Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ratzinger gets his dharma name

Burned beyond all recognition after sliding into a pool of lava, sustained by a grotesque, wheezing iron lung, and covered in the blood-red raiments of a newly minted Dark Lord of the Catholics, the former Joseph Ratzinger, rechristened Darth Benedict XVI, lies on a cold metal slab as the last piece of his armor-- an imposing helmet-- is mechanically fitted and hermetically sealed over his ancient face. Their work now complete, the medical droids step back. The slab tilts menacingly, and Darth Benedict, whose nightmarish breathing will remind frightened Catholics of a severely emphysemic aunt, rises to the vertical and steps into the light. Outside the chamber, the worldwide media await their chance to meet the new Dark Lord. Benedict allows himself a few calming, mechanized breaths; he takes up his deadly, red-bladed lightcrozier and heads out, his mind focused on his one sacred task: the eradication of all non-Catholic life forms on the planet.

Not only did I miss out on the blessed event, but fucking Blogger also ate my long, long post on Ratzinger's elevation to the papacy. Murphy's Law: I hadn't copied and pasted the post into WordPad, therefore Blogger ate it.

Essential points:

1. Ratzinger won't have nearly the interest in interreligious dialogue that JP2 had.

2. Ratzinger is likely to view his new office as a mere extension of his previous job. If this is the case, he'll be quietly clamping down on voices of dissent currently active in the Vatican. Non-Catholics might not realize this, but such voices do exist. The Vatican is huge, complex, and not of one mind on many matters.

3. Watch how Ratzinger handles Nigeria, a country in the throes of Muslim-Christian violence. This will clue you in on what he's all about.

Damn, what a shame. The original post was long, featuring quotes from bloggers, news articles, and snippets from the Vatican documents Dominus Iesus and Nostra Aetate. Sorry to give you the truncated version.

UPDATE: Let me see if I can fill in some blanks here.

The Dominus Iesus document can be found here. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for over 20 years; Dominus Iesus is a CDF document. Ratzinger was the major impetus behind it.

The document caused a big stink-- while technically consistent with previous theological pronouncements, many Catholics and non-Catholics perceived a strong whiff of exclusivism. Read about the stink here.

The article mentions Cardinal Edward Cassidy, who in 2000 was head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Cassidy gave a talk at Catholic University in late 2000, not long after Dominus Iesus came out in September. A laid-back Aussie, Cassidy had some, uh, polite differences of opinion with Ratzinger and Dominus Iesus. This is an example of how different parts of the Vatican can often find themselves in disagreement.

Back in the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council produced Nostra Aetate ("in our time"), a much more conciliatory writ than Dominus Iesus (2000). Nostra Aetate can be found here.

Here's a snippet from Vatican 2's Nostra Aetate:

We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.

By contrast, here's a typical snippet from the confrontational Dominus Iesus:

In inter-religious dialogue as well, the mission ad gentes "today as always retains its full force and necessity". "Indeed, God 'desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4); that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary". Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes. Equality, which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation to the founders of the other religions. Indeed, the Church, guided by charity and respect for freedom, must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You will have noticed that, in Dominus Iesus, interreligious dialogue is "part of [the Church's] evangelizing mission." Discuss among yourselves.


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