Notes from Exile
Ratzinger Writ Large, Viva Benedicto!
By David Irby
May 22, 2005 - 7:59:00 PM

Photo courtesy of Google
VATICAN CITY—Here in Ireland, I’m mainly a religious affairs writer, but I don’t intend to make this column a mainly religion oriented one. However I must respond to the distorted way that some writers apply such words as “conservative” to our beloved John Paul II and his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, who has long been my favorite theologian, and who is now (praise God!) Benedict XVI.


Especially obnoxious was right wing extremist Nathan Tabor’s article,  “Who Will Fill John Paul II’s Pro-life Shoes?” which appeared in this paper. His viciously distorted portrait cast poor John Paul as an “icon” for Tabor's “conservatism,” which is also that of George W. Bush. 


John Paul centered on what he called “the culture of life,” a phrase Bush appropriated dishonestly (according to my understanding of John Paul, Bush is among history's most "anti-life" presidents). But Tabor focuses mainly on abortion and related issues, and leaves out such things as John Paul’s opposition to the Iraq War and the death penalty, such as Bush’s racist “legal lynchings.”  Remember, as Texas's governor, Bush killed more than any other; 159 inmates were executed during his tenure.


And filled with this blood lust, Bush's unjust Iraq invasion immeasurably expanded his
“Culture of Death.” This was a direct slap in the face to poor John Paul! 


Nor, by the way, is Bush genuine on abortion and related issues. His much vaunted “partial birth abortion” ban was obviously unconstitutional and was found so immediately by the courts.  Bush has said on at least two occasions that he won’t appoint Supreme Court Justices committed to (the only real way to attack abortion) roll-back Roe v Wade. And he was the first president to authorize embryo-based stem cell research.  That would have been grounds for excommunication, had he been a Catholic. 


So Bush’s (and Tabor’s) “pro-life” posturings are simply a fraud! Their real intent is to wreck the Constitution, the UN, Social Security, and (e.g.) “affirmative action.”


But oddly enough, the “liberal” media and such right-wing extremists seem to have a common interest in painting such distorted images of our popes; the former to attack Church authority on issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexual practice, and the latter to advance their nefarious political agenda which is really profoundly anti-Christian and anti-life.   


The Catholic religion is much more complex than that. In short terms, it is “conservative” as to “Faith and Morals.”  But this conservative stance aligns the Church with some liberal ideologies: opposition to the death penalty and the unjust Iraq War; Papal support for strictly controlled capitalism; and defense of the poor and ordinary wage earners are all to the left of  moderate Democrats.


So it was under John Paul II. Indeed, all our good popes reflect Jesus’s teachings in their totality, in their own times. 


And so it will be under Benedict XVI, whose former role as prefect of the Church’s Doctrinal Congregation has been completely misrepresented by dissidents both from the right and the left. The former receive little publicity, but their actions have necessitated the bulk of excommunications, while “liberal dissenters” have actually been treated with gentle pastoral care. 


The most famous, Hans Kung, dissents against the Dogma of Infallibility which is full-blown heresy. 


But the Church showed mercy by merely revoking his license to teach as a Catholic. He even retains his function to celebrate Mass. So much for the “cruel authority” of the man who is now our good Pope Benedict!


Every religion has a right to define itself. Orthodox Jews can’t eat pork and Quakers can’t go to war. It was Benedict’s former task (which was painful for him) to enforce the Catholic Church’s “defining” rules. 


So his Papal election is itself a wake up call to dissenters. But beyond that, don’t expect anything other than the gentle pastoral guidance which he actually offered in his former role.


For that job, Benedict has chosen a Long Beach born Latino, and San Francisco Archbishop, William J. Levada. From one “hot seat job” to another!  And Levada also has special experience with moderate groups such as Anglicans. Brilliant! 


But perhaps the most exciting thing about Benedict is his large number of highly intellectual, but pleasant and easy to read, books.  Everybody’s reading them! Non-Catholics as well as Catholics. The most famous is “The Ratzinger Report.” Get it today! 



A Westwood native, David Irby is a writer and social justice activist, who is now based in Dingle, in beautiful Ireland.  Contact him via   

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