Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's interventions are a roll call of flashpoints for the church: the 1987 order stripping American theologian the Rev. Charles Curran of the right to teach because he encouraged dissent; crippling Latin Americans supporting the popular "liberation theology" movement for alleged Marxist leanings; coming down hard on efforts to rewrite Scriptures in gender inclusive language.
He also shows no flexibility on the church's views on priestly celibacy, contraception and the ban on ordinations for women.
In 1986, he denounced rock music as the "vehicle of anti-religion." In 1988, he dismissed anyone who tried to find "feminist" meanings in the Bible. Last year, he told American bishops that it was allowable to deny Communion to those who support such "manifest grave sin" as abortion and euthanasia.
He earned unflattering nicknames such as Panzercardinal, God's rottweiler, and the Grand Inquisitor. Cartoonists emphasized his deep-set eyes and Italians lampooned his pronounced German accent.
"Indeed, it would be hard to find a Catholic controversy in the past 20 years that did not somehow involve Joseph Ratzinger," John Allen, a Vatican reporter for the National Catholic Register, wrote six years ago.
But among conservatives, he rose in stature. An online fan club sings his praises and offers souvenirs with the slogan: "Putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981."
In recent years, he took on issues outside church doctrine. He once called Buddhism a religion for the self-indulgent. In an interview with the French magazine Le Figaro last year, he suggested Turkey's bid to join the Europe Union conflicted with Europe's Christian roots â a view that could unsettle Vatican attempts to improve relations with Muslims.
"Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe," he was quoted as saying.
"If he continues as pope the way he was as a cardinal, I think we will see a polarized church," said David Gibson, a former Vatican Radio journalist and author of a book on trends in the church. "He has said himself that he wanted a smaller, but purer, church."
Critics complain Ratzinger embodies all the conservative instincts of the last papacy, but without John Paul's charisma and pastoral genius.
"I think this is the closest the church can come to human cloning," quipped Gibson.
It's a joke not too far off the mark.
Posted by DYAB at 7:32 AM