I’ve been reading up more about the new Pope Benedict XVI. Not sure why this is so interesting to me, apart from being an ex-Catholic who is very interested in the pope selection as a nice barometer of the spiritual reality of billions of people in the world.
Here’s what I’ve been able to gather about this man (nearly all of it paraphrased from the Wikipedia page linked above):
- He joined the Hitler Youth at the age of 14, in 1941.
- He was drafted into the Nazi army at age 16, and served in the Flak (anti-aircraft corps), shooting at Allied planes in Ludwigsfeld, Unterfohring, Innsbruck, and Gilching. To his credit, he did eventually desert the army, but did so only as the Reich was crumbling into chaos, along with thousands of other German boys.
- He later became a priest, and a professor. He occupied the chair of dogmatic theology at the University of Tubingen, where his thinking took a decidedly conservative stance after the student movements of 1968.
- In 1981, Ratzinger became prefect of “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” which had its name changed from its former tarnished and politically-inconvenient name: the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
- He has argued that homosexuality is a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” He has — on the record — reprimanded compassionate priests who “do not unequivocally accept … the intrinsic evil of homosexual activity.”
- Philosophically, Benedict is opposed to birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage, and moral relativism.
- He has minimized the child abuse crisis rampant in the Catholic Church, dismissing it by saying “less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type.” (well, perhaps… but how many thousands of priests are there? And how does this percentage differ from the percentage of pedophiles in the rest of the population?)
- He has argued that “only in the Catholic church is there eternal salvation.”
- Argued in the US, before the 2004 election, that voters would be “cooperating in evil” if they voted for a candidate supporting legalized abortion or euthanasia, thus contributing to the Christian Right’s manipulation of the 2004 election by smokescreen issues.
So yeah. This guy is hardly consistent with my idea of the Spiritual Leader for 1.2 billion Catholics. This is also why — at least in the US and in Europe — Catholicism is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The fact that an old white man will preside over further migrations away from Catholicism, while millions more people are becoming Catholics in South America, Africa, and Asia, only reinforces the racism inherent in the church.
To all the Catholics out there: you get what you deserve. It is my prayer that this election will cause you to think, meditate, and pray about why you are still a Catholic. The Catholic Church (as my father would say, the “big C church”) is a formalized, institutionalized bastion of racism, sexism, oppression, intolerance, bigotry, pedophilia, social control, and persecution. It always has been, and it is not likely to be otherwise anytime soon. Any good that has come about from the church is, from where I’m standing, in spite of the political structures of the church. I’m certain that there are good priests, and good congregations, in the Catholic world. But rigid structures presided over by intolerant racists can only get in the way.