Benedict Xvi’s Resignation: the Defence of Religion As a Public Not a Private Affair

The shock resignation of His Holiness Benedict XVI is an occassion for reflection on the stature of a man who I feel has been an impressive religious leader. In Britain, however B16′s reputation is impossible to seperate from a rising tide of anti-Catholic feeling, which has obscured any real examination of his substantive record. The hostility manifested itself through enraged liberal opinion when B16 visited Britain in 2010, prompting demonstrations from both bigots and the tedious liberal left. In a photograph of one of these Guardianista “bash the pope” demonstrations I saw the marvellously ironic slogan, without any sense of self-awareness “We don’t want the Pope in our tolerant country”

It is interesting to revisit the arguments that arose in 2010. Writing as a left wing British Catholic on Labour List at that time, David Green, explained his dismay at the hostility being exhibited to the Pope’s visit.

Notwithstanding people’s misgivings about the present Pope, a state visit to the UK is an opportunity for Catholics to have some limelight for a change; to feel united, proud, and to showcase their faith for a few short days. Whatever your views of the actions of the church’s official leaders, these are reasonable and honourable desires by Catholics and they deserve to be respected.

When it comes to the monarchy, I am a convinced republican; but if the Queen were to receive a reception abroad like that the Pope has received from some people, I’d feel at least a little insulted as a British citizen. It doesn’t matter that I disagree with the way our country’s figurehead is selected – as a figurehead for the nation, it would be reasonable to interpret the reception given to her as indication of the regard and respect given to all of us.

It’s for this reason that I, and a lot of other Catholics, are upset by the crass, snide and insensitive tone of many people on the left. There is a current of opinion which appears to believe that the Catholic faith is defined purely by the issues where they disagree, and by its controversies. It isn’t. These are the abberations of the faith, not its affirmation. To say otherwise is, by implication, an insult to everything else that the Catholic faithful believe. 

Brendan o’Neill of Spiked on-line can spot a chattering class moral panic when he sees one:

The pope’s criticism of condom-use ‘sabotages the fight against AIDS’, says a Guardian columnist (leading an online commenter to say: ‘the genocidal freak should be tried for crimes against humanity.’) The New Statesman reckons the Vatican has done more to spread AIDS around Africa than ‘prostitution and the trucking industry combined’. Stephen Fry, that unofficial High Representative of the chattering classes, says the pope has caused devastation in Africa by ‘spreading the lie that condoms actually increase the incidence of AIDS’. 

Reuben at the Third Estate took up the argument.

The insistence that the “aids spreading” pontiff has a moral obligation to condone contraception is, in my opinion, half baked and politically problematic. The most obvious problem with this line of argument is that (notwithstanding lower level catholics spreading the myth that condoms don’t work) the church’s teachings on sexual behaviour are not actually conducive to the spread of HIV. Sex within marriage but without condoms is likely to keep people relatively safe. The usual objection here is that people obviously won’t stay monogamous ( because, you know, having sex is a natural urge man), and so the pope, by this slightly twisted logic, is responsible for the consequences of condom-free polygamy. But if people arent obeying the Vatican’s strictures against sleeping around, then why would they simultaneously base their decision on whether to skin up simply on what the pope says? This indeed might explain the lack of empirical evidence for popery spreading AIDS: as Brennan O’ Neil notes, the 5 countries in Africa most affected by aids are all minority-catholic.

But let us, for the sake of argument, assume that the Vatican’s position on contraception hinders, albeit indirectly, the fight against HIV. The idea that this makes the pontiff morally obliged to alter the church’s position on contraception is nonetheless misplaced. Were Benedict a public health professional I would absolutely expect him to promote the use of condoms. Yet for better or worse, his job as pontiff is to promote what he and the church consider to be the word of God. Now, as an atheist I am not an expert on such matters. Yet from what I understand the moral strictures of the lord do not change all that regularly – and are liable to remain constant even as their practical consequences are altered.

Kevin Rooney understood where the criticism was coming from:

The first thing to note is that the intolerant view of Catholicism that has been so visible in recent weeks has come not from the working classes or from the traditional establishment, but rather from so-called liberals, humanists and secularists, who try to use science and rationalism to discredit and ridicule expressions of the Catholic faith. … …

Unlike the anti-Catholics of the past, who took issue with specific aspects of the Catholic faith, the New Atheists tend to oppose faith itself, on the smug basis that they ‘know best’. As the front page of the Guardian weekend magazine recently revealed, the new ‘Gods’ of contemporary society are the ‘Gods of science’: Stephen Hawking, Brian Cox, David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins – and sadly, some of them seem every bit as intolerant as the Catholic hierarchy they despise. While posing as secular liberals, the pope’s opponents display a breathtaking intolerance for any views that do not conform to their rationalist outlook.

Spiked On-line writers have their own particular animus against the pressure towards ideological uniformity and consensus, which can sometimes lead them to be willfully contrarian, but sometimes it can mean they are absolutely on the money. Frank Furedi, wrote a storming demolition of the pressure of conformity that was leading to the anti-Catholic mood, it is worth reading his article in full:

Tatchell has indicted the pope on the grounds that he is out of touch with British public opinion, is doctrinaire and believes in traditional conservative values. Consequently, the world would be a better place without him. Back in the seventeenth century, a French Catholic political theorist expressed a similar form of bigoted intolerance by stating: ‘I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong.’ That is more or less the message of the contemporary anti-pope crusade. The principal hallmark of today’s new breed of secular moraliser is unabashed intolerance, and a demand that everyone conform to their zero-tolerance values.

Historically, religious intolerance was focused on denouncing deviant theological beliefs – for example the heresy of Pelagianism or Tritheism. Of course we still have this form of traditional intolerance today, but we now also have to contend with its younger cousin: intolerance towards religion. Increasingly, religion is indicted for taking its own doctrines too seriously – that is, for being a religion. Today’s opportunistic atheists even take it upon themselves to get stuck into the theological controversies of religions that they actually despise. So critics who claim to hate the pope go out of their way to reassure ordinary, genuine Catholics that they are only targeting Catholic leaders who force their traditional dogma on the church. Emulating the cavalier manner in which Western politicians explain to their Muslim constituents what true Islam means, anti-papal crusaders tell ordinary Catholics that they are on the same side and should all join in the battle against the forces of evil.

Elsewhere, Carl P, in a substantive article on Though Cowards Flinch, demolished the myths about Benedict XVI allegedly covering up  child abuse, and the risible conceit by some liberal fantasists that the Pope should be arrested.

[The accusations that the Pope covered up child sex abuse] all runs contrary to the work carried out by Ratzinger outing child molesters in the church later on, initiating “strict new norms for dealing with sexual abuse cases”, and in his words “ridding the filth”.

Certainly the point that Benny has done a good deal addressing child abuse in the Catholic church is not lost on some of the nations top Catholic writers. Damian Thompson reminds us that it was Benedict who prosecuted Mexican paedophile Priest Marcial Maciel Degollado despite pressure from popular support, including “Cardinal Angelo Sodano and John Paul’s secretary, Msgr (now Cardinal) Stanislaw Dziwisz.”

Some members of the church were keen to shove the issue to one side for the reason that Degollado was a ferocious fundraiser, having secured assets worth around twenty-five billion Euros. In a line that can hardly be matched for its dry wit, Thompson notes that: “This old pervert was the most effective fundraiser in the history of the Church – and the most crooked since Judas Iscariot.”

Elsewhere, Thompson cannot hardly keep his dislike of the Pope John Paul II contained. In an article bound to wind up many supporters of the previous Pope, citing heavily from noteworthy writer John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, the Vatican has not revealed the real Ratzinger story because “to make Ratzinger look good, they’d have to make others look bad [and] to salvage the reputation of Benedict XVI it might be necessary to tarnish that of Pope John Paul II”.

There are many views and actions of the Catholic Church that are worthy of legitimate criticism. However, demonisation of the Church in modern Britain predicated upon a fallacy that religious participation in society is an entirely negative phenomenon. This ignores the teaching of the church in favour of peace, against racism, against materialism, and in favour of social solidarity, charity and compassion. The Catholic Church is one of the most important sponsors of the “Strangers into Citizens” campaign to provide a root to legal residency in the UK for those who are living and working here illegally. The Catholic Bishops oppose the renewal of Trident; and Catholic Bishops spoke out against the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church did grasp the nettle. Archbishop Vincent Nichols, leader of Catholics in England and Wales, told a news conference during the pontiff’s visit that the pope would pay tribute to the democratic traditions of British society.

“I think while he fully on the record recognises the importance in modern democratic societies of institutions being secular, he expects secular institutions to have an open and positive attitude towards religious faith“.

Benedict XVI has defended the right for religion to be a public and not a private affair, and condemned the shallowness of materialism and celebrity. Indeed the argument from the Church that there is such a thing as public morality, and a need for social solidarity is a welcome refutation of the Thatcherite ethos of private self interest.

It is neither possible nor desirable to ignore the influence of religious faith in shaping our society; the question is how we strike the balance so that the views of religious communities are respected and acknowleged, while not allowing them to dictate to those of us who do not share their faith.

142 comments on “Benedict Xvi’s Resignation: the Defence of Religion As a Public Not a Private Affair

  1. Resign? RESIGN? Popes can’t resign!

    Benedict Sixteen, come wot may,
    Power-up the Pope-mobile and toddle on your way -
    From East Berlin to Katmandu,
    Everybody’s sat around waiting for you;

    Old age like pregnancy is always a blessing -
    So power-up the Pope-mobile and stop being depressing.

    David Ruaune

  2. paul fauvet on said:

    I see my comment, rather hostile to the Hitler Youth member whom Andy calls “His Holiness”, has nysteriously disappeared. Perhaps I’ve been excommunicated from this blog.

  3. I find this Hitler youth stuff an incredibly irritating cheap shot.

    Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth when he turned 14 because he was legally obliged to. It was the law. It hardly makes him Goering does it?

    I believe his cousin was sent to the death camps and did not return (some sort of disability I think, not sure). Unless he’s actually expressed some sympathy for the Third Reich it’s a really meaningless thing to say, that says nothing about the man or his history.

  4. Andy Newman,

    It’s worth pointing out though that afaik Sean Matgamna has not drunk alcohol for many decades.

    Regardless: why the use of the long title? I look forward to future references to “Anthony Neil Wedgwood (“Tony”) Benn PC, formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate”, and, in the style of the junge Welt, “Anthony Blair”, “William Clinton”, etc.

    The resignation of Ratzinger (as most non-practicing catholics over here in Germany tend to refer to him) is a significant loss in any case. To the world’s satirists, for example.

  5. And the “Hitler Youth” stuff is a ridiculous stick to beat him with. He was a teenager in the period and could hardly have easily got out of membership.

    A much better reason for criticism would be over his treatment of allegations and proven cases of paedophilia and sexual abuse (in particular: on what happened to those who were caught – i.e. very little/ they were moved to do it again elsewhere – and what was done to support the victims – i.e. very little) within the church and directly within his diocese in Germany.

    I wonder if Vatileaks will provide light on reasons for his resignation. I don’t buy the “getting old” thing. It’s a job for life, and you are basically infallible, regardless of age or mental/physical state.

  6. john Penney on said:

    An amazing amount of pro-Pope and Catholic Establishment sophistry on offer from the defenders of the Catholic Church hierarchy’s reactionery political/social views and strictures to the faithful on almost any issue one can shake a stick at on here. Yeh, OK, Benedict 16′s reactionery views , shorn of their soft-soap “positive interpretation “spin, are indeed in line with the concept of a Universal Church untouched and untroubled by “modernist fashions” — like contraception, a womans right to choose, the right to choose ones sexual preferences, and a real rather than cosmetic willingness to tackle the obviously age-old endemic culture of child abusers in the Priesthood. Are “timeless principles” like these really something to be admired though ? Not by Socialists , surely, at least when those principles represent the age old oppressive ideologies of patriarchy, sexual intolerance, and cruel indifference to the suffering imposed on ones loyalist religious followers by the condemnatory edicts on the disease and multiple birth preventing mechanism of sheath contraception ?

    “The supposed “rising tide of anti-Catholic feeling” stated as a fact in the opening piece, is ,I would suggest, a complete myth. Those of us who want to live in a modern, tolerant, open, society, are quite happy for Catholics (and Jews, Anglicans, Hindus, Muslims) to practice their arcane metaphysical belief rituals in their private places of worship. We just don’t want our society itself to be governed by the all too often age-old misogyny, patriarchy and generally authoritarian belief systems that all these religions have foisted, and in many states, continue to foist, on populations who deperately need to throw off these very ideological chains to achieve greater ideological clarity, and hence social progress.

  7. jock mctrousers on said:

    If the queen publicly advocated reactionary and cruel policies like this pope did (and arguably the very existences of ‘nobility’ implicitly does that)…?

    Here’s something that throws some light on the matter (for me, anyway)from Alternet:
    http://tinyurl.com/agslm6k

    ” Citing age and infirmity as his reason for leaving the papacy, Benedict’s action comes just weeks after he opened his celebrated Twitter account — and less than a month after the decades-old child abuse scandal drew nearer to the pope’s door, with revelations published in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month that Cardinal Roger Mahony, then Archbishop of Los Angeles, sought to evade the law in cases involving the sexual abuse of children by the priests in his charge by sending them to treatment facilities in states that did not require health professionals to report the crimes to authorities.

    At the time that Mahony was covering up the crimes of his priests, Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that oversaw such matters.

    In archdiocese documents released under a court order earlier this month, Mahony is revealed to have taken actions deliberately contrived to avoid legal prosecution of priests who had sexually abused, and even raped, children. The documents were so damaging that Mahony, now retired and once thought to be a contender for the papacy, was publicly rebuked by the current Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, and stripped of any public duties, an unprecedented censure of a cardinal archbishop by his successor.

    Amid the cache of church records, released as part of a settlement between the archdiocese and 500 sex-abuse victims, are several letters to Ratzinger from Mahoney, in which the California prelate reports to the Vatican his reasons for various actions (such as defrocking) taken against the offending priests. The records amount to some 30,000 pages, so their full contents have yet to be pored through by investigators and journalists.

    What is clear, though, is that Mahony repeatedly failed to act on concerns about the sexual abuse of children by priests that brought to him by pastors and church officials throughout the diocese, and that when he did, his actions were designed to avoid criminal prosecutions of the predator priests. And it is also clear that in his Vatican office, Ratzinger was the recipient of letters from Mahony informing the Holy See of what actions he had taken. “

  8. jim mclean on said:

    Ratzinger is a reactionary individual who gave guidance to the US bishops in the run up to the 2004 Presidential elections a week after Bush visited the Vatican. US Bishops were allowed to deny Holy Communion to John Kerry. This was a blatant abuse of power and tantamount to giving the Church’s blessing to Bush.

  9. I’m not expecting much sense on this thread despite a very good leading article.

    As Popes go I came to warm to B16.

    I liked the fact he set Tim Dolan on Ireland’s complacent, venal and smug Maynoother’s.

    I liked the fact he was determined to rid the Church of nonces despite the inertia of the Bishops.

    I liked his visit to Lebannon at Hezbollah’s invite and what he said there about unity.

    So who next? If its an African the Guardian reading liberals will shit themselves. However an Italian is likely in all probability.

    I would think who ever it is its likely that the new one will continue the current anti capitalist line initiated by the Polish lad who rather thought he had dropped the ball on that front.

    Its good to read the comments here from those who would barely know a Catholic to throw stones at expound on how the Catholic Church actually works.

    As to why he’s gone arthritis in your mid 80s is no joke.

  10. “There are many views and actions of the Catholic Church that are worthy of legitimate criticism.” Could you elaborate please? I’m genuinely curious to know what they might be.

  11. Well to be honest, I know sod all about religion or the Catholic church (and definitely not Ratzinger’s views, or any relation he may have to the church’s child sex abuse controversy).

    So I’ll say something provocative and then we can all get stuck in, yeah?

  12. Karl Stewart on said:

    The argument made in the article above that it’s wrong to accuse the Catholic church of spreading AIDS through its opposition to condoms, when the church also urges monogomous sex is a logical argument.

    If a Catholic is breaking the church’s teachings on monogomous sex, then why would that same person then strictly obey the church over condoms?

    For Catholics, “adultery” is a far worse “sin” than using condoms. One is a “commandment” and the other is just papal doctrine.

    As to who the next pope might be, I suppose the progressive candidate has to be Jao de Braziz.

  13. #3 well for chatting shit about the Hitler Youth and this Pope I think you should be. It was like being a conscripted child soldier like the ones recruited by armies in Africa. You knowlike in thta little place east of the DRC where certain people want to cover up crimes against
    Humanity

  14. lone nut on said:

    #3 Mr Fauvet, of course, joined the Communist Party in his youth, of his own volition rather than through force. I don’t see that as equivalent to joining the Hitler Youth, but his pals at Shiraz Socialist might. But we can all make mistakes in our youth, and hope that by the time we are in our 80s we will be judged on the basis of our entire life. More to the point, Fauvet’s contribution gave no indication of responding to anything Andy had written, consisting as it did of the most tiresome boilerplate invective.
    Three points strike me in the “left” response to the Papal announcement:
    1/ we are talking about an infantile, trivialised left obsessed with sexual matters to the exclusion of almost everything else – the “Guardian” focuses on “five key problems” the new Pope will face, all of them related to sexuality. War, poverty, hunger and racism obviously fade into insignificance besides the towering challenge of gay marriage – and that isn’t even to mention the more fundamental problems of spirituality and community that the Church exists to deal with.
    2/ we have a British left which is utterly oblivious to the history and nature of the state it lives in – the fact that Catholics in the UK had to struggle for centuries to gain equal citizenship and remain concentrated in the lowest social layers, or that several hundred people (at least) have been killed within this state simply for being Catholics over the past five decades, are wholly lost in the sneerfest. And this is from people who generally affect a high sensitivity to “anti-Semitic tropes” (the fact that the outgoing Pope has received universal praise from Jewish religious leaders for has of course gone unremarked by these people, who are only concerned with using anti-Semitism as a cover for their racist and pro-imperialist politics).
    3/ we have a whiteskin privilege left, utterly unconnected to the realities of the neoliberal economy and oblivious to the Polish, Congolese and Filipino Catholics who staff its health service and clean its offices. Organising these people rather than sneering at their religious beliefs would be a priority of any left worth its salt, but I won’t be holding my breath.

  15. paul fauvet on said:

    You are right, Andy. All young Germans were indeed obliged to join the Hitler Youth. But guess what – some did not! A small minority of Germans fought against the Nazi regime. Not everyone joined the army, as Ratzinger did. Some deserted, some fled across the border into Switzerland. Some tried to resist actively – despite the knowledge that, if caught, they would be tortured and killed. Josef Ratzinger was not among that courageous minority.

    One could draw an interesting parallel with the early days of the church. Before Constantine’s conversion, everyone in the Roman empire was supposed to venerate the emperor. Emperors proclaimed themselves divine, and, in the sporadic persecutions, Christians were ordered to worship the Emperor, make pagan sacrifices and so on. Many Christians (including priests and even bishops) took the Ratzinger line, and did as the Empire ordered. After all, everyone one else was doing it . . .

    Strangely enough, it is the ones who died for their beliefs who are remembered in church histories, and not the ones who made their peace with the Empire.

  16. jim mclean on said:

    Still seems to me like all part of the Left’s surrender to superstition. Although the Scottish and Irish divisions are showing up here. Organise Catholics shun the Hun. Maybe we should leave theology alone and stick to the clas struggle. Oh as for organising, never in the history of the lefty has the left been so crap at engaging with the working class.

  17. prianikoff on said:

    This could be an opportunity for the Vatican put the whole Simony controversy behind it and attract some inward investment.
    How about selecting the next Pope by a competition along the lines of “Dragon’s Den”?

  18. jim mclean,

    This is a good comment too, coming at the issue from the other side of the debate.

    This is the nub. The increasing contradiction between secularism and religion is becoming more and more insurmountable as the demand for equality to be built into the institutions of the state constitute a logic that is hard to negate. This obviously applies to equal marriage.

    The Left can’t ignore the issue because it’s difficult. And I don’t agree with Andy that every Catholic or member of any other religion necessarily agrees with their church’s views on issues like gay marriage.

    But I do agree that the now ritual bashing of religion is worrying and wrong, as it effectively writes off the millions of believers of every religion for whom it still plays a key part in their lives.

  19. Religion is and has been just another tool used to divide us, control for the masses through fear, but fortunately the church could not contain the lie, through education came logic and sense, the 2 final nails in the coffin of religion, I imagine he will be waiting a long time for his P45 from GOD…

  20. It would be hard to sum it up better than Lonenut does at .21 so I won’t attempt it but I would like to reiterate part of one of his sentences.

    lone nut: we have a British left which is utterly oblivious to the history and nature of the state it lives in

    It cannot be said enough.

  21. jim jepps,

    “I find this Hitler youth stuff an incredibly irritating cheap shot.”

    Agreed. Similar bullshit has been aimed at Gunter Grass. Many German teenagers had no choice but to join the Hitler Youth. Ratzinger was no Nazi.

    However, this is a foolish piece of sentimentality from Andy Newman.

    “The shock resignation of His Holiness Benedict XVI is an occassion for reflection on the stature of a man who I feel has been an impressive religious leader.”

    Foolish even in its own terms, as his ‘achievements’ as Pope have been nugatory – he has hardly been doing the job very long before bailing out. Eight years is nothing by Vatican standards.

    Andy Newman is also amazingly indulgent to Ratzinger – it may be true that in recent years he has made some genuflections to reality around the child abuse scandal that has been deeply embedded in the church. But the problem with this rose-tinted view is that Ratzinger has been around for donkey’s years, he was a senior figure behind the scenes through all the years of denial and cover up.

    Its quite amusing to see Newman’s hypocrisy in rightly attacking the SWP for its insistence on trying an alleged rape case ‘in-house’, and yet hailing Ratzinger who was a key architect in an earlier period of the Church’s policy of doing the same with child abuse cases, as shown by this edict on “Concerning very grave sins”.

    Incredible that Newman can fulminate against Trotskyism on the tendentious basis of the SWP’s excreable behaviour, and attempt to extend this more generally against the non-Stalinist or not-Stalinist-enough left through a series of amalgams, yet exonerates Ratzinger in this way. The document linked to is written proof that he was a key figure in the church’s attempts to cover up child abuse by its priests.

    That does not make the Catholic Church into a ‘paedophile cult’ as some with an unsavoury agenda have fulminated, nor does it mean that Catholicism is particularly worse than other religious traditions, most of whom also have some skeletons in their closets somewhere. Repression of sexuality often leads, not to abstenance, but to sexual pathology.

    And secular organisations, even socialist/atheist ones, can have problems linked to abuse of power – anywhere where there is an uncontrolled bureaucracy is vulnerable. It is a reactionary smear to link Catholic doctrine per se to child abuse.

    But to exonerate, or worse hail, figures like Ratzinger who do have dirty hands does not help to combat sectarian anti-Catholic bigotry, it just discredits it.

  22. John: And I don’t agree with Andy that every Catholic or member of any other religion necessarily agrees with their church’s views on issues like gay marriage.

    Yes of course, the Church seeks to offer guidance, but individual members of the chrch i) make their own decisions; and ii) are rooted in a diverse and pluralistic society which offers other influences .

    What we should be aiming for is a stigma free choice where individuals can choose to follow their church or otherwise, a situation of tolerance which will lead to convergence towards society’s normative values

  23. redscribe: But the problem with this rose-tinted view is that Ratzinger has been around for donkey’s years, he was a senior figure behind the scenes through all the years of denial and cover up.
    Its quite amusing to see Newman’s hypocrisy in rightly attacking the SWP for its insistence on trying an alleged rape case ‘in-house’, and yet hailing Ratzinger who was a key architect in an earlier period of the Church’s policy of doing the same with child abuse cases, as shown by this edict on “Concerning very grave sins”.

    What nonsense, and interesting that you link to such a veheremently anti-Catholic website.

    Ratzinger worked for John Paul II, and it is clear that Ratzinger fought his corner within the Vatican for a more agressive attitude to abusive priests, but that what he called the “other side”, either included JP2, or had JP2′s ear.

    What Ratzinger can be credited with is beginning the change of culture in the church to stop protecting abusive priests. Note that in the perios you refer to Bishops in the Anglo-Saxon world were require to take complaints to the police

  24. Andy Newman,

    “What nonsense, and interesting that you link to such a veheremently anti-Catholic website.”

    Its all very well to say that the website is ‘anti-Catholic’, but the document concerned is a primary source, signed by Ratzinger himself and his secretary.

    Or are you trying to say the document is not genuine?

    “What Ratzinger can be credited with is beginning the change of culture in the church to stop protecting abusive priests.”

    Are you sure about this. Or was he just reacting to events, i.e. the already-existing scandals, and trying to improve things to improve the image of the Church? I suspect the latter.

  25. redscribe: Its all very well to say that the website is ‘anti-Catholic’, but the document concerned is a primary source, signed by Ratzinger himself and his secretary.
    Or are you trying to say the document is not genuine?

    I am disputing your interpretation of it. As Jack Valero explained in 2010:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/15/pope-mob-benedict-misreading-abuse

    But wasn’t Ratzinger in charge while all this was going on? Didn’t it happen on his watch? No. From 1981 to 2001 he was in charge of a department that dealt with defrocking, but not with suspensions and penalties for paedophile priests, which were the responsibility of local bishops. A number of bishops failed to suspend the abusive priests, some of whom continued to abuse. That is the scandal. It has been exposed and dealt with, and a number of bishops have, as a result, resigned. More important, guidelines are now in place to prevent it ever happening again.

    Not only was Cardinal Ratzinger not complicit in these failures, he was the Vatican official who most clearly saw what was needed to tackle the problem. Then, in 2001, Pope John Paul asked him to review the local churches’ handling of clerical abuse cases. Cardinal Ratzinger asked bishops around the world to forward to him all cases where credible allegations had been made against priests.

    He did this not to “cover up” the crimes – which had been reported to the local police – but to ensure that the priests were more speedily dealt with. He accomplished this by amending the procedure for defrocking to allow for a fast-track procedure that did not involve trials.

    Some try to make out that Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2001 letter orders a cover-up by insisting that parties observe secrecy under pain of excommunication. What it actually says is that confidentiality should be observed during church trials, to allow the victims to give evidence freely and to protect the accused until found guilty. There is nothing in that letter preventing victims reporting the case to the police, and the assumption is that they should.

    Pope Benedict is not responsible for cover-up, collusion, turning a blind eye, institutional idolatry or any of the other accusations that, with greater or lesser vehemence, have been hurled at the Catholic church during recent weeks. On the contrary, he is the one in the Vatican who has done most to rid the church of this scourge. He is the one who has acted most consistently and energetically to improve the church’s handling of these cases.

  26. redscribe: Or was he just reacting to events, i.e. the already-existing scandals, and trying to improve things to improve the image of the Church? I suspect the latter.

    That makes no sense, because ratzinger moved against Marcial Maciel Degollado even when Degolldo was being honoured by JP2. Clearly the scandals were pre-existing, but why do you think it unlikely that Ratzinger could be movd to act by a sense of justice? Anyway, act he did.

  27. So what is the meaning of this section?:

    “It must be noted that the criminal action on delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is extinguished by a prescription of 10 years.(11) The prescription runs according to the universal and common law;(12) however, in the delict perpetrated with a minor by a cleric, the prescription begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age.”

    “In tribunals established by ordinaries or hierarchs, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests. When the trial in the tribunal is finished in any fashion, all the acts of the case are to be transmitted ex officio as soon as possible to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

    To me they look pretty damning. The reference to ‘criminal action on delicts’ surely refers to reporting this to the authorities for ‘criminal’ investigation, since the Church does not have the power to take action over ‘criminal’ issues any more than does the SWP leadership. The implication seems to be that ‘criminal’ action should be delayed for 10 years, or 10 years after the 18th birthday of a child whom a priest has been accused of abusing.

    And why does it say that “the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests”?. In connection with the previous remarks about ‘criminal action’, this looks very suspicious to me.

    It is in impenentrable, specialised jargon. that is quite difficult to interpret. But there are enough seeming clues to make it very suspicious.

    Unless there is some kind of alternative explanation of what this means. The distinction between ‘suspension’ and ‘defrocking’ does not seem to cover this reference to ‘criminal action’.

    I am not an expert on the Kremlinology of the Vatican and am therefore not in a position to debate the subtleties of this in detail. But I do note that the person who wrote the article exonerating Ratzinger is a member of Opus Dei, which is hardly a disinterested party.

  28. Irish Australian on said:

    As an Australian socialist of Irish descent I agree that most of the anti-Catholic sentiment whipped up by the small l liberal establishment is utterly reactionary and anti-working class.

    Despite Australia having a Protestant establishment and Catholics, who remain overwhelmingly working class and disproportionately migrant, having long been discriminated against, the Catholic Church is demonised by small l liberals in a way that the Anglican Church (still the quasi state religion in Australia) is not.

    On the other hand I would be much more critical of Ratzinger on political grounds than Andy is.

    During his period as pope the Vatican has repeatedly intervened to purge more radical priests and bishops here in Australia and cement the control over the local church by the likes of Cardinal Pell. Pell is a hard right winger and was a strong supporter of John Howard’s reactionary polices.

    Bishops and priests that were pro-union, opposed to the war on Iraq, pro-Aboriginal rights and pro-refugee have been silenced, intimidated and forced out by the Vatican at the bequest of Pell and his supporters.

    I also disagree with Andy on the question of the Church’s campaigns on moral issues to do with sexuality etc. The Church leaders primarily choose which issues to campaign around on a political basis not on a religous basis.

    In Australia the Church has deliberately decided to campaign against Same Sex Marriage but not against imperialist war, poverty, workers’ rights etc. This reflects a clear political agenda. Why is Same Sex Marriage a worse sin than murdering people in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    Even on “sexual issues” in Australia the Church does not politically campaign to make divorce or adultery illegal or for that matter the contraceptive pill. Yet they continue to oppose Same Sex Marriage being legal. Why is Same Sex Marriage a worse sin than adultery?

    Similarly the Church here has largely given up campaigning against abortion being legal.

    Why? Because they get next to no support these day around the abortion issue. Whereas around Same Sex Marriage they can get the support of all sorts of non-Catholic homophobic bigots in the Liberal Party who happily discriminated against Irish Catholics for decades. This is a political decision by the bishops not a religious one.

    And by the way opinion polls here show the great majority of Catholics actually support legalising Same Sex Marriage and oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So morally they are streets ahead of the Church leaders which just goes to show why it is ridiculous politically for leftists to foment anti-Catholic prejudice and oppose funding to Catholic schools.

    The task for Marxists is to split the working class migrant base of the Church from its politically reactionary leaders. The fact that Catholic teachers are about to break the law to go on strike this week against the Church hierarchy is a sign of the times.

  29. redscribe: Unless there is some kind of alternative explanation of what this means. The distinction between ‘suspension’ and ‘defrocking’ does not seem to cover this reference to ‘criminal action’.

    It is clear to me that this is referring to the process of ecclesiatical courts and inquiries; it says nothing of parallel processes by the civic authorities, with the assumption that they would be involved.

    Rather than try to parse an impenitrable technical document poorly translated from latin, why not look at Ratzinger’s record, which is by no means bad.

  30. jim mclean,

    You refer to the left’s surrender to superstition.

    If by superstition you mean religious belief, you need to account for the fact that many people who are part of ‘the left’, in Britain and internationally, are and have been religious believers.

  31. jim mclean on said:

    Vanya,

    Apologies, the Left’s failure to promote a secular state perhaps would be a better stance,just can’t stand the God Squad. A pensioners reaction to a lifetime surrounded by religious sectarianism.

  32. EasternHemisphere on said:

    This is truly mind blowing. I have no problem with challenging religious sectarianism, including anti-catholic views, but this? The guy is hated by most leftists within the Catholic Church. This is the guy who led the charge against liberation theology in Latin America. This is the guy who after hammering the left in the church lifed the excommunication of the followers of Lefebvre, the anti-semitic, Vichy and Pinochet supporting reactionary. Pretty much all the left wing catholics who I know will be glad to see him go. This is the Pope who Chavez took to task for his whitewashing of genocide against indigenous people:

    “”How can the Pope say that the evangelization was not imposed,” said Chavez. “Then why did our indigenous people have to flee to the jungles and the mountains?” he asked. …”What happened here was much worse than the holocaust in the Second World War, and no one can deny us that reality,” said Chavez. “Not even his Holiness can come here to our land and deny the holocaust of the indigenous people.”

    Chavez referred to the work of the Spanish Dominican priest Bartolome de Las Casas, who denounced the genocide of the indigenous people in the 16th Century. “Christ came to America much later. He didn’t arrive with Columbus, the anti-Christ came with Columbus,” stated Chavez, who went on to ask the Pope to apologize for his error. “Just like the Catholic Church has recognized errors, as a descendant of those martyr Indians that died by the millions, I ask, with all respect, your Holiness, apologize, because here there was a real genocide,” Chavez pleaded. ”

    But Andy is impressed by the guy’s record. What one visit to Cuba and a blessing for Chavez and all is forgiven? They guy is an out and out reactionary have no illusions about that.

  33. Stephen on said:

    “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

    Letter to the Bishops,Cardinal Jospeh Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith* 1st Oct 1986

    You can find the whole text on this not particularly anti catholic website –

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

    * The Artists Formerly Known As the Inquisition

  34. I know people who self-identify as Catholics who believe in (or at any rate have condoned or even gone through with) divorce, abortion etc. Remember the furore in America when Obamacare insisted employers cover women’s contraception under their health insurance plans? I recall a US news segment that interviewed Catholic after Catholic in New York, Boston, Chicago etc. and there was consistent support for Obama, a clear case of political identity trumping a religious one.

    There is an obvious disconnect between Catholicism as a doctrine and as a cultural identity. I think the problem is, in Britain attacks have come from a particular social background, perhaps as a result of the milieu which predominates in journalism, academia and public life generally, which is divergent from – may indeed be considered antagonistic and dismissive towards – that of the Catholic community.

    I have no religious faith myself, and broadly believe that the public sphere should be grounded by secular institutions and attitudes – for the benefit of believers also. Affirmation of religiosity in public life will inevitably favour the most influential faiths and the most influential sections within those faiths. Multiculturalism requires a neutral public arena on which to exercise true religious freedom.

    I find the devotion shown to the Pope as incomprehensible as the collective emotion shown by the royal wedding. It’s just not something I ‘get’. But I think an analysis of Catholicism which exclusively considers faith through the prism of its organisational expression, rather than as the lived experience of ordinary Catholics, is only a partial view. We don’t think it’s legitimate to base our entire political world-view on the perspective of the Westminster bubble! Additionally it alienates people from legitimate discussion over the role of organised religion in public life, by appearing as a systemic attack, not on Ratzinger, not on Catholicism, but on Catholics per se. That should be taken seriously by socialists.

  35. Manzil: Additionally it alienates people from legitimate discussion over the role of organised religion in public life, by appearing as a systemic attack, not on Ratzinger, not on Catholicism, but on Catholics per se.

    Yes, organised religion does have too little impact on public life :)

  36. Stephen on said:

    Would that he had been merely conservative…

    It was in fact a quite deliberate excercise in reversing what limited gestures the Church might have made in accepting that some people are in fact homosexual.

    The position established in 1975 expressed the view that Homosexual ACTS were disordered – Cardinal Ratzinger took things to a whole new level. He defines homosexuals themselves as ‘objectively disordered’ even while doing nothing at all.

    He isn’t conservative – he is reactionary, even judged by the standards of the organisation he has led.

  37. #44.

    Admit it, your iconoclastic provocations are specifically motivated towards pissing off people like me, for whom the nearest thing to religion in their lives is the NHS or Stewart Lee. :P

  38. Good to see de Las Casas get a mention there Eastern Hemisphere he is a remarkable figure in the history of european colonialism.

    And while I would support Chavez in any struggle with religious authorities the Church’s record in the colonial period in Latin America is a good one by and large. I suggest you read Conquest by Hugh Thomas if you want to know more about it.

    For me though the blessing for Chavez and the Hezbollah sponsored visit to Lebannon should not be dismissed so lightly, both are hate figures for imperialism as is Cuba. B16′s actions in this regard are significant and are not those of “an out and out reactionary”.

  39. Stephen:

    The position established in 1975 expressed the view that Homosexual ACTS were disordered – Cardinal Ratzinger took things to a whole new level. He defines homosexuals themselves as ‘objectively disordered’ even while doing nothing at all.

    I assume you haven’t read the document you link to then, which clearly refers throughout to homosexual activity, and calls upon Gay catholics to observe a life of chastity to avoid sin.

    In fact Cardinal Ratzinger says in that document:

    in”Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a “heterosexual” or a “homosexual” and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

    You can agree or disagree, but Ratzinger does not say what you say he does.

  40. EasternHemisphere on said:

    SA: For me though the blessing for Chavez and the Hezbollah sponsored visit to Lebannon should not be dismissed so lightly, both are hate figures for imperialism as is Cuba. B16′s actions in this regard are significant and are not those of “an out and out reactionary”.

    Well I think you are very wrong. He is a shrewd politician. He knows the church is only useful to capitalism as long as it can hold the allegiance of the poor in its strongholds such as Latin America and the Philippines. He also knows that the church is a very large organisation with varied political viewpoints inside it. If you wanted to push a restoration of capitalism through an accommodation with liberal elements within the Cuban regime who better to broker it than the church? It makes it much more difficult if the church is too closely identified with American imperialism. I am not suggesting that the Pope doesn’t act out of religious conviction, but that he identifies his religious beliefs very clearly with the existing order of society, and yes that means capitalism and imperialism. The comments on the purification of indigenous peoples show this viewpoint quite clearly. Attacks on poverty and calls for peace are also aimed at shoreing up the church. Now his attitude and politics are a million miles removed from the truly radical sections of the church like those who have even taken up arms against repressive regimes. The role of nuns in and around the NPA in the Philippines comes to mind.
    http://www.culturalsurvival.org/ourpublications/csq/article/nuns-stories-liberation-theologies-and-violence-philippines

  41. EasternHemisphere: Attacks on poverty and calls for peace are also aimed at shoreing up the church.

    What ludicrous tomfoolery.

    EasternHemisphere: He knows the church is only useful to capitalism as long as it can hold the allegiance of the poor in its strongholds such as Latin America and the Philippines

    I very much doubt that the the impetus of the Pope to maintain a mass base among the faithful is due to his concern about being “useful to capitalism”

  42. Stephen on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Ho hum – a slightly longer version of the quote I pulled earlier.

    “In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

    This is both a statement that homosexuals are ‘objectively disordered’ and saying that the previous statement of doctrine on homosexuality was too soft…

  43. jim mclean on said:

    The more I read the less impressed I am

    Cardinal Ratzinger, well-known as the Vatican enforcer for Pope John Paul, ordered the 1984 “silencing” of liberation theologians, forbidding them to publish their work, and removing bishops who supported their views, as well as declaring Rome’s opposition to the social activism and organizations for self-help which priests in impoverished regions had long regarded as central to their Christian mission.

    http://sincronia.cucsh.udg.mx/hogan05.htm

  44. Stephen: Ho hum – a slightly longer version of the quote I pulled earlier.

    Well I suggest that you read the document in full and interpret it in the spirit that Ratzinger intended Clearly Ratzinger is arguing that homosexuals are inclined towards what he regards as the sin of homosexual acts; and this predisposition is what he describes as “an objective disorder”.

    This language may be offenseive to some people, but is consistent with Catholic doctrine of Lex naturalis – indeed the chucrh’s campaigns over poverty and for social justice are similarly located in Lex naturalis – the Church is less obsessed with sex than secular western liberals are.
    He clearly does not argue that the 1975 doctrine was too soft, instead he argues that in interpretation some of the clergy had been inclined to a psoition which the church regards as too indulgent towards the acts of homosexuality.

    The document is no more than a restatement of the 1975 position, with clarification.

    It is absurd to argue with the then Cardinal and more latterly Bishop of Rome about the interpreation of catholic doctrine.

  45. stephen marks on said:

    ‘It is absurd to argue with the then Cardinal and more latterly Bishop of Rome about the interpretation of catholic doctrine.’

    Well, yes and no. For someone like me to claim that the pope had ‘got it wrong’ on the basis solely of my layperson’s superficial acquaintance with Catholic doctrine would be absurd – ‘more Catholic than the Pope’ indeed.

    However I am surely at liberty to note that there are Catholics who unlike me [and Andy] are qualified to comment and who believe that Catholic doctrine is capable of different interpretations; and who argue that even within the shared position that homosexual acts are sinful Benedict inclined to a more conservative position when he was not compelled to.

    In particular the text in question was reported at the time as ruling that a homosexual orientation should disqualify from the priesthood even those who were sexually inactive and prepared to take their vows of celibacy.

    In fact the application of Lex Naturalis to sexual ethics is a disputed territory among Catholic theologians – for example the high-level commission appointed by Paul VI who recommended modifying the Church’s teaching on ‘artificial’ methods of contraception from within the tradition of Lex Naturalis [or Natural Law as we say in English].

    When Paul VI decided to reject their report was he motivated by sincere intellectual disagreement on the theological issues or by concern for the reputation of the Church for consistency and infallibility which might be undermined by a ‘change of line’ even if it could be argued by the sophisticated that it was a redefinition within the same teaching?

  46. Why is it necessary to prettify this reactionary pope in order to oppose anti-Catholic bigotry?

    The Church itself may consider the Pope to be infallible, and many more conservative Catholics may interpret that to mean that a criticism of the Pope is an attack on all Catholics, but that does not mean that to oppose anti-Catholic sectarian sentiment you have to agree with them!!!

  47. stephen marks: However I am surely at liberty to note that there are Catholics who unlike me [and Andy] are qualified to comment and who believe that Catholic doctrine is capable of different interpretations; and who argue that even within the shared position that homosexual acts are sinful Benedict inclined to a more conservative position when he was not compelled to.

    You miss the point, the issue is not whether or not Ratzinger’s interpretation is correct, and I can certainly see that other more liberal interpretations are compatible with broader Christian doctrine, and could be adopted by the Church. It is also true that some Catholic’s qualifed to have an opinion disagee with the Pope.

    Ths important issue is that it is up to the Church itself to decide its own doctrine.

    No interpretation of Catholic teaching will ever be acceptable to trendy Islington secularists, and where I think Ratzinger has been a good leader of the church, in addition to being a very intelligent advocate of his positions, is defegnding the position that civil society must respect the church’s right to have its own opinions, and to advocate those opinions.

    We do not have to agree with the church, but neither do we have a right to dictate to it.

  48. redscribe: Why is it necessary to prettify thisfor ex reactionary pope in order to oppose anti-Catholic bigotry?

    Becasue what is necessary is to defend the sovereignty of the Church to make its own decisions, and not to allow illiberal “liberals” to dictate to it

  49. ‘The Church itself may consider the Pope to be infallible, and many more conservative Catholics may interpret that to mean that a criticism of the Pope is an attack on all Catholics’

    Unlikely, as, unlike you, more conservative Catholics would probably know their arse from their elbow on the doctrine of papal infallibility.

  50. James D on said:

    ‘Leftists’ gushing over a man who said that gay marriage would lead to the end of the world, labelled progressives nuns as ‘radical feminists’, opposes the right to choose and condom use?

    I despair.

    But I’m also very curious, how does Andy Newman square this defence of the Catholic Church with his sympathetic attitudes towards the militantly atheist ‘socialist states’ of the 20th Century?

  51. Andy Newman:

    No interpretation of Catholic teaching will ever be acceptable to trendy Islington secularists,

    “trendy Islington secularists” -otherwise known as socialists

  52. James D on said:

    Andy Newman:No interpretation of Catholic teaching will ever be acceptable to trendy Islington secularists

    I have no idea what an ‘Islington secularist’ is, but maybe the Catholic Church could try not supporting violent state terrorism against homosexuals in places like Uganda and we can see if ‘Islington secularists’ respond positively?

  53. James D: but maybe the Catholic Church could try not supporting violent state terrorism against homosexuals in places like Uganda and we can see if ‘Islington secularists’ respond positively?

    Do you have any sources to support this claim?

  54. James D on said:

    John: Do you have any sources to support this claim?

    http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/catholics-want-revive-ugandas-kill-gays-bill110612

    Still, who can blame the bishops in Uganda? These actions really are the logic conclusion of the rhetoric of the man we are supposed to be gushing about

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2008/12/22/us-pope-gays-idUKTRE4BL2FE20081222

    Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

    “(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.

    “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

  55. ssmo: “trendy Islington secularists” -otherwise known as socialists

    You see to me a socialist is someone who wants to change the world to make it more just, in a which means engaging with complex realitty including institutions we may not always agree with.

    In my book a socialist is not merely a lifestyle choice of someone who has given up on social change and just wants to spend their time in the insufferable middle class company of other lifestyle poseurs who they happen to share cult cultural preferences with.

  56. James D: ‘Leftists’ gushing over a man

    Sorry can you point me to any “gushing” ??

    James D: I’m also very curious, how does Andy Newman square this defence of the Catholic Church with his sympathetic attitudes towards the militantly atheist ‘socialist states’ of the 20th Century?

    Clearly many mistakes were made by the socialist countries, miltant state led atheism, whre it was promoted, was one of them

  57. James D: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/catholics-want-revive-ugandas-kill-gays-bill110612
    Still, who can blame the bishops in Uganda? These actions really are the logic conclusion of the rhetoric of the man we are supposed to be gushing about

    The article that you yourself link to includes this:

    The Vatican came out strongly and publicly against the bill and, Wikileaks revealed, even lobbied against it.

    Uganda watchers say that the change by the Ugandan Catholic church is ‘very serious’ and that the UJCC resolution was pushed by an Anglican bishop.

    It also points out that the Anglican church in Uganda – along with Evangelicals – have long supported the bill, despite Catholic opposition!

    Do you think you half truths and distortions help or hinder solidarity with Uganda’s LGBT folk? Given that one of the issues in Uganda leading to support for the Bill is the preception that European values are being forced on Uganda by outside pressure, surely it is better to have a non-sensationalist attitude to encouraging Ugandan forces hostile to the vile proposed law? Saying that the catholic Church is enthusiastic about the bill is unhelpful to the point of being counter-productive

  58. James D on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I agree 100% that state atheism was (and is) awful. Does that mean that I now have to say nice things about a man who compares ‘curing’ homosexuality to averting apocalyptic ecological disaster? If I don’t does that make me a ‘liberal’ or an ‘Islington socialist’?

  59. James D on said:

    Andy Newman,

    What am I distorting here? Clearly, despite Vatican opposition (to killing but not hateful stigmatisation of gays) significant figures in the Catholic Church in Uganda are strongly in favour of the bill, which quite frankly is just a practical implementation of the Pope’s homophobic rhetoric. If I genuinely believed, as the Pope apparently does, that homosexuality is morally equivalent to ecological disaster, maybe I’d be in favour of the bill too! If he’s so against it, why doesn’t he excommunicate (or even defrock) the clergy in Uganda who are in favour of it? Oh, I forgot, excommunication is for radical feminists, not homophobes.

  60. Andy Newman: Clearly many mistakes were made by the socialist countries, miltant state led atheism, whre it was promoted, was one of them

    In the context of dealing with the unreconstructed Tsarists of White-supporting Orthodox Christianity, militant state-led atheism sounds like a bloody good idea.

    Against Rowan Williams, not so much.

  61. #68 This reminds me of how the issue of anti-semitism and the Roman Catholic church is sometimes raised against catholcs, in particular in respect of nazi Germany, where in fact a significant number of Catholics, including clergy, risked death to help Jews and oppose the regime, and where the official pro-nazi church was lutheran, citing some of Luther’s vile Jew-baiting comments notorious to justify their stance. Which is not of course to detract from the sacrifices of the likes of Niemoeller.

    And on the subject of nazi Germany, not only are the references to the Hitler Youth issue an insult to the former Pope, but to millions of ordinary German men of a particular age who were forced as children to join a para-military organisation of a totalitarian state, essentially victims of that regime.

  62. Vanya,

    Vanya, in addition to agreeing the Concordat that enabled Hitler’s rise to power, the Vatican also supported murderous anti-semites in Croatia and Slovakia, fascist regimes in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Croatia and Slovakia, never threaten the millions of Roman Catholic Nazis with excommunication (unlike leftists), remained silent throughout the Holocaust and helped war criminals escape justice in the aftermath of WW2. The Roman Catholic Church is an institution to criticise it and it’s leaders is no more “Anti-Catholic” than criticising the policies of the British government is to be “Anti-British”.

  63. #73 All of whicb gives rise to legitimate criticism of the RC church. My problem is that far less focus tends to be directed at Lutherans in Germany. This is in spite of the fact that Shirer, one of the earliest historians of the nazi period and himself a German lutheran, addressed this anomaly decades ago.

  64. Karl Stewart on said:

    Hi Vanya,
    Apart from a great poem, I’m not sure Niemoeller actually did anything much in terms of struggle against the nazis.

    The poem’s actually true, he did do nothing while the nazis oppressed everyone else (he was in fact, initally a supporter of the nazis) and then, when the nazis attacked his own church, there really was no-one left to speak up for him.

  65. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya:
    #75 Well there you go then, that’s protestants for you

    Indeed!
    (And they don’t even believe in transubstantiation!!)

  66. Vanya:
    #73 All of whicb gives rise to legitimate criticism of the RC church. My problem is that far less focus tends to be directed at Lutherans in Germany. This is in spite of the fact that Shirer, one of the earliest historians of the nazi period and himself a German lutheran,addressed this anomaly decades ago.

    You may wish to look at the attitude of the King and people of Denmark to Nazi persecution of the Jews or the fact that in Norway on 10 November 1942, after the first mass round-up, the Lutheran bishops in a letter to Quisling openly protested against the arrests and deportations, arguing that Jews had had a legal right to live in Norway for ninety-one years and should be protected by law.

  67. #76 My apologies to anyone who may have been offended by that comment. Feel free to delete admin.

  68. Karl Stewart on said:

    jim mclean,
    It’s interesting that Luther seems not to have rejected transubstantiation altogether, but just to have interpreted it differently (as far as I can understand him on this point), while the Anglican difference with Catholicism is clearer – that it’s a representation and that there’s no “miracle” at all.

  69. All in all an appalling post from Andy Newman – the idea that Socialists should defend an institution as appallingly reactionary and with a history of such anti working class repression as the Church of Rome merely signals how low some sections of the self-proclaimed left have sunk.

  70. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Andy Newman: I very much doubt that the the impetus of the Pope to maintain a mass base among the faithful is due to his concern about being “useful to capitalism”

    He is a conservative thinker who identifies defence of capitalism with defence of his faith. What’s more he is quite conscious about his defence of capitalism and calculating in his efforts to both keep the poor in the church’s fold and to keep radicals at bay within the church. To take a blessing for Chavez and visit to Cuba as a sign that he is some kind of “progressive” is the real tom foolery here. Like many a capitalist politician, even those on the right, he is quite capable of incorporating criticism of the excesses of the capitalist system to into a defence of the system as a whole.

    If this article just took issue with the trite over-simplifications of the Dawkins crew, or to bash those whose securalism is a thin veneer on top of their racism, I’d have no issue with it. However, along with some of the comments in this forum, the attempt to position concerns about women’s and gay equality as simply the concerns of Islington liberals, the article’s whitewashing of the real role that Ratzinger has played fighting the left in the church, it is much more than that. I’d call it at least a repudiation, if not a betrayal of the Catholic left.

  71. Karl Stewart on said:

    Interesting stuff JimM, seems to have personally invented the “dour Scot” doesn’t he?

  72. I’m really confused by this attempt to imbue anti-Pope sentiment with accusations of something that seems to be tantamount to racism. The last time I was in Santiago de Compostela there was a decent amount of Galician and Spanish language anti-Papal banners hanging from balconies in certain areas.

    I’m going to go ahead and assume that these people probably weren’t fans of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, or Ulster Unionists. I also suspect that, given the neighbourhoods these banners were in, they probably were not the holiday homes of ‘Islington secularists’.

    What are we to make of these anti-pope banners? We probably can’t accuse these Galicians who are critical of the pope of anti-Catholic bigotry. Clearly, they must be self-hating Catholics who have failed to understand the revolutionary zeal of a church which is one of the last bulwarks against the ever surging tide of neoliberalism.

    Nevermind the social fas– conservativism, we’re in it for the social teaching. National Catholicism come back, all is forgiven.

  73. stephen marks on said:

    Andy Newman: You miss the point, the issue is not whether or not Ratzinger’s interpretation is correct, and I can certainly see that other more liberal interpretations are compatible with broader Christian doctrine, and could be adopted by the Church. It is also true that some Catholic’s qualifed to have an opinion disagee with the Pope.

    Ths important issue is that it is up to the Church itself to decide its own doctrine.

    No interpretation of Catholic teaching will ever be acceptable to trendy Islington secularists, and where I think Ratzinger has been a good leader of the church, in addition to being a very intelligent advocate of his positions, is defegnding the position that civil society must respect the church’s right to have its own opinions, and to advocate those opinions.

    We do not have to agree with the church, but neither do we have a right to dictate to it.

    No Andy you are the one who is missing the point, and covering up the fact with a smokescreen of non-sequiturs and straw men. I nowhere expressed an opinion on ‘whether or not Ratzinger’s interpretation is correct’. And where do I question that ‘it is up to the Church itself to decide its own doctrine’?

    I simply noted that , as you agree, ‘some Catholics qualified to have an opinion disagree with the Pope’. And I noted that as a result it was possible to agree with those Catholics who regard him as a reactionary influence within the Church on some issues. How is this to ‘dictate to the Church’?

    I don’t know any ‘trendy Islington secularists’ so I bow to your presumably superior knowledge of them. I prefer to listen to progressive Catholics of my acquaintance who regarded Ratzinger as a reactionary influence in many ways, and who also know how to respond intelligently to criticism of the Church or its leadership without throwing a hissy fit about ‘dictating to the Church’ or ‘questioning its rights to have its own opinions’.

    I recall a post of yours on the English national character in which you spoke approvingly of the influence on it of the Anglican tradition of the ‘via media’. Can you not appreciate that there is a via media between Richard Dawkins and Ratzinger, and that to reject Dawkins you do not have to join the Pope’s fan club?

    [Of course this Via Media should not be confused with the ‘Third Way’ whose most notorious advocate did live in Islington and ended up in Ratzinger’s church - though on Iraq, militarism and war, social justice and the evils of unchecked market capitalism I would certainly back Ratzinger against Blair!]

  74. EasternHemisphere: He knows the church is only useful to capitalism as long as it can hold the allegiance of the poor in its strongholds such as Latin America and the Philippines.

    Well its going pretty much as I thought it might.

    I must point out though that the Catholic Church is not keen on capitalism at all and we are talking theology here. Of course papal pronouncements on the evils of capitalism do not command many or indeed any column inches in the British msm. I suppose it does not fit the narrative.

  75. James D on said:

    SA: Well its going pretty much as I thought it might.

    I must point out though that the Catholic Church is not keen on capitalism at all and we are talking theology here. Of course papal pronouncements on the evils of capitalism do not command many or indeed any column inches in the British msm. I suppose it does not fit the narrative.

    I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘capitalism’. The Catholic Church has been ‘anti-capitalist’ for a long time, and has backed plenty of ostensibly ‘anti-capitalist’ regimes with papal concordats. Should we start naming which regimes those were?

  76. James D: I’m really confused by this attempt to imbue anti-Pope sentiment with accusations of something that seems to be tantamount to racism.

    Here is a hint: we live in Britain, where the head of state cannot marry a Catholic, and it is considered unremarkable for the manager of a Scottish football team to be sent a bullet through the post just because he is Catholic.

  77. stephen marks: I don’t know any ‘trendy Islington secularists’ so I bow to your presumably superior knowledge of them. I prefer to listen to progressive Catholics of my acquaintance who regarded Ratzinger as a reactionary influence in many ways, and who also know how to respond intelligently to criticism of the Church or its leadership without throwing a hissy fit about ‘dictating to the Church’ or ‘questioning its rights to have its own opinions’.

    I presume that you haven’t been reading the other contributions of this thread, where Ratzinger is criticied for opinions which any likely candidate for Pope would also share.

    Including the absurd accusation that Ratzinger is responsible for anti-Gay laws in Uganda that he actaully opposed and lobbied against.

  78. James D: I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘capitalism’. The Catholic Church has been ‘anti-capitalist’ for a long time, and has backed plenty of ostensibly ‘anti-capitalist’ regimes with papal concordats. Should we start naming which regimes those were?

    Only because the church believes our money should be going to them instead like the good old days, instead off being spent on the crap capitalism creates that we all don’t need…

  79. CJB: because the church believes our money should be going to them instead like the good old days, instead off being spent on the crap capitalism creates that we all don’t need…

    Or more chartitably, we could look at the work of the historian of the Mediaeval period, and a theorist within the ethical socialist tradition in the British Labour Party, RH Tawney, who argued that the removal of the legal inequalities of feudalism allowed advance towards greater political freedom, but at the expense of allowing the rich to use their economic power to impose their will upon society; and the ideological triumph of individualism and a philosophy of rights rather than social obligations destroyed concepts of duties towards the common good.

    In “The Acquisitive Society”, Tawney argues that the concept of natural rights is an individualistic doctrine that appeals to the acquisitive and materialist instincts unleashed by Capitalism, and the idea that individuals can assert rights against the collective reflects a decline in a philosophy of social purpose.

    Tawney’s belief is that society requires a shared common moral framework, which functionally protects the collective interests of society. Tawney’s account of the transition to capitalism stresses the role of the Church in European feudal society, with provided the scholastic doctrine of organicism. This valued different social functions contributing to the mutual benefit of an organic whole. The Church opposed avarice and usury, and stressed collective duties rather then individual rights.

    For Tawney the low level tolerance of usury by the Church when it was a peripheral economic activity meant they were unprepared to ideologically adapt to the later development of Capital as a driving economic force; and the Protestant rebellions opened the door to individualism, and the retreat of the church from the political sphere into the private realm. For Tawney this removed the main mechanism in mediaeval society for maintaining a philosophy of shared social purpose, and defining the duties that individuals owed to society.

    So Tawney’s critique of Capitalist society, drawing upon his Christianity, would be that where freedom is defined as absence of restraint, then liberty promotes inequality, because the more powerful in society have less constraints upon them, and the majority of the population will always be unfree. For Tawney, in contrast, true liberty is the freedom to act positively for the benefit of the community, and being empowered to resist the tyrannical demands of the rich and powerful.

  80. Jon Fanning on said:

    jim jepps: I find this Hitler youth stuff an incredibly irritating cheap shot.
    Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth when he turned 14 because he was legally obliged to. It was the law. It hardly makes him Goering does it?

    How often do people need to be told, by people who were there, the Hitler youth was not compulsory but you did get benefits by joining it.

    Ratzinger might not be a fully paid up Nazis, but his decision to take the benefits of joining was the decision of someone who, at the very least, was not prepared to take the path of dificult rigtheousness. As he was 14 I would accept an apology but there is only silence.

  81. Jon Fanning: Ratzinger might not be a fully paid up Nazis, but his decision to take the benefits of joining was the decision of someone who, at the very least, was not prepared to take the path of dificult rigtheousness. As he was 14 I would accept an apology but there is only silence.

    I refer you to Perry Biddiscombe’s authorative work “The Denazification of Germany, a history 1945 to 1950″. Even full members of the Nazi Party, if they were born in 1927 or later, were exempt from denazification by all 4 occuaption authorities, as they were considered too young to have made an informed and uncoerced judgement.

    Very few boys failed to join the HJ, and few girls failed to join the BDM.

  82. lone nut on said:

    I must say that were I not wearily familiar with the contours of British Trotskyism and its flotsam, I would be mildly amazed by people whose profiles in courage boil down to leading the refectory boycott at Penge Poly in 1987 or chanting “police protect the Nazis” behind five lines of cops, having the audacity to criticise the imagined moral failings of a 14 year old boy in the hellhole of a collapsing Nazi Germany. Have any of you considered that any decision one might take in this ocntext might, for example, be affected by the possibility of reprisals against one’s family? But of course the only sense in which this might be anything other than a cheap slur would be if you could point to a single sentence written by the mature Ratzinger (hey guys, we’re all going to have to call him that now, so you can no longer use it to insult him!) which could be construed as support for Nazism, racism or militarism. And of course you can’t, so the conversation will change to condoms, gays etc, none of which have any intrinsic connection to the Hitler Youth. Incidentally, anybody interested in Benedict’s actual social thinking should have a look at his published debate with Habermas,”The Dialectics of Secularization” (though I can imagine the train of thought that will spark off in some – Habermas, funny name, sounds foreign, German maybe, must be a Nazi, cue Basil Fawlty impression).

  83. lone nut: Have any of you considered that any decision one might take in this ocntext might, for example, be affected by the possibility of reprisals against one’s family?

    Exactly. Though there was resistance to the Nazis in Germany, it was very weak. What the naysayers fail to take into account is the utter ruthlessness with which the Nazis quashed any and all semblance of resistance. Germany in 1933 had a mass Communist Party which gained 5 million votes in the election that catapulted Hitler to power.

    What happened to all those anti-fascist votes? Why didn’t they translate into a mass resistance movement?

    To excoriate one man over his lack of resistance to the Nazis while failing to take into account the wider context of Nazi brutality and savagery, the extent to which they had effectively quashed resistance at home, never mind abroad, is ludicrous.

  84. Andy Newman: few girls failed to join the BDM.

    Incidently, my first serious girlfriend who I lived with for a few years back in the 1980s had a mother who been in the Bund der Deutscher Maedchen, and had a photo of her young self giving a bunch of flowers to Hitler; and Kirsten’s uncle had been a 14 year old Luftwaffe pilot during the last days of the war. I mention this just t emphasise the complete noramlity of such a past for German’s of that generation.

  85. prianikoff on said:

    Ratzinger was too young to have made any independent political decisions during the War .
    But the role of Catholic politicians in Germany during 1933 could certainly be criticized.
    e.g. Ludwig Kass, the leader of the Centre Party, which got over 4 million votes in 1932.
    Kass was a Catholic Priest who was in regular contact with the Papal Nuncio to Bavaria, Eugenio Pacelli (later Pius XII).

    He opposed Hitler becoming Chancellor in 1933.
    But rather than vote against the Nazis’ Enabling Act (as the SPD did) the Centre Party opted to negotiate.
    All they got from Hitler were vague promises, but the Centre Party duly delivered its vote.
    Despite this, it was dissolved not long afterwards.
    The Reichskonkordat with the Vatican later guaranteed some protection for Catholic Education in return for staying out of politics

  86. jim mclean on said:

    Jon Fanning,

    He did lose his subsidised tuition support for not attending meetings, pretty sure of that. I just don’t like his attacks of the Red Priests and others,his adult decisions. I actually know of people on this site who were in the SWP in their younger days. Now away to apply for a house in Islington. Talking about Popes, Tawadros is trying to build an alliance with Muslim secularists in defence of the Copts.

  87. stephen marks on said:

    Andy Newman: I presume that you haven’t been reading the other contributions of this thread, where Ratzinger is criticied for opinions which any likely candidate for Pope would also share.

    I expect that ‘any likely candidate’ for Chief Rabbi would share uncritical attitudes to Israel. But you don’t have to be an ‘Islington secularist’, a qualified Talmudic scholar or for that matter an antisemite to prefer the attitudes of an Israeli organisation like ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’.

  88. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Just on a more general point about the role of religion in public life that Andy seems so keen to promote. It is not just Islington secularists, liberals, Trotskyists or other people who lonenut likes to hate on who have lost their religion. Religion no longer has the hold on the working class that it once had. Now when you look back to the 1950s and you look at a city like Liverpool where the conservatives controlled the city because they had the support of protestant workers, while Labour was dominated by right-wing Catholic Action types, secularisation is actually a very good thing. That’s not to say that anti-catholic bigotry has disappeared, but it has certainly declined along with religion.

    Now the big exception to the decline of religion is in the sizeable immigrant communities. I take the point that the left needs to be sensitive to their faith, not adopt patronising attitudes towards them, or act in a way that is disrepectful. This especially the case when a religious belief can sometimes be a way of maintaining national culture and dealing with national oppression and elements of the right are using attacks on religion to conceal their racism. However, sensitivity doesn’t mean apologetics for reactionary elements in the church hierarchy.

    Is the catholic church an anti-capitalist organisation? It’s a very broad organisation including pretty much the whole political spectrum from Maoists to fascists within its ranks. However, the Church hierarchy could in no way be discribed as anti-capitalist. Most of the major capitalist parties in Europe were organised by the Catholic Church. Now as far as I can see Ratzinger doesn’t even have the “pro-labour” credentials of a Cardinal Manning. The “anti-capitalism” or social doctrine of the hierarchy has always been largely an attempt to innoculate the ranks against socialism and communism. Just take a look at the Rerum Novarum which was inspired by Manning’s social teaching and you can see this very clearly.
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html

    And just to guard against misrepresentation, I am talking about the church hierarchy. I certainly don’t mean to disrespect those socialists and communists who despite the position of the hierachy find inspiration in their faith.

  89. stephen marks on said:

    Andy Newman: I certainly wouldn’t criticise the Chief Rabbi for their attititude to Israel.

    Words fail me. At least you are consistent in your adaptation to clerical reaction.

  90. John Grimshaw on said:

    #102 Andy posted this the last time he hosted In Defence of the Catholic Church. Although Tawney of course was a committed Anglican. What about something from that woman who edits “The Tablet” next time who usually bores me senseless on “Thought for the Day”?

  91. John Grimshaw: Andy posted this the last time he hosted In Defence of the Catholic Church. Although Tawney of course was a committed Anglican.

    And the problem with that is? Tawney was writing about the role of the Mediaeval church, which was of course Catholic before it was Anglican

  92. John Grimshaw on said:

    The problem is that you are repeating the same thing and its lazy. Also maybe you are relying on the fact that others wouldn’t have noticed.

    I’m not convinced about Tawney’s thesis in its entirety although some of it I would agree with. However even if the Catholic Church was anti-capitalist in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries what has that got to do with disproving the Churches role as part of the ruling class in preceding centuries or now? (Is it okay if we adopt some common terminology on which church is which by the way?)

  93. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman:
    The person probably most interested in the head of a church resigning is prince charles

    I understand Charley-Boy is secretly Orthodox and donates money to the Meteora. Not surprising though I suppose.

  94. #119 Apparently if Harold had won the battle of Hastings it’s quite likely that England would have become Orthodox rather than RC.

  95. # 120 I bet you’ve got one of those t-shirts saying Uwe’s dad bombed Old Trafford. Go on, own up.

  96. lone nut on said:

    of course Trautmann has always acknowledged that he was a convinced and fanatical Nazi, which makes his redemption all the more admirable. I don’t think “redemption” is a word which exists in the catechism of the British far left, however.

  97. John Grimshaw on said:

    #124 Well since this is a religious thread. The strong suite of traditional Catholicism is that it believes in redemption. Whereas of course the stronger strands of Calvinism and Presbyterianism, believing understandably as they do, in the absolute manifest certainty of his/hers/its creation and therefore pre-destination, allow for nothing other than praying. The problem was that when a morally bankrupt Catholic church began making money out of salvation not only did it wind people up but it alerted a nascent capitalist class to the business opportunities. However see Erasmus.

  98. John Grimshaw on said:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2013/0213/1224329982252.html

    i post this because it is the best I can find. However it alludes to a situation taking place in Argentinia where leagl action (as I understand it) is being taken against high ranking members of the Church who were complicit in the ex-right wings dictatorship campaign against oppositionists and leftists. What is interesting is that some of the people killed in this campaign were populist and leftist leading Catholic clergy. The Church is instinctively a conservatrive organisation but its non-connected lay members don’t always do what Rome thinks or wants.

  99. Democratic Left on said:

    Vanya…the suggestion that England would have become Orthodox if Harold had won the Battle of Hastings really is utter bollocks.

  100. Democratic Left on said:

    Vanya…maybe you just dont realise how absurd your claim is. There was absolutely no possibility that Harold would have broken with the Latin Church and adopted the Greek rite.

    Even if their was any dynastic, cultural, theological or political reasons allowing for such a step, which there was nt, such a bizarre move would have destroyed Harolds already shaky legitimacy. Though that doesnt really matter. As it would not have happened.

    It is a ridiculous suggestion

  101. #130 The Pope had already broken with him.

    Then again, the next King William to be put on the thrown through violent ovethrow of the existing English king was also supported by the Pope, and he was a Protestant.

  102. Democratic Left on said:

    The fact that the Pope supported a rival claim does not constitute a break from the Church in England. Rather it demonsrates the effectiveness of Williams diplomacy.

    The Pope came down on sides in hundreds of dynastic disputes. Sometimes the losing one. Nobody became Orthodox.

    In the case of Harold, like other medieval examples, ifhe would have secured his throne the Pope would eventually strike upa deal where he legitimatised the succession. It is typical medieval politics.

  103. #130 Of course the problem here is that l’m not sure how much either of us knows about the subject to be making hard and fast claims one way or another on the subject.

    I certainly don’t .

    What I do understand is that there were allegations that the church in England was not sufficiently doctrinally correct, that the schism with Nyzantine

  104. #133 This android is doing my head in:-)

    That should have said Byzantium, and gone on to say that the schism coincided as I understand with the ousting of the archbishop of canterbury by the pope only a few years previously for doctrinal incorrectness.

    Futhermore, the normans were the primary enforcers of loyalty to rome in the west’ particularly in the parts of italy they controlled.

    None of which adds up to proof that England under Harold would have gone with the orthdox faith. One of his daughters did however marry a Russian prince.

  105. Democratic Left: The fact that the Pope supported a rival claim does not constitute a break from the Church in England.

    Indeed and we might note the exiled English nobles and gentry that found a living in Constantinople remained faithful to the Latin Rite.

  106. #135 Interesting.

    I have to say that the theory about Harold and the Orthodox faith does appear to be supported by few sources that don’t seem a little strange to say the least.

    Without a lot of evidence and time that would probably be best spent on dealing with matters in the here and now I don’t intend to become one of them. The problem with the internet is how easily a random fool can become a source.

    And at the risk of offending certain people, when the subject is religion, belief and evidence do not necessarally always go together (a bit like what sometimes passes for Marxism of course).

  107. All true Vanya.

    By way of a historical anecdote Harold’s sons took refuge in Ireland under the protection of the Ard Ri. The end of English ruled England is an interesting story.

  108. #137 Yes and I understand that they engaged in raids on the English South West for a while after.

  109. A refeference to Oscar Wilde on another thread made me look him up on Wikipedia.

    I’d forgoten that as well as being a socialist, a supporter of the Haymarket martyrs and an Irish nationalist, he was also an admirer of the works of Cardinal Newman (the real one, not the insult that is thrown at Andy occasionally) and someone who strove from his youth until his death to convert to Catholicism and that the instigator of the prosecution for “sodomy” was an outspoken atheist, the Marquis of Queensbury.

    Not trying to prove anything, just thought I’d throw it into the mix.