Title: Just who is Pope Benedict XVI? Credit: Craig Young Features Tuesday 21st June 2005 - 12:00pm1119312000 Article: 789 Rights
The short answer is Pope Benedict XVI (aka Joseph Ratzinger) is a strident social conservative authoritarian, with a negative history of statements and actions against lesbians and gay men. Until his election as Pope, Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith for the last quarter-century. The CDF used to be known as the Inquisition, although its behaviour is apparently restricted to symbolic violence and internal censorship at present. Liberal Catholics despise Ratzinger for the increasing institutional repression and decline of internal free speech that has enshrouded that denomination since the ascension of Pope John Paul II. During his tenure as CDF prefect, Ratzinger has disciplined and silenced advocates of liberation theology and East Asian faith dialogue, as well as pastoral ministry to gay men in the context of HIV/AIDS, and advocacy of contraception, abortion and safe sex, as well as declaring opposition to women's ordination an 'infallibility' issue. He went further than the late Pope on some issues as well- the Pope had some sympathy with liberation theology as a criticism of US hardline capitalism, and didn't declare women's ordination an issue of infallible opinion. As a youth, Ratzinger grew up in Nazi Germany. I'm not sure how he derives the opinion that his church is the paragon of all virtue from that setting, given that German Lutheranism and Catholicism alike fed the hideous fires of the Middle Ages, and Pius XII's tenure was one of shameful silence and compromise with the paramount evil of the Nazi Holocaust. Indeed, Ratzinger served as a Hitler Youth until the fall of Germany itself. Ratzinger believes that the church is the sole guarantor of absolute truth, defined in twelfth century terms akin to Thomas Aquinas, against the New Left of the sixties and seventies. He demands lay and theologian subordination to the centralised authority of the Papacy and Curia, the institutional edifice that backs up papal rule within the Vatican, even on issues where papal infallibility hasn't been invoked. This has meant that apart from the peace movement, the Roman Catholic Church has become torn between an increasingly authoritarian and repressive hierarchy, and educated theologians and laypeople. Ratzinger is a pessimist on issues of social justice, and his authoritarianism has alienated many theologians and laypeople through absence of dialogue or lay accountability. His recent comments about New Zealand civil unions reflect his sorry background as Vatican enforcer against inclusion of lesbians and gay men within the denomination. As the Advocate noted in April 2005, most of these initiatives were directed against progay Catholic priests and authors within the United States. In May 1984, Ratzinger removed authorisation from Sexual Morality, which argued for more nuanced understanding of homosexuality within Catholic moral theology. In 1992, he took similar action against a Canadian theologian over The Sexual Creator, which proposed dissident Catholic views about contraception, homosexuality and sexual morality. In September 1986, he took disciplinary action against Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, after he'd heard Mass for Dignity, the leading US lesbian/gay Catholic group back in 1983. He took urgent steps to sabotage HIV/AIDS related pastoral care at the height of the US HIV/AIDS epidemic, when he issued a report misleadingly titled "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," which described homosexuality as an 'intrinsic moral evil' in October 1986. In 1992, the New Catechism of the Catholic Church reinforced this negative depiction of homosexuality. He also supported antigay fundamentalist activities against the introduction and maintenance of US antidiscrimination laws within that country, encouraging the US Catholic Bishops to oppose them. In 1998, he encouraged similar activity amongst Australian Catholic Bishops. In 1987, he undertook further retaliatory activities against reknowned Jesuit pro-gay author John McNeill (The Church and the Homosexual, 1977), ordering him to relinquish his ordained ministry and leave the order if he continued to promote his progay views. As a consequence, McNeill left the Jesuits rather than be silenced. In 1988, Father Matthew Fox departed from Catholicism after he refused to be censored over his pro-gay creation spirituality approach, and is now a US Episcopalian minister. In July 1998, Ratzinger mangled a statement from the Committee on Marriage and Family of the U.S. bishops' conference after it reissued its letter to parents of homosexuals, "Always Our Children." It referred to homosexuality as a "deep-seated" rather than "fundamental" dimension of personality. It argued that homosexual acts by adolescents may not indicate a homosexual orientation. It reinforced church dogma through adding a footnote describing homosexuality as "objectively disordered." It removed a passage that advocated terms such as "homosexual, gay, and lesbian" from the pulpit in order to "give people permission" to discuss homosexuality. Meanwhile, the church was experiencing an increasing raft of scandals from paedophile infestation within North America, Australia and Western Europe. As David France recounted, openly gay clergy and pro-gay clergy were removed from their pulpits, while the hierarchy concealed, transferred and took no further disciplinary action against serial clergy paedophiles as they attacked children within their reassigned dioceses, male and female. Why didn't Ratzinger take stronger disciplinary action against that area of pastoral duty and responsibility as CDF Prefect? As for the consequences of that negligence, might one observe that the ordination of women might have imposed some safeguards against male clergy paedophilia? Might some co-optation of feminist theological observations and professional procedures and protocols have protected children from sexual abuse at the hand of rapacious predators of the cloth? Pope Benedict is entitled to his retrograde views about homosexuality. However, he should not assume that New Zealand lesbians and gay men will take his antigay track record as evidence of profound moral authority, given his abject failure to address a particularly destructive aspect of respect church policy and practice. Nor should mature and responsible New Zealand Catholics, for that matter. Recommended Reading: John Allen: "The Vatican's Enforcer" National Catholic Reporter (16.04.99): David Frame: Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal: New York: Broadway Books: 2004. "New Pope on Homosexuality: An "Intrinsic Moral Evil:" Muriel Porter: Sex, Power and the Clergy: South Yarra: Hardie Grant: 2001. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: The Ratzinger Report: San Fransisco: Ignatius Press: 1982. Vatican: Considerations Regarding Homosexual Couples (c1994): Craig Young - 21st June 2005    
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