Friday, March 01, 2013

Behind the Scenes in Pope Wars

By Gary Berg-Cross

Pope Benedict XVI official retirement has generated quite a bit of ink slinging and chat.  Part of it is about the internal political struggle for the next Pope and yes what the retired Pope will be about. Along with that I learn that in papal retirement a new title is the academic sounding “Pope Emeritus” and that his tweets as @Pontifex are being deleted. Much of what I’ve learned comes from Stephen Colbert & his Colbert Report which deconstructed events as pope; “disimpopinated,” or having a “popendectomy.

What will happen to the vestments worn by Pope Benedict XVI? Colbert’s speculation: the vestments will be shipped to third-world countries, just like the T-shirts of losing Super Bowl squads. And in his retirement ceremony his favorite T-shirt (old # 16) would be lifted to  rafters at the Vatican ala Michael Jordan.

More interesting to me, much more enlightening was a bit of his history provided by Matthew Fox, currently an Episcopal priest but formerly a Dominican Friar & theologian. Fox and Pontifex Bennie crossed paths in a pre-Pope phase of Ratzinger’s career.  Fox was silenced by then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988 as a result of his famous book "Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Paths, Twenty-Six Themes, and Two Questions, (2000)". In 1988, Fox had written a public letter to Cardinal Ratzinger entitled "Is the Catholic Church Today a Dysfunctional Family?", which was subsequently widely disseminated by the National Catholic Reporter. Soon after, Cardinal Ratzinger issued an order forbidding Fox to teach or lecture for a year.  Things went downhill from there and well Fox is no longer in Bennie’ RC church and has moved on to other pastures.

What I was fascinated to hear about was a later work by Fox called: The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved.

In this book Matthew Fox provides some insights from his 12-year, up-close-and-personal battle with Ratzinger, and traces what he sees as some historical roots of RC Church degradation. At the time he wrote this Benedict XVI was mired in several crisis as Pope. But what I didn’t know about was something that goes back to the 80s and then Ratzinger's attack on various Catholic theologians.  

Fox describes several apparently "lay" organizations, Opus Dei, Legion of Christ, and Communion and Liberation, who represent papal cults within the Catholic Church, and their charismatic founders who have their own histories of pedophilia and abuse. It's quite a disturbing story of how a primary goal of John Paul's and Ratzinger's attack on Catholic theologians was to destroy the vibrant liberation theology movement in the developing sector of the globe. It is a movement Fox likes and characterizes as "the most vibrant and justice-oriented movement on the planet after the Civil Rights movement.” 

In their attack on liberation theology, it turns out that the Paul and his right-hand man in the CDF, Ratzinger, worked closely with the CIA under President Reagan. This is one of the claims Fox documented in The Pope's War. -  John Paul II with Ratzinger’s aid undertook a systematic dismantling of liberation theology movement by bishops sympathetic to the movement and replaced them with their own conservative guys. Some are around to vote for the next Pope.  Shades of the Supreme Court!

Why was the Reagan administration an ally?  Well they were fighting “communists” in Latin America.  They wanted to weaken liberation theology since it provides some intellectual scaffolding for revolutionary thinking and “liberation” efforts. The Reagan strategists solicited the pope’s help. They gave John Paul lots and lots of cash to boost the solidarity effort in Poland. And in exchange, according to Fox’s reports, they got commitment on the part of the papacy, to help destroy liberation theology.

Fox argues that this is pretty well documented by people like Carl Bernstein, who had a cover story in Time magazine on it. Of course the work in Poland we see as good so there is some glow in early stories that distracts from the twinned story in South American and the stalling of the liberation movement there. Insights from the Reagan library continue to roll in as memos are discovered and you can see an interview with Mathew Fox on Democracy Now called “Fascism in the Church: Ex-Priest on ‘The Pope’s War,’ Clergy Abuse and Quelling Liberation Theology.


Original Blessings:

Pope’s War:

Liberation Theology as a Revolutionary Movement:

1 comment:

Don Wharton said...

This is a profoundly disturbing insight into the modern Catholic Church.