August 25, 2005

Pope Benedict, XVI

I think we are the creatures of our educations. What we are taught as young people is pretty much what we live with the rest of our lives. I went to Catholic high school and Catholic college in the 1960's (when Catholic high schools and Catholic colleges were staffed overwhelmingly by religious Brothers and priests), and the Catholic culture in those schools in those days was the culture of Vatican II.

Those were also the days of the civil rights movement for Blacks and of anti-Vietnam War protest. That's what the people of my generation so situated absorbed. Our teachers mocked the "Jesus-and-me" mentality of our parents, and for my generation Catholicism was social justice issues, protests against an unjust war, and "doing something." It wasn't contemplation or mysticism. Those had little or no place in my Catholic education.

For us, THE BOOK was The Documents of Vatican II under the general editorship of Father Walter M. Abbott, S.J. That's the book we studied and quoted and loved about all things Catholic. That book is, right now, on a shelf in the room I'm sitting in, and I just pulled it out to get Walter Abbott's name right.

Contrast that book with "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC). I don't own a copy of CCC, and, frankly, I don't feel as though I need one. I studied my Baltimore Catechism for many years. I haven't forgotten that. I know my catechism, and I can still recite the answers to some of the questions. Young people might need the CCC because they might not know what the Church believes, but I do. I might not agree with all of it, based on nuanced theological arguments by my religion teachers and writers in the more liberal Catholic press, but I know what the Church "believes." And I know how Vatican II interpreted how the Church believes. I'm not putting down the CCC, but I know what the Church was like before and after Vatican II, and the younger generation doesn't know the "before."

Benedict XVI? This man is still every bit Ratzinger, and don't ever forget that. He'll excommunicate an obscure 85-year-old priest in Sri Lanka for some obscure book he wrote years ago about the Blessed Virgin Mary (the book was distributed in mimeograph form; hello) but not a cardinal who fostered and encouraged child sexual abuse.

Ratzinger is a classic flip-flopper. During Vatican II as an advisor to Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany, the site of his first international appearance as pope (how ironic is that?), he was a liberal reformer. Then he became a conservative believer in the "old ways." Now, as pope, Ratzinger has flip-flopped again into a benign peace maker. Sort of. Does this man not think Catholics have the faculty of memory? He's not some virgin meat the way John Paul I and John Paul II were when they became pope. Ratzinger has a history, and it's well known.