Pope Benedict vs. the Signs of Our Times: Einstein, Women

The Second Vatican Council urged Catholics to “read the signs of the times.”  Among the signs of our times are scientific discoveries and liberation movements for women.  Did Benedict choose to read the signs of our times?  Or to retreat from them?   

What’s at stake: Protestors in the 2022 Women’s March on Washington. Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

For me, the single biggest mistake in Ratzinger’s overall worldview was his rejection of the findings of Einstein about the role of relativity and creativity in the cosmos. 

Regarding the latter, he abhorred creativity in theology or in Liturgy.  He wanted a static religion that hearkened back to a bygone era and hardly changed at all.  Obedience trumped creativity every time as an important virtue.

Ratzinger turned his back on Einstein’s sense of relativity in the universe in favor of a church that mirrors a mechanistic and unchanging universe.  He felt the “Body of Christ” that the Church likes to call itself should be mechanistic and unchanging.  Law trumps spirit.

He tells us so on numerous occasions by invoking this favorite phrase that became a regular meme and mantra for him:  He saw himself fighting “a dictatorship of relativism.”

He preferred a dictatorship of rigidity

This attitude justified his fortress mentality and his call for a “smaller church” and his making war on ecumenism, democracy, women’s rights, gay rights, open theological discourse and more.

“Equality Under God: Women Priests.” A small group of women are defying the Catholic Church’s prohibition of women’s ordination and becoming priests anyway. Video by CBC News: The National

We have considered his weak commitment to ecumenism and democracy (and penchant for fascism) in previous Daily Meditations.

Regarding women, Pope Benedict followed JP II’s made-up excuse—the Big Lie?– for not ordaining women (alas, Pope Francis has repeated the same meme): We must not ordain women because Jesus did not ordain women.  The truth is however that Jesus did not ordain anyone, male or female.  The ordained priesthood is a second century reality and in the New Testament writings there is ample evidence that women were leaders of many stripes in the first century church.

Ratzinger set in motion an investigation of American sisters communities whom he considered too progressive.  It was dismantled by Pope Francis before it got around to condemning their work entirely– work on behalf of the poor and oppressed such as the “Nuns on the Bus,” a coalition that used both imagination and professionalism (some of the sisters on the bus were lawyers) to bring a justice spirituality alive to American political consciousness.

Trailer of Nuns on the Bus — The Movie!, starting in 2012 protesting “cuts in programs for the poor and working families in the federal budget.”

It is significant that in his objection to my teachings of creation spirituality, Ratzinger’s first two protests are these: 1. “He is a feminist theologian.”  I did not know that listening to the wisdom as well as the suffering of women under patriarchy is a heresy. Still don’t.

2. “He calls God ‘Mother.’” The truth is all the great creation centered mystics call God Mother and Julian of Norwich in particular when she says, “God feels great delight to be our Father and great delight to be our Mother.”  Sadly, Cardinal Ratzinger missed out on a lot of delight. 

It is a pity–and a grave danger–when patriarchy rules a pope’s worldview so completely that he falls into ignorance of his own mystical heritage. 

To be continued.


See Matthew Fox, The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved.

And Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest.

And Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 45-58, 102f.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Backs to the people: celebration of the Latin Tridentine Mass, 2016. Retired by Vatican II, restored by Benedict, banned by Francis as a flashpoint for opponents to Vatican II reforms. Photo by Lawrence OP on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Have you made the move from absolutism to relativity in your spirituality and worldview?  And from rigid dogma to spiritual experience or relationship/ relativity?  Don’t you wish everyone does?  


Recommended Reading

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved

The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. The final section in the book focuses on birthing a truly catholic Christianity.
“This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity.” ~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope.
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”   — Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.


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16 thoughts on “Pope Benedict vs. the Signs of Our Times: Einstein, Women”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

    What I saw as the highlights of Matthew’s points today:
    Ratzinger abhorred creativity in theology or in Liturgy. He wanted a static religion that hearkened back to a bygone era and hardly changed at all.
    Ratzinger turned his back on Einstein’s sense of relativity in the universe in favor of a church that mirrors a Newtonian mechanistic and unchanging universe, rather than seeing the church as the organic “Body of Christ.”
    He saw himself fighting “a dictatorship of relativism.” He preferred a dictatorship of rigidity.
    He made war on ecumenism, democracy, women’s rights, gay rights, open theological discourse and more.
    Regarding women, Pope Benedict held that: “We must not ordain women because Jesus did not ordain women.” The truth is however that Jesus did not ordain anyone, male or female. The ordained priesthood is a second century reality.
    It is significant that in his objection to my teachings of creation spirituality, Ratzinger’s first two protests are these: 1) “He is a feminist theologian.” I did not know that listening to the wisdom as well as the suffering of women under patriarchy is a heresy. Still don’t. 2) “He calls God ‘Mother.’” The truth is all the great creation centered mystics call God Mother and Julian of Norwich in particular when she says, “God feels great delight to be our Father and great delight to be our Mother.” And I have definitely moved further and further away from being dogmatic over the years–especially because I am committed to “Deep Ecumenism.”

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    The videos inparticular within today’s DM, which I’ve seen before, were just as intensely powerful for me, in so many ways, as they were the first time I watched them. I found myself weeping, laughing, feeling enraged and also empowered. Maries’s words, “The popes/priests are not God”, are words of truth, that All male clergy within the Catholic Church aught to allow to enter into their hearts, minds and souls, to humble themselves from the pedestals they have been self appointed and exalted to. I thought Pope Francis would would be more of an advocate for women’s ordination to the priesthood, however his most recent explanations for this door remaining closed were pathetically demeaning, marginalizing women’s abilities to administrative duties and catechism teachings.

    A few years ago, while on a spiritual retreat at a Jesuit Monastery, during the Eucharist part of the mass, a woman stepped onto the altar and placed her hands on the priests hands throughout the whole ceremony. I loved her courageous act and what it conveyed, however after the mass several people, including both men and women were quite upset. I was astounded by the religious criticisms, judgements and condemnations being verbalized and I simply responded by communicating HOW IT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL EUCHARIST CEREMONY THAT I HAD EVER HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF PARTAKING IN!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

      Jeanette, Today you write: “I thought Pope Francis would would be more of an advocate for women’s ordination to the priesthood, however his most recent explanations for this door remaining closed were pathetically demeaning, marginalizing women’s abilities to administrative duties and catechism teachings.” Just more of the “good ole’ boy club.” In a book I wrote, which was published last year, I wrote a chapter on the ordination of women, and I give a number of arguments why women should be included. The reasons why they do not are totally ridiculous–like because Jesus didn’t ordain women (as Matthew pointed out) but also because women are considered unclean while on their periods (according to Leviticus) therefore they cannot have women celebrating the Eucharist at the altar without desecrating it. I also have a chapter on why celibacy for priests should be a choice on the part of the individual–not only showing the truth that it says right in the Bible that Peter who Christ was supposed to build his Church on was married because Jesus healed his “mother-in-law”–and the restrictions on priestly marriage were not put in place finally until 1139 at the Second Lateran Council! I see these two issues as looming largely upon the Church… and of course these positions come from the patriarchal mechanistic machine that the Church is today–and has been since Constantine…

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    Yes, my spiritual journey has me being more open to the Loving~Living~Wisdom~Creative… Spirit within our hearts and among us in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment….
    ????

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    Thank you for your intriguing, enriching Meditation, Matthew! I especially appreciate your teaching about Otto Rank, about whom I’m now yearning to learn more. As a survivor of a precious but rigid and authoritarian family, (the likes of which, of course, exist all along the political spectrum,) I’m learning to acknowledge the part of myself that still remain rigid as well as the inner super judge who’s afraid I’m a bad person if parts of me are rigid and thus not “perfect.” It can be challenging to change for those of us who grew up in environments where deviating from the parental norm was harshly punished. I strive to have compassion for all of us survivors as well as hold myself and others accountable. I think my parents as well as most if not all other parents in families in need of healing, have done the best they can with the sometimes awful psychological roadmaps they have inherited.
    When I witness human beings who seem to me to be acting rigid and authoritarian, I always wonder intuitively if they might have some mental health issues that are in need of attention – issues which I believe can stem from legacies of family psychological violence that are handed down through generations, as was the case in my family. While I feel outrage at injustices handed down, I yearn for more psychological awareness and concomitant compassion to penetrate our political and theological discourse, which is why I’m so happy to have learned today, about Otto Rank.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

      Phoebe, Today you write: “When I witness human beings who seem to me to be acting rigid and authoritarian, I always wonder intuitively if they might have some mental health issues that are in need of attention – issues which I believe can stem from legacies of family psychological violence…” To me, rigid and authoritarian positions always stem from a need to be in control–of situations and as well as people. And these positions in turn stem from having either grown up it environments where people were completely out of control, and situations and people were unpredictable–this was the situation of the church in the first two centuries where they were being severely persecuted. They needed rigid structure and obedience in order to do what they had to do… They needed “Drill Sergeants” (read: priests and bishops) to tell them in no uncertain terms what they must do…

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    Thank you for your focus on Einstein.
    In 1983 I was researching the interface between ‘Creed and Cosmos’. I opened my 7 part series on the subject commissioned by Catholic New Times with these words: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” So states Einstein, one of the fathers of modern science and a man of faith. He tells us that at ‘ground zero’ we are on the precipice of time. Certainly then, there could be no better time for the “blind to see and the lame to walk.”.
    Matthew reminds us that Vatican II attempted to open up the church to evolving understandings. When I was reading reading the Documents of Vatican II in the 1990s I was surprised and pleased by the statement in Lumen Gentium: “‘We do not’ however, intend to give a complete doctrine of Mary, nor ‘do we’ wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified.” I was perplexed to note that Joseph of Nazareth did not get honorable mention in his role of foster father. I checked the Index to find the Documents’ statement about Joseph only to find that he wasn’t mentioned at all…

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

      Gwen, You write today: ” I was perplexed to note that Joseph of Nazareth did not get honorable mention in his role of foster father. I checked the Index to find the Documents’ statement about Joseph only to find that he wasn’t mentioned at all…” I hear your distress. He surely must have been a good father for Jesus to turn out the way that he did. And he certainly stepped up to the plate when Mary turned up pregnant! I think of St. Joseph often–I have his statue with the baby Jesus on my porch, and one of the two Catholic Churches in our parish is St. Joseph’s Catholic Church! He’s always had to play a “supporting” role with Mary and Jesus…

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    Rigidity of theology is denied by the history embedded in the Bible, The move away from henotheism to monotheism; the move from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice, and finally to bread and wine in the New Testament, all are clear in the record. In fact, Jewish theologians were shocked by the change, in Christianity, to the “human sacrifice” language of Jesus’s crucifixion, because they regarded it as a step BACKWARD to something they had long since evolved away from.

    Jesus himself subverted the traditional role of women, for example, in his “Martha and Mary” story. The “dutiful housewife” was reprimanded, while the (very UN-housewifey) female spiritual seeker was praised. Jesus’s follower Mary was conspicuously vocal in his circle and valued by Jesus for her insight. Jesus told everyone he intended to shake up the traditional order of society.
    Prominent women were vital in nurturing and sustaining the early Christian movement in their homes before there were churches. Men took over after houses were too small to host the growing meetings because women weren’t allowed to have public jobs outside their homes. Up until then, men were too busy with their own civic jobs. “Church jobs” were necessary only because women were secluded from public work — just like today’s Taliban codes.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

      Melinda, Today you write: “Rigidity of theology is denied by the history embedded in the Bible, The move away from henotheism to monotheism; the move from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice, and finally to bread and wine in the New Testament, all are clear in the record.” Yes, there is a certain spiritual evolution. When Matthew “nailed” HIS 95 Theses in Wittenberg, he was calling the Church to take the next few steps it needs to take–especially since Vatican II–much of which has never been implemented. And many in the Church, such as Pope Benedict were reluctant to live out the implications especially of “Deep Ecumenism” which is addressed in the Vatican II Decree on Non-Christian Religions (P.2) “From ancient times down to the present, there has existed among diverse peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human life; at times, indeed, recognition can be found of a Supreme Divinity and of a Supreme Father too. Such a perception and such a recognition instill the lives of these people with a profound religious sense.” I think I could count them in too! How about you ???

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    I am again grateful for the lack of rigid dogmatism in my religious learning and experience, which has allowed an ever widening and evolving understanding of the sacred. Ratzinger wanted a smaller church, and it is sad that dwindling numbers in some areas are the result of his insistence on rigid adherence and obedience to his narrow understanding of religion. It must have been miserable to live in his body and his soul, so wizened up and twisted.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

      Sue, You write today: “Ratzinger wanted a smaller church, and it is sad that dwindling numbers in some areas are the result of his insistence on rigid adherence and obedience to his narrow understanding of religion.” I think there is a “great divorce” between Catholicism in the west and the rest of the world–Pope Joh XXIII saw this and that was one of the reasons he called the Second Vatican Council, to bring the Church up to speed with the modern world. There are definitely less and less US priests. We have more priests from other ethnic groups who are now serving in the US. Not that there is anything wrong with that, its just “a sign of the times” and it is that way in all world churches the “third world” is, in a way, determining the direction of the churches. Ordination of women in protestant churches was slow mainly because churches in other countries were not ready to let go of patriarchy, and the same thing is true on the gay issue. But thank God we have each other right here !!!

  8. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew, for not only surviving your own personal experience of Inquisition
    but teaching us how to thrive despite such opposition. The history you present on Benedict
    jogs my memory. It is important to remember our history of speaking truth to power so that
    healing, change, and authentic growth can occur.

  9. Richard Reich-Kuykendall:
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall:

    Melinda, Today you write: “Rigidity of theology is denied by the history embedded in the Bible, The move away from henotheism to monotheism; the move from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice, and finally to bread and wine in the New Testament, all are clear in the record.” Yes, there is a certain spiritual evolution. When Matthew “nailed” HIS 95 Theses in Wittenberg, he was calling the Church to take the next few steps it needs to take–especially since Vatican II–much of which has never been implemented. And many in the Church, such as Pope Benedict were reluctant to live out the implications especially of “Deep Ecumenism” which is addressed in the Vatican II Decree on Non-Christian Religions (P.2) “From ancient times down to the present, there has existed among diverse peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human life; at times, indeed, recognition can be found of a Supreme Divinity and of a Supreme Father too. Such a perception and such a recognition instill the lives of these people with a profound religious sense.” I think I could count them in too! How about you ???

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