Week of 1/02-1/07/2023: Evil in Society and The Questionable Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Each Sunday we offer a brief summary of the meditations from the previous week as a kind of “index” inviting you to return to a previous meditation which may call to you.

January 2, 2023. The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, Part I
Upon the recent death of Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, we focus on his not-so-shining legacy. This pope failed to adequately address the priest pedophilia horror. He insulted Jews, Muslims, Buddhists (saying Thich Nhat Hanh was ‘the Antichrist’), Protestants, and wrote that Christians should not practice yoga because it puts them “too much in touch with their bodies.” He took issue with the fact that Matthew hired a Lakota teacher as part of his faculty teaching Native American spirituality and offering sweat lodges to faculty and students. Matthew says, dryly, “Deep Ecumenism was not Ratzinger’s forte.”

Amy Goodman interviews Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on “Democracy Now!” where they discuss Matthew’s book The Pope’s War. Originally posted to YouTube by Sowingthewinds.

January 3, 2023. Pope Benedict XVI’s Legacy, continued
Pope John Paul II brought back the Inquisition (renamed the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith after Vatican II). He installed Cardinal Ratzinger as grand inquisitor. The two of them then proceeded to silence, suppress or expel 107 theologians from around the world, including Matthew. Fox knew Ratzinger well and called him “a bully of the first order.”
Interestingly, there was an amazing instance of synchronicity that happened on the day of Pope Benedict XVI/Ratzinger’s death. It was the very day Matthew sent off a huge shipment of personal papers to the University of Colorado so that they could be digitized for future study. A portion of those papers dealt with communication between Rome, Matthew, and Matthew’s provincial. The shipment also included hundreds of letters from the thousands written to Rome in support of Matthew.

Shipment of Matthew’s documents to the University of Colorado. Photo by Matthew Fox.

January 4, 2023. Pope Benedict’s Political Legacy
Matthew tells us that “the political impact of popes Benedict XVI and his mentor John Paul II cannot be underestimated.” Their call for a “return to Christian culture” opened doors for the elections of right wing fascist leaders such as Orban in Hungary, Trump in the U.S. and Bolsanaro in Brazil. In addition, their elevation of Opus Dei resulted, among other things, in the placement of six far right-wing judges on the Supreme Court.

January 5, 2023. 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.
Never having absorbed Einstein, Benedict looked at the world in an absolutist way and saw himself fighting what he called “a dictatorship of relativism.” He preferred a dictatorship of rigidity. Ratzinger abhorred change. For him, “obedience trumps creativity,” and “law trumps spirit.”
He fought against the inclusion of women as leaders–and set up an investigation of sisters communities who worked with the poor and brought “a justice spirituality alive to American political consciousness.”  “Nuns on the Bus” was one example of this commitment. Among the seven charges leveled against Matthew, the first two were: 1) “He is a feminist theologian.” and 2) “He calls God ‘Mother.’” A feminist Ratzinger was not.

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

January 6, 2023. Pope Benedict vs. the Signs of Our Times: Homosexuality
Another example of Pope Benedict’s/Ratzinger’s ignoring the signs of the times  was his teaching that “homosexuality is an intrinsic moral evil” and an “objective disorder.” When Matthew first read these statements he felt “kicked in the gut.” It felt to him that Benedict wanted “to see gays locked up in concentration camps.” Then he realized that’s exactly what Hitler did when Ratzinger was a young man growing up in Germany. Pope Benedict/Ratzinger ignored science which states that 8-10% of the human population will be gay or lesbian. Roughly 500 species across the animal kingdom have been found to have same-sex encounters or long-term relationships.

“Killed. Hushed up. To the homosexual victims of Nazism.” Memorial, Nollendorplatz, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Manfred Brueckels on Wikimedia Commons.

January 7, 2023. Evil in the Christmas Story Yesterday and Today
The Christmas story was not all angels and shepherds and goodwill toward men. The Roman empire’s representative in Palestine was Herod who, in an effort to rid the world of Jesus, decreed that all baby boys in the region of Bethlehem be executed. Matthew warns us not to deny “the shadow side of history and humanity’s capacity for doing evil” and to be alert when religion and empire operate in tandem.  Part of our prophetic call is to stand up against evil whenever we find it.

Banner image: “Benedict on 10 August 2019” Wikimedia Commons

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

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9 thoughts on “Week of 1/02-1/07/2023: Evil in Society and The Questionable Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    January 7, 2023: Evil in the Christmas Story Yesterday and Today.
    Matthew began in this meditation by telling us that, besides the traditional things that we think about when we think about Christmas, such as the shepherds and Angels, and the Magi with their gifts, included is a “multi-layered and archetypally rich story of Christmas, but with this story about Herod, the empire’s agent in Palestine in Jesus’ day,” Herod had all baby boys killed (like in the Moses story). But with this, Matthew showed us how evil is still alive and well on planet earth, for it was just two years, and a coupe of days ago, on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6, that “violent intruders interrupted a simple ritual for passing power peacefully in American democracy.” “In our day too,” you write “evil happens through corrupt human institutions whether religious or secular.” Examples:
    1) More than 10,000 persons in South America were murdered because two popes shut down liberation theology and base communities.
    2) Thousands of victims fell prey to priestly pedophilia as church leaders did next to nothing for years…
    3) Silencing and denouncing 107 theologians, many of whom had nervous breakdowns, died or lost their livelihoods.
    4) A Yes man to dogma does not a theologian make. Something the Church needs to remember !!!
    Finally, Matthew asked us, “What lessons do you derive from the Herod story embedded in the Christmas stories?” The lesson I have learned is political powers can be the means of destruction–as Herod did then, and as Hitler did In WWII, and Putin is doing now. And, whenever there is a religious conflict and politics steps in, religious people lose… I just remember the “witches” and the Waldensians, and I think of so much that needs to change…

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      There was a comment made earlier in the week, which stated “that there will always be both good and evil in this world.” It seems that throughout the unfolding evolution of humanity, this statement reveals a truth, which is difficult to accept. Many spiritual and religious paths tempt to paint a utopian dream of the inherent potential hidden within humanity, that when consciously awakened to, cultivated and nurtured; will result in all living in peace and harmony with themselves, each other, the all and the everything of creation and the creator of all that exists… heaven on earth.

      There is so much deep generational woundedness on ALL levels embodied within the minds, hearts and souls of humanity, which manifests itself in expressions of both evil and good. The endless quest either unconsciously and consciously seems to be one of seeking healing and wholeness… which I sense involves firstly acknowledging and accepting as painful and enlightening as this might be, the infinite number of polarities within ourselves and the experience of these, that in some mysterious and incomprehesible way leads to the transformation of healing and the integration of wholeness that we have been searching for.

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        My faith informs me that our human and eternal souls are evolving as conscious co-Creators within God’s Creation~Evolution, our Source~Creator~Sustainer of Divine Love~Diverse Loving Oneness, in our multidimensional/multiverse Cosmos in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment, especially including our beautiful Sacred Mother Earth….

      2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Jeanette, You write today: “There is so much deep generational woundedness on ALL levels embodied within the minds, hearts and souls of humanity, which manifests itself in expressions of both evil and good.” I like how you connect evil here with woundedness–it seems that is the point on an individual level…

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    I think that the mind-set of the popes described here is what Dr. Iain McGilchrist (q.v.)
    would call the dictatorship of the brain’s left hemisphere. See “The Master and His Emissary”

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    Thank you once again Matthew for standing up to the fascism within
    Christian denominations and the Catholic church. The Vatican Girl is a
    documentary now showing on Netflix that is painful but very worth
    watching to understand this dynamic even further.

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    The utopian template of love and equality is not likely to happen “on earth, as it is in heaven,” but is worth striving to imitate to the best of our abilities, and the internalization of the love and respect for others as well as for self is a continual challenge, but one we are called upon to keep working on.
    Societies need order and structure (“Justice” and “Goodness”), but invariably, human egos get tangled up in the dynamics, and challenges arise. There’s always bullies who try to seize power and who harm and kill, selfish people who try to take advantage of others and steal, and nasty people who thrive on creating chaos and disorder. These kinds of people invariably undermine idealistic utopian communities. Nevertheless, we still have an ideal to strive for. Respect, love, and equality aren’t negated just because they’re hard to fully achieve.

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      Amen. Thank you for stating this so clearly. Hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up. as Matthew has quoted. Evil can never conquer hope and a vision for a life of love and justice.

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