Pope was initially underestimated as a "transitional pope", but it is
now more and more clear that he is anything but a lightweight. The aim
of Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is for an all out
conservative redirection of
Catholic Church policy.
of Ratzinger manifest a Catholic version of fundamentalism, a trend present in
all the major religions today. After the rise of the Baptist hardliner George
W. Bush; and with the resurgence of Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism, now the
Catholic world also has its fundamentalist: Gods Bulldog Ratzinger, a name
given to him in the media before he became pope.
Papacy of John Paul II. the then Cardinal Ratzinger was head of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which, in the apparatus of the
today fills the same role as the Holy Inquisition in rooting out heresy. In
this role Ratzinger served as the ideologist responsible for working out the official
spiritual and political line of the Vatican.
begun under John Paul II, can now be finished with Ratzinger himself as Pope.
Ratzinger is not a weak copy of John Paul II, as many bourgeois journalists
misinterpret. He is his own man. In this sense it is John Paul II, not
Ratzinger, who can be seen as a transitional Pope. John Paul II introduced a
new conservativism to the old framework of his predecessor John XXIII; the
continuation of this comes to an all-out breakthrough and perfection in
fundamentalism under Pope Ratzinger.
is, to all appearances, "The Great Inquisitor" who seems to follow the old
conservative slogan "Speak softly and carry a big stick!" He is not a
mystic, nor is he a charismatic, but rather, he is an intelligent Scholastic.
The current Pope is able to argue against each new theological line and
criticism on his own terms. Precisely because he has formulated his positions
based on a deepening of the conservative groundwork set during his
is also an artful and slippery tactician, who calculates in advance, and in
detail, the practical and political consequences of his theological turns. Even
when he bathes smiling in the crowd his face still has a calculating
appearance. Maybe this is the reason why his nickname amongst his colleagues at
university was, "the Rat."
Inquisitor’ of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic The Brothers Karamozov
immediately comes to mind. It is he who arrests the resurgent Jesus in feudal Spain of the 16th
century, and then visits him in prison. Without any doubt Ratzinger would not
hesitate to give such an order too if it came about that Jesus was a communist
revolutionary rather than an abstract construction, termed the "Son of God."
Nomen est omen
has calculated everything in advance. As the highest-ranking theologian in the Vatican he has
had more then 20 years to prepare for office. Only Prince Charles in England has had
more time to prepare for his throne.
these preparations are evident by his choice of the name, "Benedict". This
follows a tradition in the Vatican,
in which the name of a Pope reflects something of his programme. The holy
Benedict of Nursia (b. 480, d. 547 C.E.) was the champion of the monks’
movement that Christianized Europe. This choice of name expresses a perspective
that the peoples of Europe have lost their faith, especially during the era of
Communism and the cultural revolution of 1968, and therefore must be
‘re-Christianized’. Thus the choice of the name "Benedict" stands as the battle
cry for the ‘re-Christianization’ of Europe.
In this respect it is important to understand that Ratzinger also envisages a
‘re-Christianization’ of the Catholic Church itself.
is of the opinion that most Christians are only "Christians on paper"
(as he likes to call them,) and not true Christians at all. The Catholic Church
in this sense must be purified by a return to its fundamentals. To achieve
this, the secularisation and watering down that began after the "Second
Vatican Council" under John XXIII must be undone. If this means the loss
of many members of the Church, well they are only "paper Christians" anyway,
and the loss is not so great.
Catholic pantheon Benedict of Nursia is the Patron Saint of Europe. Ratzinger’s
choice of name also seems a reflection his desire to integrate the Catholic
Church into the politics of the European Unification Project, thereby giving
its policies a Catholic rubber stamp. In contradiction to the previous pope,
Ratzinger has opposed the accession of Turkey to the European Union. This,
taken with his position (stated in his recent visit to Austria) that the
European Union must take a leading role in the fight for peace and against
poverty, clearly places him tactically as a supporter of Franco-German
The choice of a pontifical name reflects the
priorities of the new pope. Ratzinger chose Benedict to honour the work of
Benedict of Nursia (whose role has been discussed) as well as Benedict XV. By
taking this pontifical name he indicates his priorities, and this requires that
we make a closer examination his most recent ancestor in the Benedictine line.
Benedict XV: A Pope of War, Revolution and Counter-revolution
XV, the forerunner of Benedict XVI, was pope between 1914 and 1922 in a time of
war, revolution and counter-revolution. He developed the original idea of a
necessary ‘re-Christianization’ of Europe. His
call for a crusade against the Russian Revolution was answered by the brutal
attack of clerical authoritarian Poland on the young Soviet workers’
political Vision of Benedict XV was for a Catholic European superpower. If
especially France and Germany should
make peace they could form a bloc against both Russian Bolshevism and Anglo-
Saxon Protestantism. In at least one sense he can be seen as a kind of
mastermind for a future reactionary European unification.
described theological Modernism as a "corruptive plague" and came out
against any form of democracy. He saw apostasy from Christianity as the reason
behind the big evils of the time: War, Revolution, Socialism, Democracy.
Christian apostasy was, for him, responsible for the demise of bourgeois
As in the
time of Benedict XV, today we also find ourselves in an age of war, crisis,
turmoil, revolution and counter-revolution. The wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan,
hunger, epidemics, economic instability, the resurgence of poverty and mass
unemployment in the industrial world, and revolution in Latin
America, all characterize our time. Religions are also in a state
of crisis, as is reflected in the fundamentalist upsurge within the three
dominant belief systems. Indeed we live in perfect times, tailor-made for a new
fundamentalist Catholic saviour, Benedict XVI. Decay can indeed be felt in all
the pores of society. But it is not the decay of civilization as such; it is
the decay of capitalist barbarism.
Benedict XVI: Pope of
a new world (dis)order
refers time and time again to the omnipresent crisis of capitalism: He writes
in his last book Jesus of Nazareth for example:
the cruelties of a capitalism, that degrades the human being to a commodity, we
understand again, what Jesus meant with his ‘Warning of Richness,’ of the God
Mammon who destroys the human being and who has a stranglehold over large parts
of the world." He also speaks of the world as a "desert of poverty, a
desert of hunger and of thirst. A desert of loneliness, of abandonment and of
destroyed love." [Translation of quote from the German]
only way out from behind the earthly veil of tears for Ratzinger is through
Christ the liberator, and in the salvation of the soul. The physical well-being
of humanity is nothing when compared with spiritual salvation.
visit to Brazil the Pope
said that the indigenous population had been silently longing for the God of
the Christian church long before Columbus ever
came to the Americas.
And it was their conversion to Christ that liberated them from spiritual
want. Given the genocide
that accompanied these conversions, this salvation is somewhat dubious! But
this opinion is the logical consequence of the theological thinking of
Ratzinger. The question therefore becomes one of what one values most: what is
worth more, the "salvation" of the soul through enforced conversion, or
attention to the concrete material living conditions of the population? To
Ratzinger the answer is obvious; spiritual "salvation" tops the list.
knows very well that the turn of the church to fundamentalism fits the general
trend of a world that is more and more shaped by social polarisation,
instability and crisis. People are looking for answers and a way out from under
the impossible contradictions in todays world.
"The fall into Nothingness"
early work, Introduction to Christianity, Ratzinger deals with an
impending fall of faith into nihilism. Ratzinger loves to fulminate against the
dictatorship of relativism. When he speaks about the decay of morals, the loss
of meaning, and the decay of values he again encounters an important feature of
capitalist crisis, a crisis of human relations.
Ratzinger relativism is not only the nihilism and scepticism of post-modernism
(a philosophical concept also alien to Marxists.) For him relativism is also
any ideological current that opposes the conception of the Last Judgement. Man
must be controlled by the fear of God and of the Last Judgement; otherwise he
will degenerate into a mad wild beast.
conception Ratzinger tries to explain the growing social instability, wars and
terrorism. The only problem is that current wars and terrorist attacks are
actually organised by people who believe in the Last Judgement. In reality, for
Ratzinger, relativism is any humanist belief system which puts human kind
itself, instead of God, at the centre of the universe.
theory of Ratzinger is deeply anti-humanist is shown by his opinion that Jesus
alone is "truly human." This position reveals a belief that the physical
human of flesh and blood is a counterfeit of the Christ figure, one that can
never become "truly human". Only through Christ can one realize one’s humanity.
In this way Ratzinger denies the human being his or her personhood. This
position is deeply inhuman and fundamentalist. It has been used to effectively
excuse historical cruelties perpetrated by the Catholic Church, such as the
enforced conversion of Latin American indigenous people.
"Satan attacks the Church both from
within and from outside"
comment of the ex-Bishop of Salzburg on the
resignation of the reactionary Bishop of lower Austria following a sex scandal
seems to comply with the thinking of Ratzinger. Pope Benedict XVI has so far
written two works: The encyclical God is Love and the book Jesus of
Nazareth. In the typical style of the "Great Inquisitor," behind these
innocent titles there hides a bold content, aimed against "enemies" of the
church, both those within, and also those outside of its borders.
The aim of God
is Love is to portray the Catholic God as the only loving God, in profound
contradiction to Islam, Judaism and Protestantism. In addition, for Ratzinger
the God of the Catholics is the only God figure who is in accordance with the
western conception of "Reason". As he made clear in his famous speech in Regensburg (2006), Islam
is especially incompatible with "Reason". In Ratzinger’s schema the Islamic God
is an arbitrary and unreasonable God.
made these comments immediately after the conflict arising from the caricatures
of Mohamed in the Danish newspaper "Jyllands-Posten"
(Sept. 2005). In an
atmosphere of high tension he poured oil on the fire, raising an artificial
"clash of cultures." He claimed afterwards that he had been
misunderstood. This is a childish and remarkably shallow excuse for the
absolute leader of a major world religion. An impossible response, especially
when he simultaneously claims to want dialogue and peace between religious
tendencies in a time of heightened conflict.
book, Jesus from Nazareth, is aimed at all theologians, especially those
who work for change in the here and now. Ratzinger accuses those who support
"Liberation Theology" of not understanding the "meaning of poverty."
It is a condition which exists in Ratzinger’s ideology exclusively to set the
stage for spiritual liberation in heaven.
ask how poverty can have any meaning at all, and what kind of perverse thinking
might hide behind such a morbid idea. In this context poverty has no real
practical "meaning," and yet for us liberation from the real consequences of
poverty is the task here and now.
In the book
Jesus of Nazareth
Ratzinger writes, "the interpretation of the Bible can indeed
become an instrument of the Antichrist!" This is a declaration of war
against all religious opponents of "the Great Inquisitor."
bourgeois Journalists praise Ratzinger’s move to appeal for criticism of his
book from all theologians, they forget that his call contains a hidden threat.
To criticize his position is to expose oneself as an "instrument of the
Bush and Ratzinger – Brothers in spirit
and his circle of friends speak with admiration of the Christian movement in
it is seen as an example of how ‘re-Christianization’ in a modern high tech
society is possible.
power of Protestant Christian society of Baptists and Evangelicals in the US, with its
army of TV preachers and fundamentalist pseudo-scientists, is to be envied. In
fact, the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, a close friend of Ratzinger,
started a debate about "intelligent design" in the New York Times.
This reactionary theory of evolution is directed against a materialist
scientific point of view. By advancing this idea the Austrian Cardinal supports
the struggle of Christian society against modern science for dominance in
is a rival of the Catholic Church. But against the threatening fall of faith
into nothingness, and in the making of a "clash of cultures," every Christian
fundamentalist becomes an ally. The "clash of cultures", which sets
the stage for all sorts of religious fundamentalisms, is exactly the thing that
Ratzinger wants to happen. Within a "clash of cultures" artificial
differences between people come into full relief and people start to close
together fearfully around such constructs as "culture," "nation," "identity,"
and also around "religion." For Ratzinger this scenario is salvation for the
relation it is interesting that Ratzinger stepped brazenly into American
politics by supporting George W Bush in his election for a second term as
President of the USA.
As head of the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", Ratzinger, in the
midst of the election campaign, sent a pastoral letter to be read out in all Catholic
churches of the USA.
The letter stated that Catholics who do not strictly oppose abortion should not
be allowed to attend mass. This was directed against the position of the
Democratic candidate John Kerry, who advocates a pro-choice stance on the issue.
For the first time in the USA
a large portion of Catholic voters voted Republican, that is, for the
anti-abortion stance of George W. Bush. Such interference by the Catholic
Church in American politics is unprecedented in modern US history.
Ratzinger and Marxism
nothing that Ratzinger hates more than the ideas of Marxism. During his visit
to Latin America he appealed to the people to beware of Marxism that is up to
mischief in Bolivia and Venezuela.
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when all the media trumpeted
that Marxism, socialism and class struggle were dead, the head of the biggest
religion in the world warns against the danger of Marxism and of class
struggle. And of course, from his own class point of view, he is right in doing
ideas present the biggest danger for Ratzinger, because they show a way out of
capitalist misery, out of the "desert of hunger and of thirst, the desert
of loneliness, of abandonment and of destroyed love" in the here and now ‑
a society where people are the masters of their social and economic relations,
rather than mere commodities. And where we can become truly human in a
democratically planned economy that produces for need and not for profits. We
call this vision "Socialism". In Latin America
this idea has already moved millions of people. This vision of a paradise in
the here and now has historically always been the biggest danger for all those
who preach that people should wait for salvation in a better world in the
Kingdom of heaven.
Wojtyla and Teresa, or a Case of Saintly Overproduction (November 20O3)
Marxism and Religion by Alan Woods (July 2001)