with the Nazis in any serious way. Instead, in Schaefer’s narrative, Ratzinger’s life was determined by a rejection of the reforms of Vatican II and horror at the reaction to the turmoil in the Church that followed it:
He had an extraordinary career as an academic theologian in the ‘60s when he was pro-Vatican II; he was one of the experts at the council, and later on in the late ‘60s he got really turned off by the ‘68 movement, social movement but also by the theology and all the problems it brought to the church. And I think from then on he really developed a rather pessimistic view of the reforms of the Vatican, Second Vatican Council and all the implications.
This finally led him to a rather doctrinal narrow path, which shaped his career for the second half of his biography, particularly when he went to Rome in ‘81. And it’s not surprising when you look at the Ratzinger of the late ‘60s, that the experiences he had there I think shaped basically his entire life and brought him to that point where he is now.
Thus the standard liberal biography will probably be that, unlike his predecessor — who courageously stood up to totalitarianism and was a champion of the open Church of the Council — Ratzinger went from being a pro-Vatican II liberal, a colleague of Hans Küng at Tübingen, to being an anti-Vatican II reactionary, who brought Küng under Vatican discipline.
In a follow-up, Ifill tried to get Schaefer to answer the original question, but he wouldn’t deviate from his biography:
GWEN IFILL: And both he and Pope John Paul were also shaped by their experience there in World War II in some ways?
BERND SCHAEFER: Maybe yes, because they are basically, they had some experience on the world, but I wouldn’t say that actually shaped them to this extent. It’s quite different if you look at the Polish pope and at young Ratzinger during World War II in Germany.
And he goes on to repeat his story about the former liberal who became a pessimist after the Council.
There’s a deeper answer to this question, however — one that touches on what has already become a theme of Benedict XVI’s papacy. That answer is that the ills of western Europe today have the same cause, and the same solution, as during World War II. It seems crazy to think that a man who heard the call to the priesthood during the heart of World War II did not see in his vocation at least the beginnings of an answer to the problems of his day.
A Wall Street Journal editorial Wednesday quotes Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, in which the future pope recounts how the Church seemed to him to be the antidote to the poisons corrupting Europe: “Despite many human failings, the Church was the alternative to the destructive ideology of the Nazis. In the inferno that had swallowed up the powerful, she had stood firm with a force coming to her from eternity. It had been demonstrated: The gates of hell will not prevail against her.” What was it about the Church that offered a young German boy such hope? I want to suggest that, ironically enough, it was in large part the Church’s teaching about sin.
In a radio address in 1940, Pius XII claimed that “the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.” This diagnosis has been repeated and emphasized by all the popes of the late 20th century, none more forcefully than John Paul II. The sense of sin, argued John Paul II in his 1984 apostolic exhortation Reconciliation and Penance, is related to the sense of God; likewise, the secular humanist attempt to develop a morality and way of life that makes no reference to God will also force man to lose his sense of sin.
The new pope was a teenager when Pius gave his radio address (he expressed his desire to enter the priesthood the following year). He was also a collaborator with John Paul II on Reconciliation and Penance. In an interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald, published in 2000 as God and the World, then Cardinal Ratzinger repeated this theme: “Being incapable of acknowledging guilt is the most dangerous form of spiritually arrested development one can imagine, because this in particular makes people incapable of improvement.”
But then the future pope connected this by-now-familiar observation with his firsthand knowledge of the Nazi agenda. Psychologists remind us that it can be bad to feel overburdened with guilt, of course, “but it is worse to extinguish the capacity for recognizing guilt, because man then becomes inwardly hardened and sick…That was what was intended by Nazi education. They thought they were even able to commit murder, as Himmler expressed it, and still remain respectable — and thereby they were deliberately trampling on human conscience and mutilating man himself.”
What Pius XII diagnosed as the sin of the 20th century — the loss of a sense of personal guilt and sin — Benedict XVI thinks helped make great evil seem so ordinary. This is the theological solution to Hannah Arendt’s puzzle about how such boring bureaucrats as Himmler and Eichmann could bring about the Holocaust. The Nazis taught, repeatedly and in numerous different ways, that there is no God, no sin, and no personal guilt. Relentless propaganda made it easy for people to avoid feeling guilty, and, since everyone was complicit, nobody was made to answer for his sins.
In this regard, the consumerism and relativism of the West can be just as dangerous as the totalitarianism of the East: It’s just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally. There’s a difference, to be sure, but hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin. And if there’s no sense of sin, then there’s no need for a Redeemer, or for the Church.
I think that, for the new pope, the 1968 protests in Europe and the sharp decline in those partaking of the sacrament of confession in the Church after Vatican II made it clear that the sense of sin was breaking down among Western liberal Christians just as it had for Western liberal Germans between the wars. If there’s going to be a theological key to this papacy, I would locate it here.
Much of the chatter before the conclave suggested that the cardinals ought to elect a third-world pope, because the future of the Church was not in a secularized Europe but in the growing regions of Latin America and Africa. In his two homilies before the conclave, the future Pope Benedict XVI seemed to agree that the secularization of Europe was a real problem for the Church, that “a dictatorship of relativism” has taken control of Catholicism’s historic home. In so quickly rallying around the man who, more than any other in the Church, is identified with a developed and public critique of Western European mores, the College of Cardinals were sending a message: The Church is not giving up on the modern West. It seems fair to read this message too in the name taken by the new pope: that of St. Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, the founder of Western monasticism, whose followers preserved classical culture through the Dark Ages after the decadence and fall of Rome. Having seen the long shadows that a guilt-free Europe once cast, the new Pope Benedict can be expected to remind us all of the great responsibilities that accompany the historic freedoms we in the West enjoy.
— Daniel P. Moloney is a lecturer in the Politics Department at Princeton University and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.
Several of the Cardinals who elected the new Pope Benedict XVI revealed their thoughts regarding the new Pope and shared what happened in the Sistine Chapel immediately after the pontiff was elected.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster said that as soon as Cardinal Ratzinger obtained the 77 votes required to be elected, the cardinals gasped, clapped, and one Cardinal, Joachim Meisner of Germany burst out crying, according to the New York Times.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington explained that until the new pope had been elected, the cardinals had been a room full of equals.
“And then suddenly, one of you is different,” he said. As leader of the Church, “He’s no longer one of you,” he said according to the Washington Post.
According to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Ratzinger accepted the office and chose the name Benedict XVI, saying that like Benedict XV, who tried to stop the First World War, “I, too, hope that in this short reign to be a man of peace,” according to the Post.
In the days leading up to the conclave some cardinals had been impressed by Cardinal Ratzinger’s eloquent and moving celebration of John Paul II’s funeral Mass as well as his clear stance against the “dictatorship of relativism” in secular society, according to the Post.
“I think he showed great leadership quality, which must obviously have influenced what people thought about him, said Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa, according to the Times.
Cardinal McCarrick also said that newspaper coverage of Cardinal Ratzinger had gotten their attention prior to the conclave and concluded with a grin, saying, “… the Holy Spirit may speak through the newspapers – sometimes even the Italian newspapers.”
Cardinal George said that Cardinal Ratzinger’s possible influence over a languishing European church may have tilted the voting in his favor, saying that the new pope “understands Western society” and “is very well prepared” for reinvigorating Western churches.
For Cardinal Napier, in the weeks before the conclave, many electors came to see a different side of Cardinal Ratzinger, a “gently humble,” character, according to the Times.
He added, “Probably many of us did not know that side of Cardinal Ratzinger,”
Yet, apart from any commentaries, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna said in the New York times, “You can deduce that we were convinced that he was the man God had indicated to us.”
Comes now the disharmonious chorus to sing of the elevation of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy as Benedict XVI.
Some, most, sing with soaring, rapturous hosannas. Others, in key sophisticated and solipsistic circles, rejoice with all the enthusiasm of a boy told to kiss his sister.
The latter group, largely European and to a lesser extent American, is citing Ratzinger’s brief compelled membership in the Hitler Youth as an indicator he is a secret Nazi sympathizer - “God’s rottweiler.”
German theologian Hans Kung, censured by the Vatican when the former cardinal was John Paul’s principal doctrinal dialectician, launches the assault on Ratzinger from another angle: “His ideology is a medieval, anti-Reformation, anti-modern paradigm of the church and the papacy.” The editor of an Italian Catholic lay newsletter echoes Kung, contending that - together - John Paul and Ratzinger created a “medieval atmosphere” hopelessly out of touch with contemporary reality.
The clear implication is that thanks largely to Ratzinger, with the late pope’s by-your-leave, everything in the Vatican is about as up-to-date as it was in the Kansas City heralded in “Oklahoma!” The argument implicitly extends to the entire House of Cardinals, which in about 24 hours mustered a two-thirds vote for Ratzinger - who at 78, seemingly senile in this global hour of the young, becomes the oldest pope elected in two centuries.
(Perhaps those complaining that the House of Cardinals does not know what it is doing, should be asked to weigh its assembled opinion against the oh-so-distinguished, and ever-so-with-it United States Senate. There, senators find themselves unable to demonstrate their ability to mount a two-thirds - or even a majority - vote for certain nominations to the federal bench because they cannot wrest those nominations from a covetous committee.)
What is it about Ratzinger? He harbors the same views as the late John Paul. He intends his papacy as an extension of John Paul’s.
The day before his election, Ratzinger delivered a homily to the conclave wherein he warned against deviation from traditional Catholic teaching. He said:
“(The church has been shaken by) numerous ideological currents. The boat has been unanchored by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and on and on. An adult faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelty.”
“A dictatorship of relativism is being built that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires.”
“Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. Yet relativism - that is, letting oneself be carried here and there by any wind of doctrine - appears as the sole attitude good enough for modern times.”
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, termed it all “vintage Ratzinger - calm, deliberate, precise, incisive.” John Paul’s biographer George Weigel said of the election of Ratzinger, “the most respected of their number”:
“This was not only a tremendous affirmation of (John Paul’s papacy), it was a vote of confidence in Joseph Ratzinger as the man best fitted to give an evangelical thrust to this papacy, a new dynamism in the first decade of the 21st century.”
In Europe and America, mainline Catholicism and Protestantism are suffering hugely - Protestantism probably more than Catholicism. One does not have to be a Catholic (as your correspondent is not) to acknowledge the pre-eminence of Roman Catholicism, notably under John Paul II, as a force for good matched only by the United States.
Both Catholicism (through priestly pederasty) and, e.g., Episcopalianism, have been roiled by homosexuality, within and without. Too often, and for too long, too many in the clergy of both have embraced precisely the fads and fallacies and ideologies - from relativism to collectivism to meism- cited by the new pope. Both have become infected to greater or lesser degrees with a nowist sophomorism grounded more in the latest sociopolitical notions than in permanent things.
The developments implicit in this modernism have emptied churches across Europe and thinned populations in pews across America. If not winding up on golf courses of a Sunday morning, distressed or angered parishioners are moving to evangelical, Pentecostal churches. These churches, and some boast astounding numbers, are where Christianity is seeing its growth - here, in Europe, and throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
It would make more sense for the critics of Benedict XVI (and of John Paul II) to lament their European heritage than their doctrinal adherence, for doctrinal adherence - the explication and application of standards regarding good and evil, right and wrong - is the fundamental appeal of Christianity, its essence where it is most strong.
Yet as with the late Polish pope, so with the new German one: He is that seeming anomaly, a European who comprehends that the reasons for the enervation of Catholicism in now sophisticated precincts go to the heart of Catholicism’s (and Protestantism’s) muscular appeal in those areas where it is least relativistic and most evangelical.
And so Benedict XVI may prove to be for the Catholic church - and broadly for Christianity itself - not God’s rottweiler, as the meanest of his critics would have him, but God’s good German shepherd.
The new Roman Catholic Pope, Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, has written and spoken extensively against many modern ideas and beliefs dear to some Americans.
He sees a “dictatorship of relativism” in many societies. What is relativism? Relativism is the belief two people who completely disagree on moral and social issues can both be equally right. In effect, relativists believe not in right and wrong but in accepting all beliefs, lifestyles and moral systems.
Does this sound a little like the American rage of “tolerance”? The pope thinks so. In fact, the new pope has attacked a host of American social engineering efforts in the name of leading a sanctified, standards-based and moral lifestyle. This might turn off a lot of Americans but here are the new pope’s ideas as reported in the press and through his own actions and words:
• In 1984, Cardinal Ratzinger ordered revoked the imprimatur on “Sexual Morality” by the Rev. Philip S. Keane, published in 1977 by Paulist Press. Father Keane argued homosexual conduct could not be seen as “absolutely immoral.”
• In 1992, in a letter to North American bishops, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, “It is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account.” He condemned homosexuality as “immoral behavior” as he had many times before.
• In 1998, Ratzinger, other curial officials and a group of Australian bishops issued a document citing problems in the Australian church due to a “worldwide crisis of faith.” Among other deviations, the document cited a moral view in which “heterosexuality and homosexuality come to be seen as simply two morally equivalent variations.” In other words, homosexuality and its acceptance are essential relativism.
• “The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. “The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.’” Would Cardinal Ratzinger have supported the untimely death of Terry Schiavo? Definitely not.
• In a letter to Catholic Bishop titled, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles,” Cardinal Ratzinger said unambiguously: “The minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” when warning and counsel given to the manifest sinner “have not had their effect.” Cardinal Ratzinger didn’t tell the bishops to deny John Kerry and other American Catholic politicians Communion if they supported abortion, but he did instruct them on church doctrine.
• Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking in California, said: “As you see with a medical faculty, you have complete academic freedom, but the discipline is such that the obligation of what medicine is determines the exercise of this freedom. As a medical person, you cannot do what you will. You are in the service of life.”
These statements and actions only highlight the new pope’s positions on the Catholic Church’s “sanctity of life” issues. But the new pope, in his years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, discussed almost every issue important to moral life.
• In a letter last year, Cardinal Ratzinger attacked radical feminism. He said men and women are not warring factions but partners in “active collaboration, [and] in recognition of [their] difference.” Part of this condemnation of feminism spilled over into an attack of all sorts of self-absorbed conduct.
The pope’s extensive writing and unflagging positions have already got him into trouble with many liberal Catholics. They attack him as homophobic, antiwoman and much more. The New York Times, citing his service in the German Army during World War II (he was drafted after being forced into the Hitler Youth) indicates the new pope embraces Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Nothing could be further from the truth, and as Cardinal Ratzinger, he attacked Nazism often.
Like it or not, Pope Benedict XVI is a tough, hard-line moralist who dismisses many things Americans support, among them: abortion, homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia, feminism and capital punishment.
While some American politicians ardently wave the flag of “tolerance,” and seem to support all conducts in all walks of life, the new pope doesn’t buy it. To the new pope it doesn’t matter what your definition of “is” is. There is a clear standard of right and wrong that must be respected and obeyed.
John E. Carey, a lifelong Catholic, is a writer in Falls Church.
Since his election as the 265th Roman pontiff on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI has been labeled a “transition pope” by the media. Because he is the oldest pope chosen since the 18th century, it has been reported that Benedict is merely keeping the Chair of Peter warm while the hierarchy of the Catholic Church assesses the long papacy of John Paul II and decides what course to set for the next generation. This completely misses the extraordinary significance of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger becoming pope.
More accurately, the 26-year pontificate of John Paul II was a transition to Benedict XVI. To accept this bold assertion, it is necessary to grasp the ideological and political trends in the Roman Catholic Church over the past four decades. Since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, everything in the church has been justified or rejected, interpreted and translated based on what became known as “the Spirit of the Council.” That spirit was one of liberalization and accommodation to modern ideas.
When Pope John XXIII convened all the world’s bishops to Rome, he announced that the goal of Vatican II was to open the windows of the church to the modern world. The rhetoric was important because for centuries popes had declared that the role of the religion was to help guide the soul in rejecting the world for spiritual gain. At the outset of his pontificate, John Paul II stated that his mission was the realization of the goals of the council. In that commitment, he was consistent with the previous three popes of the Vatican II era.
Benedict XVI is the first pope of a new era because he has criticized Vatican II and its consequences. His views of the fruits of the council have been expressed clearly in his many books. In “Salt of the Earth,” published in 1996, he compared the “false zeal” of 1960s church reformers to Maoists. “What happened after the Second Vatican Council could itself be called a cultural revolution,” he wrote. In “The Ratzinger Report,” a 1985 bestseller, he reflected that with Vatican II, “There had been the expectation of a step forward, and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of destruction.” Over and over, he has made clear that self-criticism passed into self-destruction as Vatican II cracked open church windows to the social mayhem of the 1960s.
People’s ways of worshipping are one of the clearest reflections of their beliefs. Thus, Catholic liturgy has been at the center of debate within the church since Vatican II. Over the years, Cardinal Ratzinger argued that liturgical changes after Vatican II were a disaster, and that slackening beliefs among the faithful were largely a result of the suppression of the traditional Latin Mass and related devotional practices. In the introduction to “The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background,” then-Cardinal Ratzinger called the new Mass created in 1969 by Pope Paul VI a “falsification.” Arguing against this new Mass, he wrote that, “What happened after the council — we abandoned the living, organic process of growth and development over centuries and replaced it with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.” The actions of Benedict XVI as a cardinal also revealed that he thought the church should be stricter. Critical of the more than 100 apologies John Paul II made on behalf of churchmen of past centuries, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said that it might be more appropriate to apologize for the recent history of the church. He also made clear that Catholic teaching would not change on abortion, women’s ordination and other issues that the post-1960s church debated endlessly.
The new name a pope chooses at the beginning of his papacy is full of meaning. John Paul I and John Paul II picked those names specifically to honor John XXIII and Paul VI, the two popes who spearheaded the Second Vatican Council. It was a radically symbolic gesture for Benedict XVI to break with the trend of the Vatican II-era popes and instead grasp a traditional pontifical name from before the council.
It was said that only Richard Nixon could go to China because only a supposed redbaiter had the political cover to open relations with Mao’s Middle Kingdom. For similar reasons, only Benedict XVI could take the Catholic Church out of the Vatican II doldrums. As a former progressive council theologian who was mugged by reality, he understands the nature and appeal of leftist ideology and can explain why it is dangerous and misguided. Rome has entered a new age.
The media were ready for Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The Associated Press in one of its first stories wrote, “He’s a leading hard-liner.” On AOL News he was called a “hard-line conservative.” Even less-flattering labels included “God’s Rottweiler” and “the enforcer,” a reference to his previous position as interpreter of Church doctrine.
Such are the words the mainstream media use to communicate their disapproval, not only of a pope, but also of politicians and almost anyone else who holds convictions that the liberal elites don’t like. And they tell us they are not biased.
One doesn’t have to be Catholic to see how this game is played. The big media think the Catholic Church should conform to the secular agenda. They think the Catholic Church should be a cultural rubber stamp, endorsing, or at least not disapproving, whatever the world wants to do and not a barricade protecting people from the attacks of culture. Anyone who follows the big media line is dubbed “tolerant” or “progressive.” Anyone who doesn’t is “hard-line” or “God’s Rottweiler.”
I recall something my columnist colleague, Joseph Sobran, said some years ago about his Catholic Church. He said, “I would rather belong to a church that is 500 years behind the times and sublimely indifferent to change, than I would to a church that is five minutes behind the times, huffing and puffing to catch up.”
That sounds about right for serious Catholics or for anyone else with convictions about things that matter.
And that’s Column One for this week. Cal Thomas.
Pope Benedict XVI admitted to German pilgrims today that he had prayed to God not to be made Pope but that “evidently this time He didn’t listen to me”.
During a special audience in the Vatican with fellow countrymen who had attended his inauguration, Benedict XVI shed light on his feelings inside the papal conclave for the first time since his election.
Smiling and making jokes as he addressed the crowd in his native German, the Pope told the audience that at one point a fellow cardinal slipped him a note reminding him what he had preached before the conclave, about Christ calling Peter to follow him even where he didn’t want to go.
Benedict said he had hoped to spend his last years living quietly and peacefully.
“At a certain point, I prayed to God, ‘Please don’t do this to me’,” he told the audience, playfully referring to the votes in his favour as a “guillotine”.
He recalled saying to God in his prayers: “You have younger, better, more enthusiastic and energetic candidates.” But, he went on: “Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.”
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope on April 19 by a conclave of cardinals that lasted just 24 hours, one of the fastest elections in a century. He had gone in as a leading candidate, but at 78 he was considered old to be named Pope.
When he first arrived in the audience hall, he received a hero’s welcome, shaking the pilgrims’ hands and blessing a child who was handed to him. He played to the crowd, telling them: “My roots are in Bavaria and I’m still Bavarian as bishop of Rome.”
He apologised for arriving late, explaining that a meeting with Muslim religious leaders and representatives of other faiths had run over time. “The Germans are used to punctuality,” he joked. “I’m already very Italian.”
The Pope was interrupted several times by applause and cheering during the audience, and he seemed to enjoy the welcome, smiling and laughing.
“Benedict, sent from God!” the crowds chanted. In German, the chant rhymes: “Benedikt, Gott Geschickt.”
Pilgrims, some in traditional dress, waved Bavarian flags. Benedict told the crowd he was looking forward to attending the Church’s World Youth Day, which is being celebrated in August in Cologne.
In the crowd was Benedict’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, who is also a priest and travelled to Rome for his younger brother’s inauguration. He received a warm round of applause from the crowd.
Analyst: New pope to reverse course, purge ‘gay’ leaders from ranks
The reason Catholic Church leadership includes homosexuals is because John Paul II refused to believe reports that potential clergy held that orientation – a mistake that will not be repeated by Pope Benedict XVI, says geopolitical expert Jack Wheeler.
In a column on his intelligence website, To the Point, Wheeler explains that a Vatican source disclosed to him why John Paul discounted the charge of homosexuality.
“Whenever Vatican investigators brought the results of their vetting process regarding an individual’s candidacy for bishop, cardinal or other office, and they revealed he was a homosexual, John Paul II would refuse to believe it,” he writes.
“He did so because accusing someone of homosexuality was a standard practice of the Communist government in his native Poland regarding anyone it regarded as an enemy of the state. From his ordination as a Catholic priest in 1946 to elevation to Archbishop of Krakow in 1963 and Cardinal in 1967, the then Karol Wojtyla witnessed this personal destruction repeatedly. So traumatized, he summarily dismissed such accusations as pope, and would approve the elevation of anyone so accused.”
Wheeler says that’s why the church is “riddled” with homosexuals today.
Things will be different with Benedict XVI, writes Wheeler, referring to the new pope’s opposition from people like writer Andrew Sullivan.
Writes Wheeler: “Sullivan denounced the new pontiff as a ‘Grand Inquisitor’ who had ‘declared a war on modernity’ and would launch an ‘attack on individual freedom.’ Yes, the famous commentator who once pretended to be conservative has figured it out: the Catholic Church is now going to be in forthright moral opposition to the ‘modernity’ of homosexual priests and the ‘individual freedom’ of molesting young boys” – a reference to the clergy-sex scandal that has plagued the church.
Noting that in his Good Friday homily soon-to-be pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger condemned the “filth there is in the church,” Wheeler believes the pontiff “will not tolerate [homosexuality’s] presence in his church.”
Concludes Wheeler: “Benedict XVI is going to give people what they spiritually hunger for and no longer find in their pews today: a firm place to make their moral stand. This pope is going to regenerate the moral revival of Christianity – to the great benefit of all Christendom, to the great benefit of Western Civilization, and to the great frustration of its enemies.”