On the Roman Catholic Church:
Pope Benedict XVI
|More on Pope Benedict XVI
Commentary added on 4-22-05
|A New Pope: Benedict XVI
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is
certainly viewed with appreciation by many Roman Catholics and others. But
notes of concern are also being sounded. Here's a selection of reports and
A New Pope: Benedict XVI
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a renowned theologian and
hard-line enforcer of Catholic Church doctrine for the last two decades, was
chosen Tuesday to succeed his friend and close ally Pope John Paul II.
Ratzinger, 78, became Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th leader of the world's
largest and most powerful Christian institution. The LA Times
presents a good overview of the election of Pope Benedict, and varying
reactions to his elevation to the papacy.
"arch-conservative" in Reuters report
The story begins: "Arch-conservative German cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on Tuesday in a surprise choice that
delighted traditionalist Roman Catholics but stunned moderates hoping for a
more liberal papacy."
Read this on
the Reuters posting.
Rabbi Michael Lerner sees the selection of
Cardinal Ratzinger as bad news for the world and for the Jews
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive Jewish
magazine, TIKKUN, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in San Francisco, took
the unusual step of criticizing the choice of Cardinal Ratzinger as the new
Primate of the Roman Catholic Church. He is concerned about the Pope’s early
involvement in Nazism, however reluctant he may have been. He points to more
immediate concerns as well: Ratzinger’s suppression of creative theologians
such as Hans Kung and Leonardo Boff, and his opposition to policies that
would aid the world’s poor and oppressed.
Read his statement >>
The Gentle Watchdog
The LA Times carries a
report focusing on Joseph Ratzinger’s background in Germany, growing up
under the Nazis and in post-war Germany. While he shows some rigidity in
enforcing traditional doctrines and morals, he is seen doing that as a way
of defending the Church against the dehumanizing dangers of modern culture.
Regarding accusations that Ratzinger supported Nazism, the
story notes that "Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles agreed that Ratzinger's father was anti-Nazi and said Ratzinger's
membership in the Hitler Youth should not be taken as an indication of Nazi
sympathies because membership was mandatory. Hier said his group likes
Ratzinger and expects him to continue John Paul II's outreach to Jews."
Steadfast Beliefs in a Tumultuous World
The Washington Post suggests that "his searing experience
as a World War II Nazi conscript left Pope Benedict XVI with a distrust of
nationalism and socialism, and a passionate belief in holding firmly to
A polarizer or a reconciler?
Pope Benedict is seen by one analyst (in the LA Times)
as likely to have an activist agenda, aiming to "to revitalize the Roman
Catholic faith and identity where it is threatened by secularism,
particularly in Europe."
New Pope intervened against Kerry in US 2004 election campaign
Agence France-Presse reminds us that it was Cardinal
Ratzinger who "intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops
to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential
candidate John Kerry."
One of Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements on this subject was
memorandum he sent to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington last
year on how the church should treat pro-choice politicians and their
What’s in a (pope’s) name?
Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst and church
historian, sees reasons for hope and for concern in Cardinal Ratzinger’s
choice of the name of Pope Benedict.
On April 19 Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope on the
fourth ballot. Sylvia Poggioli on NPR had the courage to say that he had
headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, once called the
Inquisition. She'll probably catch plenty of flak for telling that truth. In
any case, Ratzinger was the enforcer for the hard line positions taken by
John Paul II.
A new pope's choice of name can be significant. When Roncalli was elected
in 1958, he came out and said, "I shall be called John." It was an allusion,
of course, to Luke 1:60. But it also contained a message--that he intended
to resume the conciliar movement that saved the papacy following the Great
Schism (the years were 1415-17), then was betrayed by the papacy, which
ignored or bypassed most of its decrees.
Pope Benedict XV's years were 1914 to 1922. His first task was to seek
peace, then to hold the Catholics of warring European powers together. His
entries in the Denzinger collection of authoritative decrees mostly hold the
line against the softening of doctrine and biblical interpretation.
What may be most memorable about him, however, is that he brought to an
end the anti-Modernist crusade carried out under Pius X by the secretive
Sodalitium Pianum, a sort of papal FBI. He himself, like Roncalli, the
future John XXIII, had been under suspicion. He told the leader to clear out
his office, saying, "We forgive but we cannot forget."
The papacy of John Paul II saw not only the enforcement of orthodoxy,
carried out by Ratzinger, but the centralization of power, resented by many
of the bishops, even many of the cardinals. If taking the name Benedict
means that there will be some loosening of the reins of authority, perhaps
even the undoing of past abuses, then this, at least, could be good news.
The new pope's promise to stay loyal to the directives of the Second Vatican
Council may carry the implicit criticism that his predecessor did not do so.
If we look for more auguries, the last Germans to be popes lived during
the eleventh century--Leo IX (1048-54), Victor II (1055-57), and Stephen IX
(1057-58). They were part of the Northern Reform, in which renewed study of
canon law led to reform of church practices under the sponsorship of the
German Emperor. This happened before the centralization of church authority
under the great but controversial Italian, Gregory VII (1073-85). This papal
reform had mixed results--not only reform but uniformity, decreed in ways
that were widely resented and resisted.
Hadrian VI (1522-23) was from the Netherlands, not part of the German
Empire, and was the last non-Italian pope until John Paul II. While he
sympathized with the calls for reforms made by Erasmus and Luther, he was a
traditionalist in doctrine.
In sum, popes from north of the Alps could sometimes bring a surprising
breath of fresh air. But we can't count on it.
And finally, a thought from Pope John XXIII, as he opened
the Second Vatican Council:
In the daily exercise of our pastoral ministry-and much
to our sorrow-we must sometimes listen to those who, consumed with zeal,
have scant judgment or balance. To such ones the modern world is nothing
but betrayal and ruin. They claim that this age is far worse than previous
ages, and they rant on as if they had learned nothing at all from history
-- and yet, history is the great Teacher of Life...We feel bound to
disagree with these prophets of doom who are forever forecasting
calamity-as though the world's end were imminent. Today, rather,
Providence is guiding us toward a new order of human relationships, which,
thanks to human effort and yet far surpassing human hopes, will bring us
to the realization of still higher and undreamed of expectations.
This is from Thomas Cahill's excellent little
biography of John XXIII, Pope John XXIII: A Penguin Life. [We
trust that "Penguin" refers to the publisher of the book, not its
subject. A thought from your WebWeaver.]
Thanks to David Oliver-Holder, Kettle Moraine United Presbyterian Church,
What do you think?
Please share your thoughts about Pope John Paul II, or about
Pope Benedict XVI.
Just send a note!
|John Paul II: The Great Restorer
by Leonardo Boff
Leonardo Boff, a renowned liberation theologian,
teacher, and writer living in Petrópolis, Brazil, considers the
significance of the Papacy of John Paul II. Amid all the calls for the
Pope to be placed on a fast track for sainthood, Boff sees his reign as
one of restoring the Catholic Church to a pre-Vatican II orthodoxy.
Specifically, Pope John XXIII had begun to deal with two major issues
facing the Church: the Protestant Reformation and modernity.
In sum, his papacy was dedicated to "the restoration of and the return
to great discipline."
Read his essay
in The Witness magazine
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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