Good riddance to bad Ratzinger
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he’d be retiring effective the 28th of February to the shock and dismay of Catholics everywhere. This is shocking not least because the last time something other than death interrupted the tenure of a pope was in 1415, when Pope Gregory XII was deposed to put an end to the period known as the Western Schism. There were actually three popes at one time during this period, which in my opinion calls into some question the legitimacy of the papacy from that point forward. Or indeed at all. But I digress.
From the moment I heard Joseph Ratzinger was to accede to the office of pope, I was skeptical. Of course the issue that most bothered me at the time was his Nazi past: it’s well documented that he served in the Hitler Youth, although he and his supporters insist that joining had become compulsory by that time. The rest of my worry came from his famously conservative nature, and his beliefs and writings in defense of traditional Catholic doctrines and values. Personally I found his predecessor, John Paul II, much more palatable. And quite a looker in his youth, if truth be told.
Pope Benedict XVI’s record is less than sterling, as I predicted it would be. I am particularly concerned by his comments regarding gay marriage and homosexuality:
“In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.” As a liberal, his opinions bother me. As an American, his instruction to citizens of this country to follow his convictions rather than those of the President of this nation bothers me more.
I am also bothered by what to my mind is a total lack of progress regarding the issue of abuse in the Catholic church. In 2002, he was quoted as saying, “In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts.” (“Cardinal Ratzinger Sees a Media Campaign Against Church,” Zenit.org, December 3, 2002.) I think this quote is indicative of his, and the church’s desire to minimize, rather than solve, the problem of rampant child abuse at the hands of clerics of the Catholic church.
I’m an atheist, but of all the religions I have come into contact with, I find Catholicism to be one of the most fascinating. I love the tradition and the history, the art and the literature. There will be a grand legacy up for grabs in the days to come. It is my hope that the Throne of St. Peter will find a worthy occupant, and that the Catholic community will begin to make some of the progress it so desperately needs to.