Vatican Changing of the Guard
by Stephen Lendman
In April 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI. At the time he said:
"Dear brothers and sisters. After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the lord."
He hid his dark past. More on that below.
On February 11, he announced he'll step down. He's the first pope to do so since Gregory XII in 1415. Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said he "took us by surprise."
He's 85. His energy and health deteriorated. It did so "to the extent that (he) had to recognize (his) incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to (him)," he said.
"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom (he) declare(d) that (he'll) renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter."
At 7PM on February 28, it's official. His office will remain open until a successor is chosen.
He was born on April 16, 1927 in Bavaria. It was six years before Hitler took power. At age 14, he joined his youth movement. Doing so influenced his authoritarian character.
Post-WW II, he studied theology and philosophy. In 1951, he was appointed to the priesthood. In 1953, he earned a doctor of theology.
In 1957, he qualified as a University of Munich theology lecturer. He taught Church dogma until 1981. He rose in its hierarchy.
From 1962 - 1965, he participated in the Second Vatican Council. He served as council theologian. In 1977, he was appointed Munich archbishop and Freising.
Three months later, he was named cardinal. In 1981, John Paul II asked him to become supreme guardian of the faith in Rome.
As Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith head, he was hardline, inflexible, and uncompromising. He served as "grand inquisitor." He rigidly enforced reactionary positions. He challenged clerics opposing them.
In 2004, the Congregation published a 37-page "Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and the World."
It defined women's role in terms of virginity, marriage, motherhood, and supporting family male heads of households. It cited Genesis 3:16, saying:
"Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
He incurred opposition from many churchgoers. Most bishops objected. He waged war on liberal ideology. He drove left-of-center theologians out of the priesthood.
He rejects modernity, enlightenment, and democratic values. He deplores social struggles. His word view is authoritarian.
In 2000, he prepared a paper titled "Dominus Jesus." John Paul II approved it. It asserted Roman Catholicism supremacy. Doing so offended Christians and non-Christians alike. It said:
"Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ, a single Catholic and apostolic Church."
He was ordained at age 24. He's ideologically and politically hard-right. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he opposed reform. John Allen's book "Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith " discussed him, saying:
"Ratzinger today believes that the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesial totalitarianism."
"In other words, he believes the Catholic Church serves the cause of human freedom by restricting freedom in its internal life, thereby remaining clear about what it teaches and believes."
As cardinal and pope, he opposes Marxism, liberation theology, liberal morality, ordaining women, permitting priests to marry, homosexuality, masturbation, birth control, abortion, stem cell research, diluting top-down authority, and Vatican II's softening of traditional orthodoxy on salvation outside the Church, ecumenical relations, and liturgical rites.
He enforces dogma on papal infallibility. He serves as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was the Inquisition's successor institution.
He prohibits liberation theology. He bans, censors and/or excommunicates liberal clerics. Doing so got him nicknamed "grand inquisitor."
Ahead of his election, he said all religions outside Roman Catholicism are "defective." He denounced what he called "the dictatorship of relativism."
He was Pope John Paul II's closest theological advisor. He helped elect two previous popes. He and other pontiffs exercise dictatorial powers.
Their decrees have final say. They're considered infallible. Pontiffs govern any way they wish. They appoint major Church hierarchy officials they prefer. They consider themselves above reproach. Others disagree for good reason.
Pedophelia scandals occasionally erupt. Times never change. Misconduct is longstanding. In 2004, John Jay College of Criminal Justice's (JJCCJ) Professor Karen Terry  et al published a report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
It was based on Catholic diocese surveys. They covered the period 1950 - 2002. They showed under age 18 molestation occurs in:
"more than 95% of dioceses and approximately 60% of religious communities."
"Of the 195 dioceses and eparchies that participated in the study, all but seven have reported" at least one offending priest.
"Of the 140 religious communities" surveyed, "only 30 reported" no abuses. Doing so doesn't mean they don't exist. Given the reluctance of victims to come forward, it's virtually certain many other incidences took place.
Thousands of children were harmed. Most were 11 - 17 aged boys. Hundreds of priests were involved.
The problem is global. In 2010, widespread child sexual abuse surfaced. It's especially common in Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Coverup is commonplace. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was involved. As Benedict XVI, he swept abuse under the rug. He wanted wrongdoing suppressed.
On March 28, 2010, Marquette University Professor of Moral Theology Daniel C. Maguire  headlined "Why Pope Benedict Must Resign," saying:
"Pope Benedict XVI now faces a major hypocrisy test. He has been accepting resignations from bishops around the world who failed to take action against priest rapists."
"It is now no longer in dispute that he himself is guilty of the same criminal negligence...."
"He has no moral right to hide behind Vatican walls." Today's "perfect storm" includes the pope, "a Vatican cardinal, two members of the Papal Apostolic Delagature, three Milwaukee archbishops, and (what's usually overlooked) the collusion of the local police and District Attorney."
Benedict VXI prioritized "protecting the church from scandal." It doesn't matter how many boys are harmed. Better them than the Church. It's been that way for centuries.
Pedophelia is a crime against humanity. Benedict and other top Vatican officials are complicit. Putting them in the dock is warranted. Legal immunity doesn't wash.
Wrongdoing is indefensible. So is coverup. The Vatican has centuries of skeletons in its closet. Benedict has plenty of his own.
In January 2012, Vatileaks  exposed high-level corruption. Documents were leaked to Italian journalists.
In May 2012, Gianluigi Nuzzi's book titled "His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI " revealed confidential letters and memos between him and his personal secretary, Paolo Gabriele.
Papal finances, bribes, other corruption, and abuse of power were disclosed. Benedict called accusations "exaggerated" and "gratuitous."
Gabriele was hung out to dry. He was arrested, tried and convicted. He got 18 months in prison. He was ordered to pay legal expenses. On December 22, 2012, Benedict pardoned him. Perhaps he'd already decided to step down.
In his book "God and His Demons ," Michael Parenti confronted the religious right, saying:
"The god of the Holy Bible - so much adored in the United States and elsewhere - is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal."
"As they say, it's all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god."
"Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility."
"At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways. In fact, 'biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity."
"That 'old-time religion' is still very much with us and having a considerable impact on U.S. political life."
Parenti was unforgiving. He challenged iconic religious figures. He exposed their dark sides. He included Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and Tibetan Buddhism.
John Paul II "remained up to his ears in counter-revolutionary politics in Latin America and elsewhere," he said. He "directed no critical attacks against right-wing dictatorships." He called them "bulwarks against communist revolution."
He intervened on behalf of Chilean despot Augusto Pinochet. At the time, he was under house arrest in London.
Mother Teresa jetted around the world "against divorce, abortion, and birth control."
Her so-called clinics and hospitals were poorly run hospices. Medical care was lacking. Hunger and malnutrition were widespread. She could have done plenty to help but abstained.
Tibetan Buddhism's reputed beneficence was exposed. "Religions have an age-long relationship not only with violence but also with economic exploitation," said Parenti.
It "necessitates" violence, he added. Roman Catholicism is rife with it. It predates the Inquisition and Crusades. It's commonplace today. So is "cashing in on heaven."
Greed isn't just good on Wall Street. Holy See self-enrichment comes at the expense of followers.
Religion serves reactionary political goals. "Backed by moneyed interests, the right-wing Christian media propagate free-market corporatism, militarism, and super-patriotism."
Religion and politics mix. Roman Catholicism and other hard-right religions spread ideological extremism to mass audiences. Media scoundrels give right-of-center views air time. Liberal theologians are shut out. Fundamentalism is triumphant.
"In the mind of theocrats," said Parenti, " 'religious freedom' means the right to roll back secular culture and impose a monochromatic belief system upon everyone."
Parenti urges fighting back, saying:
We need to "roll back the theocratic aggrandizement while strengthening our right to entertain our beliefs and disbeliefs openly and with impunity."
"Only secular strength and organized democratic activism on our part will counter the sectarian intolerance and state-assisted tyranny of reactionary theocrats."
Benedict XVI represents the worst of them. Expect more of the same from his successor. It's longstanding policy. It’s the Vatican way.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.