'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The New Pope 

So they picked Ratzinger, and it's hard to imagine a worse choice.

The guy's against women priests and against married priests. Not only is he against Catholic dissidents, he excommunicated Tissa Balasuriya, a leftist Sri Lankan theologian, for the crime of presenting Mary as the "author of the Magnificat with its fierce cry for social justice [and] the strong mother who stood as she witnessed the execution of her Son" and for promoting "'relativism' of all religions", to quote Gerard Sloyan.

Ratzinger's not merely passingly anti-gay, he's the author of the Vatican's statement against gay marriage. He also condemned Buddhism, Hinduism and other Eastern religions as offering "false hope" through "auto-erotic spirituality".

Then there's the fact that he's kind of a former Nazi:

Unknown to many members of the church, however, Ratzinger's past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement and wartime service with a German army anti-aircraft unit. [ ... ]

In 1937 Ratzinger's father retired and the family moved to Traunstein, a staunchly Catholic town in Bavaria. Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth aged 14, shortly after membership was made compulsory in 1941. He soon won a dispensation on account of his training at a seminary. "Ratzinger was only briefly a member of the Hitler Youth and not an enthusiastic one," said John Allen, his biographer.

Two years later Ratzinger was enrolled in an anti-aircraft unit that protected a BMW factory making aircraft engines. The workforce included slave labour from the Dachau concentration camp. Ratzinger has insisted he never took part in combat or fired a shot – adding that his gun was not even loaded – because of a badly infected finger. He was sent to Hungary, where he set up tank traps and saw Jews being herded to death camps. He deserted in April 1944 and spent a few weeks in a prisoner of war camp.

Ratzinger has since said that although he was opposed to the Nazi regime, any open resistance would have been futile – comments echoed this weekend by his elder brother Georg, a retired priest ordained along with the cardinal in 1951.

"Resistance was truly impossible," Georg Ratzinger said. "Before we were conscripted, one of our teachers said we should fight and become heroic Nazis and another told us not to worry, as only one soldier in a thousand was killed. But neither of us ever used a rifle against the enemy."

Some locals in Traunstein, such as Elizabeth Lohner, 84, whose brother-in-law was sent to Dachau as a conscientious objector, dismiss such suggestions. "It was possible to resist, and those people set an example for others," she said. "The Ratzingers were young and they had made a different choice."

Oh, yeah, and he also helped to cover up a molestation scandal at the Vatican:

The accusers say Vatican-based Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who heads the Vatican office to safeguard the faith and the morals of the church, quietly made the lawsuit [against Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ which has raised millions of dollars for the Church, regarding allegations of sexual abuse] go away and shelved it. There was no investigation and the accusers weren't asked a single question or asked for a statement.

He was appointed by the pope to investigate the entire sex abuse scandal in the church in recent days. But when approached by ABCNEWS in Rome last week with questions of allegations against Maciel, Ratzinger became visibly upset and actually slapped this reporter's hand.

"Come to me when the moment is given," Ratzinger told ABCNEWS, "not yet."

"Cardinal Ratzinger is sheltering Maciel, protecting him," said Berry, who expressed concerns that no response was being given to the allegations against the man charged with sex abuse. "These men knelt and kissed the ring of Cardinal Ratzinger when they filed the case in Rome. And a year-and-a-half later, he takes those accusations and aborts them, just stuffs them."

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