Essays on Religion, Faith and Sprituality by Michele Madigan Somerville
Thursday, February 28, 2013
If The Red Prada Shoe Fits: The Legacy of Benedict XVI
Roman Catholic writer Andrew Sullivan has suggested the pope is gay. The pope's companion will follow him to the refurbished convent behind St. Peter's where Joseph Ratzinger will live out his years. Perhaps this explains in part the contempt the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has showed for LGBT people within and outside the church during the Ratzinger pontificate. Perhaps this bigotry is an outward sign of the long self-loathing many priests from those on the parish level all the way up the hierarchy suffer, with the Vatican itself, with its pomp and luxury, serving as a majestic closet.
I believe that the rule of celibacy (which, by the way, means no marriage--not no sex) has stayed in place, in part, as a means for keeping the hierarchy "safe" (for lack of a better word) for gay priests and fromwomen. Allow male priests marry or women to be ordained, and the boys' club is ruined. Were Catholics in the pews to know how many bishops are gay and sexually active, the entire anti-sex and anti-woman message would have to be revamped. The Magisterium would have to take a new look at their homosexuality as a "disorder" position. Implement a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in training and formation of seminarians, and the secret gay Vatican persists.
I have made much of the connection between the Roman Catholic hierarchs' misogyny and homophobia in my many essays on Catholicism. Ratzinger tried to quash the women's ordination movement, thus leading it to flourish. I believe that the rule of celibacy is as much designed to preserve a secret gay vatican subculture as it is to keep women out of power and busy spawning fresh Catholics. What happens to the woman-haters club for men in miters and gowns? Ratzinger made sure he'd never find out.
The Holy See does not oppose sex, premarital or otherwise, nearly so much as it opposes any change that would offer women official power within the hierarchy of the church. One look at how the Apostolic Visitation spied on nuns, finding them culpable of such sins as practicing yoga and Reiki, tells the story. Ratzinger made the mere discussion of the ordination of women a grave offense, and excommunicated at least one exemplary priest to prove he meant business.
Ratzinger's openness to non-celibate priests has been limited to ordaining married Episcopal priests so long as they vowed not to make love with their wives. This while teaching that sex between couples married in the church is a reflection of Christ's love. Under Ratzinger sex, for Roman Catholics, became sinful again.
A Catholic mother who is the mother of three Jews, I have never made all that much of Ratzinger's having been a member of Hitler's Youth. Young German men were required to serve. Ratzinger could have left his country, as so many men of conscience do when conscripted into unjust military service, but he was young. I think the soon to be ex-pontiff might have deserved a pass on his Hitler Youth history had his pontificate been less antisemitic. But Ratzinger's pontificate was hateful toward Jews.
Although Ratzinger stopped short of embracing the Lefebvrists, Joseph Ratzinger ushered the Tridentine Rites back into use and pandered to antisemitic traditionalists. In his capacity as consigliere to John Paul II he pushed for the acceptance of Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ founded and led by John Paul II's close friend Rev. Marciel Macial whose own son claims to have been raped as a child by his father. Ratzinger has supported the growth of these fringe Roman Catholic groups, most of whose worship contains explicit anti-Jewish elements.
I am old enough to remember the Latin mass. It is truly exquisite, and I do some praying in Latin regularly. However, Roman Catholics praying in Latin at a Tridentine (Latin) mass on Sundays pray for the conversion of the Jews. It was under team John Paul II/Benedict XVI that priests received permission to celebrate of these masses which the Second Vatican Council had rejected. To yearn for the old mass now, is to yearn to pray before the altar, for the conversion of Jews. Under Ratzinger and his predecessor, a church that had at long last begun to turn away from the hatred of Jews--a church which had finally grown up enough to see the moral and theological error in viewing the Jewish religion as Part 1 of Christianity--devolved. The man who should have dedicated his papal energies to living down his stint in Hitler Youth ushered into Catholic practice thousand-year old anti-semitic elements of our liturgy which Vatican II had rejected. Ratzinger made it safe for Catholics to officially incorporate anti-semitism into their sabbath worship.
When Ratzinger presided over the changing of the language of the mass in November of 2011, he pushed the liturgy (in subtle ways) back in time. The argument in favor of these changes had to to with achieving a more accurate translation of the Latin. The new Credo adopted (restored) sexist (and was willing to mistranslate Latin pronouns in order to do so) and exclusionary language. Furthermore, and the new liturgy, whether by design or accident, gave priests a not so friendly reminder that the pope, not God, was boss, just as the full scope of the sex abuse scandal was coming to light.
Joseph Ratzinger has been one of the most powerful men in the Vatican for more than thirty years. It fell to him in his capacity as Prefect for the Confederation of the Doctrine of the Faith to address all cases of child sexual abuse by priests. In 2001, Ratzinger increased the secrecy surrounding the handling and reporting (to secular authorities) of these cases. He rewarded one of the great child rape enablers, Bernard Law, with a big job and gorgeous basilica in Rome. More than a few cardinals who failed to protect children from rape by keeping silence will choose the next pope. Under Ratzinger a priest could be defrocked for attending a mass celebrated by a woman priest, and rewarded for aiding and abetting serial rapists off children. I believe that if a man robs a bank, kills the teller, runs out the door and jumps into the getaway car, the driver is an accomplice to the murder. In the context of the vatican child rape crisis, Ratzinger was behind the wheel of the getaway car for thirty years.
Pope Benedict XVI will go down in history as a bad pope. A Catholic priest reminded me last week that Dante put the last pope who resigned in Hell for cowardice. If the red Prada shoe fits--