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Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try,
No hell below us; above us only sky.
“Imagine”, John Lennon
Marx was wrong. Religion isn’t the “opium of the masses”. Its effects are never that benign. No, religion is a shackle clasped to the mind of man, keeping him from utilizing the one thing that lifts him above the primordial swamp of fear and superstition; his inquiring mind.
The appointment of the new pope, Joseph Ratzinger, guarantees that that mental shackle will be cinched up a notch-or-two, and the papal caravan that’s winding back to the dark-ages will steadily gain in momentum. Wherever we look, the institutions that protect secular democracy are being uprooted from their moorings and tossed on the slag-heap. A right-wing ideologue, like Pope Benedict XVI, just puts the finishing touches on a global system that’s already dominated by Islamic fanatics, Jewish settler-extremists and Christian fundamentalists all brandishing the same cudgel of intolerance and all eager to force “infidels” to conform to their twisted doctrine.
Ratzinger is a particularly aggressive form of this modern-day sarcoma. His inflexible views should merge seamlessly with the chauvinism of Bush, Sharon and al Zarqawi. During his tenure at the Vatican he personally spearheaded the effort to elevate the Nazi-collaborating Pious XII to sainthood and led the charge to publicly humiliate candidates (like John Kerry) whose views on abortion and birth control were not consistent with his own. (by threatening to bar them from the sacraments) He also “publicly praised the fascist movement in the Church known as Opus Dei and supported the canonization of Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, an open fascist who served in the government of Spain’s dictator Franco, and who publicly praised Hitler.” (quote from Rabbi Michael Lerner.)
Ratzinger’s critics have dubbed him “God’s rottweiller”; a sobriquet that captures his combative and polarizing style. He’s lived up to that title by taking the most stridently conservative positions on nearly every social issue. He summarized the women’s liberation movement by saying that “women should “follow the roles inscribed by her biology”; a comment that suggests women that should accept their traditional function as domesticated breeding-machines. It’s the same as saying that, “A woman’s place is in the home.” Not much changes in Rome in 2000 years.
On homosexuality, Ratzinger’s views are even more odious. He is quoted as saying that gays are inherently disposed “to intrinsic moral evil” and that their rights can be “legitimately limited”.
“Intrinsic moral evil”?
What unbelievable gall. This is the type of statement we would expect from a gay-bashing, white-supremacist, not the pope. No wonder America’s right-wing punditocracy is all a-twitter over his appointment; they know they’ve got a friend in Rome who shares their same world view. (And, by the way, it was an appointment. Despite the universal belief that some form of democratic process took place, the reality is that “John Paul appointed all but 2 of the men who elected the new pope” (al Jazeera) That’s as close to a sure thing as an Ohio optical scanner.)
Ratzinger, however, has been much more guarded in his opinions about pedophile priests. Perhaps, that has something to do with the various cover-ups that were arranged under his authority, like evacuating the serial-criminal Cardinal Law from the Boston diocese. Ratzinger was apparently involved in arranging a sinecure for Law in Rome to save the Boston Cardinal from facing felony charges at home.
In another story recently run by Reuters, “New Pope shelved sex abuse claim”, Alistair Bell shows that Ratzinger was directly involved in “deliberately shelving a probe into (sex abuse) claims for 6 years.” The allegations were filed with Ratzinger’s office at the Vatican and claim that 9 former members of the Legion of Christ were sexually abused by the order’s founder, Marcial Maciel.
By now, we all know the drill. Once the claims are filed, the church elders go into lockdown-mode and hide behind a wall of denial. What a joke; the same characters who feel free to wag their fingers at homosexuals and scold struggling parishioners about the sinfulness of birth control, sweep their own criminal activities under the Vatican doormat. The hypocrisy would make a Pharisee wince.
Ratzinger’s intolerance stretches well beyond homosexuals and women. In 1997 he said that Europeans were attracted to Buddhism for its “autoerotic spirituality” that offers “transcendence without imposing concrete obligations”. He has been equally dismissive of Hinduism saying that it offers “false hope” and condemns its adherents to a “morally cruel” concept of reincarnation that resembles “a continuous circle of hell”.
Similarly, Ratzinger laid out his belief that Catholicism is superior to other forms of Christianity in his theological treatise “Dominus Jesus” (Jesus is Lord”) The document angered many Protestants by its declaration that the real message of Christ, “subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him”. Skeptical Protestants took this to mean that the Catholic Church did not consider their churches as true.
As the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which was originally called the Office of the Inquisition) Ratzinger led the crusade to silence or remove dissenters, visionaries and progressives. The office served as the papal “thought police”; rooting out the liberals and bringing them into line with Catholic doctrine. Ratzinger’s aptitude for this new task won him the appellation “Cardinal Enforcer”, the high-priest of Catholic orthodoxy. In just a few short years he managed to stamp out “liberation theology”; (the fusing of Christianity with activism) crushing the aspirations of desperately impoverished people in their struggle for social justice.
To his credit, Ratzinger was a strong critic of the war in Iraq saying that the invasion “had no moral justification” and that the concept of “preventive war does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
Nevertheless, we can only guess what his feelings may be about the broad-based, national liberation movement (“the insurgency”) that has sprouted up in reaction to the illegal occupation of Iraq.
Also, how will the new pope regard the nascent resistance movement in Haiti, where the democratically elected Aristide was removed in a coup organized by the United States? Judging by Ratzinger’s efforts to crush Latin American liberation theology, we can expect that the pope will condemn these indigenous movements aimed at reclaiming their country through force of arms. Ratzinger won’t be delivering any “fatwas” from Rome, nor has concept of “jihad” caught on in Vatican City. Instead, we can expect the plaintive appeals for “peace and justice” accompanied by tacit support to the powers that be. Traditional Church doctrine offers no relief for the struggles and suffering of the common man; just the “pie-in-the-sky” promise of an easier life in the netherworld. That won’t change under Ratzinger.