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Post Benedict XVI: A Critical View
Created by John Eipper on 01/01/23 6:51 AM

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Benedict XVI: A Critical View (David Duggan, USA, 01/01/23 6:51 am)

Pardon me if I don't jump on the bandwagon of encomia for Benedict 16, the former Joseph Ratzinger.

He will go down in history as a blip in the historic papacy, a "Mr. Inside" who didn't have the stomach for the "inside game" of Vatican politics, a feckless disciplinarian who failed to see the true enemies of the church--the homosexual clergy and officials who have dominated the Vatican for centuries, and a pseudo-intellectual who couldn't come to grips with the Roman Catholic Church's falsehoods in promoting a faith that is wrong on the three planes of intersection of the human with the divine.

Even if having been a member of Hitler Youth doesn't disqualify you from the papacy (which it should), Ratzinger shouldn't be given a pass for his youthful indiscretions. He served in a combat capacity for the Nazis (setting tank traps in Hungary) and was captured as an enemy combatant by American troops. His sojourn in the seminary didn't purge him of his authoritarianism; it just gave him a different group of toadies on whom to impose his will. But even there he was a failure.

The first Vatican "insider" to be elected pope since Angelo Roncalli (John 23--to hell with the Roman numerals) who had served in the Vatican's diplomatic corps before becoming Cardinal of Venice, Ratzinger lacked the elbows to combat the "gay mafia" which has controlled the papal enclave (of which at least two of his more recent predecessors were members) since the days of the Medici pope Leo 10. His butler Paolo Gabriele leaked documents, ostensibly to give him cover when the gay network was unveiled. The Vatican bank remained an enduring joke (remember Michele Sindona and Godfather III?) under his leadership.

Ratzinger devoted most of his disciplinary energies to the "liberation theologians" who were telling Latin American peasants that armed revolution was permissible to combat entrenched plutocracies and latent colonialism. Some left the clergy, others took "sit downs" as penance. But by focusing on these outliers, Ratzinger avoided dealing with the homosexual clergy in his backyard, specifically Germany, where his brother Georg (d. 2020) looked the other way when he was "kappelmeister" at Regensburg, a storied choir in Bavaria. Generations of priests were accused of abusing the male choristers from 1945 to 2015. Ratzinger was also a real softie when dealing with renegade archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of Paris, reaching some impenetrable "conciliar" understanding with the man who had objected to Vatican II and defied the pope's authority by "consecrating" four bishops without Rome's approval.

Ratzinger's true incompetence showed when he tried to establish an "Anglican Ordinariate" within the Roman Catholic Church for disaffected Anglicans (Episcopalians) who wanted to preserve their liturgies while not subscribing to that denomination's heresies regarding same-sex marriage (ordination didn't seem to be an issue--I wonder why). This has gone absolutely nowhere but it has impelled at least two Church of England bishops to "swim the Tiber" and embrace Rome. How they can do that is beyond me. The RCC embraces at least three tenets that conflict with the three planes of intersection of the human with the divine: theological, historical, and the operation of the Holy Spirit.

The first plane of intersection, theological, is who God is and what does He demand. The RCC has not rejected "works-based salvation," that you can earn your way to heaven by good works. The second is that the Vatican has been on the wrong side of history, which in some way is working God's purpose out. One need look only to the RCC's profiting from the slave trade by its client states Spain and Portugal well into the 19th century when Protestant nations like Britain were risking their naval assets on the high seas to stop it. Other examples are legion. And the third is that by declaring "exclusive inerrancy" over matters of faith and doctrine, and by extension, standing as gatekeeper for those who petition for entrance into eternal life in Christ, the RCC has barred true saints such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer from heaven's mercies all the while sanctifying miscreants such as Louis IX, and more recently Junípero Serra. Ratzinger failed to address these evident issues within the RCC, instead trying to instill a discipline that wouldn't take. Is it any wonder now that the center of dissent within the RCC is Germany?

Joseph Ratzinger: Rest in a peace that you denied so many others.

JE comments:  De mortuis nil nisi bonum, David.  But your hard scrutiny of Benedict's papacy deserves our attention.  I would only caution against you conflating "homosexual" with the molestation of children.  Nor will your objections to Roman Catholic theology gain many converts among the faithful.  Isn't theology precisely a type of belief that defies "falsehoods"--or for that matter, "truth-hoods"?

What is your thesis for why Benedict took the historic step of resigning?  Do you accept the health justification?  I suspect you do not.

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  • Benedict Had No Choice but to Join the Hitlerjugend (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/02/23 3:49 AM)
    In response to David Duggan's brutal appraisal of Benedict XVI (January 1st), what the hell is wrong to have served in the Hitlerjugend when all of Germany's youth were compulsorily enrolled? What is wrong at the age of 16 to build defenses against invading Soviet tanks? And what is wrong if he had to join the Army in the final period of the war?

    Benedict had nothing to do with Nazism, but only with his country in danger. Glory to Benedict XVI (and to hell with the Arab numbers) for such actions.

    On the contrary, I think that if he really did desert in the last month of the war as has been reported, that was the only wrong thing that he did. But his supposed desertion is probably a piece of politically correct fake news to save him from the defenders of the theory that all Germans at the time were evil.

    When will people understand that the Fatherland should be always defended in war? The government good or bad is only provisional but the Fatherland is eternal. Throughout my life I have been against most of the Italian governments but I would have fought for Italy, and I will always give my respect to any soldier, enemy or friend, if he is personally fighting following the International Conventions on War, no matter if his commander-in-chief is a war criminal.

    David's theological discussion takes us back to the European Wars of Religion of the 16th century. David seems to say that for eternal salvation, performing good deeds is not important, as the important thing is to have faith in God. By this reasoning, both Hitler and Stalin if they had faith (in secret?) are now in eternal glory.

    JE comments:  I am not surprised that David Duggan's excoriation of Benedict would get some pushback.  Next up:  Francisco Wong-Díaz.

    Comparative religion has a WAIS topic since our infancy.  It would be instructive to look at the concept of "salvation" in different faiths.  As I understand it, Judaism is the religion that puts the most emphasis on good deeds as the path to salvation.  Christianity, to different degrees according to the sect, prefers the notion of acceptance and belief--although righteousness never hurts.  The harshest theologies espouse predestination, where neither good deeds nor faith guarantee a ticket to heaven.

    But I am no theologian.  I hope better-informed WAISers will join this conversation.

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    • Benedict XVI's WWII Service; on Salvation (Enrique Torner, USA 01/03/23 5:22 AM)
      I have to agree Eugenio Battaglia's disagreement with David Duggan's criticism of Benedict XVI regarding his service in the Hitlerjugend. As Francisco Wong-Díaz stated, Ratzinger was drafted by the Nazis, and there was nothing he could do about it.

      I have a long-time friend from Spain, the son of German parents who moved to Barcelona after WWII. His father was drafted by the Nazis when he was 19. He was put in charge of a battalion and sent in the direction of Moscow. Freezing cold and hunger ruined their mission right before they could enter the capital. My friend's father was the only one who survived in his whole battalion, and that was because he was evacuated due to injuries from a grenade in addition to a case of hepatitis.

      My friend told me that neither his father or his family were ever Nazis.  He was forced to serve, like everybody else, or so they thought. A certain sense of shame and guilt accompanied him the rest of his life: "We didn't know"; "I could have killed Hitler when I had him 5 meters away from me" were repeated comments of his to my friend (I'm translating passages from a letter that my friend sent me by email not long ago).

      On the topic of salvation brought up by Eugenio's post, I have to add a few comments. It is true that Protestants believe that salvation is by faith alone, and that Catholics believe salvation is by faith and good works. Catholics (and people of other faiths) have a hard time understanding salvation by faith alone. I did too. I was raised Catholic in Spain and converted to Protestantism later in life after I had moved to the US. Protestants' belief is that, at conversion (when you accept Christ by faith), your soul suffers a regeneration ("you are born again"). That transformation, as a Christian grows in sanctification, leads to good works naturally. By their "fruits" (good works), you will recognize they have been born again. If somebody supposedly accepted Christ, but falls in repeated, outrageous sin, Protestants question their initial conversion. This, of course, leads to discussions regarding Christians who have fallen away. Some Protestants (there are many denominations with different beliefs) believe that you can lose your salvation. I don't think that's biblical.

      In all the many years I have lived in the US, I have witnessed many more good deeds by Protestants (I really don't like this term, but I'm using it for the sake of clarity, especially for those not living in the US: I prefer the term Christian) than I ever did in Spain, where most people are Catholic. In Spain, people may be baptized Catholic, but most are far away from practicing their religion, other than going through the customary sacraments (First Communion, etc.) and engaging in the many Catholic festivities that pervade the streets of Spain. In contrast, my experience in this country is that Christians live out their faith way more than I saw in Spain. In fact, being in the receiving end of Christians love, joy, kindness, and generosity in this country was a main factor in my conversion.

      That was decisive for me, plus salvation not depending on whether I screw up or not, to put it plainly. It was liberating. Salvation by faith may be hard to understand, but, if believed, it offers a great deal of peace.

      JE comments:  I'd be wise to stay on the sidelines of these theological discussions, but I will pose a couple of questions.  First, for Enrique:  what is wrong with the "Catholic/Protestant" distinction?  "Catholic/Christian" creates a logical disjunction, with the implication that Catholics are not Christian.  I've heard this (and struggled with it) many times in Latin America, when someone tells me they are not Catholic, but Christian.  Also in Spanish, "Evangélico" is synonymous with Protestant, and juxtaposed against "Católico."  "Evangelical" in English means something slightly different.

      Second question (this one, for anybody):  Where does Weber's Protestant "work ethic" fit in the equation?  Capitalism and "good deeds" are not necessarily the same thing, but if work pleases God, then it is a path to salvation...right?

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  • Ratzinger Was DRAFTED into Nazi Service (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 01/02/23 4:21 AM)
    To nibble at David Duggan's errors (January 1st), Ratzinger and his brother were drafted by the Nazis as teenagers and he deserted from the service. Eventually he ended up in a POW camp.

    Pope Benedict XVI took his role as the defender of the faith seriously. Although he was too conservative for some, he was respected. As someone else on WAIS noted, he was a weak manager and could not affect the changes needed by the Church. For that, I believe he failed to complete John Paul II's work.

    JE comments:  Francisco, do you have a theory as to why Benedict resigned?  As I surmised earlier, the health excuse isn't fully convincing, as time would prove.  He lived for nearly ten additional years.

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