Pope Benedict XVI: The empire strikes back

Hopes for a moderately progressive pontiff who could loosen up the Chuch line on the supposed evils of condoms in the age of AIDS–or even an African or Latin American one who could help Catholicism rally against the aggressive inroads of Islam and Protestantism on those continents—have been dashed by the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Ratzinger has earned a reputation as the Church’s guardian of orthodoxy. An online biography informs us he was born in Bavaria in 1927, served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht in World War II, re-entered the seminary after the war and was ordained in 1951. With his colleague Hans Kung he served as a theological advisor at Vatican II from 1962-5, but the two later went in opposite directions–Ratzinger rejecting Kung’s search for “global ethics” as a dangerous embrace of relativism, and especially his questioning of papal infallibility. In 1972, Ratzinger founded the influential theological journal Communio. In 1977 he was named archbishop of Munich and, later that year, a cardinal. In 1981, Pope John Paul II (having already stripped Kung of his right to teach theology) named Ratzinger prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith–formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. In this capacity he helped put the breaks on–and reverse–the liberal trajectory since Vatican II, protecting the faithful from such contemporary heresies as birth control and ecumenism.

Some of Ratzinger’s zealots don’t seem to have got the word that his office is no longer called the Inquisition. Writes the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club website (without a trace of irony): “As Grand Inquisitor for Mother Rome, Ratzinger keeps himself busy in service to the Truth: correcting theological error, silencing dissenting theologians, and stomping down heresy wherever it may rear its ugly head — and, consequently, has received somewhat of a notorious reputation among the liberal media and ‘enlightened’ intellegensia of pseudo-Catholic universities.”

Ratzinger, who became vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998 and dean in 2002, also seems to have been the official Vatican pointman on mystical loopiness. He oversaw the publishing of the Third Secret of Fatima in June 2000, and provided the official commentary, insisting that the 1917 vision to a group of peasant children in Portugal had accurately predicted the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 by a Turk, Ali Agca, in St Peter’s Square. The revelation had long been kept secret to avoid sparking a public panic of imminent apocalypse. Ratzinger told the press, “No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled.” But he was clear that was only because the Third Secret had already come to pass–certainly not because the whole thing is simply a glorified hallucination. The first two Secrets–interpreted to predict the outbreak of World War II (as a punishment for mankind’s sins) and Soviet efforts against religion–had already been revealed to the public.

A 2001 Catholic World News account on the conservative Catholic Una Voce website also states that Ratzinger was assigned to head the Vatican’s dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X, a schizmatic reactionary faction that broke from Rome after Vatican II. The Society of St. Pius X is part of the Traditionalist schism whose fundamentalist vision animated Mel Gibson’s twisted The Passion of Christ (see WW4 REPORT review/expose).

An April 17 account in the London Times sheds more light on Ratzinger’s World War II experience. He was a member of the Hitler Youth–albeit only after membership became compulsory in 1941, and his biographer John Allen says his membership was “not an enthusiastic one.” In the Wehrmacht he served in an anti-aircraft unit gaurding a BMW war plant making aircraft engines–and employing slaves from the Dachau concentration camp. Ratzinger would later insist that he never fired a shot. He deserted in April 1944, and was briefly detained in a POW camp. He would later maintain that he opposed the Nazis but that resistance would have been futile.

The biography Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith, by John Allen of Britain’s liberal National Catholic Reporter, is overwhelmingly negative, portraying him as a rigid totalitarian who “sold his soul for power.” (See review, BeliefNet) The British press has had a field day with colorful epithets for Ratzinger, with the Independent dubbing him “God’s Rottweiler,” and the Mirror opting for “the Panzer Cardinal.”

In a March 22, 2002 National Catholic Reporter piece, John Allen wrongly predicted that Ratzinger’s conservative views would prevent him from becoming pope, but did state that “Ratzinger is a fan of the founder of Opus Dei, Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer”–without actually noting whether he is a member of the secretive organization.

  1. Resistance is futile, so are condoms
    Not only did he never fire his gun, he claims his gun was never even loaded. Resistance was futile, but that didn’t stop his father from being openly anti-Nazi — the family had to move once as a result. Nor did resistance being futile stop a segment of brave young Germans from resisting, many paying with their lives — but they realized they were dealing with a moral absolute. But resistance could have been risky, and what if he never then became pope, with the opportunity to ruin so many lives with medieval policies on AIDS prevention and abortion, evil on a scale he’d probably never would have had a chance to commit in the Hitler Youth, or the Werhmacht — especially w/his gun not loaded.

  2. Ratzinger-Bush Axis Revealed
    New Pope Intervened against Kerry in US 2004 Election Campaign
    Agence France-Presse

    Tuesday 19 April 2005

    Washington – 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.

  3. Ominous vobiscum
    J.J. Dobkin, the relentlessly irreverent editor of The Limerick Times, offers this touching observation on the eerily-timed ascendance of the new pontiff:


    He may say that God’s blessing will pass
    Unto him as he sings holy mass
    He may call himself pope
    But he’s still just a dope
    And I don’t give a Ratzinger’s ass!

  4. Pope celebrates Hitler’s birthday at Yankee Stadium
    Three years later, an update…

    Actually April 19, when Benedict’s papacy began in 2005, is the day before Hitler’s birthday. But, as we’ve noted, the April 19, 1943 burning of the Warsaw ghetto took place that day because the Nazis wanted the city to be judenrein—Jew free—as a birthday present to the Fuehrer. Pope Benedict finally addressed his own Nazi youth in a speech to American youth at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers on April 19, 2008—in terms so predictable and unthinking (“monster,” “sinister regime”) that they are practically an insult to those who were hoping for some serious moral grappling. (CNN, April 19) In his Sunday sermon at New York’s Yankee Stadium the next day—the Fuehrer’s b-day—he explicitly invoked the Nazi values of “authority” and “obedience.” (IHT, April 21) Fittingly, Dick Cheney hosted his farewell ceremony at Kennedy Airport that night. (NYT, April 20) Are we just paranoid (OK, probably), or is Il Papa trying, through this choice of dates, to send a subtle mixed message to the initiated?

    And just to make it all the more irresistible for us paranoids, all the Hitlerian-Papal festivities happened to fall on the Passover holiday this year…