Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A caretaker reactionary

Well, the Roman Catholic cardinals have elected Ratzinger, now to be known as Benedict XVI. Sigh. Also known as "The Enforcer". Also known as "God's Rottweiler". Why does it matter to those of us who aren't Roman Catholic? Well, for one reason, this election is representative of the climate of fundamentalism that is widespread today in all the major religions in the world. Also, the R.C. Church is a political as well as a religious organization and so its choice of a leader has political consequences. The Roman church's position against condoms will have enormous continued impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS - especially in Africa. It's stance against birth control will likewise have an effect on world poverty.

The National Catholic Reporter published a profile of Ratzinger six years ago entitled, "The Vatican's enforcer". (This was published, of course, before the cardinal instructed American bishops to refuse communion to politicians who supported the laws that protect a woman's right to choose.) Here is a sample of his record at the time:

*Theologians disciplined, such as Fr. Charles Curran, an American moral theologian who advocates a right to public dissent from official church teaching; Fr. Matthew Fox, an American known for his work on creation spirituality; Sr. Ivone Gebara, a Brazilian whose thinking blends liberation theology with environmental concerns; and Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, a Sri Lankan interested in how Christianity can be expressed through Eastern concepts;

*Movements blocked, such as liberation theology and, more recently, religious pluralism (the drive to affirm other religions on their own terms);

*Progressive bishops hobbled, including Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, reproached by Rome for his tolerance of ministry to homosexuals and his involvement in progressive political causes, and Bishop Dom Pedro Casaldáliga of Sao Félix, Brazil, criticized for his political engagement beyond the borders of his own diocese;

*Episcopal conferences brought to heel on issues such as inclusive language and their own teaching authority;

*The borders of infallibility expanded, to include such disparate points as the ban on women's ordination and the invalidity of ordinations in the Anglican church.

It's called electing a "caretaker pope" - choosing an elderly conservative, that is, with the idea that it will be a short reign. This pope is in good health, however, for all his 78 years. He could rule for a long time.

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