XVIs Political Resume: Theocracy And Social Reaction
By Joseph Kay
23 April 2005
selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope is a clear sign
that the Vatican will seek to use its influence to promote the most
reactionary political forces within the ruling elites of countries around
the world, particularly in Europe.
long record as enforcer of Church doctrine and chief adviser to Pope
John Paul II strongly indicates that as Pope Benedict XVI, he will aggressively
intervene into political affairs, using issues such as abortion and
homosexuality to foster the development of a social base for right-wing
parties and policies.
The new pope has
close ties to ultra-conservative factions within the Catholic Church,
such as Opus Dei, which are openly hostile to the core democratic principle
of the separation of church and state, and seek to elevate the Church
over civil authority. Such theocratic tendencies are increasingly being
embraced by parties on the right as part of their ideological arsenal
for attacking all of the social and democratic gains achieved in the
course of the twentieth century.
One of the most
blatant examples of Ratzingers intervention into the political
affairs of a country was his role in the 2004 US presidential election.
A number of American Catholic bishops publicly declared in the run-up
to the election that they would deny Holy Communion to Democratic candidate
John Kerry, a Catholic, because of his pro-choice stance on abortion
rights. Their intervention, a brazen violation of the secular foundations
of the US Constitution, was tantamount to a religious injunction to
Catholics to vote for George W. Bush.
In June 2004, Ratzinger
issued a statement of guidance to US bishops that, in effect, gave the
Vaticans seal of approval to Church officials who were using the
abortion issue to discourage a vote for the Democratic candidate. In
his missive to the bishop of Washington DC, Ratzinger wrote: A
Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy
to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote
for a candidate precisely because of the candidates permissive
stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.
In an obvious reference
to Kerry, Ratzinger declared that a Catholic politician consistently
campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws
should be denied Communion.
Since the Vatican
officially opposed capital punishment and had denounced the US invasion
of Iraq, Ratzinger was obliged to resort to casuistry to justify placing
the Churchs onus on Kerry rather than Bush, who had not only led
the unprovoked attack on Iraq, but who, as governor of Texas, had approved
more than 140 executions. Not all ... issues have the same moral
weight as abortion and euthanasia, he wrote. There may be
a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging
war and applying the death penalty, but not ... with regard to abortion
The timing of Ratzingers
statement, coming just a few months before the elections, was not coincidental.
A week before Ratzingers statement, Bush visited the Vatican.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Bush complained to Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, that not all the
American bishops are with me. He asked the Church to pressure
bishops in the US to take a more open stance on cultural issues such
as abortion and gay marriage.
remarks made clear the Churchs position: anyone voting for Kerry
could be adjudged to be in formal cooperation with evil.
His intervention helped elevate Bushs support among Catholic voters
from 46 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2004.
by Ratzinger, in August 2004, was aimed at thrusting the Catholic Church
into the political affairs of Europe by arguing that Turkey should not
be accepted into the European Union. Ratzinger said in an interview
with the French newspaper Le Figaro, In the course of history,
Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast
to Europe. Making the two continents identical would be a mistake. It
would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the culture to the
benefit of economics.
He openly based
his opposition to Turkeys admission to the European Union on the
fact that Turkey is a Muslim country. Europe has a culture which
gives it a common identity. The roots which formed ... this continent
are those of Christianity, he declared.
that appeals to religious chauvinism and anti-Muslim racismhas
become the stock in trade of right-wing and fascistic tendencies in
many European countries.
The trajectory of
Church policy under Pope Benedict XVI is further foreshadowed by the
factions within the Catholic Church that most insistently promoted his
elevation to the papacy. These include Opus Dei and Communion and Liberation.
Ratzinger is said
to have gained the early and emphatic support of three prominent members
of Opus Dei. Citing aides to two non-American cardinals, the Washington
Post reported on April 21 that Ratzinger was supported by Julian Herranz
of Spain, head of the Vaticans department for interpreting legislative
texts, Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, head of the department in
charge of the clergy, and Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Colombia, president
of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Opus Dei members
had been heavily promoted by John Paul II, who also elevated to sainthood
Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. Escriva, an important backer
of the fascist government of Franco in Spain, once said that Hitler
was the savior of the Spanish Church for his role in the
Spanish Civil War.
Trujillo, as president
of the Pontifical Council of the Family, has been instrumental in promoting
reactionary positions on abortion, birth control, homosexuality and
other cultural issues. In a June 14, 2003 statement, The Family
and Life in Europe, he called for a greater intervention by the
Church in European politics, arguing that many dishonest and immoral
proposals in the different European countries could have been stopped
at the appropriate time through the intervention of the Bishops ...
He called for the
setting up of an observatory that would be directed
at [monitoring] apostolic movements, politicians and lawmakers in order
to inform them and form them.
Opus Dei has close
ties to the Spanish Peoples Party, whose roots go back to the
Franco regime, and members of the organization occupied high-level government
positions in the Peoples Party government of Jose Maria Aznar,
which was ousted in March of 2004.
This extreme right-wing
faction of the Catholic Church is also gaining ground within the American
political establishment, particularly through the influence of Republican
Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum has denied being a member of Opus Dei,
but was a prominent attendee of the congress marking the 100th anniversary
of Escrivas birth, held in Rome in January 2002. There he denounced
US president John F. Kennedys 1960 speech in which Kennedy declared
his defense of the separation of church and state and said he would
not allow the Church to influence his political decisions.
The other Catholic
faction that backed Ratzinger was Communion and Liberation, which is
particularly influential within the Italian business and political elite.
In an April 21 article, the Los Angeles Times noted that a telltale
sign of Ratzingers ascent took place at the funeral
of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation.
The mass, which took place in February, was attended by Italian Prime
Minster Silvio Berlusconi, among others. Representing the ailing
pope, Ratzinger presided over the funeral Mass instead of Cardinal Dionigi
Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, against the expectations of some. Ratzingers
homily brought enthusiastic applause. The audience responded to the
remarks of Tettamanzi, a rival candidate for pope, with silence.
Tettamanzi had been
promoted by more liberal factions of the Catholic hierarchy. Ratzingers
enthusiastic reception was a sign that the right wing of the Italian
ruling elite was firmly behind him.
Communion and Liberation
was most recently in the news because one of its members, Rocco Buttiglione,
was chosen by Italy to head the Office of Justice and Internal Affairs
at the European Union. He was blocked from the position by the EU parliament
because he had declared homosexuality to be a sin. In Italian
politics, Buttiglione has been at the forefront of a movement to repeal
The US media has
been virtually silent on Cardinal Ratzingers reactionary intervention
in the 2004 election. Likewise, the Democratic Party. John Kerry, the
direct target of Ratzingers intervention, called his elevation
to the papacy a great moment of hope, renewal and possibility
for the Catholic Church. He said that he and his wife prayed that
Pope Benedict XVIs pontificate will touch the world in the
same way Pope John Paul II did.