Ratzinger

Despite the fact that Joseph Ratzinger is now referred to as Pope Benedict XVI, around our house my German partner and I still call him Ratzinger. This is mostly because this is what we called him before he was the pope when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. An important point, I think, is that before it was called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it was called Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Inquisition. Remember that? Or rather those? Inquisitions. There was a string of them – Roman, Spanish and so on – where heretics were put to death and where people were forcibly converted to Catholicism. Luckily, the Catholic Church doesn’t burn people at the stake anymore, but Ratzinger’s former leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I think, speaks to the sort of guy he is. He is about the purity of the faith. From his perspective. He’s hardcore about keeping things they way they are – no gays, no women, no birth control, abortion and none of that wishy-washing acceptance stuff.

And, I know this is not nice to say about someone, but gosh every time I look at him I imagine that to be what the devil were to look like. If such a person existed, which I don’t actually believe in. I stress, I am not suggesting that he is the devil, but just that he looks like what I would imagine such a nasty slimy character to look like. Maybe such feelings are encouraged by statements such as the one I am pointing out below – which just confirms what a huge disappointment and upsetting person I find him to be.

He apparently said in his final speech while visiting Brazil (and several places have reported this so it must be true…it is just hard for me to believe someone who is apparently smart and well-read could say something like this) that the indigenous people living in what is now South America were “silently longing” for Christianity and had welcomed the arrival of European priests who “purified” them.

Not to be dramatic about this, but I just want to make this clear. The pope of the Catholic Church said that the people who lived in South America before the Europeans arrived were “silently longing” for Christianity, welcomed the Europeans, and were “purified” by the priests who arrived. (If anyone can find the full text of the speech, I would appreciate it. I spent 10 minutes googling it with no luck.)

As with many things JR says, I am never sure to what extent he just says things and to what extent he really believes them. Not that it matters that much, but he is supposed to be a smart, well-read guy. I guess smart people can have terrible beliefs, but if you are well-read how can you say something like that?

As Debitage points out, the next line in many of the news reports on this is just about as absurd and dreadful: “Many indigenous rights groups see the conquest as ushering in a period of disease, mass murder, enslavement and the shattering of their cultures. ” (This particular version from Tracy Wilkinson of the LA Times.) The indigenous rights groups think this? Excuse me? Don’t you mean historians? Don’t you mean “Anyone, including historians, who has looked at the evidence realizes that contrary to the Pope’s characterization, the arrival of the Europeans and their priests resulted in rape, mass murder, pillage, and enslavement. This neither purified nor fulfilled a silent longing.”

Anyway. This the post is the start of what I hope to be at least three weekly posts. I have considered that it isn’t nice to be so critical of a person many people (my grandmother, in particular, may her soul rest in peace) really like and think you shouldn’t say anything bad about. Yet, I think when popes say things like this, any respect they should get by virtue of their title or role goes out the window. I hope that Ratzinger stops being the pope very soon and someone else is elected who is less racist, imperialist, and pompous, among other things.

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5 Responses to Ratzinger

  1. Dan says:

    You claim: “Anyone, including historians, who has looked at the evidence realizes that contrary to the Pope’s characterization, the arrival of the Europeans and their priests resulted in rape, mass murder, pillage, and enslavement. This neither purified nor fulfilled a silent longing.”

    First, are you claiming that these terrible things – rape, mass murder, pillage and enslavement — did not exist before the arrival of Europeans? I think if you look at the history fairly, you will find that they did, and in far greater degree. It is particularly odd that you include “enslavement” in the list. Christianity generally speaking eliminated slavery. There is no slavery today in the Americas. There most definitely was when the Europeans first arrived.

    Two, you lump together “Europeans” and “their priests.” The fact of the matter is that the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries did not convert by force. Spanish soldiers, who were not directed by the Church, did engage in some forced conversions. These however were relatively rare. The vast majority of conversions were voluntary. Obviously no one is stopping Latin Americans from going back today and worshiping old idols if that’s what they want to do. But no one wants to do that. Why do you suppose that is?

    Three, the record of the Spanish and the Catholic Church in Latin America is far better than that of the English and the Protestants in North America. Ever wonder why there are still today so many indigenous people in South America but not in the United States and Canada, where the few who remain are stuck on reservations? It’s because the English, unlike the Spanish and “their priests,” killed off the Indians they encountered.

    The Latin Americans embraced Christianity for a reason, and it is the reason the Pope states: they longed for it.

  2. elizabeth199 says:

    This is a great reality check for me. I forgot that there are people out there who still think like this. Thanks, Dan.

  3. Dan says:

    You’re welcome Elizabeth. There are lots of us who “still” think like this. I’m not really sure how you think, since you have not offered any reasoning or facts to support your views or respond to mine, but I can guess.

    One other comment. The Pope was not addressing the question of whether force was used to convert native people but, rather, was responding to the often advanced argument that merely preaching the Gospel in non-Christian cultures is somehow wrong. He was pointing out that it is by no means wrong, that seeking an encounter with a foreign culture about what is the truth is a good and healthy thing:

    “In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture. Authentic cultures are not closed in upon themselves, nor are they set in stone at a particular point in history, but they are open, or better still, they are seeking an encounter with other cultures, hoping to reach universality through encounter and dialogue with other ways of life and with elements that can lead to a new synthesis, in which the diversity of expressions is always respected as well as the diversity of their particular cultural embodiment.”

    Joseph Ratzinger makes this same point in his book “Truth and Tolerance,” which is must reading if you want to truly understand what he is saying.

  4. […] by elizabeth199 on May 18th, 2007 So I wrote a post a few days ago about how Ratzinger (known by some as Pope Benedict XVI) said that the indigenous people of what is […]

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