Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Was Ratzinger Doing Instead of Confronting Sex Abuse?

          News reports have questioned the involvement of Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) in the decision to allow German priest Peter Hullerman to continue working with children for thirty years after the church knew Hullerman had molested boys. The church said the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties in 1980 was made solely by Cardinal Ratzinger's top aide at the time, but church officials also said the future pope was sent a memo about the reassignment. What kept the cardinal so busy that he was inattentive to the abuse details in Germany, and continued unaware of the crisis when he left Germany to take up duties at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981? Ratzinger was too busy silencing theologians to worry about sex abuse.
          As described in John L. Allen, Jr.'s book, The Rise of Benedict XVI, Pope Paul VI named Ratzinger archbishop of Munich and cardinal of the church in 1977. As archbishop, Ratzinger played a minor role in assisting Pope John Paul II to strip two prominent Catholic theologians, Hans Kung of Tubingen and Johann Baptist Metz of Munich, of their university appointments. As a young theologian, Kung had questioned the theory of papal infallibility and been an active proponent of the liberal reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Metz had advocated political theology, which emphasized the need for Christians to participate in the reform of unjust social systems.
          In Rome, Ratzinger engineered the removal of the Reverend Charles Curran from his teaching post at the Catholic University of America. Curran had urged the church to allow married couples to use artificial contraception and to permit some forms of committed homosexual relationships. Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen was reproached for his tolerance of ministry to homosexuals. An especially notorious Ratzinger document defined homosexuality as a tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.          
          Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya, who had advocated ecumenical dialogue with Eastern religions, was excommunicated. Criticism of interreligious dialogue also led Ratzinger to attack the work of two Jesuit theologians, Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis of Belgium and Fr. Roger Haight of the United States. Undermining the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II, Ratzinger wrote that non-Christians are in a gravely deficient situation compared to Christians.
          Ratzinger led the crackdown against Latin American liberation theology, which sought to disconnect the church's hierarchy from the continent's authoritarian regimes and to commit the church to the poor. Ratzinger moved the ban on women's ordination to the infallible category of church teaching. Allen doesn't even tell the additional stories of American nuns marginalized for their attempts to protect women's rights to contraception, sterilization, and abortion.
          In short, for over thirty years, Ratzinger attacked and silenced any Catholic who disagreed with his authoritarian vision of the church. Now, his church's moral credibility has disappeared as the world has realized the pope should have spent time listening to the victims of sexual abuse instead of silencing the proponents of rights within the church.

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