The text of Pope Ratzinger is a true Manifesto for a pre-conciliar and anti-conciliar Church, with many caricatures of reality and completely enclosed by Catholic identity. But we cannot go back.
The text of Pope Ratzinger released yesterday in a German magazine is important. It is the first time that in a public way after his resignation he states his position on the great questions that torment the Church and he does it at a delicate moment for Pope Francis who is under pressure from two opposing sides on the question of pedophilia and the clergy; there are those who accuse him of being too cautious and those who expect more referrals or cover-ups (even without saying so explicitly). We understand that the position of the pope emeritus in this text takes a broad, critical position on the papacy of Francis, but this is not made explicit. Perhaps he has some prompters in the Curia. Speaking of pedophilia serves as a more general confrontation of the theological and pastoral stance in which on the one hand there is opposition to the “world” (which is evil) and on the other dialogue and mutual enrichment with external issues to the Church (in line with the Council). This statement of Ratzinger obfuscates the evangelical decision (and is exemplary in terms of the problems of government of the Church), which he took with his resignation. His text, beyond its obvious weaknesses and poverty of its content, seems to us of exceptional gravity because it will serve as a reference point in the near future for those intolerant of the current magisterium which they consider non-doctrinal, pro -Third World, too ecumenical. Pope Bergoglio and Cardinal Parolin were informed of the document. They certainly didn’t like it and they are obliged to make the best of it. The embarrassment is also evident by the lack of attention given to it by “ Osservatore Romano” and “Avvenire”, the italian catholic newspaper.
The text begins by recounting some peculiar episodes of the 60s in Germany, which created great discomfort for Ratzinger, who suffered the “Revolution of ’68” and which was the basis of his transition from avant-garde theologian, to a more than traditional position. He makes a caricature and unacceptable (or, at least, superficial) analysis of those ferments. “Pedophilia was considered permissible and convenient” (but by whom? When did this ever happen?). The new permissiveness was a cause of violence, “spiritual collapse was linked to sexual freedom” and so on. “The widespread collapse of priestly vocations in those years and the enormous number of resignations from the clerical state were a consequence of all these processes”. Expressed in this way the crisis in the clergy and in the seminaries is completely one-sided and ultimately, unacceptable. The situations were much more complex and, in some ways, positive, seen from the point of view of those who wanted a Church set out along the lines and in the spirit of the Council for the development of a life of faith founded largely on those precepts and on the social conditions. 1968 shook the Church but its evils, starting with that of pedophilia, were there before that and ‘68 made it easier to externalize them. From 1968 onwards ferments and basic realities in the Catholic world were born which confronted the emerging cultures, giving their critical and positive contribution to a transition phase of our history.
The Köln Declaration
“The collapse of Catholic moral theology” was determined by the abandonment of the natural law that ended with relativism in the moral field in such a way that “There was no longer the good, but only what at the time and according to the circumstances is relatively better “. The reasoning continues to affirm that there are “unavailable goods” and that there must be a “moral minimum”, that there is a ” Christian proprium ” that characterizes Christian morality from that of other religions. Finally, he attributes to the “Declaration of Köln” of January 1989 the responsibility of having started a movement to contest the ecclesiastical teaching that John Paul II (with Ratzinger leading the doctrinal issues) tried to stem with the Veritatis Splendor (1993) and, first, with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992). We reread the ” Köln, Declaration” which was signed by as many as 163 eminent theologians (only 15 writes Ratzinger!), mainly from the German area. It complains of the system of appointing bishops, marginalization of theologians and censorship of theological research, and finally of the exorbitant role attributed to the papal magisterium in conflict with the same supreme value of the conscience of the individual believer. There is nothing new because Ratzinger returns in the letter to the clash that took place in the 1980s and 1990s of which he was a protagonist on the side of those who decide and impose. In his words, he looks almost like a victim. On the one hand, the placement of the moral act within the path of individual and community faith and of the socio-political context, on the other hand, a precept proposed and imposed according to canons which are rigid and permanent that date back to the Catechism of Pius X and, going back in time, to the Council of Trent.
A caricature of true responsibilities in the Church
The text continues complaining that the nomination of bishops was made according to the criterion of “conciliarity ” and that there were those who pursued “a new modern catholicity” (and those who read the books of Ratzinger were isolated in the seminaries!). We’re almost at a farce. The most authoritative man in the curia after Pope Wojtyla is “against”. But against whom? His colleagues? Based on evidence from the People of God we have always said and now we repeat that in 35 years (1978-2013) the bishops were appointed one-way, only those faithful to the hierarchy and supporting Humanae Vitae. Did Pope Ratzinger forget the purge he made against liberation theologians and the bishops who were close to it? The claim continues and is surprising. Now it is against the excessive guarantees that would have hindered the condemnation of pedophile priests making verdicts impossible. It would have been inspired by progressive positions. We have always known and said exactly the opposite. It was the tortuous system of the clerical caste, which, helped by the norms and by a widespread silence, covered up the pedophilia of the clergy, which came to the surface only from sources external to the Church (the press, public opinion and, secondly, the victims). At the top of the whole system was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its head for 25 years. Then Ratzinger continues equally astonishingly. Embittered by the strong guarantees he claims that “canon law must also protect faith, which is an important asset protected by law”. There is no mention of victims at any point in the text. Unbelievable. What the legal protection of faith in the specific case means is not very clear. It seems clear however how many crisis of the faith can be induced by the criminal behavior of those who abuse the innocent. In addition to the victims, the civil authority is also completely extraneous to Ratzinger’s reflections. Everything is internal to ecclesiastical situations that suffer the intrusion of the external world with its permissive cultures. There is thus a reversal of responsibility. They must not, above all, be attributed, as does Pope Francis, to clericalism and the abuse of power and conscience.
With the “world” mistrust or dialogue?
The final part of the reflections opens with a curious question. “Create another Church?” Ratzinger asks “this experience has already been made and has already failed”. What is the reasoning behind this question? Is it only discursive without any real value? Or does it refer to the church of Lefebvre? It then continues with positive recurrent affirmations in daily spirituality, for example “we ourselves must again learn to recognize God as the foundation of our life and not set it aside as if it were an empty word” and other similar points. We stop at the points that give rise to observations. Ratzinger expresses his intolerance for that which he considers the extraneousness of God from society, “a world without God can be nothing but a meaningless world” in which “there would no longer be the criteria of good and evil, therefore it would value only what is stronger “and finally” Western society is a society in which God in the public sphere is absent and for which he has nothing more to say “. They are explicit words that were also the basis of his magisterium as pope, but never said so clearly. We do not share them. They in fact signify a closure to the world, to the secular realities also full of values, suffering and research. With them the path of the Christian is intertwined, confronts, walks together in respect but also in the sharing of human values and common spirituality. It is a positive relationship we want with secularization. As a consequence of these views on the “world” Ratzinger argues as a negative that God has not been included in the European Constitution as a “criterion of measurement of the community as a whole”, “God is seen as the party of a small group”. We have contrasted this idea of Pope Ratzinger. The cultural roots of Europe are multiform and rich; they do not need exhibitions or reciprocal competitions. In this historical phase then the Christian roots are used by the diffident forces of Europe, which are closed in their nationalism. The document continues speaking of the Eucharist “downgraded to a ceremonial gesture” and then of the Church which “is largely seen only as a kind of political apparatus” and “the accusation against God today focuses above all on discrediting its Church in its complexity” but the statement ends positively because “there is also the indestructible holy Church, there are many men that humbly believe, suffer and love and in which is shown to us the true God, the God who loves.”
This seems to be an erroneous intervention whose consequences have not been evaluated. It is grievous in content and completely closed within the logic of the Church. We do not think like this. The text shows us the distance that separates the preconciliar times from the spirit of the Council, which was relaunched by the new deal of Pope Francis.
Rome, 12 April 2019