|Funny how attempts to control thoughts have a nasty tendency to create more of what they intend to control.|
One of the things I find really fascinating and frustrating about Benedict's crusade against secularism and relativism is his apparent blindness to how much the JPII/Ratzinger Church has been responsible for the upsurge in this trend--especially in the west. I can remember when the Vatican started in on liberation theology I was utterly confused as to why a theology which gave a preferential option for the poor should be so summarily crushed. In my mind the only way one could confuse liberation theology with Marxist communism was to do so purposefully, and for some other agenda. That period of recent Church history certainly fueled my own tendency to look at the Vatican with an eye towards global politics and not Christian spirituality. In truth, it was the beginning of the end of my mindless thoughtless orthodox obedience. In many respects I am the kind of spiritual Catholic I am because the JPII/Ratzinger papacy was the reactionary political papacy it was.
The following is a part of a review of Mathew Fox's book "The Pope's War" from Amazon.com. Although much of it is not actually a review of Fox's book, it does give valuable insight about how the JPII papacy and Ratzinger CDF reign impacted both non Catholics and fueled American corporatism. The review was written by Theodore Richards, a non Catholic who is the director of the Chicago Wisdom Project--which explains the Fr Pfleger references, and in the interests of full disclosure, he has worked with Fox in California. I have excerpted the final paragraphs of his review.
.......Ratzinger's influence goes back to the previous Papacy, when he was in charge of tracking down dissident clergy and silencing them. He was able to do so with alarming silence from the mainstream media. Seduced by the flawless public image of John Paul II and American cold war propaganda that equated Liberation Theology with the USSR, the media said little as Liberation Theology in Latin America was crushed. One by one, theologians and priests who had stood by the poor against often-violent oppression--with US complicity--were silenced. Even more than Pfleger, these people were putting themselves at risk by bravely opposing oppressive regimes. Imagine if Dr. King had been similarly "silenced" during the American Civil Rights Movement. The result, years later, has been two-fold: The work the Catholic church had been doing to seek a more just society has been curtailed, leading leftists and intellectuals to abandon religion altogether; second, fundamentalist sects--and it is no coincidence that these have been supported by the same Right Wing North Americans who fought Liberation Theology--have gained a strong foothold in Latin America as people seek more vibrant forms of worship.
Moreover, it has become clear that Ratzinger would rather go after a feminist than a child-rapist. It turns out that Sinead O'Connor had a point when she protested child abuse in the Church back in the early nineties. Then, few defended her. Now that the scope of the abuse, and the degree to which Church leadership ignored it, have come to light, her simple and poignant protest seems mild.
So why should those of us not in the Church care? It is easy to see why a silenced theologian, or the parishioner at St. Sabina in Chicago (Pfleger's Church) would care, but what about non-Catholics? What about the ever-growing group of Catholics who have left the Church? What about Jews, or Protestants, or Hindus?
First, Ratzinger and his ilk promote a total rejection--again, regressing to the pre-Vatican II days--of other faiths. He has rehabilitated open Holocaust deniers and openly criticized Islam. Such an approach makes interfaith dialogue difficult, for one--one would think that a man who lived in Germany during the Holocaust would understand the need for interfaith understanding--but even more importantly, it makes interfaith spirituality impossible. The Catholic tradition--for all its baggage--has much to teach the world. Unfortunately, a pathological emphasis on orthodoxy, a false unity that, as Fox points out, lacks the diversity that authentic unity requires, has resulted in much of its truth being obscured.
Second, Ratzinger's "crusade" is political as well as theological. He has supported groups with open Right Wing agendas. The impact of his policies in the Catholic world is felt by all, Catholic and non-Catholic. Neighborhoods and nations in which priests are silenced have been transformed to adhere to Ratzinger's vision of the world in which the poor, and women, and the Global South, and homosexuals find themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Third, the lack of rigor in our media when it comes to the Pope--even in today's anti-intellectual climate, it is shocking--allows people like John Paul II to become heroes. This is how his ideas can affect not only the Church, but also other institutions run by those who, seduced by the anti-intellectualism of Ratzinger's Church, are lacking a critical consciousness. Fox points to several institutions, for example, dominated by Opus Dei members.
Finally, Ratzinger's theology has left the Catholic Church on the sidelines of the pursuit of what Fox calls a post-modern spirituality, a spirituality than can give birth to a worldview capable of dealing with myriad problems humanity faces. How can a body-denying, Earth-despising, sexually repressed spirituality deal with such issues as climate change? How can a spirituality that won't speak of justice and sentimentalizes the poor deal with global poverty?..............
The other thing Ratzinger has accomplished in thirty years of silencing other theologians is to pretty much insure his theology is the only theology anyone hears from our pulpits and JPII's notions of global politics the only political strategy we hear. The culture war issues of abortion and gay marriage are perfect issues to fog up the real agenda of keeping white male European/corporate culture transcendent. Truth is sex sells and nothing sells like 'perverted' sex, especially when one can be on the righteous side of the perversion equation. But God is a just God, and that same 'selling' point has kept the clerical abuse crisis front and center in the Catholic imagination and Benedict and company are definitely not on the 'righteous' side of that equation. That has given many of us the intellectual latitude to see it is not in the global world's best interests to maintain white male European/corporate culture as transcendent. We have to find a better way, a more inclusive way, a more just way.
In spite of thirty plus years of silencing the voices in the wilderness who attempted to articulate those better ways, those voices are still being heard. One of the best things about the post modern world is that even though a pope can silence a theologians voice, a pope can not stop the spread of the silenced theologians words. The pen is still mightier than the sword. True thoughts still more potent than empty power driven edicts. If that weren't true, Christianity would have died in it's infancy. It won't die now, in spite of the baggage that has accrued to it over the last two thousand years because in it's core concepts it's still true. Love is the force that makes the universe go round. Or as my favorite bumper sticker says, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." Only when Catholicism recaptures that spiritual understanding will it be a true force for peace. Until then it's just another mindless power broker lost in it's own delusions.