Friday, April 18, 2008

Borgias and Nazis and Queers, Oh my!

Lucretia Borgia

Or, Why Benedict's Baggage Couldn't Fit on the Plane

As a "recovering Catholic" many things about Catholicism are difficult for me to write about: blogging about my childhood religion brings on a guilty pleasure, the same way I felt while seeing Monty Python's Life of Brian. But the one thing I can't laugh off is the feeling I get when Pope Benedict XVI appears: to me, his benign smile is more like the grin of the Grim Reaper. His image chills me.

With him, we can see all the staid ritual and pomp the Papacy stands for. Behind him, however, is a long line of abuses of power stretching some 1600 years. The later popes, for example, would rather forget one Pope Alexander VI who kept mistresses, held orgies in the Vatican and was the father of Lucretia and Cesare Borgia. In the role of doting father, he married his daughter off to three dukes (in succession - they were politically expedient) and made Cesare a cardinal before he was twenty-five.

Closer in time was Pius IX who wrested a Jewish boy from his parents (he had been secretly baptized by a servant when he was will), declared the papacy infallible, and while becoming increasingly anti-Semitic re-established Rome's Jewish Ghetto. (Hmmm... a bit more like Benedict - one pope you won't see shedding tears at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall)

And besides the papacy, Benedict comes with additional, if not curious, baggage. Joseph Ratzinger has been many things during his 81 years: devout Catholic, Hitler Youth, seminarian, German soldier in the Infantry for two years during WWII, cardinal, and, most importantly, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as The Inquisition. I

n a strange sense, I guess you could have called him the "censor" of the Catholic Church: his narrow theology banned professors from teaching anything but traditional theology. He could also ban books. His pronouncements crushed careers. He forbid liberal theologian Hans Kung to teach and very nearly excommunicated him.

Benedict also seems to dislike everything established after Vatican II (in which Hans Kung was considered a young, but prime influence on John XXIII). His rhetoric is classic but beneath it is a longing for the Church to repeat its days of glory - at any cost.

From Wikipedia:

The Congregation also has jurisdiction over other matters, including cases involving the seal of the confessional, clerical sexual misconduct and other matters, in its function as what amounts to a court. ... [and in a letter to the clergy, Benedict] clarified the confidentiality of internal Church investigations into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse, [and he became] a target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal. While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup.

In office, Ratzinger fulfilled his institutional role, defending and reaffirming Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. During his period in office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took disciplinary measures.

His statements as pope have even been incendiary:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

In regards to the sex abuse scandals:

“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen,’’ he said on the plane, dubbed Shepherd One. “If I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children.

We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.’’

And some anti-immigrant people are gonna be mad:

(Houston Chronicle)

"I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials and to help them flourish in their new home." (In other words, "if they can pay, they can stay")

Associated Press:

The American church has paid more than $2 billion in costs related to the scandal since 1950 — the majority of that in just the last six years.

"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said on the flight from Rome to Washington, speaking in English as he responded to questions submitted by reporters ahead of time.

Another cause for alarm, especially to ministers like John Hagee, is his call for every Catholic to be a missionary for their faith. In his address to Catholic University, he said that the 200 Catholic universities have become too lax (and too secular).

We will hear similar pronouncements within the week. But will American Catholics go so far backwards as to sell all that they have, give to the Vatican and wear sack cloth and ashes?

Like his cohort, Urban II*, Benedict will probably cause a war.

Try as hard as I can to trust this man - I can't

Cesare - rather cute, for a Borgia Papa - Lucretia was a useful tool

*Urban II called for The Crusades - probably the root of all Middle Eastern animosity towards the West.