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Saturday, April 23, 2005


Pope Benedict XVI

Beginning of a New Era at the Vatican

New does not mean different. In his first sermon after being appointed, Benedict XVI promised "open and sincere" dialogue with other religions. What that means remains to be seen. A good example is the current occupant of the White House who declared himself as a "compassionate conservative". And I am an alien from outer space.

There has been some negative comments about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict was known, including his role during Hitler's Third Reich. That allegation lacks documentary evidence. The records, however, include some disturbing facts. Among his responsibilities as Cardinal was the leadership of the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also known as the Holy Office, the body that promulgated the infamous Spanish Inquisition.

For those who are not aware of the background, in 1478 Pope Sixtus IV issued a Bull empowering the Spanish sovereigns to set up tribunals to extirpate heresy within their realms. From then until it was abolished in 1834, the Inquisition pursued the goal of destruction of every person who was not a sincere Roman Catholic Christian. "First and foremost this meant Jews, but the Holy Office later expanded its range of victims to include Protestants, mystics, and non-conformist of every sort." (The Spanish Inquisition by Cecil Roth, published by W.W. Norton & Co.)"

Death sentence usually meant being publicly burned at a stake. It was known as Auto da Fe, Act of Purification.

We can rejoice that the murderous tribunal is no longer active although one gets the feeling that there are Christians who salivate at the thought of heretics being burned at stake.

In his own words:

On holy communion and the vote
A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.

· Ratzinger memo to US Catholic bishops conference in Denver, June 2004

On Aids and condoms
To see a solution to the problem of infection by promoting the use of prophylactics would be to embark on a way not only insufficiently reliable from the technical point of view, but also and above all, unacceptable from the moral aspect. Such a proposal for "safe" or at least "safer" sex - as they say - ignores the real cause of the problem, namely, the permissiveness which, in the area of sex, as in that related to other causes, corrodes the moral fibre of the people.

· Ratzinger quoting, in a 1978 interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, from an Osservatore Romano article on Aids believed to have originated with him

On celibacy

Not a dogma of the faith, but something that has grown in a human way and clearly contains the dangers for those who undertake it of a headlong fall.
· Salz der Erde, 1997

On women and Anglicanism
A new situation has been brought about by two circumstances: the extending of the majority principle to questions of doctrine and the entrusting of doctrinal decisions to national churches ... Both of these are in themselves nonsensical; because doctrine is either true or not true.

· 1976, quoted in Cardinal Ratzinger

On laws
The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorise or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection ... In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it".

· Memo to US Catholic bishops conference in Denver, June 2004

On liberation theology
In the crisis of the 1960s and 1970s, many missionaries came to the conclusion that missionary work, that is, the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was no longer appropriate today. They thought the only thing that still made sense was to offer help in social development. But how can positive social development be carried out if we become illiterate with regard to God?

Gospel and social advancement go together.

· Lecture to Campania bishops, Benveneto, June 2002

I did not find any statement in which Pope Benedict condemned or mentioned the numerous cases of sexual abuse of children by members of clergy of the Catholic Church.


Postscript: After publication of this post I learned from Laurie Goldstein's report in The NY Times that Cardinal Ratzinger was involved in investigating cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests but the hearings were "secret".

"It is impossible to assess Cardinal Ratzinger's record in disciplining the priests accused over the years. The hearings were secret, and under longstanding rules, the Congregation and its staff do not release any information about specific cases, the number of cases considered, or how the cases have been handled."

Ratzinger on Sexual Abuse

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