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Status Ecclesiae July 2005

“Lieber Bruder Josef, Beloved Benedict”

by John Mallon, Contributing Editor, Inside the Vatican

EVERYONE IN THE CHURCH WHO LOVED JOHN PAUL II AND WHAT he stood for also loves Joseph Ratzinger. For them (us) the news of Cardinal Ratzinger’s being elected Pope Benedict XVI was almost too good to be true, bringing tears of joy and relief and gratitude to God.

When John Paul II came onto the scene we did not know him, but in short order we fell in love with him. But Benedict XVI has been our friend for a long time. For Catholics who love the teachings of our Church, the people who ridiculed us for our beliefs in our parishes, theology departments and chaplaincies also ridiculed him. They called him the same names they called us. He is one of us—our champion and defender.

Even when our bishops dismissed our concerns, we knew Cardinal Ratzinger was on our side. We always knew John Paul was on our side, but the steady calm of Cardinal Ratzinger gave us hope that the truth would win.

And now he is Peter.

Pope Paul VI said in a famous remark that the “smoke of Satan” had entered the Church. It is widely believed that Paul was referring to the hijacking of the Second Vatican Council that took place in the years following in the name of unbridled “experimentation.”

On the day before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger said we were “moving towards a dictatorship of relativism.” Reflecting on this, it is clear that the Church in the West, especially in North America and Europe, has been under a “tyranny of liberalism.” This may seem like an oxymoron, but George Orwell’s book Animal Farm showed how easily the “oppressed” (or those who imagine themselves to be oppressed) can become the oppressors.

In the West, dissident theologians and their followers have had ugly flirtations with ideologies at odds with the Church to the point of idolatry, replacing Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium with Marxism, feminism and liberalism as their moral reference points. This has indeed resulted in a “dictatorship of relativism,” because the compass of ideology has no true north.

Try this experiment: The next time someone says, “The Church has to allow women’s ordination, contraception,” etc. ask them, “Says who?”

Seriously and respectfully, try to pin down the authority to which they refer that says Church teaching must change. Find out who, for them, is the authority that stands above Christ. Christ very clearly passed his authority to Peter and his successors and promised to protect it from error in faith and morals.

Ask them from whom they take their cues when they reject the teaching authority of the Church. When they reject the authority of Christ through Peter, to whom do they pledge their allegiance? From whom do they take their orders? To whom do they owe their obedience? To whom or to what do they bend the knee?

If they can answer without getting flustered and insulting you, if they have thought that far into it, you have identified their god, their object of idolatry.

The smoke of dissent in the Church has indeed been oppressive, seeking to silence and stifle orthodox voices and control who gets into the seminaries, theology faculties and diocesan staffs.

Stories of bitter, icy, feminist nuns interrogating prospective Catholic school teachers and potential seminary candidates for their views on women’s ordination are legion. The effect in the schools has been that two generations went uncatechized because of ideologues chasing fad theologies (like liberation theology) in the big religious education and pastoral institutes instead of studying catechetics.

The effect in the seminaries has been to screen out good candidates and then cry to the news media that women’s ordination is “necessary” due to “lack of vocations.”

Practically everything dissenters have falsely accused Cardinal Ratzinger of doing to famous dissident theologians over the years, they have been doing to the people of God and orthodox Church professionals on the local level.

In fact, this is still happening where a “cult of experts” is imposing questionable sex education programs in Catholic schools against the objections of conscientious parents who cite Church teachings on parents being the primary educators of their children, especially on such delicate matters.

The rush to “appear do be doing something” after the 2002 sex abuse crisis has overruled concern about whether what is being done is wise.

This will ultimately leave the Church in a worse, not better, situation. The same reliance on “experts” which brought us the sex abuse crisis is still in play at the insistence of heterodox bureaucrats, who still seem to be able to bully and intimidate local ordinaries into going along, ignoring the cries of parents.

While the sex abuse crisis transcends the usual heterodox/ orthodox divisions in the Church, there can be little doubt that the bullying tactics used by dissidents against bishops to make them retreat into silence about wrongdoing, led them into a habitual pattern of inaction which exploded in their faces with the sex abuse crisis.

The mission of the Church has been stalled and stifled on the local level by these antics, so much so that faithful Catholics simply turned to John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger as their pastors, teachers and spiritual fathers, feeling more at home with the Vatican than with their local parishes. Catholics who have lost confidence in their local pastors and bishops turn to the Vatican for nourishment, teaching and preaching.

This, in turn, has led to an extraordinary sense of global community and solidarity among the persecuted orthodox, especially the youth. This is clearly evident in the phenomenon of World Youth Days. This sense of shared faith, strengthened by having to defend their faith at home, has formed bonds of friendship and unity which transcend language and culture by shared friendship with Jesus and the shared experience of the hostility of heterodox ideology which rings false in their hearts.

They see through the constant calumny by the dissident establishment directed at the Vatican hierarchy as “cold, distant patriarchs” interested only in “power” and “position” who don’t listen to the “people.” One smile from John Paul II demolished that myth. In truth, the only “dialogue” being stifled is that of the orthodox faithful when they object to abuses in their parishes.

Those faithful who cite the Pope and the Magisterium to their dissident clergy, nuns and theology professors are contemptuously regarded as cranks and troublemakers and most absurdly of all as being “divisive” for asking that their parish (or theology department or religious education department) think with the Church.

This abusive behavior toward the faithful, so often in the name of “the spirit of Vatican II,” has resulted in driving some Catholics into schism in the form of traditionalist groups which reject the Second Vatican Council altogether. Wisely, John Paul II instituted the availability of the Tridentine Mass by an indult as a way to provide a home within the Church for these spiritual refugees driven from their own parishes.

But through all this, Joseph Ratzinger has been our hero, our beloved brother and teacher. He has endured the same insults and abuse that we have. And now he is our Holy Father. His election does indeed represent “a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” as the Scripture readings prophetically proclaimed at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff.

With Benedict’s election this Scripture was doubly fulfilled in our midst, as God spoke to His people knowing full well what He had planned for the following day. Our dear brother Joseph is now our beloved Benedict.

Viva il Papa!


John Mallon is a Contributing Editor to Inside the Vatican magazine. 

Copyright © 2004 - 2005 Dr. Robert Moynihan, Editor, Inside the Vatican Magazine.