Less than holy blessings

The election of Josef Ratzinger as the new Catholic Pontiff has drawn the predictable cries from familiar circles, including this one. And critics are just warming up. How about the connections between Ratzinger and Opus Dei, the secretive sect associated with fascism and American Supreme Court judges? What about the links between the new Pope and the Bush family? Conspiratorial? Hardly. Take this example, one of many detailed by the Planetary Movement:

“When George Bush visited John Paul II in June of last year, he asked the Pontiff for a political favour. Shortly thereafter, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to American bishops that essentially threatened to excommunicate all Catholics who voted for John Kerry. Upon receipt of the letter, five prominent Roman Catholic bishops held an unprecedented press conference to proclaim their preference for George Bush over his rival, John Kerry. Bush received 6% more Roman Catholic votes last year than he did in 2000, even though his opponent was a lifelong Catholic who had served as an altar boy. Ratzinger’s political intervention had worked wonders for neoconservativism, and it is now being recognized as one of the most decisive factors in Bush’s electoral strategy.”

Ratzinger has a history of silencing critics who challenge the church’s behaviour over sexual abuse. Many critics, including some critical of this blog, argue that challenging the new Pope is somehow inappropriate, insensitive, intolerant, prejudicial. My point has never been to chastise Catholics for their faith. I take issue, however, with the history of Ratzinger, his associations and the likely future of an increasingly tight union between religious fundamentalism and the political realm. The flaunting of religious belief for the sake of political gain seen across the Western world is yet another sign of traditional democratic values being challenged.

Ratzinger deserves to be questioned and investigated like any other religious leader. Of course, not many other religions would appoint someone like Ratzinger to the throne.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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