Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Reader Writes Andrew Sullivan: Ratzinger as Micro-Manager

 A reader with experience in American Catholic academic life—and with inside information from Catholic University—writes Andrew Sullivan today.  This reader begs to differ with those depicting Cardinal Ratzinger as a brilliant, distracted academic with his head in the clouds who simply overlooks person-related issues when given administrative responsibility.  Details like psychological reports stating that a priest reassigned with his approval will almost certainly rape children again . . . .

The reader writing Andrew Sullivan was working in the office of the academic v-p of Catholic University when that school went after noted Catholic theologian Fr. Charles Curran.  Sullivan’s reader tells him that Ratzinger made direct calls to the academic v-p of Catholic University as that school went after Curran.  The charge against Curran was that he had signed a widely publicized statement of dissent against Humane vitae when that encyclical reiterating the papal condemnation of artificial contraception was issued.

Curran was attacked, as well, because he dared to point out that a large majority of Catholics reject natural-law based Catholic teaching about various sexual issues, including masturbation and contraception.  Curran argued that the widespread non-reception of church teaching creates a theological problem for that teaching that must be dealt with by the magisterium, if it expects to teach credibly.  Curran also proposed that the church has a pastoral obligation to foster and support committed long-term relationships for same-sex couples, since the refusal to do this harms gay persons and their relationships.  And the church ought to be about healing and not hurting . . . .

For all of this, Charles Curran was removed from his position teaching moral theology at Catholic University and has never taught at any Catholic university since then.

Ratzinger was right in the middle of what happened to Curran, pulling the strings.  At the time of Curran’s removal from Catholic University, this fact was well-known in Catholic theological circles in the U.S.  It was discussed openly at meetings of professional theology societies I attended during this period.  What Sullivan’s reader tells him about Ratzinger’s direct phone calls to Catholic University, I heard over and over from people teaching theology and doing academic administrative work in Catholic universities in the late 1980s and 1900s, re: the direct involvement of Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith in supervising theology departments in Catholic universities.

Ratzinger and his office were everywhere in American Catholic universities in that period of restoration, cracking down, welcoming and encouraging reports on dissident theologians—and issuing direct instructions to bishops and to universities themselves to enforce Ratzinger’s notion of orthodoxy.  This was a period in which students and watchdog groups were even secretly taping what theology professors taught, and then reporting what they believed was damning information to bishops and directly to Rome.

As I noted several days ago, Swiss theologian Hans Küng, who knows Ratzinger perhaps better than anyone else in the world, has definitively countered the exceptionally sleazy and dishonest attempt to defend this pope as someone who does not micromanage, when he notes that Ratzinger is known above all for his insistence on having direct knowledge and control of any and all issues delegated to his office.  And he has worked very hard to centralize church structures so that just about any issue possible—no matter how picayune—ends up on the desk of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Why are the papal defenders now working so feverishly to spin gross lies about this pope’s record?  In part, because they do not want what he has done to theologians like Curran questioned.  And they do not want the dirty details of what they and their regime have done to countless brother and sister Catholics in the name of orthodoxy during the last two papacies brought to light.

If a few more children get raped as they defend their indefensible mismanagement of the church at a crucial point in its history, and if the gays take another one on the chin while the Vatican investigates women religious but no one investigates the men running the church, well, that’s the unfortunate price to be paid to defend the vicar of Christ.  Who’s being scourged at the pillar this week along with Jesus, they want us to believe . . . .

Because apparently the church is the pope and the bishops—not those countless brother and sister Catholics, above all children raped by priests, whose lives have been ripped apart by the church itself.  And the pope is quasi-divine, some kind of incarnation of Christ in the world today. 

The orthodoxy these folks are defending is and long has been wildly removed from real Catholic belief—and it is morally vicious to the core.  The callousness about child rape and its cover-up evinced by many centrist Catholic defenders of the indefensible this week is one of the most disgusting displays I’ve yet to see of what the restorationist agenda has really meant at a practical level for the life of the Catholic church, at the turn of the 21st century.