among the most conservative of men

The Irish Times’ Religious Affairs Correspondent, Patsy McGarry, has a interesting article on the views of Pope Benedict XVI in which he argues “The present incumbent of St Peter’s chair is among the most conservative of men to become Pope in modern times.” The focus is on the expected introduction of new rules on who should be eligible for the priesthood, but other stated views of former-Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are worth noting.As Patsy McGarry says in his Irish Times article

it is hard to see how this man as Pope can escape the straitjacket he created for himself and his papacy through his work as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He held the position from November 1981 until his election as Pope.

Arising from that legacy, some things are self-evident where this papacy is concerned.

Those self-evident things, according to McGarry, are –

There will be no change in the rule on clerical celibacy. There will be no discussion, even, on the issue of women priests. There will be no tolerance of inquiring/dissident theologians – even if he met Hans Küng recently.

There will be no, more embracing interpretation of scripture on issues of gender, sexuality, justice, relations with other Christian denominations, relations with other religions, and those of no religion at all.

Rather, there will be much emphasis on “respecting and accepting difference”. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his Dominus Iesus document of 2000, he made clear just what that involves.

As a Protestant it means you must accept that in the eyes of the Catholic Church you do not belong to a church at all. Yours is an “ecclesial community”. Your priests are not real priests, and your communion is not real communion.

His views as Cardinal have resurfaced, according to Patsy McGarry, in his speeches as Pope –

But at an ecumenical meeting in Cologne on August 19th, Benedict began with a greeting to “the representatives of the other churches and ecclesial communities”. The “churches” he referred to were the Orthodox, while “the ecclesial communities” were the Protestants.

Either the deep offence this denigration causes to Protestants has not been adequately conveyed to him, or he is indifferent to it.

It is difficult, however, to conclude that he is not aware of it.

And if that causes offence, consider the views of the now-Pope Benedict XVI on other religions –

Where other religions are concerned, this accepting and respecting of difference means living with the Vatican view that as a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc, you are in “a gravely deficient situation”, according to Dominus Iesus.

In 1997 Cardinal Ratzinger even described Buddhism an “auto-erotic spirituality”. Hinduism, he said then, was based on a “morally cruel” concept of reincarnation resembling “a continuous circle of hell”.

You could be worse off. You could be a secularist, of which there is only one rung lower.

In his homily at Mass in St Peter’s on April 18th, just before the conclave which elected him Pope began, Benedict warned against the “dictatorship of relativism”, which he said recognised nothing as definite and for which the ultimate measure was simply one’s own self and its desires.

It was an attack on, and misrepresentation of, secular humanism. Secular humanism does not promote selfishness, which is no more acceptable to the secularist than it is to the religious believer.

Finally, on the expected introduction of new regulations on who should be eligible for the priesthood –

Now it appears he is about to ban gay men – even if celibate – from training for the priesthood.

A Vatican document on the matter is expected to be approved by him at the end of October.

As Patsy McGarry says –

Many would hold that at the root of all of this is a deeply-flawed thinking which strips people of their humanity, reducing them to a “disorder”. It seems more barely-masked prejudice than truth.

The Catholic Church should know better. It has had similar experience with another minority.

Up to 1962, and despite the Holocaust, it retained the phase “perfidious (treacherous) Jews” in its Good Friday liturgy.

And he ends by making a prediction –

The day will yet come when a pope will beg forgiveness for the church’s treatment of gay people.

A pope may yet remember, at Auschwitz or elsewhere, the gay people who died in Nazi concentration camps, and a pope may acknowledge how the church’s teaching on homosexuality down the millennia helped validate the persecution of gay people.

And words such as “disorder” and “evil” will join “perfidious” as exiles from the Vatican’s lexicon.

But not during this papacy.

NB I’m leaving comments open for now.. and the thread will remain open as long as the comments play the ball