Pope Benedict’s Love Affair

Pope Benedict Has His Eyes on the Past 

Historians will label this papacy as the Ratzinger push to return the Church to a nineteenth century Catholic ethos anchored in authority, sin and priestly ritual.


      The 19th century church felt threatened by Napoleon, Garibaldi, Bismarck, modern science and technology.

      Pope Pius IX (“Pio Nono”) reacted by proclaiming himself infallible.

      The monarchical papacy becomes the “traditional” norm.

      Obedience to Rome becomes the sign of authentic and orthodox  Catholicism.

      Pope Pius X launched a CIA-type and well-organized campaign against “modernism.”

      Pius X  proclaimed that “the church is essentially an  unequal society…comprising two categories: the Pastors and the flock.”

      The Church exercised iron rod authority through church laws, rules and regulations.

      The church endeavored to control information and even personal thoughts.

      Catholicism became a religion of authority and control.

      The good Catholic was docile and obedient and submissive


      Strongly anchored in an exaggerated Augustinian theology, the church saw the world as a place of sin.

      Laws and regulations are established to keep people from near occasions of sin and to discipline and strengthen Catholics.

      Civil society is secular and a wicked world of sin and temptation.

      Regular confession is important and the big sins are ones of sexual impurity.

      The view that civil society (“the City of Man”) is evil is reinforced by anti-Catholicism.

      Protestants became the embodiments of heresy, infidelity, and evil.


      Priests are ontologically superior to lay people.

      For Catholics the way to the sacred was through priestly ritual and blessings.

      Through ritual and ritual objects, like scapulars and holy medals, one entered into the “City of God.”

      Ritual devotions (often highly sentimental) to the Virgin Mary and the saints become popular.

      God is the hard and demanding task master. The saints are soft and comforting.

      Since the leaders of ritual are also church authorities, ritual reinforces authority.

      Ironically — in a church fearful about sexuality, Catholic rituals and ritual people are feminized in a queer way.

      Jesus is portrayed as a type of effeminate androgynous male. Priests and altar boys are dressed in lace.


For informed and contemporary-minded Catholics,  Vatican II was a welcomed relief from the negativity, clericalism and triumphalism of the nineteenth century.


  • Priority on Incarnation — we meet God in the daily events of  human life

  • Ecumenism: dialogue + integrity of traditions

  • Humility: church always needs reform, responsible criticism

  • Social justice: human rights and justice essential to mission

  • Religious freedom: all people have right to own religious expression

  • Liturgy: Eucharist central, vernacular, importance of Scripture, communal

  • The priest is not the focus but the one who presides at community prayer

  • Participation: bishops in collegiality & lay involvement in decision-making

  • Church is community of equals: brothers and sisters….the People of God

  • Church ministry is an exercise of servant leadership.